NCAA Tournament bracketology: Duke vaults onto bubble, into the projected field of 68

The Duke Blue Devils have used the past two games to play themselves into the projected field of 68 after their postseason  was in jeopardy just a week ago.

Saturday's Quadrant 1 victory over then No. 8-ranked Virginia vaulted Duke back onto the bubble to resuscitate the blue-blood program's NCAA Tournament aspirations. Then on Monday, the Blue Devils cruised to a 85-71 win over fellow ACC bubble team Syracuse. 

Uniquely, it's Syracuse's place in the forecasted field that Duke is taking as the "last team in." 

It's been a whirlwind season for this Duke team that was the preseason No. 8 team in the Ferris Mowers Coaches Poll. Coach Mike Krzyzewski announced the departure of five-star freshman Jalen Johnson last week and while that might've seemed like the nail in the coffin, instead the Blue Devils have surged  and found their identity just at the right time as March nears. 

The Blue Devils (11-8, 9-6 ACC, 47 NET) have won four in a row, but they face a murderer's row of games to close out the regular season — hosting Louisville on Saturday and then drawing Georgia Tech and North Carolina on the road. Those are all opportunities to improve their chances of hearing their name called on Selection Sunday.

Selection Sunday is March 14. The NCAA Tournament tips off March 18.

ON THE RISE:  Florida State jumps into top 10 in Ferris Mowers Coaches Poll 

TOP 25:  Latest Ferris Mowers Coaches Poll

BRACKETOLOGY:  Big 10 teams battling for final No. 1 seed

Duke's Matthew Hurt (21) fist bumps head coach Mike Krzyzewski during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina State at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. (Photo: Ethan Hyman, AP)

No. 1 seeds

Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan, Ohio State. 

Last four in

Seton Hall, Maryland, Minnesota, Duke. 

First four out

Indiana, Syracuse, Connecticut, Georgia Tech. 

Next four out

St. John's, Stanford, Ole Miss, Utah State. 

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Others considered for at-large bids (no particular order): Memphis, Southern Methodist, Richmond, Saint Louis, Pittsburgh, Alabama-Birmingham, Georgia.

On life support: Texas Christian, Marquette, Providence, Marshall, Utah, Arizona State, Oregon State, Mississippi State, Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas A&M, St. Mary's, San Francisco, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Dayton, Davidson, Nevada, Penn State.

Multi-bid conferences: Big Ten (9), Big 12 (7), ACC (6), SEC (6), Pac-12 (4), Big East (4), Mountain West (3), Atlantic 10 (2), Missouri Valley (2), West Coast (2).

Leaders or highest NET from projected one-bid conferences – (20 total): America East – UMBC, Atlantic Sun – Liberty, Big Sky – Eastern Washington, Big South – Winthrop, Big West – UCSB, CAA – Northeastern, C-USA – UAB, Horizon – Wright State, MAAC – Siena, MAC – Toledo, MEAC – Norfolk State, Northeast – Bryant, OVC – Belmont, Patriot – Navy, Southern – UNCG, Southland – Sam Houston, SWAC – Prairie View A&M, Summit – South Dakota, Sun Belt – Texas State, WAC – Grand Canyon.

  • Banned from participating: Alabama State, Alabama A&M, Delaware State, Auburn, Arizona 
  • Transition schools, ineligible for the tournament: Cal Baptist, North Alabama, Merrimack, Dixie State, Tarleton State, Bellarmine, UC San Diego   
  • COVID-19: Ivy League, Bethune-Cookman, Maryland-Eastern Shore, Howard, Maine

NCAA Tournament language explainer:

  • NET stands for the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which is the barometer for the selection committee. It includes game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin (capping at 10 points per game), and net offensive and defensive efficiency.
  • Quadrant 1 wins: Home games vs. 1-30 NET teams; Neutral-site games vs. 1-50 NET; Away games vs. 1-75 NET
  • Quadrant 2 wins: Home games vs. 31-75 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 51-100 NET; Away games vs. 76-135 NET
  • Quadrant 3 wins: Home games vs. 76-160 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 101-200 NET; Away games vs. 136-240 NET
  • Quadrant 4 wins: Home games vs. 161-plus NET; Neutral-site games vs. 201-plus NET; Away games vs. 241-plus NET

Note: Most statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com. The NET rankings (NCAA Evaluation Tool) also are a reference point. 

About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his eighth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past seven March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.

Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson

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