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.
It's a big night in Bubbleville, as a half dozen teams play games that could have long-term impact on their at-large hopes.
The most important game of the night is UConn at St. John's. The Red Storm have a top 25 RPI and more big wins than any other bubble team, but they also have nine losses and a difficult schedule left. This game isn't necessarily a must-win, but a loss would leave St. John's at 6-5 in conference and with a little less margin for error going forward. They play at Cincinnati on Sunday and then at Marquette and at home against Pittsburgh next week.
In the SEC, Alabama plays at Vanderbilt, and in the Big Ten, Illinois plays at Minnesota and Penn State plays at Michigan State. The Tide have been the most debated team in our comments section over the past week because of their 7-1 SEC record, their terrible RPI, and their ratio of bad losses to good wins. They aren't at-large worthy yet, even with the bubble as soft as it is, but a road win against the Commodores would get them some serious consideration next week. Bama's schedule is pretty soft the rest of the way, and a 12-4 finish (even in the awful SEC West) would probably be enough to get the Tide a bid.
The Penn State-Michigan State game is a must-win for both teams. Despite some nice wins, neither of these teams look like NCAA tournament teams right now and neither would be in the bracket if the season ended today. The loser is going to have to go on a huge run to get back on the right side of the bubble. The Illinois-Minnesota game features two teams that just need to stop the bleeding. Illinois has lost five of seven and is down to an 8 seed this week, while Minnesota has lost three straight and has slid down to a 7. The Illini might be in more trouble with a loss here; they have three tough road games left and a date with Purdue in Champaign on Saturday. A 9-9 finish, with their decent OOC resume, might be enough for a bid, but they'd need a win in the Big Ten tournament to feel safe. Having Maryland and Gonzaga (two of their OOC victories) win some games down the stretch wouldn't hurt, either.
Finally, in the Pac-10, UCLA hosts Oregon, Washington hosts Cal, and Washington State hosts Stanford. The Cougars barely hung on to a bid in our latest bracket after getting drubbed at Oregon State, and they'll have to sweep Stanford and Cal at home over the weekend to stay in on Monday.
Also keep an eye on: Florida State at Georgia Tech, St. Mary's at Santa Clara, Gonzaga at Loyola Marymount, Wright State at Butler