First, the bracket, then a look back at Wednesday combined with a look ahead to a busy Thursday.
- Conference logos indicate auto bid holders. If a team has secured its league’s auto bid, the conference logo will appear next to the team logo. If a team is just the regular-season champ/highest seed remaining in the conference tournament, the logo will remain on the right.
- Numbers in red squares indicate team’s position in the bracket’s top 16 (top four seed lines).
- Colors next to seed numbers indicate bracket movement: yellow (new), green (seed up), red (seed down) relative to Wednesday’s bracket.
Graphics by Chris Dobbertean using logos from either SportsLogos.net, Wikimedia Commons, or the institutions’ websites.
Highest-ranked NET exclusion: Nevada (36)
Highest-ranked KenPom exclusion: Michigan (39)
Bids By Conference
23 single-bid conferences
Yesterday, three more teams booked their NCAA trips with conference championship game wins. Two completed regular-season and tournament title doubles: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi repeated as Southland champ thanks to a tense 75-71 win over Northwestern State, while Colgate had no problem with Lafayette in the Patriot League final, prevailing 79-61. Montana State, second in the Big Sky’s regular season, took the third title on offer by ending ninth-seeded Northern Arizona’s run to Dayton, 85-78.
While there are 57 conference tournament games on tap for today, with none of them finals. (The next championship game will be the America East’s at 11 a.m. Eastern on Saturday (ESPN2).) You can find information about all of them Conference Tournament Central, and use the chronological schedule to plan your channel and stream hopping for the day.
Yesterday, six of the seven bubble teams in action won their games to give themselves another chance to impress the Committee. Some of those victories only set up more bubble drama, compounding what was already scheduled as the brackets build to a crescendo.
Let’s go from noon Eastern to almost midnight Pacific. Bubble teams are bolded.
- Big Ten Rd. 2: (9) Rutgers (18-13, 10-10) vs. (8) Michigan (17-14, 11-9), 12 p.m. (BTN)
This isn’t exactly an elimination game at United Center, but it’s close. With a loss the Wolverines will definitely join Wisconsin in the NIT, but the Scarlet Knights will still be hanging around the cut line if they fall.
- SEC Rd. 2: (9) Mississippi State (20-11, 8-10) vs. (8) Florida (16-15, 9-9), 1 p.m. (SECN)
These two teams played a painful 61-59 contest in Starkville on January 21st—one won by the Gators. However, the Bulldogs, who need to win to hang in the field, will be facing a Florida squad that’s without Colin Castleton due to a broken hand. That may make all the difference
- ACC Quarters: (5) Pittsburgh (22-10, 14-6) vs. (4) Duke (23-8, 14-6), approx. 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
The Panthers barely scraped by Georgia Tech on Wednesday, but they did. And that means they should be okay even with a loss to the Blue Devils, but a win would seal their place.
- Big East Quarters: (5) Providence (21-10, 13-7) vs. (4) UConn (24-7, 13-7), approx. 2:30 p.m. (FS1)
The Friars should be in win or lose, but their metrics are pushing them down the seed list. On the other hand, the Huskies would love to run the table in New York to improve upon their current 3 seed.
- Big 12 Quarters: (8) West Virginia (19-13, 7-11) vs. (1) Kansas (25-6, 13-5), approx. 3 p.m. (ESPN)
It will be a similar story in Kansas City, as the Mountaineers’ win over Texas Tech on Wednesday night both ended the Red Raiders’ hopes for good and all but assured Bob Huggins’ squad of an NCAA bid. Beating the Jayhawks today would provide a further boost, while potentially knocking KU out of the No. 1 overall seed.
- MW Quarters (5) San José State (19-12, 10-8) vs. (4) Nevada (22-9, 12-6), approx. 5:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
The Wolf Pack swept an improved Spartan club with relative ease, but dropping the third game of the season series in Las Vegas would be a serious blow to their NCAA chances.
