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Bracketology 2017: Kansas State tops Baylor to step into the field

Xavier and Vanderbilt were the night’s other big winners, while Iowa saw its bubble burst, just like Big Ten rival Illinois’ did earlier in the day.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Championship-Baylor vs Kansas State Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into Thursday evening’s conference tournament action, the Kansas State Wildcats were the first team out in my late afternoon bubble update. That’s no longer the case after the Wildcats did what was required in the final Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal of the night, defeating the Baylor Bears for the second time in 2017.

Now, it’s still going to be close for K-State even with a 4-8 record against the Top 50, thanks to a poor non-conference schedule (229th) — that’s simply playing with fire when dealing with the Selection Committee. So defeating the West Virginia Mountaineers in tomorrow’s semifinals might still be necessary for Bruce Weber’s team.

As for the Bears, the result ended any hope they had of jumping back to the top line of the bracket.

But the second team out entering the night’s lineup, the Iowa Hawkeyes, weren’t so lucky. The Indiana Hoosiers buried the Hawks by 22, 95-73, in the first Big Ten Tournament second-round game of the night. As I wrote earlier, Iowa needed to get to a Friday quarterfinal against the Wisconsin Badgers to have a shot, but now Indiana is the team with a renewed chance. However, the Hoosiers might need to make Sunday’s final to have a real shot, and if they get that far, they might as well go ahead and cut the nets down.

The Xavier Musketeers, 62-57 victors over the Butler Bulldogs in the Big East Tournament quarters, are the night’s biggest winner. That victory, their first over a team not named “DePaul“ in their last 10 games, should loft Chris Mack’s team to safety and a spot above the First Four. While the Providence Friars lost to the Creighton Bluejays in the nightcap at Madison Square Garden, Ed Cooley’s squad should still make its fourth straight trip to the NCAAs. But it just might have to play an extra game in Dayton.

Meanwhile, in the SEC Tournament’s second round in Nashville, the Vanderbilt Commodores pulled away from the Texas A&M Aggies to claim a 66-41 win and a quarterfinal date with a Florida Gators squad they swept during the regular season. Even if they’re defeated tomorrow, I’m confident the Commodores will make the field, possibly as the first 15-loss squad to ever earn an at-large bid.

The California Golden Bears also kept themselves afloat by surviving a Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal against the Utah Utes. But they’ll need to beat the top-seeded Oregon Ducks, the team that broke Cal hearts with a Dillon Brooks buzzer-beater on Feb. 22, in tomorrow’s semifinals to sneak into the field.

And the Northwestern Wildcats routed the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the final Big Ten game of the night, 83-61, to leave no doubt about their March Madness plans.

Here’s an updated look at the cut line picture.

Last Four Byes: Marquette, Xavier, Wake Forest, Providence
Last Four IN: Vanderbilt, USC, Kansas State, Syracuse
First Four OUT: Rhode Island, California, Illinois State, Illinois
Next Four Out: TCU, Monmouth, Indiana, Iowa
Hanging Around: Georgia, Houston, Ole Miss

Don’t forget about idle Rhode Island, which plays its first Atlantic 10 Tournament game tomorrow against St. Bonaventure. The Rams are the team most likely to knock out Syracuse or even Kansas State.

The lone team of this group still to wrap up play tonight is USC, which is playing a late Pac-12 quarterfinal against archrival UCLA. I’ll update the Trojans’ position in tomorrow morning’s full bracket update.