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February 24, 2011Today we unveil our daily NCAA tournament tracker.
We spotlight key games to be played that night, as well as review important games from the preceding evening, in the context of how that affects those teams' spots in the NCAA tourney.
We'll continue our tracker through the final days of the conference tournaments. We'll also update as needed the "NCAA locks" chart.
All RPI figures are through Wednesday's games and come from collegerpi.com.
GAME OF THE DAY
Marquette at Connecticut, 7 p.m., ESPN2: Marquette is 7-7 in Big East play and is squarely on the NCAA bubble. A win in this one, though, and the Eagles are tied with UConn in the league standings. This is the toughest remaining game for Marquette, which is just 3-8 away from home and in need of a road win; a marquee road win would do wonders for the Eagles' NCAA hopes. UConn has lost four of its past seven and has a monster closing stretch: vs. Marquette, at Cincinnati, at West Virginia and vs. Notre Dame. The Huskies could use some wins as they attempt to finish in the upper half of the Big East and earn a first-round bye in the league tourney. UConn will be without coach Jim Calhoun, whose sister-in-law died Wednesday.
OTHER GAMES OF INTEREST
Georgia at Florida, 7 p.m., ESPN: The Gators have a legit shot at the SEC regular-season title, but need to "hold serve" at home for that to happen. The Gators won in Athens in double-overtime last month. The Gators likely will be without F Chandler Parsons (thigh), who had a huge game in their earlier win over the Bulldogs. Georgia looks good for an NCAA berth, and a road win over Florida basically would sew up a bid.
Old Dominion at James Madison, 7 p.m., ESPNU: ODU won the first meeting by six at home in mid-January. The Monarchs have a legit chance at an NCAA at-large bid, but can't afford a loss in this one. ODU also must win to keep its Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title hopes alive. James Madison has won 20 and looks good for a postseason berth, though not an NCAA bid.
UW Milwaukee at Cleveland State, 7 p.m.: This is a big one in the Horizon League. Cleveland State is trying to stay atop the league standings, while Milwaukee can move into a first-place tie with a victory. The regular-season champ is guaranteed to play every league tourney game on its home court. Cleveland State has lost three of its past five, but the Vikings won at UWM by 23 in early December. UWM has won seven league games in a row.
West Virginia at Pittsburgh, 9 p.m., ESPN: Pitt owns a two-game lead in the Big East. In addition, Pitt looks like an extremely safe bet to get one of the four double-byes in the league tourney. WVU, meanwhile, is trying to stay in the top eight in the league race; finishing fifth through eighth in the league gets you a first-round bye in the tourney. Both teams obviously are playing for "good" seeds in the NCAA tourney, as well. Pitt -- which won by five in Morgantown earlier this month -- is in the running for a No. 1 seed.
Morehead State at Murray State, 9 p.m., ESPNU: This should determine the regular-season titlist in the Ohio Valley Conference, which means at least an NIT bid. Morehead State won the first meeting by 10 at home in early December.
Arizona at USC, 10:30 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona/Fox College Sports Pacific: A victory would enable Arizona to maintain its two-game lead in the chase for the Pac-10 regular-season title. The Wildcats, who have won eight in a row, play at UCLA on Saturday, and a weekend sweep of the L.A. schools would give them the crown. Arizona continues to play for "good" NCAA seeding, as well.
Gonzaga at Saint Mary's, 11 p.m., ESPN2: A Gonzaga win means a tie with Saint Mary's atop the West Coast Conference standings. Less than a month ago, Gonzaga looked NIT-bound at best. Now, though, the Zags have a shot to win at least a portion of their 11th consecutive WCC title, and they've also worked their way back into the mix for a possible NCAA at-large bid. Saint Mary's, meanwhile, is sliding a bit. Losing over the weekend to Utah State is nothing to be ashamed about, but the Gaels also lost to a bad San Diego team last week. That means they need to start winning again if they want to be considered for an NCAA at-large bid. Saint Mary's won the first meeting by two points in Spokane late last month.