- Big Ten 2nd Rd. (10) Penn State (19-12, 10-10) vs. (7) Illinois (20-11, 11-9), 6:30 p.m. (BTN)
Did you know that the Nittany Lions swept the Fighting Illini this season? Penn State would be in great shape with a third win, while Illinois isn’t as much of a lock as you think. Brad Underwood’s team is ranked 33rd in the NET, but it’s also 2-10 in Quad 1 games with both wins—over UCLA and Texas coming before Christmas.
- C-USA Quarters (8) Western Kentucky (17-15, 8-12) vs. (1) Florida Atlantic (28-3, 18-2), 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
The Owls aren’t on the bubble. They’ll be in win or lose tonight, but if the Hilltoppers dump them out of Frisco, C-USA will be a two-bid league, which will burst someone’s bubble.
- ACC Quarters (7) North Carolina (20-12, 11-9) vs. (2) Virginia (23-6, 15-5), 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Beating BC was never going to be enough for the Tar Heels, but they will probably need another win beyond this one—even if they do beat the Cavaliers for a second time to move to 2-8 in Quad 1 games. Plus, there will be worries about how effective Armando Bacot can be after he suffered yet another ankle injury last night. As for the Cavaliers, their hold on a top four seed is slipping.
- Big 12 Quarters (7) Oklahoma State (18-14, 8-10) vs. (2) Texas (23-8, 12-6), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
The Cowboys replaced Wisconsin, following the Badgers’ ill-fated comeback attempt against Ohio State and their own win over Oklahoma. If Oklahoma State can defeat Texas for the first time this season, they’ll move to 7-11 in Quad 1 games with two Quad 1A wins, which should be enough. If not, there will be a long nervous wait in Stillwater. The Longhorns, on the other hand, would love to stay on seed line 2.
- SEC 2nd Rd. (10) Arkansas (19-12, 8-10) vs. (7) Auburn (20-11, 10-8), 7 p.m. (SECN)
Both squads should be in regardless of what happens in Nashville tonight. Just don’t get blown out.
- Big Ten 2nd Rd. (14) Minnesota (9-21, 2-17) vs. (6) Maryland (20-11, 11-9), approx. 9 p.m. (BTN)
The Terps are another team with a high NET (26th) and what’s a pretty meh profile otherwise. A loss to the Golden Gophers would drop Maryland’s record away from College Park to a pathetic 4-10, which could give the Committee real reason to snub Kevin Willard’s club.
- ACC Quarters (6) NC State (23-9, 12-8) vs. (3) Clemson (22-9, 14-6), approx. 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)
The Wolfpack took care of business against Virginia Tech, though Gregg Gantt may not be available after he suffered a knee injury in the first half of yesterday’s dominant 97-77 victory. State cannot lose to the Tigers for a third time, particularly with the 96-71 shellacking from February 25th still fresh in the minds of many.
- SEC 2nd Rd. (14) LSU (14-18, 2-16) vs. (6) Vanderbilt (18-15, 11-7), approx. 9:30 p.m. (SECN)
While the Commodores are the eighth team out on my board this morning, they still have a ton of work to do. Losing to the Tigers for a second time this year would cost them any remaining consideration.
- Pac-12 Quarters (6) Arizona State (21-11, 11-9) vs. (3) USC (22-9, 14-6), approx. 11:30 p.m. (ESPN)
This is the only game of the day at T-Mobile Arena that features two NCAA contenders. Beating Oregon State was never going to be enough for the Sun Devils, who need to defeat the Trojans for the first time this season to stay in the hunt. A loss won’t necessarily be fatal for the Trojans, who currently sit on seed line 9, but why risk it?
- MW Quarters (6) New Mexico (22-10, 8-10) vs. (3) Utah State (24-7, 13-5), approx. 11:30* p.m. (CBSSN)
Even though the Lobos are off the board for now, thanks to some late season struggles and injuries, knocking the Aggies off in the nightcap at the Thomas & Mack would get them back in the hunt. Given how Utah State’s hopes are driven by metrics more than results, a loss to UNM would drop Ryan Odom’s squad to the NIT, given the competition still out there.
I’ll be updating the cut line picture as events warrant today, with my next full update to come Friday morning.