Rick Barnes and Texas might have some work to do in the Big 12 tournament. (Ed Zurga/AP)

The Big 12 has moved into its quarterfinal round, and an early tip between No. 4 seed Baylor and No. 5 seed Kansas State will be a game pitting NCAA tournament teams battling for seeding against each other. The late game in Kansas City, Kan., between No. 3 seed Iowa State and No. 6 seed Texas could also be one to watch because the Longhorns likely need to at least make the semifinals (and perhaps the finals) if they hope to earn an at-large bid.

The ACC also begins the first round of its tournaments Thursday in Atlanta, where No. 8 seed Maryland and No. 9 seed Wake Forest are already underway. But the most important game of the afternoon session pits No. 5 seed North Carolina State against No. 12 seed Boston College. The Wolfpack likely need wins over the Eagles and No. 4 seed Virginia on Friday in the quarterfinals to improve their bubble chances. The night session at Phillips Arena should have a close game between No. 7 seed Clemson and No. 10 seed Virginia Tech, and No. 6 seed Miami would be wise to beat No. 11 seed Georgia Tech in the nightcap. But let’s not beat around the bush when it comes to the first day of the ACC tournament: All four games involve a team that went 4-12 league play.

The highlight of the first day at the Big Ten tournament is No. 7 seed Northwestern taking on No. 10 Minnesota. The Wildcats are once again on the cusp of their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance, but a loss to the Gophers would likely cripple those chances.

Out in Los Angeles, the Pacific-12 quarterfinals should be exciting, if only because nobody is quite sure who is the favorite to win the tournament or how many bids the league will receive come Selection Sunday. Top-seed Washington, No. 2 seed California, No. 3 seed Oregon and No. 4 seed Arizona are all considered to be on the bubble if they don’t win the conference’s tournament. The best matchup of the day might be a 9:30 tip between California and Stanford. Cardinal freshman Chasson Randle erupted for a record 27 points in the first half of Stanford’s 85-65 opening-round victory over Arizona State on Wednesday night. Arizona’s matchup with No. 5 seed UCLA at 5:30 also bears watching.

The Mountain West, Conference USA, WAC, MAC, MEAC, SWAC and Big West all start their quarterfinal rounds Thursday as well, while the Southland Conference plays its semifinal games.  

As is usually the case this time of the year, it should be a memorable day of basketball for the hoops junkies out there. Check back here on the Early Lead for updates throughout the day.


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