March Madness grows closer and the NCAA Tournament Brackets released by Bracketologists nationally become a little more based in reality every day. ESPN.com and CBSSports.com both released updated brackets Friday and the results are as interesting as they are divergent.
Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com, who has been eerily accurate in recent years with his bracket predictions, has the Mountain West Conference back up to five teams projected to dance in March in Friday's bracket update:
- The 3-seed New Mexico Lobos playing the 14-seed Harvard Crimson in the West Region in Salt Lake City, UT.
- The 5-seed San Diego Aztecs playing the winner of the 1st round match of 12-seeds the Iowa St. Cyclones vs. the Wichita St. Shockers in the South Region in Austin, TX.
- The 8-seed UNLV Runnin' Rebels playing the 9-seed Colorado Buffaloes (a rematch of last year's 2nd round game in Albuquerque) in the Midwest Region in Auburn Hills, MI.
- The 8-seed Colorado St. Rams playing the 9-seed Va. Commonwealth Rams in the East Region in Philadelphia, PA.
- The 11-seed Boise St. Broncos playing the 6-seed Wisconsin Badgers in the Midwest Region in Dayton, OH.
Of note in Palm's projection:
- A UNLV win would have them playing the 1-seed Michigan Wolverines in a virtual home game in the third round.
- A CSU win would have them playing the 1-seed Duke Blue Devils in Philadelphia - a slightly lighter assignment than the Rebels (due to the location more than anything) and a rematch of a regular season game last season.
- UNM is projected to win the league's automatic bid via winning the conference tournament.
Over at ESPN.com, Joe Lunardi still has the MWC projected at at four teams in the Big Dance in Friday's bracket update:
- The Lobos again get's the best seed of the lot - The Lobos are a 4-seed playing the 13-seed Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the West Region in Austin, TX.
- SDSU is the 6-seed playing the winner of the 11-seed 1st round match up between the Arizona St. Sun Devils and the St. Mary's, Calif. Gaels in the Midwest Region in Philadelphia, PA.
- UNLV is the 8-seed playing the 9-seed Kentucky Wildcats in the South Region in Dayton, Ohio.
- Colorado St. is the 8-seed playing the 9-seed Missouri Tigers in the East Region in Phildalphia, PA.
Of note in Lunardi's projection:
- The UNLV-Kentucky match up is a virtual home game for the Wildcats and would be a marquee match up due to the NCAA Tournament histories of the two schools. The winner would play 1-seed the Indiana Hoosiers in the 3rd round - setting up another battle of schools with championship pedigree. And an even better home court advantage (though you can bet Ohio State fans there would cheer on UNLV or Kentucky).
- Colorado St. would face No. 1 Duke - just like in Jerry Palm's projection.
- With a 2nd round win, SDSU would be set up for a rematch of their season-opening game vs. Syracuse.
- Lunardi also projects New Mexico to win the MWC automatic bid.
Things will drastically change after tomorrow, you can be sure.
After all, as college basketball fans know, the Madness actually starts in February.