Bracketology: N.C. State and Tennessee advance to Friday showdowns

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During the middle of the afternoon on the East Coast, most fans' attention was focused on Madison Square Garden, where two future ACC rivals met for the final time in the Big East Tournament. In the meantime, the Wolfpack and Tennessee picked up key wins, while Arizona State's hopes all but ended.

Syracuse knocked No. 4-seed Pittsburgh out of the Big East Tourney despite a furious second half rally by the Panthers. The Orange will next meet archrival Georgetown in what should be a very interesting semifinal on Friday night, particularly after how the Hoyas dominated the pair's meeting in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. As a result of today's win, the Orange will jump the Panthers in tomorrow's projection.

Michigan kept its hopes for a top seed alive by blowing Penn State out in the second half of their Big Ten first-round contest. The Wolverines next face Wisconsin in Friday's quarterfinals. Remember, the Badgers won an incredible overtime classic in February in Madison. Over in Kansas City, Kansas also struggled early in its Big 12 quarterfinal before easily dispatching Texas Tech to set up a semi with Iowa State. In Brooklyn, Butler topped Dayton in the Bulldogs' first-ever A-10 Tournament game. Butler will get the chance to defeat a La Salle team that just happened to win the pair's only regular-season matchup in Philly. Tomorrow's game may have a bit more meaning for the Explorers, who are just on the right side of the bubble at the moment.

In the ACC, N.C. State blasted Virginia Tech to set up a big quarterfinal with Virginia on Friday afternoon. Tennessee, just ahead of the Cavaliers in the race for the final spot in my current projection, will get to play an elimination game with Alabama in the SEC quarters tomorrow, thanks to a win over Mississippi State.

Southern Mississippi, which realistically needs to win the Conference USA auto bid to make the field, opened its quest with an easy win over UAB. On the other hand, a day after ending Stanford's hopes, Arizona State coughed up a huge lead against UCLA in the first Pac-12 quarterfinal and saw its own chances extinguished.

The most significant game from a seeding perspective in the late afternoon is the Pac-12 quarterfinal between Colorado and Arizona -- the rubber match between the Four Corners foes. The Buffaloes are trying to earn the right to wear white jerseys in the NCAA Second Round, while the Wildcats, currently a No. 4 seed, could move up to a three with nice run in Las Vegas.

In the early evening session, there's a little bit of everything -- some intriguing games for both teams safely in and those on the fringe of the bubble. Big East two-seed Louisville looks to keep pace with Georgetown in the national top-seed race with a win over Villanova. Kansas State takes on Texas in a bid to stay on the top-four seed lines. Conference USA regular-season champ Memphis opens its tournament run with a quarterfinal against Tulane. Also, three teams on the edge of the bid race face must wins, as Xavier takes on St. Joseph's, Maryland faces off with Wake Forest and Arkansas battles Vanderbilt.

Updated Last Four Byes: California, Minnesota, Oklahoma, La Salle
Updated Last Four IN: St. Mary's, Kentucky, Boise State, Tennessee
Updated First Four OUT: Virginia, Middle Tennessee, Mississippi, Baylor

More in College Basketball:

Bracketology: Selection Sunday week is here

The life and death of Earl Badu

Dagger! Watch Illinois win at the buzzer

Full coverage of the Big East Tournament

Full coverage of the Big Ten Tournament

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