Analysis | NCAA tournament bracketology: A guide to what’s at stake this weekend


Oklahoma at Texas (Saturday, 2, ESPN)

Creighton at Villanova (Saturday, 2:30, Fox)

Clemson at Wake Forest (Saturday, 6, ACC Network)

Connecticut at Providence (Saturday, 8, Fox)

New Mexico at Utah State (Saturday, 8:30, CBS Sports Network)

Illinois at Iowa (Sunday, 7, Fox Sports 1)

Villanova (17-13, 10-9 Big East) goes for a season sweep of Creighton just three days after falling at Seton Hall. The Wildcats have other high-end victories (North Carolina and Texas Tech on a neutral court) but also three Quadrant 3 losses. … Oklahoma (20-10, 8-9 Big 12) is probably going to get in even if it loses out, but it definitely gets in if it wins in Austin. …

Wake Forest (18-12, 10-9 ACC) has played like a team fishing for an NIT bid of late, dropping three in a row since toppling Duke. The Demon Deacons will have work to do in the ACC tournament regardless, but the to-do list will be longer if they don’t beat Clemson. … Providence (19-11, 10-9 Big East) has already beaten Creighton and Marquette in Friartown. Can it make it a complete set of the Big East’s best teams when U-Conn. visits? …

New Mexico (22-8, 10-7 Mountain West) had little trouble with Fresno State on Wednesday, thereby avoiding a land mine. Winning at league leader Utah State would be a great asset to tack on to close the regular season. … Winners of four of five, Iowa (18-12, 10-9 Big Ten) had a midweek open date to prepare for the Fighting Illini, who were eliminated from Big Ten title contention with Tuesday’s loss to Purdue.

Memphis at Florida Atlantic (Saturday, noon, CBS)

Central Florida at Texas Christian (Saturday, 5)

Both Florida Atlantic (23-7, 13-4 American) and TCU (20-10, 9-8 Big 12) would need a lot to go wrong to miss the tournament. But getting nudged into play-in territory isn’t an impossibility if they lose this weekend and in their respective conference tournament openers.

Texas A&M at Mississippi (Saturday, 2, CBS)

Utah at Oregon (Saturday, 7, Pac-12 Networks)

Ohio State at Rutgers (Sunday, 2, Big Ten Network)

Texas A&M (17-13, 8-9 SEC) is an interesting at-large candidate given its peaks (six Quad 1 victories) and valleys (four Quad 3 losses). Utah (18-11, 9-9 entering Thursday) is the very definition of a borderline tournament team. Despite firing coach Chris Holtmann, Ohio State (18-12, 8-11 Big Ten) has earned a place on the periphery of tournament discussion after winning four of five since Jake Diebler took over.

Another team that arguably belongs in this category is Memphis (22-8, 11-6 American), which has won four in a row entering its trip to Florida Atlantic.

Georgetown at St. John’s (Saturday, noon, Fox)

West Virginia at Cincinnati (Saturday, 2)

Notre Dame at Virginia Tech (Saturday, 2:30, ESPNU)

Colorado State at Air Force (Saturday, 4)

Colorado at Oregon State (Saturday, 5, Pac-12 Networks)

N.C. State at Pittsburgh (Saturday, 7:45, CW)

Georgia Tech at Virginia (Saturday, 8, ACC Network)

DePaul at Seton Hall (Saturday, 8:30, Fox Sports 1)

Nebraska at Michigan (Sunday, noon, Big Ten Network)

No one anywhere near the edge of the field needs to take a Quad 3 loss at this point, which Cincinnati, Colorado, Pitt, Virginia and Virginia Tech would do with a defeat. And a Quad 4 loss could be severely damaging for Colorado State, Seton Hall and St. John’s. Losing at Michigan would probably only be a Quad 2 defeat, but it would still be Nebraska’s worst result of the year.

Conference tournament watch

The top two seeds in Arch Madness get underway Friday, with a possible showdown in Sunday’s title game (2 p.m., CBS). Indiana State (26-5) ranked 46th or better in all five team sheet metrics entering Thursday’s games and would be a compelling at-large option if it loses. Drake (25-6) has a split with Indiana State and a neutral-site defeat of Nevada, making it a sleeper for a spot in the opening round if it loses the title game to the Sycamores.

No team has ever won more than 28 games and been left out of the NCAA tournament. James Madison (28-3), the Sun Belt’s No. 2 seed and owners of a victory at Michigan State, would be quite the test case. James Madison plays in the quarterfinals Saturday night, with a Sunday semifinal and a Monday title game.

Ohio Valley (Saturday final, 8, ESPN2)

Big South (Sunday final, noon, ESPN2)

Atlantic Sun (Sunday final, 2, ESPN2)

The OVC protects its top teams, so No. 1 seed Little Rock (20-11) and No. 2 seed Tennessee Martin (21-10) don’t have to play until Friday’s semifinals. … The advantage in the Big South belongs to High Point (24-7), which secured tournament hosting duties even before it won the regular season. The Panthers open tournament play Friday against Radford. … No. 2 seed Stetson (21-12) has never been to the tournament since moving up to Division I in 1971-72, but the Hatters have a chance to break through when they host the Atlantic Sun title game against No. 4 seed Austin Peay (19-14). The Governors, who have won nine of 10, last reached the field of 68 in 2016.


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