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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Kevin Sweeney

Men’s Bracket Watch: Villanova’s Spot on the Bubble, Mississippi State’s Must-Win Situation

Welcome to Selection Sunday week! Sports Illustrated will be publishing daily updates of its projected men’s NCAA tournament field to keep you up to date on where things stand heading into the selection show. So as automatic bids get locked up, bubble teams fight for their seat at the table and top teams compete for seeding, keep an eye out for all of the latest updates from SI.

Among the highlights from Wednesday’s action:

  • The storyline of the day was Villanova’s near disaster against the DePaul Blue Demons. As 24-point favorites, Villanova mustered just 58 points and needed a three by Justin Moore in the final 10 seconds to win. For a Villanova team attempting to convince the committee it’s deserving despite having 14 losses already, this was not a good audition. It’s quite possible the Wildcats will be a tournament team if they can beat Marquette on Thursday, but these bracket projections represent a snapshot in time, so the Wildcats move down to our Next Four Out for now.
Moore hits a three-point shot to beat DePaul in the Big East tournament on Wednesday.

Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports

  • McNeese State is officially dancing, completing a monthslong rampage through the Southland with a dominant title game win over the Nicholls Colonels. Pencil Will Wade’s team in as a No. 13 seed.
  • TCU got a little bit of breathing room by handling shorthanded Oklahoma at the Big 12 tournament. That likely locks up the Horned Frogs’ spot and makes the Sooners’ more tenuous, but it’d take quite a bit of chaos for OU to fall out of the field altogether.
  • Kansas State keeps hanging around the bubble after beating Texas in the Big 12 tournament. The Wildcats have won just five times in their last 14 games, but those victories have included wins over Iowa State, Kansas, BYU and now Texas. Beat Iowa State again Thursday, and things officially get interesting, though the Wildcats could use some help from other bubble teams dropping out.

[ 2024 March Madness: Latest News & Analysis ]

On the Bubble

Last Four Byes:

TCU Horned Frogs
Michigan State Spartans
Oklahoma Sooners
Mississippi State Bulldogs

Last Four In:

Virginia Cavaliers
St. John's Red Storm
Colorado Buffaloes
New Mexico Lobos

First Four Out:

Indiana State Sycamores
Texas A&M Aggies
Providence Friars
Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Next Four Out:

Villanova Wildcats
Pittsburgh Panthers
Kansas State Wildcats
Iowa Hawkeyes

Key bubble games Thursday:

  • Michigan State Spartans vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers, noon ET
  • Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. LSU Tigers, 1 p.m. ET
  • St. John’s Red Storm vs. Seton Hall Pirates, 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Pittsburgh Panthers, 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Ohio State Buckeyes, 6:30 p.m. ET
  • Kansas State Wildcats vs. Iowa State Cyclones, 7 p.m. ET
  • Providence Friars vs. Creighton Bluejays, 7 p.m. ET
  • Texas A&M Aggies vs. Ole Miss Rebels, 7 p.m. ET
  • Villanova Wildcats vs. Marquette Golden Eagles, 9:30 p.m. ET
  • Virginia Cavaliers vs. Boston College Eagles, 9:30 p.m. ET
  • New Mexico Lobos vs. Boise State Broncos, 11:30 p.m. ET
  • Colorado Buffaloes vs. Utah Utes, 11:30 p.m. ET

With most major conferences hitting the quarterfinals of their conference tournaments, Thursday tends to be the most active day of Selection Sunday week in terms of bubble activity.

For any team currently listed as out of SI’s projected field, the games listed above are must wins. For instance, Wake Forest vs. Pittsburgh is the perfect example of a “loser leaves town” game: Neither team is likely to move into the field with a win (though they would get closer to the cut line) and if nothing else, likely get a crack at North Carolina on Friday.

The team that’s in the field currently that could use a win the most is Mississippi State. A loss to LSU would mean five straight losses to close the season, a 6–12 mark in Quad 1 and 2 games and a Quad 4 loss to the Southern Jaguars. That’s a fairly ugly résumé.

The Big East quarters could also spark some action. St. John’s will be sweating big time on Selection Sunday with a loss to Seton Hall. Meanwhile, Villanova and Providence are in essentially must-win situations against good opponents. Villanova is in better shape than the Friars but still would likely end out of the projected field if the Wildcats finish 18–15 on the season. A win over Creighton would make Providence as bubbly as they come.

** indicates clinched automatic bid
* indicates projected automatic bid

Midwest Region

No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers* vs. No. 16 Wagner Seahawks**/Grambling Tigers*
No. 8 Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic Owls
No. 5 Clemson Tigers vs. No. 12 Grand Canyon Antelopes*
No. 4 Auburn Tigers vs. No. 13 McNeese State Cowboys**
No. 6 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. No. 11 Drake Bulldogs**
No. 3 Baylor Bears vs. No. 14 Vermont Catamounts*
No. 7 Utah State Aggies* vs. No. 10 Michigan State Spartans
No. 2 Marquette Golden Eagles vs. No. 15 Colgate Raiders**

East Region

No. 1 UConn Huskies* vs. No. 16 Norfolk State Spartans*
No. 8 Boise State Broncos vs. No. 9 Nebraska Cornhuskers
No. 5 BYU Cougars vs. No. 12 Richmond Spiders*
No. 4 Illinois Fighting Illini vs. No. 13 Charleston Cougars**
No. 6 Saint Mary’s Gaels** vs. No. 11 James Madison Dukes**
No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 14 Toledo Rockets*
No. 7 Dayton Flyers vs. No. 10 Michigan State Spartans
No. 2 Iowa State Cyclones vs. No. 15 South Dakota State Jackrabbits**

South Region

No. 1 Houston Cougars* vs. No. 16 Longwood Lancers**
No. 8 Colorado State Rams vs. No. 9 Northwestern Wildcats
No. 5 San Diego State Aztecs vs. No. 12 South Florida Bulls*
No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 13 Samford Bulldogs**
No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers vs. No. 11 Colorado Buffaloes/New Mexico Lobos
No. 3 Creighton Bluejays vs. No. 14 Morehead State Eagles**
No. 7 Washington State Cougars vs. No. 10 Mississippi State Bulldogs
No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels* vs. No. 15 Sam Houston State BearKats*

West Region

No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers* vs. No. 16 Stetson Hatters**/Montana State Bobcats**
No. 8 Texas Longhorns vs. No. 9 Seton Hall Pirates
No. 5 South Carolina Gamecocks vs. No. 12 Princeton Tigers*
No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks vs. No. 13 UC Irvine Anteaters*
No. 6 Nevada Wolf Pack vs. No. 11 Virginia Cavaliers/St. John’s Red Storm
No. 3 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 14 Oakland Golden Grizzlies**
No. 7 Florida Gators vs. No. 10 TCU Horned Frogs
No. 2 Arizona Wildcats* vs. No. 15 Quinnipiac Bobcats*

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