The sports world’s response to Covid-19 cascaded Wednesday, with the NCAA first deciding that March Madness would be played with only essential personnel in attendance, with many conference tournaments following suit. Then news broke that the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus, a development that led the NBA to suspend its season. The NHL might be next. As of this post’s publication time, Thursday’s conference tournament action looks set to go on and the NCAA tournament has yet to be suspended, but given the direction professional indoor sports are going, can college sports be far behind?
Bracketology will continue until there is no longer a tournament to project. So, as promised in Wednesday’s bracket post, I completely scrubbed the field yesterday evening. That process resulted in a new No. 1 seed, the Dayton Flyers, who knocked the San Diego State Aztecs down to the No. 2 spot in the West region, along with several other shifts further down the bracket. Additionally, I attempted to keep teams as close to home as possible given bracketing restrictions, though I suspect these may be relaxed in the coming days. There are also two new at-large teams, thanks to Wednesday’s results.
- The Stanford Cardinal drop out following their second loss of the season to the California Golden Bears, 63-51, in the Pac-12 5 tournament’s first round, while a loss to the DePaul Blue Demons in the Big East tournament’s 7 vs. 10 game knocked the Xavier Musketeers from the field.
- On the other hand, the NC State Wolfpack took care of business against the Pittsburgh Panthers in the ACC tournament’s second round, 73-58. Kevin Keatts’ squad is scheduled to play the Duke Blue Devils today (3 p.m. ET, ESPN), with a second win over Mike Krzyzewski’s club likely to secure State’s ticket.
- Thursday morning’s second at-large newcomer is the UCLA Bruins, idle on Wednesday. Mick Cronin’s team has a set of quality wins that are impossible to ignore, even if their NET ranking is stuck in the mid-70s.
- There’s a third newcomer in today’s field, the Boston University Terriers. The Patriot League champs are the last auto bid winner to be decided before Saturday.
This post contains more detailed information about the last four teams in and first four in.
After Thursday morning’s full bracket and rundown, I’ll have a quick look at the day’s schedule. It should be a fascinating day of college basketball, considering that few of us are used to watching games played in largely empty arenas.
Arrows indicate seed line movement, which is relative to Monday’s bracket. Asterisks (*) indicate new entries. Teams in all caps (except for those that go by their initials) have clinched auto bids (13 so far).
1. South Region (Houston)
Omaha, Nebraska (Fri./Sun.)
Albany, New York (Thu./Sat.)
Greensboro, North Carolina (Fri./Sun.)
Cleveland, Ohio (Fri./Sun.)
2. West Region (Los Angeles)
Spokane, Washington (Thu./Sat.)
Tampa, Florida (Thu./Sat.)
Sacramento, California (Fri./Sun.)
3. Midwest Region (Indianapolis)
St. Louis (Thu./Sat.)
4. East Region (New York)
St. Louis, Missouri (Thu./Sat.)
Bids by conference: 10 Big Ten, 6 Big 12, 6 Big East, 6 Pac-12, 5 ACC, 4 SEC, 3 WCC, 2 AAC, 2 Atlantic 10, 2 MW, 22 one-bid conferences
Last four byes: Rutgers, Texas Tech, UCLA, Marquette
Last four in: Indiana, Texas, Richmond, NC State
First four out: Stanford, Xavier, Northern Iowa, Wichita State
Next four out: Mississippi State, Arkansas, UConn, Saint Louis
Lowest-ranked NET at-large: UCLA (76)
Highest-ranked NET exclusion: Purdue (32, 16-15 overall)
New today (3/68): Boston University, NC State, UCLA
Leaving today: Colgate, Stanford, Xavier
What to watch Thursday
All times are ET.
- The noon hour will see a pair of conference top seeds and national No. 2 seeds feature in a pair of rubber matches, as the Creighton Bluejays take on the St. John’s Red Storm in the Big East (12 p.m., FS1) and the Florida State Seminoles face the Clemson Tigers in the ACC (12:30 p.m., ESPN). Meanwhile, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights can earn themselves some breathing room by defeating the Michigan Wolverines in the Big Ten (12 p.m., BTN) and the Texas Longhorns and Texas Tech Red Raiders meet in a bubble showdown at the Big 12 tournament (12:30 p.m., ESPN2).
- The second wave of afternoon games feature teams playing for top-four seeds in the Butler Bulldogs (vs. Providence, 2:30 p.m., FS1), Iowa Hawkeyes (vs. Minnesota, 2:30 p.m., BTN), Oregon Ducks (against Oregon State, 3 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) and Duke in that aforementioned tip in Greensboro. The Kansas Jayhawks will also attempt to stop the Oklahoma State Cowboys’ from going on a bubble-bursting run in the Big 12 (3 p.m., ESPN2), while the Florida Gators must avoid a bad late loss to the Georgia Bulldogs (3:30 p.m., SEC Network) and the UConn Huskies begin their final American Athletic tournament with a second game against the Tulane Green Wave in a five-day span (3:30 p.m., ESPNU).
- The evening begins with a Pac-12 showdown between a pair of teams hanging around the eight and nine lines, the Arizona Wildcats and USC Trojans (5:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). Otherwise, it’s a whole lot of contests between teams that must win out to dance and those that are safely in — Purdue vs. Ohio State (6:30 p.m., BTN), Notre Dame vs. Virginia (7 p.m., ESPN), Kansas State vs. Baylor (7 p.m., ESPN2) and DePaul vs. Villanova (7 p.m., FS1).
- As for the late-evening window, there’s an interesting mix of contests. UCLA takes on Cal as the Bruins attempt to solidify their place (9 p.m, Pac-12 Networks). The Indiana Hoosiers can do the same by defeating the Penn State Nittany Lions (9 p.m., BTN). In the Big East, the Marquette Golden Eagles could really use a victory over the Seton Hall Pirates as a confidence boost following a late slide (9:30 p.m., FS1), and the same goes for the West Virginia Mountaineers, who take on the Oklahoma Sooners in Kansas City (9:30 p.m., FS1). The Arkansas Razorbacks-South Carolina Gamecocks showdown in the SEC (9:30 p.m, SEC Network) is a bubble elimination match, while the Syracuse Orange take on the Louisville Cardinals (9:30 p.m., ESPN) needing to extend their ACC tournament run to have hope.
- There are two late-night tips of interest. A loss to the East Carolina Pirates in Fort Worth would burst the Memphis Tigers’ bubble for good (10:30 p.m, ESPNU), while the Arizona State Sun Devils can’t slip up against a Washington State Cougars squad it split with during the regular season (11:30 p.m., FS1).
I’ll have further updates throughout the day as events warrant and as long as games continue. In the meantime, you can check out my TV viewing guides and full conference tournament coverage over at Blogging the Bracket.