Selection Sunday has finally arrived!
It was a wild and crazy ride through Championship Week that will be remembered for years to come as "That time Michigan almost died in a plane crash before winning the Big Ten tournament." The Wolverines' thrashing of Illinois by 20 in their practice jerseys is one of the craziest things that has ever happened in March Madness. That it resulted in Illinois' firing of (former) head coach John Groce just two days later only adds to the legend.
Elsewhere, Duke went on a wild run of its own, taking the ACC crown as the No. 5 seed after winning four games in four days, including three straight over Louisville, North Carolina and Notre Dame.
Will the Blue Devils get a No. 1 seed?
We think so, but the selection committee will have the final say shortly.
Here's a look at Bleacher Report's final projection of the tournament field as of Sunday at 5:10 p.m. ET, followed by pertinent information about the bubble:
No. 16 in East—UC Davis vs. North Carolina Central
No. 16 in South—South Dakota State vs. Mount St. Mary's
No. 12 in South—Kansas State vs. Providence
No. 11 in West—USC vs. Marquette
Fourth-to-Last In: Marquette Golden Eagles (19-12, RPI: 59, KP: 28, SOS: 48)
After Vanderbilt defeated Florida for the third time this season to move comfortably into the field, Marquette slips one spot closer to the bubble. The Golden Eagles have seven RPI Top 50 wins, including one over Villanova, yet their RPI is somehow outside the top 50.
The bigger concern is that they went just 5-5 against teams in the RPI 51-200 range. Also, four of their best wins were season sweeps of Creighton and Xavier after both of those teams lost their starting point guard for the campaign. Given their middling RPI, that's something that will be discussed in the selection room in these final few hours.
Third-to-Last In: USC Trojans (24-9, RPI: 41, KP: 60, SOS: 71)
The Trojans have two great home wins over SMU and UCLA, but that's about it. They also have a bad loss to Arizona State and a not-great defeat at the hands of Utah.
They appear to have done enough to get in, but St. Bonaventure was left out last season with a similar resume. The Bonnies were No. 30 in RPI and had three RPI Top 25 wins, two of which came on the road. For some reason, though, it wasn't enough. USC missed a chance to lock up its bid in the Pac-12 quarterfinals against UCLA and will now be sweating until Selection Sunday.
If you're comparing USC and Syracuse for one of the final spots in the field, it has to be an edge for the Trojans, right? For both teams, the two major red flags are poor performance in road/neutral environments and a lackluster nonconference SOS. But USC didn't have the kind of horrible losses Syracuse suffered, and its RPI is way better than what the Orange have.
Second-to-Last In: Providence Friars (20-12, RPI: 56, KP: 56, SOS: 46)
At Boston College. At DePaul. Vs. St. John's. At Ohio State. Those are just four of Providence's 12 losses. The Friars did have a great home win over Butler at the start of a six-game winning streak to finish the season, but that's their only victory against the RPI Top 25.
It's easy to point to the six RPI Top 50 wins and the third-place finish in the Big East, but the full body of work leaves something to be desired. Providence also had a nonconference SOS rank of 180, and the selection committee loves to hammer bubble teams for not scheduling aggressively.
Last Team In: Kansas State Wildcats (20-13, RPI: 57, KP: 29, SOS: 38)
Falling by one point to West Virginia on a neutral court—thanks to a highly questionable foul call in the final 20 seconds—is anything other than a bad loss for the Wildcats. However, they entered the game as the last team in, and a loss of any kind is not good when you're that bubbly.
This remains one of the most puzzling resumes in the country. They have four great wins: two away from home against Baylor, one at Oklahoma State and one vs. West Virginia. But everything else—bad losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma, 8-10 in the Big 12, nonconference SOS rank of 230—reeks of a trip to the NIT.
Though the nonconference SOS is bad, I have a sneaking suspicion the Wildcats will be rewarded for their proven ability to travel. They only won six games against the RPI Top 100, but five of those came away from home. With so little separating the teams on the bubble, that could be the deciding factor.
First Team Out: Illinois State Redbirds (26-6, RPI: 32, KP: 52, SOS: 125)
Illinois State went 1-2 against Wichita State in its only games of the season against the RPI Top 50. The Redbirds also went 1-2 against teams in the RPI 51-100 range, beating New Mexico and losing to TCU and San Francisco.
In addition to those losses, it slipped up against Tulsa (RPI: 130) and had a brutal season-opening loss to Murray State (RPI: 232). The team was right on the heart of the bubble all week, but the balance of good wins and bad losses isn't promising.
Second Team Out: Iowa Hawkeyes (18-14, RPI: 81, KP: 69, SOS: 54)
Third Team Out: Syracuse Orange (18-14, RPI: 84, KP: 51, SOS: 58)
Fourth Team Out: TCU Horned Frogs (18-15, RPI: 68, KP: 40, SOS: 30)
Fifth Team Out: Illinois Fighting Illini (17-14, RPI: 64, KP: 70, SOS: 21)
Oh, how the tables have turned.
Last year, there was a logjam of minor-conference teams that failed to win their conference tournaments. Monmouth, Saint Mary's, San Diego State, Valparaiso and Hofstra each fell short and entered the at-large conversation with good-not-great resumes.
Unable to determine a clear best team from that bunch and unable to find room for all of them in the field, the selection committee left them all out in favor of teams like Syracuse, Michigan, Tulsa and Vanderbilt.
This year, there's a logjam of major-conference teams with a significant number of RPI Top 50 wins but a disturbing number of bad losses and poor ranks in the RPI.
Prior to recent news that Illinois has already fired head coach John Groce, I would have thought it had the best chance of this bunch. The Illini had the best SOS and (by far) the best nonconference SOS. They also had the most RPI Top 100 wins (10) and only had one particularly troublesome loss (regular-season finale at Rutgers).
In their stead, Iowa probably has the most cause for hope. Though, the conspiracy theorists in the crowd would say Syracuse deserves it, despite having a RPI rank 12 spots worse than any other at-large team in history.
Sixth Team Out: Ole Miss Rebels (20-13, RPI: 75, KP: 77, SOS: 67)
There's got to be a wild card, right? The committee always throws us at least one curveball, and maybe the Rebels are it this year. They only had two RPI Top 50 wins (Arkansas and South Carolina) and only three RPI Top 100 wins, but they didn't lose to a single team outside the RPI Top 100.
The RPI rank will likely be the undoing of Ole Miss, but given that aforementioned cluster of teams that suffered a bunch of bad losses, perhaps the committee will reach down to the Rebels in search of a team without major red flags.
Stats are courtesy of WarrenNolan.com, KenPom.com and Sports-Reference.com and are current through start of play Sunday, March 12. Win-loss records only include games played against D-I opponents and are updated in real time.