A couple of bubble teams appear to have been eliminated from NCAA tournament contention as the regular season winds down, but others still have a chance to prove their worth as conference tournaments approach. There are several key games worth keeping an eye on this Thursday. We’ve identified some fringe teams worth keeping an eye on, with two teams that better win, and one that likely puts themselves in the field (for now) with a win.
Michigan State (+12) vs. No. 2 Michigan, 7:00 p.m. ESPN
Michigan and Michigan State will face off on Thursday and Sunday to wrap up the Big Ten regular season. The Wolverines have pretty much clinched a No. 1 seed despite an unexpected 76-53 beatdown from No. 4 Illinois earlier this week. The Spartans seem poised to end up being one of the last four teams in, but could massively improve their tournament placement by knocking off the second-best team in the country. The Spartans get two chances at the Wolverines, but might need to find a way to claim one, with tonight’s as a double-digit underdog.
Longwood vs. Winthrop (-12.5), 7:30 p.m. ESPN+
Winthrop is 64th in the NET and certainly isn’t a shoo-in to get an at-large bid. The Big South favorites will have to win their conference tournament to get an automatic bid. The Eagles have only lost one game all year, but haven’t played any Quad 1 games. They won’t get any credit for a win, but a loss immediately destroys the already dim chances of an at-large.
Wyoming vs. Utah State (-16.5), 9:30 p.m. FS1
Same thing here: Utah State is a fringe team in the First Four Out group, with another Mountain West team in Boise State in that same territory. A loss would probably eliminate the Aggies’ chances of getting an at-large bid, and it would be an upset if they’re able to beat Colorado State or San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference Tournament. Can the Aggies win out and give themselves a chance?