USA TODAY Sports’ Nicole Auerbach says you shouldn’t be surprised if these small school teams make a magical run in the NCAA tournament.

Ah, Madness.

It’s undoubtedly here in the form of small conference tournament upsets (ahem, Horizon League), which paved way for Jacksonville State to punch the first ticket to the NCAAs on Saturday by capturing the Ohio Valley. The Gamecocks will surely play in Dayton.

Now, onto the more confusing stuff. First off, it is possible for a team to fall even if they win. Case in point: Syracuse and Xavier. Both got much-needed wins, but neither proved to be a big win compared to Vanderbilt and Seton Hall. Those two teams got very impressive wins, against Florida and Butler respectively, so they vault ahead of Syracuse and Xavier. Wake Forest, on the wrong side of the bubble before, got a very nice road win and moved in.

BUBBLE WATCH: Saturday’s winners, losers

REVENGE: UNC takes down Duke

All this movement necessitated a team moving out, and unfortunately that brings us to the Missouri Valley, which will determine its automatic bid today in the tournament final between two top-notch teams in Illinois State and Wichita State. Except it’s looking like the Valley could be a one-bid league should the top-seeded Redbirds lose in St. Louis to their rival Shockers, who don’t have as strong of an RPI but are better in other metrics and…this is Wichita State we’re talking about.

The reason for this decision is that the selection committee has been bullish when it comes to top-50 and top-100 wins, and both those teams have one each — against themselves, sadly. This is the reason why Illinois, after brutally stubbing its toe in an ugly loss to Rutgers, stays in — barely. The Illini have subtly racked up 10 top-100 wins this season. There’s still work to be done, but that’s a number the committee will wrestle with if it’s close. Keep in mind, small tourney results could shake up most of this forecast, but hey it’s madness isn’t it?

► No. 1 seeds: Kansas, Villanova, North Carolina and Oregon

► Last four in: Illinois, Wake Forest, Syracuse, USC

► First four out: Illinois State, Iowa, Georgia, Rhode Island

Moving in: Wake Forest, Jacksonville State, Green Bay

Moving out: Illinois State, Tennessee-Martin, Valparaiso

► Others considered for at-large bids (in no particular order): Clemson, Ohio State, Kansas State

► On life support: Indiana

► No longer considered for at-large: UConn, Texas, Charleston, New Mexico, Boise State, LaSalle, Davidson, Chattanooga, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s, BYU, Oklahoma, Charleston, Nebraska, Temple, North Carolina State, Stanford, Nevada, Texas A&M, Memphis, Utah, Auburn, Texas Tech, Georgetown, Penn State, Tennessee, Ole Miss, TCU, Houston, Alabama, Pittsburgh, California, Georgia Tech

► Multi-bid conferences: ACC (10), Big Ten (8), Big East (7), Big 12 (5), SEC (5), Pac-12 (4), A-10 (2), AAC (2), WCC (2).

Conference Leaders

► Or highest RPI from projected one-bid conferences – (23 total): Vermont (America East), Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun), North Dakota (Big Sky), Winthrop (Big South), UC Irvine (Big West), UNC-Wilmington (CAA), Middle Tennessee State (Conference USA), Valparaiso (Horizon), Princeton (Ivy League), Monmouth (MAAC), Akron (MAC), N.C. Central (MEAC), Wichita State (Missouri Valley), Nevada (Mountain West), Mount Saint Mary’s (Northeast), Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley), Bucknell (Patriot), East Tennessee State (Southern), New Orleans (Southland), Texas Southern (SWAC), South Dakota (Summit), Texas-Arlington (Sun Belt), CSU Bakersfield (WAC).

  • Banned from participating: Southern Mississippi, Alcorn State, Savannah State, Northern Colorado
  • Transition Schools, ineligible for the tourney: Abilene Christian (Southland), Grand Canyon (WAC), Incarnate Word (Southland), Massachusetts-Lowell (American East)    


Note: All RPI and statistical data is used from

About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 and has finished as one of the top 5 national bracketologists for his website, Bracket W.A.G. He’s predicted for The Indianapolis Star, and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.