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Bracketology 2023: Thursday Afternoon Bubble Update

As the day sessions morph into evening ones, it’s time to check in on the cut line picture.

The cut line picture for the 2023 Men’s NCAA Tournament bracket after the games of the ET/CT afternoon of Thursday, March 9.
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean using logos from

Before I get to the Cut Line, a look at how we got to it.

  • Big Ten Rd. 2: (9) Rutgers (19-13, 10-10) 62, (8) Michigan (17-15, 11-9) 50

The Scarlet Knights should be safe now, while the Wolverines will join Wisconsin in the NIT. Rutgers gets a chance to defeat Purdue for a second time tomorrow.

  • SEC Rd. 2: (9) Mississippi State (21-11, 8-10) 69, (8) Florida (16-16, 9-9) 68 (OT)

The Gators almost did it, but they’ll be waiting for a call from the NIT now that the auto bid is out of the picture. For the Bulldogs, the one-point win should be enough. Beating Alabama tomorrow afternoon would surely seal things.

  • ACC Quarters: (5) Pittsburgh (22-11, 14-6) 69, (4) Duke (24-8, 14-6) 96

Not a great final impression by the Panthers, who I’ve dropped slightly. One team that needs to root against potential bid thieves over the next three and a half days.

  • Big East Quarters: (5) Providence (21-11, 13-7) 66, (4) UConn (25-7, 13-7) 73

The win would have sealed things for the Friars, but they should be fine anyway. No shame in losing to the Huskies at this point of the season.

  • Big 12 Quarters: (8) West Virginia (19-14, 7-11) 61, (1) Kansas (26-6, 13-5) 78

The Jayhawks have the No. 1 overall seed in their sights, even if Bill Self is hospitalized. The Mountaineers weren’t going to drop out with a loss today.

The Cut Line As of 6 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, March 9

Teams in action tonight are bolded.

Last Four Byes: Rutgers, Maryland, Penn State, Mississippi State.

Last Four IN: Pittsburgh, NC State, Oklahoma State, Utah State

First Four OUT: Nevada, Arizona State, North Carolina, Clemson

Next Four OUT: Oregon, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Michigan

So, 11 of the 16 teams will take the floor tonight, with Wisconsin and Michigan virtually eliminated from contention. Here’s a reminder of the night games and what’s at stake in each.

Bubble Games to Come

  • 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.