Automatic bid number one was handed out today, with Jacksonville State earning their first invite in school history. Congratulations Gamecocks, and condolences to UT Martin. The Skyhawks despite two straight years of making it to the championship game are still looking for their first trip after suffering losses to #8 Austin Peay last year and now the #4 seed JSU in 2017. Three more bids will be locked up tomorrow.
We start things off with the Big South Championship. Winthrop has 9 NCAA appearances, all coming between 1999 and 2010, but have had nothing to add to that in the past 6 years. They will take on Campbell, who has just one tournament appearance that came in 1992.
In the Missouri Valley, we get the match-up most were hoping to see, with WSU-ISU III. The Shockers have made 5 tournaments in a row, and according to bracketmatrix are a 9 seed currently making a sixth trip likely. Illinois State on the other hand is the last team in at the moment (but not included on my bracket). A win tomorrow would render this speculation moot and give the Redbirds their first trip since 1998.
Florida Gulf Coast will be looking for their 3rd trip in the last 5 years, as they will take on the #3 seed North Florida. The Osprey’s one appearance came two years ago.
Additionally, all of next week’s conference brackets are set. The Southland Conference dropped Nicholls and Northwestern State. The Ivy League set its top four, which resulted in eliminating Dartmouth and Columbia. While in the SWAC, Arkansas Pine Bluff was eliminated from the final seed open there. Housekeeping note, it was ruled this week that Hawaii will NOT be facing a post-season ban anymore, which allows them to participate in the Big West Tournament at the expense of UC Santa Barbara, who is now out.
Some fun games today, but a quick shout out to the Horizon League tournament. They split the quarterfinals so that #1 and #2 seeds play, and then have a day of rest while 3-6 all play. In an additional stroke of luck for Valpariaso and Oakland, the 9 and 10 seeds upset the 7 and 8 seeds on Friday night. So what happens? They both fall, which means #9 Youngstown State and #10 Milwaukee now absorb the advantage of a rest day while the teams they went a combined 4-12 against all beat each other up. Anyone hoping for this year’s Holy Cross team would be wise to keep an eye on this bracket the next few days.
Updates to the bracket. Xavier, Wake Forest and Seton Hall have all moved back in. Illinois, California and BYU have been removed. The losses by Illinois and California did most of the damage, but also hurting Cal and BYU was the RPI drop of Princeton outside of the top 50.
So with the Jacksonville State business out of the way, our list of 48 will at least move to 47 this season. Others that are currently projected into the field for the first time in my bracket are Northwestern, Fort Wayne, Northern Kentucky, and North Dakota.
249 teams remain. Tomorrow we downshift a bit with just fifteen tournament games on the schedule.