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Acknowledgements: NET rankings and records are accurate as of Tuesday, March 1, 2022 and reflect only games against Division I teams. Selection Sheet info is from WarrenNolan.com. Team logos are from Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net.
✴️ = new bracket entrants
⬆️ and ⬇️ = bracket returnees’ seed movement relative to Friday’s bracket
(#) = Overall rank of the top 16 teams (top four seeds in each region)
Breakdown by Conference and Key Midweek Games
Big Ten (8 Teams)
Wednesday: (F4O) Rutgers at (11) Indiana, 7 p.m. (BTN)
Thursday: (6) Michigan State at (5) Ohio State, 7 p.m. | Penn State at (3) Illinois, 7 p.m. (FS1) | (7) Iowa at (12) Michigan, 9 p.m. (FS1)
It’s shaping up to be a huge final week in the Big Ten. All eight teams in today’s projected bracket are scheduled to play—with three of them taking the floor on both Tuesday and Thursday. Then there’s Rutgers (16-12, 10-8), which dropped out of the field after Saturday’s 66-61 home loss to Wisconsin pushed the Scarlet Knights’ ill-timed losing streak to three. They travel to Indiana, which has stabilized and gotten to .500 in conference play after victories over Maryland and Minnesota (though the Hoosiers nearly gave the latter game away). Rutgers needs to win in Bloomington because its regular season finale comes against non-factor Penn State at home. At least the Hoosiers have to travel to Purdue.
Michigan is another team that can solidify its place, thanks to home games with Michigan State and Iowa—two squads who are in better position than they were on Friday. The Spartans picked up a huge home win over Purdue, while the Hawkeyes took down both Nebraska and Northwestern to lock up a bid. After traveling to Ann Arbor, Michigan State must then go to Columbus, where Sparty will meet an Ohio State squad that dropped out of the Top 16 after being outclassed by Maryland on the afternoon the Terps celebrated the 2002 National Championship team.
But the game of the week is very much the 9 p.m. tip tonight in Madison, as Purdue visits Wisconsin still on the 2 line, but that likely won’t be the case if the Boilermakers drop their second straight road game and are swept by the Badgers.
Big 12 (6)
Thursday: (9) TCU at (1) Kansas, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
With Kansas State’s 73-68 loss at Texas Tech on Monday night, the only way the Big 12 is sending seven teams to 2022’s Big Dance is by one of the bottom three eligible teams winning out in Kansas City next week. This is why tonight’s Oklahoma-West Virginia tilt isn’t listed as a key game.
Baylor has moved up to the top seed line following Saturday’s 68-61 home win over fellow No. 1 Kansas and Monday’s 10-point win at Texas (which closed the books on the Frank Erwin Center). The Jayhawks’ position is in slight danger, as they must play TCU twice in a 48-hour span. The Horned Frogs’ 69-66 home win over Texas Tech (now the top No. 3 seed) helped solidify their position. However, after tonight’s visit from Bill Self’s club, TCU must travel for both the rematch and a tough regular-season finale at West Virginia.
Big East (6)
Tuesday: (4) Providence at (3) Villanova, 7 p.m. (FS1)
Wednesday: (9) Xavier at St. John’s, 6:30 p.m. (FS1) | Georgetown at (7) Seton Hall, 7 p.m. (CBSSN) | (4) UConn at (8) Creighton, 8:30 p.m. (FS1) | (8) Marquette at DePaul, 9 p.m. (CBSSN)
With Providence’s 21-point win over Creighton on Saturday night, much of the drama surrounding the Friars’ trip to Villanova tonight dissipated, as Ed Cooley’s squad will be the No. 1 seed in next week’s Big East Tournament. Still, national seeding is at stake. With some of the struggles of the Big East’s middle and lower classes, some of the shine on Providence’s profile has dulled. A loss to the Wildcats would leave the Friars needing to win the Big East Tournament to have any shot of rising above seed line No. 4.
Despite the loss in Rhode Island, Creighton’s prior six-game win streak gave the Jays a bit of breathing room. Unfortunately, that might not last, as Greg McDermott’s team must host UConn and Seton Hall to close the regular season. And they happen to be two of the hotter teams in the Big East right now. On Wednesday, not long before the Huskies and Bluejays tip in Omaha, the Pirates host Georgetown with the goal of extending their win streak to four, while pushing the Hoyas one game closer to a winless conference campaign.
