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Andy Wittry | | March 10, 2022

The 10 most tantalizing early round men's basketball conference tournament matchups, ranked by Andy Katz

The top 10 men's conference tournament games to watch, ranked by Andy Katz

On the latest episode of the March Madness 365 podcast (#MM365), March Madness correspondent Andy Katz was joined by The News & Observer's C.L. Brown, who along with Katz was in Cameron Indoor Stadium for North Carolina's upset of Duke in Coach K's final home game, and Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News, FOX Sports and the Big Ten Network.

During Katz's weekly Katz Ranks segment, he ranked his top 10 conference tournament first-round or quarterfinal matchups of champs week that will be played Thursday or Friday.

Click or tap here to listen to the latest #MM365 episode.

Here are Katz's top 10 tournament matchups, based on what we know about conference tournament brackets so far.

1. Creighton vs. Marquette

The Big East's fourth and fifth-seeded teams, Creighton (20-10, 12-7 Big East) and Marquette (19-11, 11-8 Big East), will tip off at 2:30 p.m. ET on Thursday and the higher-seeded Bluejays will try to complete three-game sweep of the Golden Eagles.

"Creighton won both (games in the regular season)," Katz said. "Double overtime and one point. I think Creighton and Marquette are both in (the NCAA tournament), but I expect the third meeting to be just as tantalizing a matchup in New York."

On Feb. 20, Creighton won 83-82 in Omaha in a game in which all five starters scored in double figures and combined to score 82 of the team's 83 points, led by Ryan Kalkbrenner's 21 points.

2. Michigan vs. Indiana

The first game of the second round of the Big Ten tournament will be between the conference's No. 8 and No. 9 seeds, Michigan (17-13, 11-9 Big Ten) and Indiana (18-12, 9-11 Big Ten), at 11:30 a.m. ET. In the schools' only regular-season meeting, the Wolverines won inside Assembly Hall 80-62, behind Hunter Dickinson's 25 points and nine rebounds.

"I think Indiana needs this one," Katz said. "They almost got Purdue on the road. They beat Michigan, they'll be in."

3. Colorado vs. Oregon

If No. 5 seed Oregon (18-13, 11-9 Pac-12) beats No. 12 seed Oregon State in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament, Oregon will advance to play No. 4 seed Colorado (20-10, 12-8 Pac-12) in the quarterfinals at 5:30 p.m. ET on Thursday.

The schools played twice in a 10-day span in late January and early February and they split their meetings, with the road team winning each time.

"Both these teams could win the Pac-12 tournament if they pay at their potential," Katz said. "Clearly Arizona is still the best team but it's not crazy, and Colorado's hot. They just beat Arizona."

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4. Texas Tech vs. Iowa State

"I expect the third matchup between these two teams to be really intense," Katz said.

Texas Tech (23-8, 12-6 Big 12) is the No. 3 seed in the tournament, while Iowa State (20-11, 7-11 Big 12) is the No. 6 seed. The Red Raiders and Cyclones each won their respective home game during their two regular-season meetings this season. The two sides last played on Jan. 18, when Texas Tech won 72-60 in Lubbock, thanks to 38 free throw attempts, a 33-percent offensive rebounding rate and 56.7-percent 2-point shooting.

5. Texas vs. TCU

Two of the Big 12's Texas schools, the fourth-seeded Longhorns (21-10, 10-8 Big 12) and fifth-seeded Horned Frogs (19-11, 8-10 Big 12), will meet in the first quarterfinal matchup at 12:30 p.m. ET on Thursday. Texas swept TCU in the regular season, including a 23-point win on the road in January.

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6. Michigan State vs. Maryland

"Maryland can be dangerous, certainly with Fatts Russell," Katz said.

The Spartans (20-11, 11-9 Big Ten) and Terrapins (15-16, 7-13 Big Ten) will square off in the 6:30 p.m. ET time slot on Thursday in the No. 7 seed versus No. 10 seed matchup in the Big Ten quarterfinals.

7. Arkansas vs. LSU

If LSU beats Ole Miss or Missouri in the second round of the SEC tournament on Thursday, then the fifth-seeded Tigers (21-10, 9-9 SEC) will face the fourth-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks (24-7, 13-5 SEC) at 2 p.m. ET on Friday.

Arkansas swept LSU in the regular season, winning 65-58 in Baton Rouge and most recently, 77-76 in Fayetteville on March 2.

8. Texas A&M vs. Florida

"I think both schools have a pulse," Katz said of No. 8 seed Texas A&M (20-11, 9-9 SEC) and No. 9 seed Florida (19-12, 9-9 SEC).

Texas A&M won the schools' only meeting this season, 56-55, in College Station.

9. SMU vs. Wichita State/Tulsa

At 7 p.m. ET on Friday, No. 2 seed SMU (22-7, 13-4 AAC) will face the winner of Thursday's matchup between No. 7 seed Wichita State (15-12, 6-9 AAC) and No. 10 seed Tulsa (10-19, 4-14 AAC).

"I think the Mustangs are in as of this moment," Katz said. "Lose that game, they're gonna sweat."

10. St. Bonaventure vs. Saint Louis

If No. 5 seed Saint Louis wins against the winner of La Salle versus Saint Joseph's, which play in the No. 12 seed versus No. 13 seed game, then the Billikens will face the fourth-seeded St. Bonaventure Bonnies at 2:30 p.m. ET on Friday.

"I think the winner of this game could win the A-10 tournament," Katz said.

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