Gonzaga Plays for No. 1; BYU, UVa, Temple and Detroit Play for Bids Thursday
Tennessee’s upset of Florida earlier in the week is the biggest development among the Middle 20 this week, and tonight Virginia and Brigham Young have the big chances for resume building home upsets that would move them up the Breitbart Sports Top 20. It will be no easy task, as Gonzaga will be a heavy favorite at BYU and Duke will be a very slight favorite at UVa. At 7 p.m., the action starts with two Middle 20 teams fighting for bids when Detroit visits Temple.
The following notes a team's rank in the Middle 20 (M6 = 6th of 20), the group of teams fighting for the final 7 to 10 bids to the tournament, while others are noted as either "in" or "out" of the tournament.
7:00 PM - Detroit (M13) at Temple (M6) - While UNC at Clemson may get more attention of the 7 p.m. tipoffs, Detroit at Temple is the only game of the night between two Middle 20 teams fighting for a tournament bid. At 6th place in the Middle 20, Temple is on pace to grab on of the last two play-in spots. While we technically list Detroit as "IN," that would be based on them winning the Horizon. If Valpo wins it, Detroit is right around the same 13th spot as Valpo, so an upset win at Temple could put them very close to an at-large bid if they do not win the Horizon.
Detroit’s Ray McCallum is a Breitbart Sports All-American, while Temple’s Khalif Wyatt ranks as a 1st team All-A10 player based on www.valueaddbasketball.com.
9:00 PM - - Utah (OUT) at California (M1) - The top team in the Middle 20, California, has the easiest game of the night. A double digit win at home against Utah keeps them rolling, while being upset would put them back on the bubble for a tournament bid.
California’s Allen Crabbe (6-foot-6) is a first team P12 performer, and Justin Cobbs (6-foot-2) is second team to give California one of the best two 1-2 combinations. They should overmatch Utah, whose Jason Washburn (6-foot-10) is the only Utah player in the top 10% (ranked 348th).
9:00 PM - - Duke (IN) at Virginia (M4) - This game is a pure toss-up with Virginia at home. Duke is playing for a 1-seed. Virginia is in 4th of the Middle 20, so a win could put them solidly into the tournament for a bid. So far Virginia has played great against great teams and blown some easy ones, so their resume is the most unique.
While Duke’s Mason Plumlee needs a second wind to get back in the Player of the Year discussions, Duke is the only team with three of the top nine players in the ACC (6-1 Quinn Cook and 6-2 Seth Curry complement 6-10 Plumlee). However, UVa has two of the top nine in Akil Mitchell (6-8) and Joe Harris (6-6), so with a strong assist from the home crowd, this is one they need to win.
11:00 PM - Gonzaga (IN) at Brigham Young (M17) - Gonzaga is playing to be the No. 1 team in the country, while BYU needs a huge upset to have a chance at the tournament. At 17th in the Middle 20, BYU probably has 10 teams between them and the tournament right now, but they have the home court advantage and could leap a lot of them with a late night upset tonight.
Brigham Young has the 7th and 8th best player in the WCC with 6-5 Tyler Haws and 6-9 Brandon Davies. The problem is the Zags have three of the best four players in 7-0 Kelly Olynyk, 6-8 Elias Harris and 6-2 Kevin Pangos, and they all know they are number one in the country if they win. A tall task for BYU to pull the upset, but a great opportunity to get serious tournament consideration if they win.