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It is unusual to find important games in the early rounds of conference tournaments that do not involve bubble teams, but there are three remaining today which could affect NCAA Tournament seeds projected high in this year’s bracket.
ACC quarters: Virginia-Notre Dame, 9 ET
A little farther down my bracket, is a battle of teams in the bottom half of the AP Top 25. The Cavaliers beat the Irish 71-54 in South Bend on Jan. 24, so this is a chance for Notre Dame to avenge that loss. The Irish (23-8) have a better record than Virginia (22-9), but the Cavaliers have played a tougher schedule. That will not change if Notre Dame wins, but there still is an argument to be made for the Irish to be higher because they only have one loss outside the top 25.
They are both 5-seeds now, but the loser could drop a spot.
P-12 quarters: USC-UCLA, 11:30 ET
This crosstown rivalry is not about whether the Trojans can catch UCLA in the bracket; that wouldn’t happen even if USC wins the Pac-12 tournament. This is about where UCLA winds up in the bracket. The Bruins were dinged by the selection committee in February for poor strength of schedule, and that has not changed as much as you might think since. On its own, the Bruins’ schedule could keep them from a shot at a No. 1 seed.
A loss here would be damaging, more than a similar loss for another team would be, because it keeps UCLA from having a chance to better its schedule by playing Arizona and possibly Oregon. The Bruins could fall as far as a 4-seed if they take a second loss to USC late Thursday night.