Xavier (1-6 in its last seven) and Marquette (3-4 In its last seven) both hit the road as they attempt to get back on track. The Musketeers, now down to a 9 seed, missed a major opportunity to lock up a bid Saturday when Seton Hall pummeled them by 16 at Cintas.
Tuesday: (4) Tennessee at Georgia, 6:30 p.m. (SECN) | Ole Miss at (2) Kentucky, 7 p.m. (ESPN) | Missouri at (AC) South Carolina, 7 p.m. (ESPNU) | (F4O) Florida at Vanderbilt, 8:30 p.m. (SECN)
After taking a 67-62 loss in Knoxville on Saturday, Auburn dropped to seed line No. 2 (fifth overall), as the Tigers have won just three of their last six. Kentucky, similarly playing .500 basketball in its last four, sits just below its conference rival in the seed list. But with Bruce Pearl’s team needing to travel to Starkville to take on a Miss. State team that’s not out of the running yet and the Wildcats hosting Ole Miss, there’s a chance the picture changes on Friday.
Arkansas, knocking on the door of a top four seed, hosts LSU, who last defeated a team in the field on January 8th, in the game of the midweek window on Wednesday night. From a bubble perspective, Florida’s trip to Vanderbilt fills the role, as the Gators will look to follow up Saturday’s necessary road win at Georgia with another at Memorial Gym with UK’s visit to Gainesville looming on Saturday. While Florida has won three in a row at Vandy, Memorial is historically not a place where the Gators have played well.
Tuesday: (2) Duke at Pittsburgh, 8 p.m. (ACCN) | Louisville at (N4O) Virginia Tech, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
North Carolina needed overtime to put Syracuse away on Big Monday, but the Tar Heels did what they had to with Saturday’s trip to Durham for Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game looming. Duke has won six in a row to get back on the 2 line, but the Blue Devils will need help to move much higher. Following UNC’s example and losing to Pitt would certainly not help their case.
Of the other three ACC teams currently in the field, only Wake Forest gets a home game during the midweek window. Notre Dame’s trip to Tallahassee is likely to be far more difficult than Miami’s to Chestnut Hill, but it’s been a weird season. Virginia Tech, currently the fifth team out, can only hurt itself on Tuesday when Louisville visits Blacksburg. On Saturday, the Cardinals host Virginia, idle in the midweek window, though the Cavaliers will likely need to win out in Brooklyn to qualify following Saturday’s stunning loss to FSU.
Tuesday: Nevada at (8) Boise State, 9 p.m. (FS1)
Wednesday: (11) Wyoming at UNLV, 10:30 p.m. (FS1)
Thursday: Fresno State at (10) San Diego State, 11 p.m. (CBSSN)
On Monday night, San Diego State boosted its profile with an unexpected 73-66 win in the altitude of Laramie. I’ve been a bit higher on the Aztecs than most, but hopefully that win over Wyoming, along with the fact that SDSU now ranks 26th in the NET and in the top 30 of all of the Committee’s predictive metrics, will change the narrative around them naturally. Brian Dutcher’s team is now 6-7 against Quads 1 and 2 with four Quad 1 victories. The Aztecs also don’t have a loss to a team ranked worse than 69th in the NET. That’s a nice profile, IMO. Next up for San Diego State, a Fresno State team it handled by 17 on February 19th.
Wyoming, meanwhile, travels to UNLV needing a big win over the Runnin’ Rebels, as dropping two of three has left the Cowboys’ metrics sagging. They’re now 45th in the NET and outside of the KenPom Top 50 (and the other predictive metrics are much worse for the Pokes). Colorado State, now a 9 seed, has the midweek window open before welcoming Boise State to Moby on Saturday. The Broncos host Nevada, a team they defeated by 15 in Reno, tonight as their final prep for that showdown.
Tuesday: (1) Arizona at (6) USC, 11 p.m. (ESPN)
Arizona is the new No. 2 team overall, despite Saturday’s loss at Colorado. That’s what happens when everyone else around you loses on the same day. The Wildcats take the court twice this midweek, with the first contest, a trip to L.A. to take on USC in a makeup game the more difficult. The Trojans’ lone loss in their last nine came in Tucson.
USC visits UCLA to close the regular season on Saturday. The Bruins are back on the 4 line following consecutive wins over hapless Oregon State and better than expected Washington. The Huskies are the next task for Oregon, who still sits outside looking in. The Ducks really needed beat USC on Saturday to complete a perfect four-game set against the L.A. teams. A one-point loss won’t cut it.
