Bracket Banter is our daily open thread to discuss all things bracket. Readers can post comments and questions during the night's games, and we will answer those questions as the night goes on.
There are only a few power conference games worth watching tonight, which means two mid-majors battling for at-large bids will take center stage.
In the biggest game of the night, Gonzaga faces an absolute must-win at Portland. The Zags are the last team in our bracket this week after their home loss to St. Mary's, and they'll need to win this game and then beat Memphis at home this weekend to avoid dropping out. If they lose one of those two games, they would likely have to win out to have any hope at an at-large.
The second key mid-major game of the night is Valparaiso at Cleveland State. Both of these teams are fighting for the Horizon regular season title (Cleveland State leads by a half game) and for a chance at an at-large. Cleveland State has a very pretty record and a nice RPI, but one of their three losses was at Valpo. A season sweep at the hands of the Crusaders would not exactly look good on a resume. If the Vikings do get the win at home and then beat Butler over the weekend, they have to be considered a serious at-large contender. If Valpo wins, they'd have a big leg up in the race to win the Horizon title, which in a 68-team field, could be viewed as an at-large worthy accomplishment.
Three of the four Pac-10 teams in our bracket are also in action tonight, and all play on the road. Washington, which is looking to bounce back from its loss to Washington State, plays at Oregon State, Arizona plays at Stanford, and Washington State plays at Oregon. The Cougars stayed in the field this week thanks to their upset of the Huskies, but their spot is far from secure. They still have the fourth-best resume in a league that might only deserve three bids, and they play five of their next seven on the road. They're just 1-3 on the road in conference so far, with the lone win coming at Stanford.
The only other notable game of the night is Michigan at Ohio State. This game had all the makings of a blowout a week ago, but the Wolverines have now won two straight and looked very good in winning at Michigan State last Thursday. (Or maybe the Spartans are just that bad right now.) This is the unbeaten Buckeyes' easiest game for a while: their next five games are all against tourney-caliber Big Ten teams, starting with a trip to Minnesota this weekend.
Also keep an eye on: Notre Dame at DePaul, Tennessee at Auburn, Pepperdine at St. Mary's, Butler at Youngstown State, Belmont at Jacksonville, Liberty at Coastal Carolina