Championship Week was short-lived for Syracuse, but that didn’t give the Orange a license to ignore conference championships across the nation. Most league championships affect SU’s NCAA Tournament fate in one way or another — bubble teams try to make one final positive impression and bid thieves potentially put a damper on the ‘Cuse’s Big Dance dreams. In less than 24 hours, we’ll know what bracket looks like; here’s a look at how the penultimate day of conference tournaments impacted the outlook for Jim Boeheim and company, grouped into four different categories.
VCU 87, Richmond 77 (OT)
The Rams survived a scare from the Spiders in the Atlantic-10 semifinals and silenced a potential bid thief in the process. VCU — currently a 9-seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket — is in, regardless of what happens in the conference tourney. You can now kiss Richmond goodbye. Unfortunately, a different A-10 team (confusingly) also named the Rams played Saturday, and the result wasn’t nearly as positive for Syracuse. More on that later.
SMU 70, UCF 59
The No. 12 Mustangs have been on track for an at-large bid since the season began. The Golden Knights, meanwhile, are attempting to make a miracle grab at a ticket. At 21-11 (11-7 in the American Athletic Conference), UCF is probably no longer a threat after this loss.
Arkansas 76, Vanderbilt 62
Vanderbilt is in the same boat as UCF: not really a threat, barring a wild run through its conference tournament. The Commodores nearly pulled it off, but fell to Arkansas in an SEC semifinal. The Razorbacks (25-8) will make it; Lunardi pegs them as a 9-seed.
TECHNICALLY GOOD, BUT PROBABLY DOESN’T MATTER
Wisconsin 76, Northwestern 48
The Wildcats don’t really qualify as a bubble team anymore. They’ve all but punched a ticket to their first Big Dance in program history. I really just wanted to force Northwestern in here, because who doesn’t love the boys from Evanston this year?
Kentucky 79, Alabama 72
These Wildcats certainly don’t qualify as a bubble team. UK gets a 2-seed in the most recent edition of Lunardi’s bracket; Alabama doesn’t get a spot. The Crimson Tide could have stolen a bid if it had managed to topple Kentucky and sneak into the SEC title game, but John Calipari’s team squashed that idea down the stretch.
Vermont 56, Albany 53
If the Great Danes had managed to stun the Catamounts in the America East championship, Vermont would immediately fall to the bubble — but probably the outside of the bubble. But UVM escaped and is now locked into the field of 68.
Rhode Island 84, Davidson 60
This one stings. The Rams, currently slated as one of Lunardi’s “last out” (since when is it not “first four out?”), dismantled the Wildcats and set up an all-Rams showdown with VCU in the A10 championship game. Rhode Island and Syracuse could be jockeying for the same at-large bid; every URI win puts a dent in the Orange’s tourney chances.
TECHNICALLY BAD, BUT PROBABLY DOESN’T MATTER
Michigan 84, Minnesota 77
Michigan is another amazing story from the Big Ten Tournament — after the team plane skidded off the runway in Washington, D.C., Wednesday afternoon, the Wolverines now sit one win away from becoming the lowest-seeded team (No. 8) ever to win the Big Ten Tourney. Michigan has now joined Minnesota as a lock for the Big Dance. Even though the Gophers are “more” of a lock, this game didn’t hurt too much, because both teams are already in.