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.
A night after Kansas State emphatically stated its case for an at-large bid, several other bubble teams will try to do the same. In the Big Ten, Michigan State kicks off a make-or-break week with a trip to Columbus to take on Ohio State. The Spartans snuck back into our Field of 68 this week because we think, despite their well-documented struggles, that they still can finish 9-9 in conference. We don't expect this game to be one of those wins, but it's important that they play well with a ginormous home game against Illinois looming this weekend. A 1-1 week will keep Sparty in the bracket next Monday.
In the ACC, Maryland plays at Virginia Tech in what is an absolute must-win for the Terps. Maryland lost to Virginia Tech at home back on Jan. 20, and if they have any chance to get back in the at-large picture, they'll have to avoid a season sweep. The game is also huge for Virginia Tech, which must finish 10-6 in conference to stay on the right side of the bubble heading into the ACC tournament. The Hokies still have home games left against Duke and BC as well as a road game at Clemson to close out the season, so they'll have chances to pad their resume. A win here, though, would take a little pressure off going forward.
There are also some key bubble battles tonight in the Big East (St. John's at Marquette), the Colonial (George Mason at VCU, Georgia State at Old Dominion) and the Missouri Valley (Wichita State at Evansville, Drake at Missouri State). St. John's has the overall record of a bubble team, but their five Top 25 wins (five!) has them up to a 7 seed this week. They should easily get to 9-9 (probably 10-8) in conference, which will get them a bid. Marquette, meanwhile, needs this game to avoid picking up its 11th loss and to avoid falling under .500 in conference. The Golden Eagles have an easy schedule left (four of their six are at home and one of their road games is at Seton Hall), so this isn't necessarily a must-win, but it could give them some much-needed breathing room.
George Mason comes into the night on an 11-game win streak that has vaulted them all the way up to a 9 seed in our latest bracket. The Patriots are currently in the field as the Colonial automatic, but they have a great chance at an at-large if they win at VCU tonight. A win would give them a two game lead with just two games to play in conference. It's hard to see a resume with a Colonial regular season title and a sub-30 RPI on it not warranting a bid this year with the bubble as soft as it is.
In the MVC, current auto bid Wichita State faces a tricky road test at Evansville, which has wins over Missouri State and Northern Iowa in its last two home games. If the Shockers, or Missouri State, have designs on earning an at-large bid out of what looks like a one-bid league, they can't afford a slip-up tonight. Both teams have BracketBuster games on tap this weekend, with Wichita hosting VCU and Missouri State playing at Valparaiso.
Also keep an eye on: Villanova at Seton Hall, Mississippi State at Kentucky, Wake Forest at North Carolina, Texas Tech at Missouri, Wayland Baptist University at Baylor (seriously?), Air Force at UNLV, Butler at Green Bay