Four more big winners last night, and four days left until showtime!
The favorites split last night's conference finals, with Gonzaga and Valpo winning the WCC and Horizon Leagues, respectively, and #2 seeds North Dakota State and Robert Morris winning the Summit League and Northeast Conference. No big surprises from these results, in fact only a Gonzaga loss would have carried shock value. As a result of that Zags victory, BYU will likely be left out of the NCAA field.
Just one ticket to punch tonight, and in a 180 from last night's chalk finales, #4 Lafayette will take on #6 American U in the Patriot League final. Neither of these teams were on many radars (and likely zero brackets) just a week ago. I'll pick the favorite Lafayette here, but given my 5 for 10 conference final pick 'em record so far, it could go either way.
Most of the remaining conference tournaments will begin this evening, with the last five starting tomorrow. Below are a few games with NCAA tournament implications worth keeping an eye on.
-UNC vs. Boston College. The Tar Heels could move up from the 5 line to a 4-seed with a deep run in the ACC tourney, possibly even a 3-seed if they win it. Conversely, they'd drop to a 6 or even 7 with a loss tonight.
Pittsburgh vs. NC State. Both teams are in tenuous positions, but on opposite sides of the bubble. Pittsburgh needs at least 2 ACC tourney wins to put themselves in serious at-large contention, 3 would put them in. NC State's at-large bid looks to be fairly safe with a #5 SOS and 3/4/8 quality wins (top-25/-50/-100), but a loss would be their 13th, which would drop them to an 11-seed and may mean playing a first-four game in Dayton.
VA Tech vs. Miami (FL). The Hurricanes need this game, and a win against Notre Dame in the quarterfinals to put themselves back in at-large contention. They have 4 bad losses working against them, but a trip to the ACC final should secure a bid.
Texas vs. Texas Tech. Texas is in a similar spot to NC State with 12-losses. They also have a solid resume - despite a modest 2/3/6 quality wins, they have the #12 SOS and no bad losses. A loss to the Red Raiders tonight would drop them to an 11-seed at best, and possibly a trip to Dayton.
Washington vs. Stanford. The Cardinal are another team at the very back end of the bubble, needing at least two, likely three, wins to get an at-large bid.
1's: Kentucky, Virginia, Villanova, Duke
2's: Kansas, Wisconsin, Arizona, Gonzaga
3's: Maryland, Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma
4's: Notre Dame, West Virginia, Louisville, Georgetown
5's: Northern Iowa, North Carolina, Utah, Wichita State
6's: SMU, Arkansas, Butler, VCU
7's: Colorado State, Providence, Saint John's, Iowa
8's: San Diego State, Oklahoma State, Texas, North Carolina State
9's: Cincinnati, Ohio State, Xavier, Oregon
10's: Michigan State, Indiana, Georgia, Davidson
11's: Temple, Dayton, LSU, Tulsa, Texas A&M
12's: Boise State, Purdue, Old Dominion, Stephen F. Austin, Wofford
13's: Buffalo, Harvard, Valparaiso, UC Davis
14's: North Dakota State, Georgia State, Northeastern, Eastern Washington
15's: North Carolina Central, Belmont, Stony Brook, New Mexico State
16's: Coastal Carolina, Lafayette, Texas Southern, North Florida, Manhattan, Robert Morris
FFO: Ole Miss, Illinois, Connecticut, Richmond
NFO: UCLA, Miami (FL), Stanford, Pittsburgh
Others Still Alive: Alabama, Rhode Island...that's it folks. Any teams not listed above will need to win their tourney to secure an automatic bid.