SportsPulse: It’s championship week and we are in the home stretch. Here are the teams that need to finish strong to get their name called on Sunday.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest NCAA tournament projections through games played on March 11.
Mid-majors from the MAC and Southern Conference aren’t supposed to be No. 6 or No. 7 seeds.
Yet here we are five days from Selection Sunday and Buffalo and Wofford have defied those odds in the latest bracket projection.
Wofford (29-4, 18-0) overcame a halftime deficit to take down UNC-Greensboro, a bubble team that belongs in the NCAA tournament, and claim the Southern Conference’s automatic bid Monday night. The Terriers are close to locked in at the No. 7 line thanks to an impressive résumé that features a No. 14 NET ranking and a top-100 non-conference strength of schedule.
Buffalo (28-3, 16-2) is a No. 6 seed with a top-16 NET ranking and a top-10 non-conference RPI.
Typically Gonzaga has shown the ability to play in a small conference and attain a seed that’s not near the bubble. But the Bulls and Terriers have won in conference play and have done enough in non-conference action.
Buffalo beat Syracuse on the road and then only lost twice in the MAC — both on the road. Wofford, on the other hand, did less out of conference but didn’t lose a single game in a Southern Conference that features UNC-Greensboro and Furman. Beating those teams on the road helped give them three Quadrant 1 victories. If South Carolina, a team the Terriers beat in non-conference, climb up from a No. 78 ranking (to a No. 75), it’d give them four Q1 wins.
Buffalo and Wofford have positioned themselves for deep runs in the NCAA tournament, and unlike other mid-majors they’ll have better seeds to do it.
► No. 1 seeds: Virginia, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Duke
► Last four in: Belmont, Creighton, Georgetown, Florida
► First Four out: Alabama, UNC-Greensboro, Indiana, Texas
• Others considered for at-large bid (in no particular order): Clemson, Furman, North Carolina State, Lipscomb
• On life support: Saint Mary’s, South Carolina, Memphis, Dayton, Providence, Davidson, Xavier, Butler
Multi-bid conferences: Big Ten (8), ACC (7), Big 12 (7), SEC (7), Big East (6), American (4), Mountain West (2), Ohio Valley (2), Pac-12 (2).
Leaders or highest RPI from projected one-bid conferences — (23 total): VCU (Atlantic 10), Vermont (America East), Liberty (Atlantic Sun), Montana (Big Sky), Gardner-Webb (Big South) UC Irvine (Big West), Hofstra (CAA), Old Dominion (Conference USA), Wright State (Horizon), Yale (Ivy), Iona (MAAC), Buffalo (MAC), Norfolk State (MEAC), Bradley (MVC), St. Francis-Pa. (Northeast), Colgate (Patriot), Wofford (Southern), Sam Houston State (Southland), Prairie View A&M (SWAC), Wofford (Southern), Omaha (Summit), Georgia State (Sun Belt), New Mexico State (WAC), Gonzaga (WCC).
- Transition schools ineligible to participate: Cal Baptist, North Alabama.
Note: Mostly all statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com. The NCAA’s new NET rankings are also considered; that was rolled out at the beginning of 2018-19.
About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his sixth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past five March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.