Wednesday’s action was largely uninspiring, with favorites dominating the opening rounds of the Big East and Pac-12 tournaments and second round of the ACC tournament — with the Big Ten and SEC events not offering any games of bracket importance at all. Yet you could still find a few notable results amidst all the chalk.
- In the first game of the day in Charlotte, the NC State Wolfpack defeated the Clemson Tigers, 59-58, to all but relegate their rivals to the NIT. Clemson’s record in Quad 1 games now stands at 1-10 after the loss. That probably won’t be enough to get the Tigers in, even with a NET ranking of 35 and 19-13 record. As for the 22-10 Wolfpack, the NET’s 32nd-ranked team still has work to do, as they’re now the first team out of this projection.
- The Oklahoma Sooners could end up as Wednesday’s second bubble casualty, as they fell to the West Virginia Mountaineers, 72-71, in heartbreaking circumstances. Star swingman Christian James thought he had sent the game to overtime with a buzzer-beating three, but he had a foot on the three-point line. That was the 19-13 Sooners’ first Quad 3 loss, so they should still make the field, particularly with four Quad 1 wins, but that defeat might cost them some positioning on the seed list.
- Otherwise, bubble teams pretty much took care of business. The TCU Horned Frogs escaped their Big 12 tournament opener by holding off a furious Oklahoma State rally, 73-70. In the ACC, both the Louisville Cardinals (over Notre Dame) and Syracuse Orange (against Pitt, even with Tyus Battle out injured) advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinals. The St. John’s Red Storm finally managed to beat DePaul in the Big East, while the Oregon Ducks obliterated Washington State in the Pac-12’s final opening-round game.
After today’s full bracket, I’ll take a look at the many highlights of Thursday’s schedule, plenty of which could significantly jumble what had become a temporarily-stable picture.
Note: Auto bid holders in this section are noted by the conference names in parentheses. Arrows indicate movement up or down seed lines relative to Tuesday’s projection. New entrants are marked with an asterisk. Teams that have clinched bids are in all caps.
Updated 3/14 12:12 p.m. ET to correct the 7/10 matchups in the West and Midwest.
1. East (Washington, D.C.)
Columbia, South Carolina (Fri./Sun.)
San José, California (Fri./Sun.)
Des Moines, Iowa (Thu./Sat.)
Tulsa, Oklahoma (Fri./Sun.)
4. West (Anaheim, California)
Salt Lake City, Utah (Thu./Sat.)
Hartford, Connecticut (Thu./Sat.)
Jacksonville, Florida (Thu./Sat.)
2. South (Louisville, Kentucky)
Columbus, Ohio (Fri./Sun.)
Salt Lake City (Thu./Sat.)
3. Midwest (Kansas City, Missouri)
San José (Fri./Sun.)
Des Moines (Thu./Sat.)
Last Four Byes: Minnesota, St. John’s, TCU, Florida
Last Four IN: Texas, Temple, Indiana, Ohio State
First Four OUT: NC State, Belmont, Creighton, Clemson
Next Four OUT: Lipscomb, Oregon, Alabama, Furman
Bids by Conference: 9 Big Ten, 8 Big 12, 7 ACC, 7 SEC, 4 American, 4 Big East, 2 Mountain West, 2 Pac-12, 2 West Coast, 23 one-bid conferences
From noon ET all the way to midnight on the West Coast, Thursday’s slate offers plenty of opportunities for teams to boost their seeding or play their way into or out of the field entirely.
Early afternoon eye-openers
Scattered among the early tips are two of the day’s biggest bubble games. First up, the Indiana Hoosiers and Ohio State Buckeyes face off in what amounts to an elimination game in the Big Ten’s second round (12:30 p.m., BTN). A half-hour later, the Florida Gators encounter a must-win of their own against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the SEC’s first game of the afternoon (1 p.m., SEC Network). In the ACC, NC State can solidify their place by upsetting the Virginia Cavaliers in the quarterfinals (12:30 p.m., ESPN/Raycom). Elsewhere, the Providence Friars will aim to play bubble spoiler when they take on the top-seeded Villanova Wildcats in the Big East’s first quarterfinal (12 p.m., FS1), while the Baylor Bears and Iowa State Cyclones meet (12:30 p.m., ESPN2), with each hoping to solidify their NCAA seeding.
