The NCAA bracket 2011 now has 11 teams guaranteed to be in. Last night, the NCAA bracket 2011 officially welcomed Butler, Arkansas Little Rock and Oakland into a mix. They had a chance to welcome Harvard for the first time in over 60 years, yet Princeton avoided Ivy League elimination. Therefore, the Ivy League will hold a playoff on Saturday to determine their champion. For tonight, the bracket adds two more mid-major champions, as the bigger conferences start to take over.
The Horizon, Sun Belt and Summit leagues held their championship battles last night. Defending national runnerup Butler hasn’t had an easy time this season, yet they have begun to play back to form. They looked good as a possible at-large team, although they hoped to get in right away against Wisconsin Milwaukee.
Butler’s place in the bracket was finally secured with a 59-44 road win in Milwaukee. The Bulldogs’ win eliminated the chance of two teams getting in from the Horizon, and kept at least one more bubble spot open. That wasn’t the case with the Sun Belt and Summit finals, however.
Arkansas Little Rock and North Texas fought down to the wire for the Sun Belt crown. Yet, finally, Arkansas Little Rock got in for the first time in 21 years in a 64-63 comeback win. Solomon Bozeman clinched their spot on a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds to go.
The last NCAA bracket berth from last night was taken by Oakland, which made headlines earlier this year by winning at Tennessee. Now they will get to face another big conference team in the Big Dance after handling Oral Roberts 90-76.
Three automatic bids were scheduled to be handed out, with a fourth pending from the Ivy League. If Penn upset Princeton at the Palestra, Harvard would win their first tournament berth since the 1940s. Instead, Princeton stayed alive with a 70-58 triumph, and will play Harvard in a final playoff on Saturday.
While the main implications this week have been in minor conferences so far, the bubble will be altered soon enough. The Big 12 starts its tournament today, with Colorado and Baylor making their final push, while bubble teams in the ACC, Big 10, Pac 10 and SEC start off on Thursday.
Of course, smaller leagues don’t usually have a bubble to work around, and two more of them will have do or die finals tonight. The NCAA bracket will next include either Long Island or Robert Morris from the Northeast, and either Montana or Northern Colorado from the Big Sky.
Yahoo Sports- “NCAA tournament automatic bids”
CBS Sports- “Predicting the 2011 NCAA tournament field”