Joel Embiid, Scottie Wilbekin

Bracketology: Eight teams in play for No. 1 seeds

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source: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty images

Championship Week begins tomorrow.  It’s time to start handing out Dance tickets.

The two teams leading our March Madness Gala … Florida and Arizona.  The Gators and Wildcats both have the opportunity to enter the NCAA Tournament dance as the overall No. 1 seed.  Should both win their remaining games – including conference tournament titles – the edge will likely to go Arizona.  Not that it’s that critical this year because the two teams are geographically separated.  Florida will lead the South Region; Arizona the West.  A year ago, when Louisville and Indiana were battling for the top spot in the Midwest, and a route through Indianapolis, that top position meant more.

Wichita State begins Missouri Valley Tournament play today in St. Louis.  The Shockers ended the regular season without a blemish.  If they win three more under the Arch, expect WSU to be a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday.  Kansas continues to hold the final No. 1 slot.  Four other teams are chasing the top line: Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, and Villanova.  Recent struggles make it difficult for Syracuse to regain a No. 1 seed.

MORE: Duke-UNC headlines a packed college hoops weekend

It’s going to be another busy week on the bubble.  With so many teams tightly bunched around the cutline we’ll find out who plays their way in or out.  Keep a close eye on conference tournaments in the Big East, Atlantic 10, SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12.  In particular, those leagues have several teams with an uncertain prognosis.

Those same teams will be watching conference tournaments in the Missouri Valley and Horizon League, among others.  If Wichita State were to lose, one less at-large berth will be available.  And what if Green Bay reaches the Horizon final and loses a close game?  Whether or not the Phoenix would earn an at-large bid is up for debate.  But they will certainly be discussed inside the Selection Committee bunker.

Enjoy the Madness.

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid based on current standings with RPI as a tiebreaker for teams with the same number of losses. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UCLA, BYU, etc).

Several new bracketing principles were introduced after last year’s tournament. You can read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com. For example: teams from the same conference may now meet before a Regional final, even if fewer than eight teams are selected. The goal is to keep as many teams as possible on their actual seed line.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Missouri vs. Dayton | Midwest Region
  • Pittsburgh vs. BYU | West Region
  • ALABAMA STATE vs. UTAH VALLEY | South Region
  • WEBER STATE vs. HIGH POINT | Midwest Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

SOUTH – Memphis WEST Anaheim                             
Orlando San Diego
1) FLORIDA 1) ARIZONA
16) UTAH VALLEY / ALABAMA ST 16) ROBERT MORRIS
8) Baylor 8) SMU
9) GONZAGA 9) Oklahoma State
Spokane Orlando
5) Louisville 5) Oklahoma
12) LOUISIANA TECH 12) BYU / Pittsburgh
4) North Carolina 4) Michigan State
13) NORTH DAKOTA ST 13) BELMONT
San Antonio Buffalo
6) NEW MEXICO 6) Ohio State
11) GREEN BAY 11) Stanford
3) Creighton 3) Syracuse
14) GEORGIA STATE 14) BOSTON UNIVERSITY
Milwaukee Buffalo
7) SAINT LOUIS 7) Kansas State
10) Oregon 10) Saint Joseph’s
2) MICHIGAN 2) VILLANOVA
15) DAVIDSON 15) UC-IRVINE
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
St. Louis St. Louis
1) KANSAS 1) WICHITA STATE
16) FLA GULF COAST 16) WEBER ST / HIGH POINT
8) Memphis 8) Iowa
9) George Washington 9) Arizona State
Spokane San Diego
5) UCLA 5) Texas
12) HARVARD 12) Missouri / Dayton
4) San Diego State 4) Duke
13) DELAWARE 13) TOLEDO
Raleigh San Antonio
6) Kentucky 6) Connecticut
11) Georgetown 11) Xavier
3) CINCINNATI 3) Iowa State
14) S.F. AUSTIN 14) IONA
Raleigh Milwaukee
7) Massachusetts 7) VCU
10) Colorado 10) Arkansas
2) VIRGINIA 2) Wisconsin
15) VERMONT 15) NC-CENTRAL

NOTES on the BRACKET: Florida remains the overall No. 1 seed followed by Arizona, Wichita State, and Kansas.

Last Five teams in (at large): Georgetown, BYU, Dayton, Pittsburgh, Missouri

First Five teams out (at large): California, Tennessee, Providence, Nebraska, Minnesota

Next five teams out (at large): Florida State, St. John’s, LSU, Clemson, Southern Miss

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 12 (7): Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State

Pac 12 (6): Arizona, UCLA, Stanford, Arizona State, Oregon, Colorado

Atlantic 10 (6): Massachusetts, VCU, Saint Louis, George Washington, Saint Joseph’s, Dayton

Big Ten (5): Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin

ACC (5): Duke, Virginia, Syracuse, North Carolina, Pittsburgh

American (5): Louisville, Memphis, Connecticut, Cincinnati, SMU

SEC (4): Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Arkansas

Big East (4): Creighton, Villanova, Xavier, Georgetown

Mountain West (2): New Mexico, San Diego State

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, BYU

Missouri Valley (1): Wichita State

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … Louisiana Tech (C-USA), Belmont (Ohio Valley), Georgia State (Sun Belt), Boston University (Patriot), North Dakota State (Summit), Green Bay (Horizon), Davidson (Southern), Utah Valley (WAC), Iona (MAAC), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Toledo (MAC), Florida Gulf Coast (A-Sun), Harvard (IVY), UC-Irvine (Big West), Delaware (Colonial), Vermont (American East), Weber State (Big Sky), NC-Central (MEAC), High Point (Big South), Robert Morris (NEC), Alabama State (SWAC)

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.