Bubble teams will want to pay special attention to goings-on in Cleveland; however, as the MAC’s top seed, the Buffalo Bulls, plays its quarterfinal against the Akron Zips at high noon (ESPN+ ($)). If Nate Oats’ squad loses at some point between now and Saturday, the MAC will get two bids and an at-large spot will vanish.
Late afternoon drama
Bubble watchers will need to stay glued to their screens as the afternoon progresses as both the Mountain West and Pac-12‘s top seeds take the floor for the first time — the Nevada Wolf Pack take on the Boise State Broncos (3 p.m., CBSSN) while the Washington Huskies meet the USC Trojans (3 p.m., Pac-12 Network). Losses for either of those teams would further complicate the at-large picture, with the Huskies potentially moving closer to the cut line thanks to their inconsistent play after wrapping up the Pac-12 regular-season crown.
Back East, the Xavier Musketeers-Creighton Bluejays matchup in the second Big East quarterfinal (2:30 p.m., FS1) has implications, particularly with the Bluejays sitting just outside the field. In Kansas City, TCU can earn itself some breathing room by knocking off Big 12 top seed Kansas State (3 p.m., ESPN2), while the Virginia Tech Hokies and Florida State Seminoles meet for the second time in 10 days with places among the protected seed group on the line (3 p.m., ESPN/Raycom).
Early evening madness
Five games with bracket impact will all tip right around 7 p.m. ET. On the bubble front, the Minnesota Golden Gophers will attempt to avoid picking up a deflating late loss to the 14-17 Penn State Nittany Lions, even if Pat Chambers’ team is 49th in the NET (BTN), while the Alabama Crimson Tide must defeat the Ole Miss Rebels to have any shot at selection (SEC Network). St. John’s attempt to defeat the Marquette Golden Eagles (FS1) isn’t quite a bubble game after the Red Storm’s Wednesday victory, but the Big East’s No. 2 seed needs to break out of a four-game funk that’s deflated its seed. In the Big 12, West Virginia will look to play spoiler against a Texas Tech Red Raider squad (ESPN2) pushing for a two or three seed nationally, while the ACC’s first evening quarterfinal between Louisville and North Carolina (ESPN/Raycom) is an intriguing rubber match — particularly with UNC in the thick of the No. 1 seed race.
While the highlight of the late evening window could be Zion Williamson’s potential return for the Duke Blue Devils in their ACC quarterfinal against Syracuse (9:30 p.m., ESPN/Raycom), there are enough other games on the schedule to make you wear out your remote. For starters, the first games of the Mountain West and Pac-12’s evening doubleheaders feature even more potential cut line drama, as the Utah State Aggies meet the New Mexico Lobos (9 p.m., CBSSN) and the Arizona State Sun Devils encounter the UCLA Bruins (9 p.m., Pac-12 Network). Both the Aggies and Sun Devils need to avoid late slip-ups to remain in the field.
In the Big 12, a loss to the Kansas Jayhawks, playing on what amounts to their secondary home floor, would knock the 16-15 Texas Longhorns to .500 and almost assuredly out of the field (9:30 p.m., ESPN2). The Seton Hall Pirates can burst the Georgetown Hoyas’ bubble in the Big East’s last quarterfinal (9:30 p.m., FS1). The Iowa Hawkeyes will look to snap a four-game skid against the Illinois Fighting Illini in the Big Ten’s final second round matchup (9:30 p.m., BTN), while the Mississippi State Bulldogs will look to avoid a bad loss to the Texas A&M Aggies (9:30 p.m., SEC Network).
Last but not least, even though Oregon is the sixth-seeded team in the Pac-12, the Ducks have more of an at-large shot than the third-seeded Utah Utes (11:30 p.m., ESPN). But that chance would disappear with a defeat in Vegas.
While my next full bracket will post on Friday morning, I’ll have updates throughout Thursday as events warrant.