Busting Brackets

Bracketology 2024: Cincinnati, Northwestern, and St. John's highlight big Bubble Saturday

The Cincinnati Bearcats mascot crowd surfs after the students rushed the court at the conclusion of
The Cincinnati Bearcats mascot crowd surfs after the students rushed the court at the conclusion of / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY
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Northwestern (13-4, 4-2) at Nebraska (13-5, 3-4), Saturday, January 20, 2:15 PM ET, Big Ten Network

Raise your hand if in October you had the game in Lincoln between Nebraska and Northwestern on Saturday as one with big NCAA Tournament implications. Yet, here we are, both teams are firmly in the conversation of potential at-large teams. After dismantling No. 2 Purdue and losses to Iowa and Rutgers, the atmosphere inside Pinnacle Bank Arena should be electric if not a little unsure of what to expect, but the game is equally important for Chris Collins’ Wildcats.

This game is big for both teams’ at-large hopes, this is the type of game that if it were taking place closer to Selection Sunday could be a win-and-in situation. The Cornhuskers need a stabilizing win, since losing to Wisconsin and beating No. 2 Purdue by the identical 88-72 score. They have since lost to Iowa and Rutgers on Wednesday. The Wildcats on the other hand have won five of their last seven thanks to knocking off Maryland Wednesday night. They better not look past this key road game with No. 14 Illinois coming to town next, but a couple of losses would make their tournament position even more precarious.

The resumes of these two teams that are separated by 15 spots in the NET after their games on Wednesday are very close. Both teams have a non-conference strength of schedule that is in the 300s and their metric averages are separated by just 3.75 points. They have a combined 13 quad 4 wins but it’s the Wildcats that are saddled with a loss to Chicago State and a combined record of 4-3 in the first two quads. If their resumes remain close these games against each other could be a tipping point when it comes to a bid.