It is the last big day of games in the regular season. Eleven conferences will be playing their final games Saturday prior to their conference tournaments.
There are big games at all levels of the bracket. None of those are bigger than Illinois at Ohio State, which has the fourth No. 1 seed at stake — for now. A win for the Illini gives them a strong leg up for that last No. 1 seed, while a Buckeyes win moves them back onto the top line.
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At the bottom of the potential at-large pool, just about every team is playing today. Wichita State goes for the regular-season conference title in the American Athletic Conference. Three bubble teams take the court in the Atlantic 10 semifinals and two more will in the Missouri Valley semifinals. Oh, and there’s a game in the ACC that always seems to get overlooked – Duke at North Carolina.
Further down the bracket, the first conference tournament champion will be determined Saturday. The Ohio Valley title game between Morehead State and Belmont will hand out an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
And while that is the first conference championship game, it will not be the first automatic bid. Liberty sewed that up Friday by reaching the finals of the ASUN Tournament. The Flames will play North Alabama, which is not yet eligible for the postseason due to it transitioning to Division I. If Liberty loses, it still gets the automatic bid by virtue of having been the regular-season champion.
COVID has reared its ugly head for the first time at a conference tournament. Drake advanced in MVC tournament when Northern Iowa had to with draw minutes before tipoff due to a COVID issue and local contact tracing requirements. A few teams have had to withdraw from their conference tournaments before they began, but this is the first case of a team dropping out of a tournament while it is in progress.
Hopefully, that will be the last time that happens.
Bracketology top seeds
Check out Palm’s latest bracket, full field of 68 and all the teams on the bubble on the Bracketology hub.