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.
If there are going to be significant changes in our next bracket, it will likely be because of what happens tonight across the country. Twenty-six of the 68 teams we have in our current field are in action tonight, as are seven of the eight teams on our First Eight Out list.
The two most important games of the night involve teams that are thisclose to earning a bid - Maryland and Colorado State. The Terps host Duke tonight in College Park, three days after the Blue Devils were embarrassed by St. John's in the Garden. That loss knocked Duke off of the 1 line, and they'll have a tougher road getting back there if they lose this one. Maryland, meanwhile, has won three in a row to get back into the bubble mix after a 1-3 start in conference. The Terps have don't have any terrible losses on their resume, but they only have one Top 50 win and they've yet to beat a tourney-caliber ACC team. A victory here would give them a second marquee win, a much-needed RPI bump, and most importantly, a resume worthy of an at-large.
In the Mountain West, Colorado State can stake their claim to an at-large with a win over the visiting Aztecs. The Rams have a nice profile already - they have a road win at UNLV and are in third place in the fourth-ranked conference in the country - but they need a second signature win. They missed out on an opportunity to get that second win at home against BYU a week and a half ago, and if they miss out again tonight, they are going to have to beat SDSU or BYU on the road to be at-large worthy.
In other important bubble games, Georgia plays at Arkansas, Virginia Tech plays at N.C. State, Baylor plays at Oklahoma, Nebraska plays at Kansas State, and Missouri plays at Oklahoma State. The Big XII bubble is an absolute mess right now, and has left the third ranked conference in the country with as many bids as the Mountain West, Pac-10, and A-10. Oklahoma State has dropped below Baylor, Kansas State, and Nebraska in the Big XII pecking order, but they can return to relevance with an upset at home against the Tigers. Kansas State has the easiest remaining schedule of any Big XII bubble team, but they've also lost five of their last seven. Nebraska, meanwhile, stunned everyone with the defensive effort they put forth against Texas A&M this past weekend. If the Huskers can get past the Wildcats tonight, their schedule sets up nicely for them to make a real run at a bid. They host Kansas this weekend and they still have home games left against Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas State, and Missouri.
There are also two huge games tonight in the Big East, as Syracuse plays at UConn and Marquette plays at Villanova. The Orange have now famously lost four in a row are down to a 5 seed in out latest bracket. They face a Huskies team tonight that will be out to avenge a rare Gampel Pavilion loss at the hands on Louisville on Saturday. UConn was our fourth and final 1 seed this week, but their hold on that spot is very tenuous given the tear that Texas has been on the last three weeks. A slip-up here, and they'll be back on the 2 line. In the other notable Big East game, Marquette will try to avoid picking up its ninth loss of the year by winning on the road against the struggling Wildcats. The Golden Eagles resume is shaping up to be one of the toughest resumes to evaluate in the country. They have three Top 25 wins, but they've lost a ton of close games and their RPI (59) has been hurt because of some really bad small conference teams they played early in the year. A win tonight would keep Marquette safely in the field, while a loss would leave as one of the last teams in.
It's also a big night in the Colonial and the A-10. In the Colonial, Old Dominion hosts (and looks for revenge against) Delaware, VCU plays at Northeastern, and George Mason hosts Hofstra. In the A-10, Temple plays at LaSalle, Xavier plays at Charlotte, Richmond hosts St. Joseph's, and bracket newcomer Duquesne hosts George Washington.
Also keep an eye on: Michigan State at Iowa, Minnesota at Indiana, Rutgers at St. John's, Seton Hall at West Virginia, Clemson at Virginia, BYU at Wyoming, Utah at UNLV, USC at UCLA, Nevada at Utah State, Missouri State at Evansville, Tulsa at Memphis, Southern Miss at UAB, Illinois State at Northern Iowa