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Analysis | NCAA tournament bracketology: A massive day for major teams on the bubble

Analysis | NCAA tournament bracketology: A massive day for major teams on the bubble

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 1

Thursday’s games to watch

Big Ten second round: Michigan State vs. Minnesota (noon, Big Ten Network)

Michigan State’s metrics — as well as its victories over Baylor, Illinois and edge-of-the-field darling Indiana State — mean it probably isn’t falling out of the field. But getting nudged into play-in territory? That’s in play for the Spartans (18-13) if they lose to Minnesota (18-13).

Bracket impact: More of a seeding and slotting concern than inclusion for Michigan State, which hasn’t done anything terrible (and losing to the top-100 Golden Gophers in Minneapolis wouldn’t count as terrible).

SEC second round: Mississippi State vs. LSU (1, SEC Network)

Mississippi State (19-12) isn’t falling out of the field, but there’s a slight chance it could slip to Dayton. They won their only matchup with the Tigers (17-14) during the regular season, a 20-point rout in Baton Rouge on Feb. 24.

Bracket impact: A game with an impact only for those trying to figure out who will be in play-in territory. Mississippi State met that fate last year (and then lost to Pitt), which makes the Bulldogs a good candidate to care about such things.

American Athletic second round: Memphis vs. Wichita State (approx. 2:30, ESPNU)

Dotting some I’s and crossing some T’s by including Memphis (22-9), which is a commendable 6-6 against the top two quadrants but also has a Quad 4 loss at home to Rice to answer for. The Tigers open play in the American tournament against the 14-18 Shockers.

Bracket impact: Nothing yet, but Memphis has won four of five to at least earn fringy status.

ACC quarterfinal: Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest (approx. 2:30, ESPN2)

The juiciest game for bracket-related purposes at the ACC tournament features the fifth-seeded Demon Deacons (20-12) facing fourth-seeded Pitt (21-10). Wake Forest never trailed Wednesday in a 72-59 defeat of Notre Dame. It sure has the look of an NCAA tournament eliminator game for both teams.

Bracket impact: Winner to Dayton? Maybe. But both could have more work to do even with a victory. That holds especially for Pitt, which has to answer for a nonconference schedule ranked 342nd.

Big East quarterfinal: Seton Hall vs. St. John’s (approx. 2:30, Fox Sports 1)

Seton Hall (20-11) has done a lot for a team with relatively modest metrics — wins against Connecticut and Marquette chief among them. They can stand out even more by taking a third matchup with the Red Storm (19-12), which owns exactly one victory over the projected field. This, along with Pitt/Wake Forest, is one of the few games this week when both teams are battling for their postseason hopes.

Bracket impact: The winner improves their chances of getting in, and Seton Hall probably won’t have to sweat come Sunday if it does. The loser has a long wait until the field of 68 is unveiled.

Big Ten second round: Iowa vs. Ohio State (6:30, BTN)

The Big Ten’s sleeper team (at least for a stealth at-large push) is whoever wins this game. Iowa (18-13) would have been quite close to cracking the field had it upended Illinois on Sunday. It didn’t, but a win against the Buckeyes (19-12) would give the Hawkeyes another shot at the Fighting Illini. As for Ohio State, it’s closer to the edge of the field than you’d expect for a team that fired its coach last month.

Bracket impact: The conversation gets a little interesting for whoever wins this only if it is followed by a victory over Illinois on Friday.

Big 12 quarterfinal: Kansas State vs. Iowa State (7, ESPN2)

Kansas State had lost nine of 11 to seemingly fall out of the at-large picture. The Wildcats (19-13) then beat Iowa State to close the regular season and Texas to open the Big 12 tournament. K-State doesn’t have the greatest set of team sheet metrics, but now it owns a high-end victory away from home and warrants a reappraisal. The initial verdict: Beating Iowa State (24-7) is probably a necessity.

Bracket impact: Kansas State has no bad losses and a 5-7 record in Quad 1 games. The Wildcats would become a sneaky candidate for a trip to Dayton if they can trip up Iowa State for a second huge victory in as many days.

