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.
The year's first installment of Duke-North Carolina is the main event tonight, but the undercard is shaping up to be pretty solid as well. Thirteen ranked teams are in action, with seven of those teams facing unranked opponents on the road, and the other six facing each other in three huge conference games.
The biggest of those games, and the most likely to cause Dick Vitale to spontaneously combust, will take place at Cameron Indoor. The freshly-ranked Tar Heels come in as the hottest team in the ACC over the last few weeks, winning their last three games by a combined 68 points. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, bounced back from their nightmarish performance against St. John's with blowout victories over Maryland and N.C. State last week. The winner of this game will have temporary control over first place in conference and will have temporary bragging rights until the teams meet again in the regular season finale on March 5. If Duke wins, they will add a sixth Top 50 win to their resume and inch a little closer towards returning to the 1 line. If Carolina wins, and then beats Clemson on the road this weekend, they could be as high as a 3 seed next week.
In the other two marquee games of the night, Notre Dame hosts Louisville and Syracuse hosts Georgetown. These four teams are pretty tightly packed between the 2 and 4 lines, and they could very well swap spots on those lines depending on what happens tonight. If Notre Dame or Georgetown win, they would tie Texas for the most RPI Top 50 wins in the country with eight.
There are also some huge bubble battles tonight in the Big XII, as Colorado hosts Texas A&M and Baylor hosts Nebraska, and in the Colonial, as VCU plays at Delaware and Old Dominion plays at William & Mary. We have Colorado behind Kansas State, Baylor, and Oklahoma State on the Big XII bubble list because of their 1-5 record in their last six games, but they have a chance to leap to the front of that line with a 2-0 week. They play a struggling Aggies team tonight and then host Kansas State on Saturday. Baylor, meanwhile, made it back in the bracket this week, (despite an underwhelming resume) because of the easy schedule they have left. One of the presumed wins on that schedule is this game against the Huskers. If the Bears lose, they'll be back on the outside looking in. VCU just edged ODU for the Colonial's second bid this week, and if both take care of business tonight on the road, their showdown at ODU on Saturday will determine who gets that at-large bid on Monday.
The last intriguing game of the night is Florida at South Carolina. The Gators are coming off a huge two-win week that vaulted them ahead of Kentucky in the SEC pecking order and up to the top of the 4 line in our latest bracket. Their victories over Vandy and Kentucky last week gave them a very respectable six Top 50 wins on the year. On the flip side, they also have three losses outside the Top 100, one of which was a home loss to the Gamecocks back on Jan. 15. If they can exact some revenge tonight, they'll open up a 2.5 game lead over Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia in the SEC East standings with six games to play.
Also keep an eye on: Texas at Oklahoma, BYU at Air Force, Villanova at Rutgers, Wisconsin at Iowa, UNLV at TCU, Utah State at Idaho, Marquette at South Florida, Fordham at Temple, Richmond at George Washington, Memphis at UCF, Bradley at Missouri State, Wyoming at New Mexico, Northwestern at Michigan