The NCAA bracket 2011 has 68 spots to fill. However, the NCAA bracket 2011 only had four slots officially locked up before yesterday. While a few dozen teams know they will get in on Selection Sunday, only a select few have berths locked up for sure. UNC Asheville, Belmont, Morehead State and Indiana State were the only ones in that group before last night. Now, the bracket is guaranteed to let Gonzaga, Old Dominion, St. Peter’s and Wofford into the club.
The most nerve-wracking conference final for bubble teams was in the CAA, as Old Dominion took on VCU. The CAA was already set to send two schools into the Big Dance, and if VCU won, it would have gone up to three – and taken a bubble spot away.
However, the NCAA still has an extra bubble open after Old Dominion held off VCU 70-65. As such, Old Dominion will go in as an automatic qualifier, while George Mason is set as an at-large team. But VCU’s loss knocks them out of the running, and keeps at least one team alive in the race.
Over in the WCC, both Gonzaga and St. Mary’s were predicted to get in, no matter what. Still, Gonzaga looked out of it several weeks ago, although they finally surged back ahead to return to the Dance. Last night, they reclaimed their WCC throne by beating St. Mary’s 75-63.
As such, the bracket will further Gonzaga’s string of tournament appearances, although they’ve been making less noise in March lately. Despite the loss, St. Mary’s is expected to return as well after their Sweet 16 run last season.
The MAAC and Southern conferences rounded out yesterday’s finals, with those leagues merely limited to one bid. As such, St. Peter’s and Iona had more of an elimination match, as did Wofford and the College of Charleston.
For Wofford, the tournament entry is their second in a row, as they returned to the Dance with a 77-67 triumph. But as for St. Peter’s, their bid was their first since 1995, as the fourth seed Peacocks pulled off a 62-57 upset.
Eight automatic bids have now been handed out, with 23 still to come. Of course, several of those bids will go to programs that are safe for Selection Sunday. Old Dominion and Gonzaga were considered safe, yet any slim doubt that was left is gone now.
While all the hype today is around the Big East tournament opener, the NCAA bracket will also fill out three more spots from the Horizon, Summit and Sun Belt leagues. These do-or-die showdowns include Butler vs Wisconsin Milwaukee, Oral Roberts vs Oakland, and Arkansas Little Rock vs North Texas.
Sporting News- “Field of 68: Old Dominion saves the bubble a bid”
Yahoo Sports- “NCAA tournament automatic bids”