Ahh, the cruel beauty of conference tournament week.
In the space of three days, a vast body of assumptions and informed speculation about the shape of this year's NCAA Tournament was visited by the Holy Hand Grenade of Antior, and blown to tiny bits, in thy mercy.
It started, as it seems to always start, in the Colonial. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your 2013 Colonial champion and AQ, the ... wait, what ... Towson Tigers. With wins over Drexel and Penn State, Shawn Nadelen's crew move the Nittany Lions from AQ to at-large, move Drexel from merely dead to really and sincerely dead, and steal an at-large bid from some deserving team. The view from here says it's Bucknell that got bounced.
Neithe Ohio State's surprisingly easy win over Loyola nor Syracuse's second beat-down of Notre Dame in six days did much to change the composition of the field, but they certainly affect where teams sit in the pecking order. However, on Saturday the Orange face a dangerous Villanova team for the Big East title. A Wildcat win steals another at-large bid from ... somebody. Duke? Loyola? Ohio State?
And then came Frabjous Friday. In what was billed as a play-in game, Yale outlasted Penn. Then Princeton decided it wasn't ready to go on the cart, and stunned heavily favored Cornell. Regardless of what happens on Sunday, a Cornell team that the entire world had penciled in as an AQ is an at-large. Not to mention the MAAC, in which RPI number 58 Detroit sent prohibitive favorite Marist back to Poughkeepsie, and not to be outdone, third-seeded Siena ran Jacksonville out of town.
So after all this carnage, what bracket projection crawls from the wreckage? This bracket projection.
(1) North Carolina (ACC, at-large) vs. Bryant (NEC AQ)
(8) Penn State (Colonial, at-large) vs. Duke (ACC, at-large)
(5) Cornell (Ivy, at-large) vs. Albany (America East AQ)
(4) Denver (ECAC AQ) vs. Yale (Ivy AQ)
(3) Notre Dame (Big East, at-large) vs. Towson (Colonial AQ)
(6) Maryland (ACC, at-large) vs. Ohio State (ECAC, at-large)
(7) Lehigh (Patriot AQ) vs. Loyola (ECAC, at-large)
(2) Syracuse (Big East AQ) vs. Siena (MAAC AQ)
Last four in: Loyola, Duke, Ohio State, Maryland
First four out: Bucknell, Penn, Drexel, Princeton