Just hours before the 2012 NCAA bracket is finally revealed, St. Bonaventure has become the first and only bid thief of the year, stealing the final at-large slot in the Big Dance and sending one mystery team into the NIT field. A week ago, a development like that might have been terrifying for fans of the Texas Longhorns. But after a week in which in appeared that nobody wanted to win and punch their ticket, the Horns look to be safely in the field as the clock counts down towards the Selection Show.
It now appears most likely that Texas will be an 11-seed in the NCAA field, but with teams being moved up and down one line to accommodate bracketing rules, we could see the Longhorns as high as 10th or as low as 12th. Perhaps most importantly, it seems like Texas has played its way right past the First Four in Dayton, giving a young and thin roster a little more rest before playing on Thursday or Friday.
Of course, it’s been a crazy year, and the profiles at the bottom all start to look the same after a few minutes of staring at them. The committee could come out of left field and leave a team out that most have thought was safe all along. But when you compare Texas’ four RPI Top 50 wins to other bubble teams, it would be hard to find enough teams that could reasonably be included before the Longhorns.
With that in mind, we’re taking a look at where the Longhorns might end up. What’s important to remember when looking at potential landing spots is that the top four seeds are geographically protected as much as possible, while teams from the same conference can’t be put in the same pod. If Texas is an 11-seed or 12-seed, they will end up in a pod with the 3/14 and 6/11 games or a pod with the 4/13 and 5/12 games.
What all that means is that the Longhorns won’t be making any hotel reservations in Omaha. Missouri and Kansas will be protected seeds and should both land in Nebraska for their second and third round action, ruling that out as a destination for Texas. It also most likely eliminates Greensboro, as Duke and North Carolina should be the protected seeds for that site, and both look to be on the top two seed lines. Unless Texas is slid up to a 10-seed, they wouldn’t be able to play in the Greensboro pods.
The other teams that should be on the top two seed lines are Syracuse, Kentucky, Ohio State, and Michigan State. The Buckeyes aren’t allowed to play in the Columbus pods, so their most likely destination is Pittsburgh. That’s certainly where Syracuse will end up, so we can scratch the Steel City off of the list of possible Texas destinations, as well. Kentucky will take up one of the two Louisville pods, while Michigan State should get sent to Columbus.
The only other pod that we can safely eliminate from consideration at this point is one of the two in Albuquerque. Baylor is likely destined for a 3-seed, and although Albuquerque is only about 50 miles closer to Waco than Nashville, there are certainly more top seeds in the eastern half of the U.S. Somebody has to go to the Albuquerque and Portland pods, so it just makes the most sense to put Baylor there.
What we’re left with, then, are seven possible pods for the Longhorns: Two in Portland, two in Nashville, one in Albuquerque, one in Columbus, and one in Louisville. Of course, all of this deduction is thrown out the window if the committee surprises us and puts Texas on the 10-seed line.