BRUIN UP A STORM: Belmont is the first team to punch its ticket to the big dance, taking down #25 Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference finals. Photo courtesy AP

BRUIN UP A STORM: Belmont is the first team to punch its ticket to the big dance, taking down #25 Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference finals. Photo courtesy AP

Yesterday was an unfathomably huge day in shaping up the NCAA tournament bracket. Not only did we have our first ticket officially punched to the big dance – and, surprise, surprise, it’s not who we expected (welcome to March) – but one team from the first projection didn’t just fall out of the field, but off the bubble entirely!

Sounds like it’s time to unveil an all-new projection!

While a few schools have changed as my original projected mid-major conference winners lost, the one that’s really worth talking about is Belmont. The Bruins beat a ranked Murray State to win the Ohio Valley and become the first team with a secured bid to the tournament. Now, normally a ranked team in a mid-major conference losing its conference tournament would spell bad news to the field of hopeful at-large teams, but not here. I don’t know what possessed the AP to rank Murray State, but it was certainly no indication of their tournament resume. With an RPI of 67 now and only one win in the RPI Top 100, the Racers aren’t even in the bubble conversation. They’ll be NIT-bound.

Another team that has seen their bubble burst is Pittsburgh. Since the calendar turned, the Panthers have put on an absolute clinic of how not to secure an at-large berth. After yesterday’s game against Florida State, Pitt has now lost three games in a row to teams with a combined record of just 49-44. None of the teams (Wake Forest, Miami and Florida State) are currently tournament teams and Wake Forest and Florida State are both well outside the RPI Top 100. With 13 losses – four of them bad losses – and an RPI of 70, the only way Pitt can get into the dance now is winning the ACC tournament. And I’m sure Duke and Virginia, among others, will have a thing or two to say about that.

In Pittsburgh’s absence, BYU temporarily held the final seat in the tournament, but Davidson’s absolute dismantling of VCU at home was their best win of the season and enough to put them over the top and past BYU. That is, at least in my estimation. Then again, we still have a week to go and things are constantly changing.

Texas also racked up their best win of the season this past week with a win over Baylor, but they still have work to do. A deep run on the Big 12 Conference Tournament could give the Longhorns the invite they are desperately seeking.

Over in the SEC, LSU nearly took a really bad loss to Tennessee and temporarily fell all the way to being one of the last four in before bouncing back with a terrific win over Arkansas yesterday. The Tigers are definitely still on the bubble, but they’re a lot better off than they were 24 hours ago.

Either way, here’s the newest projection in its entirety.

March Madness: Projecting The Field (v1)
MIDWEST (Cleveland) EAST (Syracuse)
1 Kentucky^ 1 Virginia^
16 N.C. Central^/Bucknell^ 16 North Florida^*/St. Francis (NY)^
8 Xavier 8 VCU
9 Oklahoma State 9 St. John’s
5 Northern Iowa^ 5 North Carolina
12 Buffalo^ 12 Wofford^
4 Baylor 4 Arkansas
13 Green Bay^ 13 Iona^
6 Butler 6 Providence
11 Purdue/Temple 11 Boise State
3 Notre Dame 3 Maryland
14 South Dakota State^ 14 Georgia State^
7 Dayton^ 7 Iowa
10 Oregon 10 Cincinnati
2 Wisconsin^ 2 Kansas^
15 Albany^ 15 William & Mary^
WEST (Los Angeles) SOUTH (Houston)
1 Villanova^ 1 Duke
16 Texas Southern^ 16 Coastal Carolina^*
8 Ohio State 8 Indiana
9 N.C. State 9 Georgia
5 SMU^ 5 West Virginia
12 Old Dominion^ 12 Tulsa/Davidson*
4 Utah 4 Louisville
13 Stephen F. Austin^ 13 Harvard^
6 San Diego State^ 6 Wichita State
11 Texas A&M 11 LSU
3 Oklahoma 3 Iowa State
14 Eastern Washington^ 14 UC Davis^
7 Michigan State 7 Georgetown
10 Mississippi 10 Colorado State
2 Gonzaga^ 2 Arizona^
15 New Mexico State^ 15 Belmont#*

^ = Projected Conference Champion
# = Automatic Berth Clinched
* = New Team To Bracket Projection
Bold = First Round “First Four” Game

Last Four In: Purdue, Temple, Tulsa, Davidson
First Four Out: BYU, Texas, UCLA, Illinois
Next Four Out: Miami (FL), Syracuse, Stanford, Richmond