Selection Sunday never lacks for intrigue, but this year promises to have more than most – especially on the bubble.
No fewer than 15 teams will be nervous when the field of 68 is announced, whether it’s because they made a late push for inclusion (N.C. State, Ole Miss, Marshall), stumbled down the stretch after some impressive early wins (Seton Hall, Mississippi State, Cal), have a good, but not great profile (Southern Miss, West Virginia) or won the regular-season league title, but fell short in the conference tournament (Washington, Drexel, Iona).
And the final decision may come down to the slimmest of margins.
Take N.C. State. The Wolfpack won 22 games and have a winning record in the ACC, but could’ve woken up Sunday without any worries if only a few calls had gone their way during an ACC semifinal against UNC. Also not helping matters? The coaching staff’s handling of C.J. Leslie’s fourth foul. If the Pack misses out, one loss will create plenty of angst in Raleigh.
Here’s a rundown of the other key storylines from Saturday and what it means for the 2012 NCAA tournament:
Watch out for Ohio State. The Buckeyes drilled Michigan and will make their case for a No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament final on Sunday. Its opponent, Michigan State, held off Wisconsin and will be vying for just its third conference tournament title under Tom Izzo.
Duke’s out of the running for a No. 1 seed. The Devils may have bigger problems depending on when Ryan Kelly returns.
Florida lost to Kentucky for the third time this season, which says as much about the Wildcats as it does the Gators. Even if Kentucky loses to Vandy in the SEC finals, it’ll still be a No. 1 seed and the favorite to win it all. But take note of their closes games this week. That’s a little concerning.
Missouri beat Baylor and ended its Big 12 tenure as tournament champs. The Tigers seem destined for a No. 2 seed.
Xavier did its best to avoid any bubble worries by reaching the A-10 finals after beating Dayton. If Tu Holloway & Co. beat St. Bonaventure on Sunday, they’ll enter the Big Dance on a roll. A loss would hurt, but they still might get in.
Louisville won the Big East tournament and will be a trendy pick to make the Final Four and lose early. One or the other. You watch.
Will the committee ruin Georgetown’s day by matching the Hoyas against Ohio?
Not long before Ole Miss came up short against Vandy in the SEC semis, NCAA tournament seeding committee chairman Jeff Hathaway told CBS that the 37 at-large bids were already chosen. It caused a fair amount of consternation among people worried they’d already written off the Rebels, but it wasn’t exactly what Hathaway meant. Regardless, the loss didn’t help Ole Miss.
Raise your hand if you had Colorado winning the Pac-12 tournament? Anyone? Now Washington and Cal, the league’s two best teams, will have a long Sunday. Only one’s likely getting in.
Memphis ended Marshall’s surprising run to the Conference USA final in dominant fashion. Anyone who gets the Tigers won’t be happy. The Thundering Herd will probably end up unhappy at the end of Sunday.
No bid thievery from the Big West. Long Beach State finally got to the Big Dance for the first time since 2007.
New Mexico won the Mountain West and might be the league’s team best suited to making a Sweet 16 run.
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