Big East quarterfinal: Providence vs. Creighton (7, Fox Sports 1)

Providence took a pass/fail test in the first round Wednesday. It passed, dismissing Georgetown, 74-56, in a game that did nothing to improve its résumé. Beating Creighton for a second time this season, this time on a neutral court? Now that would help the Friars (20-12) a great deal.

Bracket impact: If Providence wants to distinguish itself this week, this is its chance. The Friars have no bad losses and a 5-8 record in Quad 1 games. They’re a classic borderline team, and this is the chance to change that.

SEC second round: Texas A&M vs. Mississippi (7, SEC Network)

Mississippi (20-11) has lost eight of 10 to fade from at-large contention, but it can finish off Texas A&M’s tournament hopes. The Aggies (18-13) have a colorful résumé that includes an 11-9 record in games against the top two Quadrants (including defeats of Tennessee, Iowa State and Kentucky), but they’ve also scattered four Quad 3 losses into the mix.

Bracket impact: Texas A&M could be one of the tougher teams to evaluate, but it would get a lot easier to do so if it loses to Mississippi.

Atlantic 10 quarterfinal: Dayton vs. Duquesne (approx. 7:30, USA)

Third-seeded Dayton (24-6) can actually help create space in the field by winning the Atlantic 10 tournament because no one else in the league has a viable shot at an at-large bid. They’ll need to win three games in four days, starting with a matchup with sixth-seeded Duquesne (21-11).

Bracket impact: Teams right on the cut line will be rooting for Dayton to plow its way through the bracket in Brooklyn.

ACC quarterfinal: Virginia vs. Boston College (approx. 9:30, ESPN)

Third-seeded Virginia (22-9) is the last team out of 15 to take the floor in the ACC tournament. Boston College (19-14) has already won twice, including a 76-55 throttling of Clemson in Wednesday’s second round. The Cavaliers might have been able to withstand a loss to Clemson. They probably can’t do the same against the much-improved Eagles.

Bracket impact: Virginia might be facing a win-and-get-in situation. It would be wise to handle its business against the Eagles.

Big 12 quarterfinal: Cincinnati vs. Baylor (approx. 9:30, ESPN2)

Cincinnati, the No. 11 seed, crushed shorthanded Kansas on Wednesday to keep its faint at-large hopes alive. The Bearcats (20-13) and their stingy defense will be tested by third-seeded Baylor (22-9), which owns the most efficient offense in Big 12 play according to KenPom.com.

Bracket impact: Another win would help Cincinnati apply some pressure to the committee, but it is still a team with a 4-10 record in Quadrant 1 games and a pair of Quadrant 3 losses. Simply getting to the Big 12 semifinals probably won’t get the job done.

Big East quarterfinal: Villanova vs. Marquette (approx. 9:30, Fox Sports 1)

Sixth-seeded Villanova (18-14) survived — barely — against 3-29 DePaul in Wednesday’s triple-header nightcap at Madison Square Garden. If a team needs a late three-pointer to escape, 58-57, against the lowly Blue Demons, it isn’t making a great impression. Know what would? Beating third-seeded Marquette (23-8), which swept a pair of meetings from the Wildcats in January.

Bracket impact: Villanova’s tournament hopes hinge on winning this game.

Pac-12 quarterfinal: Colorado vs. Utah (approx. 11:30, Fox Sports 1)

Without much wiggle room, third-seeded Colorado (22-9) has rattled off six victories in a row to work its way into a good position. The Buffaloes will face sixth-seeded Utah (19-13), which ripped Arizona State late Wednesday and is a fringy — at best — at-large candidate.

Bracket impact: Utah needs a deeper run than the Pac-12 quarterfinals. But that could be enough for Colorado, especially if it runs into Washington State in the semifinals.

Mountain West quarterfinal: New Mexico vs. Boise State (approx. 11:30, CBS Sports Network)

New Mexico (23-9) had dropped six of 10 before clobbering Air Force, 82-56, on Wednesday. But the Lobos could use a victory away from Albuquerque against a surefire tournament team to pair with its Feb. 13 triumph at Nevada. Facing Boise State (22-9) provides that sort of opportunity.

Bracket impact: Quite possibly a make-or-break game for the Lobos’ postseason chances.

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