Gonzaga remains No. 1 overall after Saturday’s road loss to Saint Mary’s, which is now on seed line 5. Both the Bulldogs and Gaels are off until Monday’s WCC semifinals. Saturday sees a potential elimination game in the 4 vs. 5 quarterfinal, where San Francisco, today’s second-to-last team will be waiting for BYU, the first team out—provided the Cougars can knock out the winner of Thursday’s 8/9 game between Loyola Marymount and Pacific first.
Tuesday: Cincinnati at (5) Houston, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
Thursday: Temple at (5) Houston, 7 p.m. (ESPN2 or ESPNU) | Cincinnati at (N4O) SMU, 7 p.m. (ESPN2 or ESPNU) | (11) Memphis at South Florida, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
After defeating SMU, 75-61, on Sunday, Houston is two games up in the American race with three to play. The first two of those are home contests for the Cougars, with the third coming at Memphis on Sunday. The Tigers replace the Mustangs in the field following their 24-point demolition of Wichita State on Sunday. Now, Penny Hardaway’s team must avoid tripping up at USF Thursday before UH visits.
The Missouri Valley is a two-bid league for the moment. Loyola Chicago (22-7, 13-5) is the very last team in today, following the Ramblers’ 102-96 loss at Northern Iowa Saturday night. That result gave the Panthers the No. 1 seed in Arch Madness and bumped Loyola all the way down to the 4 seed—behind second-seeded Missouri State and No. 3 Drake.
Given the teams behind them, the Ramblers will likely need to win three games in St. Louis starting on Friday. But each potential round puts a significant obstacle in their path. Loyola dropped its second meeting with quarterfinal opponent Bradley, 68-61, in Peoria on February 9th. Northern Iowa would lurk in the semifinals. Then, the Ramblers went 1-3 against Missouri State and Drake. Not easy at all.
Atlantic 10 (1)
Tuesday: (AC) Dayton at Richmond, 6:30 p.m. (CBSSN) | (N4O) St. Bonaventure at (N4O) VCU, 8:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
The bubble team that did itself the most damage this weekend was Dayton, which recorded a fourth sub-200 loss—a 62-60 decision at 236th-ranked La Salle that hovers just above the Quad 4 cutoff. The Flyers still visit Davidson on, but even a win there may not be enough.
St. Bonaventure travels to VCU for a de facto at-large elimination game, while Saint Louis, which has fallen out of the picture after winning just twice in its last six, travels to Rhode Island before hosting the Rams from Richmond Saturday. St. Bonaventure, meanwhile, hosts Richmond Friday night.
Tuesday: Ohio at Bowling Green, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Akron at Ball State, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (14) Toledo at Buffalo, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | (13) Vermont at Maine, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Southern Utah at (15) Montana State, 9 p.m. (SWX Montana/ESPN+ ($))
Wednesday: (AC) UAB at Southern Miss, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Houston Baptist at (16) New Orleans, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Nicholls State at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Stephen F. Austin at (14) New Mexico State, 9 p.m. (Aggie Vision/Bally Arizona Plus/ESPN+ ($))
Thursday: (12) Iona at Manhattan, 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Howard at (16) Norfolk State, 7:30 p.m. (NSU stream) | (12) North Texas at UTSA, 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Sacramento State at (15) Montana State, 9 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Southern Utah at Idaho State, 9 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | UC Davis at (15) Long Beach State, 10 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | Hawai’i at UC Santa Barbara, 10 p.m. (ESPN+ ($)) | UC Riverside at Cal State Fullerton, 11 p.m. (ESPNU)
These aren’t the only mid-major games of interest in the midweek, but I’m covering conference tournaments separately! Tuesday sees a trio of crucial games in establishing the seeding of a MAC Tournament that looks like it could be a demolition derby, along with a crucial game in the Big Sky, as second-place Southern Utah visits first-place Montana State, who just lost at Montana on Sunday.
Wednesday could see a change at the top of the Southland, as New Orleans only leads Nicholls by virtue of a head-to-head win. New Mexico State’s run to a WAC regular-season title will encounter resistance in the form of an SFA team that entered its new conference as the Southland powerhouse.
Thursday sees both Big Sky leaders back in action alongside crucial road tests for the MAAC and C-USA champs and a whole slew of matchups featuring Big West contenders.
My next update will come Friday. Then, Sunday morning, we will go daily (at a minimum) until the real thing is revealed on Selection Sunday.