Wisconsin 53, Michigan 52: Man, this was an excruciatingly tough home loss for the Wolverines. Michigan now is 7-9 in Big Ten play, and the Wolverines now are under .500 (11-12) against teams in the top 200, including 2-9 against teams in the top 50 and 7-11 against teams in the top 100. Michigan basically faces must-win scenarios in its final two regular-season games -- at Minnesota and vs. Michigan State.
Miami 73, Boston College 64: This hurts the Eagles, not only because they lost but because they lost at home. BC now is 6-7 in the ACC, and the Eagles dropped to 7-10 against teams in the top 100. In addition, BC was swept by Miami this season. BC has three regular-season games left; two are easy (Virginia and Wake Forest) and the other looks to be a must-win against Virginia Tech.
Cincinnati 58, Georgetown 46: A huge win for the Bearcats. Not only did they beat Georgetown handily, they did it at Georgetown. It was Cincy's fourth top-50 win and their second such victory on the road (the other came against St. John's). Cincy doesn't have a bad loss on its schedule (all six have come to teams in the top 30) and finishes out the regular season against UConn, Marquette and Georgetown (again).
Kansas State 61, Nebraska 57: K-State escaped with a huge Big 12 win in a game matching two bubble teams. K-State, though, is on top of the bubble, while the Huskers now are scrambling to stay on. The victory gave K-State a sweep of the season series and moved the Wildcats to 8-9 against top-100 teams; they are just 1-6 against top-50 teams. The Huskers dropped to 6-7 in the Big 12, and are 3-6 against top-50 teams and 6-7 against top-100 foes.
Maryland 78, Florida State 62: The Terps kept their faint at-large hopes alive with the easy home-court win. Meanwhile, those who said FSU was in trouble without star F Chris Singleton saw their prediction bear fruit. Still, this game was far more important to Maryland than to the Seminoles. Maryland remains 0-8 against teams in the top 50 and under .500 (9-10) vs. teams in the top 200. Winning at North Carolina on Sunday is vital for the Terps, who really have beaten no one of note away from home.
Missouri 77, Baylor 59: Does Baylor really care about making the NCAA tourney? It sure doesn't appear like it from the Bears' performance in this one. The loss drops Baylor to 3-8 away from home, and it was their third setback in a row overall and their fifth in eight games. Baylor likely needs to sweep its remaining three regular-season games (Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Texas) to have a realistic shot at an at-large bid.
BYU 84, Colorado State 76: BYU remained in a first-place tie in the Mountain West with San Diego State, and those teams meet Saturday in San Diego. Colorado State remains a viable at-large contender, but a road win over BYU sure would have pumped up the resume. The Rams need to win their next two (Air Force and Utah) to remain on top of the bubble.
Drexel 64, VCU 60: VCU's at-large hopes took a big hit. The Rams dropped to 6-6 against teams in the top 100, and 10 of their 21 wins are against teams outside the top 200. They need to win their regular-season finale against James Madison and do some damage in the CAA tourney to rebuild their hopes.
UNLV 77, New Mexico 74 (OT): UNLV remained in third place in the Mountain West with the gutty win. It was the Rebels' seventh top-100 win of the season, and it was the fifth to come away from home. UNLV is the host team for the league tourney, but the Rebels have lost four times at time this season.
Arkansas 77, Kentucky 76 (OT): Kentucky's hopes for at least a portion of the SEC regular-season title took a monster hit with the loss in Fayetteville. UK closes the regular season with home games against Florida and Vanderbilt and a road game with Tennessee, so there are opportunities for the Wildcats to improve their seeding. But the regular-season crown looks out of reach.
Missouri State 76, Southern Illinois 58: Missouri State stayed tied atop the Missouri Valley standings with the win. The Bears have a faint -- a very faint -- at-large pulse, mainly because bubble teams from Big Six leagues keep losing. Still, Missouri State has just one RPI top-100 win, and in a typical season, would have no at-large hopes.
Wichita State 67, Creighton 65: Wichita State is tied with Missouri State in the MVC. The Shockers also have just one RPI top-100 win and are in the same at-large boat as the Bears. The teams meet Saturday with the MVC regular-season title on the line.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.