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February 26, 2009

Rivals.com Daily NCAA Tournament Tracker

It's a big day in the Pac-10, with four league games in the spotlight. The best game of the day is the showdown for first place in the league between Arizona State and Washington. There's also a huge game for USC, which needs to win at California to have a legitimate chance at making the NCAA tournament field.

We will update our "Tournament Tracker" daily as we count down toward Selection Sunday. We take a look at the day's best game and explain how it will impact the NCAA field, as well as spotlight the key game involving bubble teams.

We also will review how bubble teams performed in their previous day's games.

Note: All RPI figures from collegerpi.com

Arizona State at Washington, 11 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona/Fox Sports Northwest/Fox Sports Net Rocky Mountain/Fox College Sports Atlantic: The winner has the inside track to the Pac-10 title. Washington won by 13 in Tempe, Ariz., last month as its backcourt dominated. Arizona State had all sorts of problems with quick Huskies point man Isaiah Thomas. Washington's starting guards were 15-of-26 shooting from the floor in the win last month; the Sun Devils' starting trio of guards was 7-for-30. Arizona State has won five in a row; Washington has won four of its past five.
USC at California, 10:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet California: USC likely needs to win its remaining four regular-season games to be considered a legit at-large contender. USC has just three wins against teams in the RPI top 100, and this is the Trojans' last chance for a top-100 win in the regular season. Plus, the Trojans have beaten no one of note on the road. The Trojans have lost four of their past five overall. Cal has won four of its past five. USC beat the Golden Bears by 11 last month in Los Angeles.
West Virginia at Cincinnati
Time, TV: 7 p.m., ESPN
This is huge for Cincinnati, which was hurt in its hunt for an at-large bid when Providence beat Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Providence swept the Bearcats, and the Friars' win over Pitt pushed them ahead of the Bearcats in the at-large pecking order. Cincinnati has lost two in a row overall, and none of its seven Big East wins have come against teams with winning league records. WVU, which has won three in a row and is 8-6 in league play, is in good shape for an at-large bid.
Minnesota at Illinois
Time, TV: 7 p.m., Big Ten Network
Minnesota is in OK shape for a bid, and it probably would lock one up if it can beat the Illini. The Golden Gophers beat Illinois by 23 last month in Minneapolis. Illinois has won four of five and is playing for seeding in the NCAAs.
Xavier at Saint Joseph's
Time, TV: 7 p.m., ESPN2
Xavier has lost three of its past five, and what looked like a sure-fire Atlantic 10 title team now is sweating it out a bit. The Musketeers have lost three in a row on the road. Xavier is safely in the NCAA field, but the Musketeers' seeding has been affected by their recent skid.
La Salle at Temple
Time: 7 p.m.
Temple quietly has moved into a tie for first in the loss column in the Atlantic 10. The Owls have won five in a row and six of seven, and they need to take care of business against their crosstown foe. Temple is at Dayton in a huge game Saturday.
Purdue at Michigan
Time, TV: 9 p.m., ESPN
Michigan has lost five of eight and appears NIT-bound. The Wolverines close with Purdue, Wisconsin and Minnesota, with the last two on the road. Michigan needs to go 2-1 in those games to give itself a chance to get in the field of 65 and even then, it likely would need a win or two in the Big Ten tourney.
Miami at Virginia
Time, TV: 8 p.m., ACC syndication/ESPN FullCourt
Miami is in 10th place in the 12-team ACC and obviously has some work to do. The Hurricanes close the regular season with three eminently winnable games: this one, at Georgia Tech and vs. North Carolina State. Miami must win all three. UM is just 6-10 vs. teams in the RPI top 100 but Virginia and Georgia Tech aren't even in the top 100.
Arizona at Washington State
Time, TV: 9 p.m., Fox Sports Arizona/Fox Sports Northwest/Fox Sports Net Rocky Mountain
Arizona has won seven of eight to put itself squarely in the at-large hunt. With games against Washington and California next on the schedule, the Wildcats can't afford a loss to Washington State. One potential problem for Arizona: It has no road wins of note and this wouldn't be one, either. The Cougars have lost five of their past seven, but they're coming off an upset at UCLA.
Memphis at UAB
Time, TV: 9 p.m., ESPN2
This is a sort of last stand for UAB, which has a solid RPI (in the high 30s), a 19-8 record and just two wins against teams in the RPI top 100. The Blazers must win this to be an at-large contender. Memphis, meanwhile, has won 18 in a row and is trying to get into position to be a No. 2 seed.
UCLA at Stanford
Time, TV: 10:30 p.m., Fox Sports Prime Ticket/Comcast SportsNet Bay Area/Fox College Sports Pacific
UCLA has lost three of four and needs to right itself if it wants a "good" seed. The Bruins have lost three in a row on the road. Stanford is hoping for an NIT or CBI bid in its first season under coach Johnny Dawkins.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks put themselves in a great position to win the SEC East by ripping Kentucky on Wednesday night. That finished a season sweep of the Wildcats and put the Gamecocks by themselves in first place in the SEC East. Still, they can't afford to relax. They finish out at Vanderbilt, vs. Tennessee and at Georgia; wins in two and a victory in the SEC tourney should make them feel good on Selection Sunday. Still, they played a pitiful non-conference schedule, and nine of their 20 wins have come against teams that are 200th or worse in the RPI. RPI: 42nd. Record vs. RPI top 50: 1-4. Record vs. RPI top 100: 6-5.
Dayton: The Flyers lost in overtime at Rhode Island to hurt their at-large chances. They have lost three of their past five and are in fourth place in the Atlantic 10. The next two games are huge: Saturday at home vs. Temple and at Xavier next Thursday, when they go for the season sweep of the Musketeers. Dayton better go 1-1 in those two to remain legitimate contenders. The Flyers have 16 of their 23 wins over teams ranked 100th or worse in the RPI, including seven against teams ranked 200th or worse. RPI: 33rd. Record vs. RPI top 50: 2-1. Record vs. RPI top 100: 7-2.
Kentucky: UK's two-man team of Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson wasn't near enough against South Carolina, as the Wildcats were throttled. Yes, they're in second place in the SEC East, but that's an indictment of the division rather than a sign of UK's strength. The Wildcats have lost five of their past eight but still have a shot at the division title. They play LSU at home on Saturday in what might be a must-win game. The regular-season finale at Florida will be huge for both. RPI: 63rd. Record vs. RPI top 50: 4-5. Record vs. RPI top 100: 6-7.
Maryland: The Terps followed up their win over North Carolina with a tough loss to Duke to fall to 6-7 in the ACC. Their closing stretch: at North Carolina State, vs. Wake Forest and at Virginia. To truly feel good about their chances, they need to sweep. Maryland has no road wins of note and wins over NC State and Virginia won't help in that regard. Heck, the Terps are just 1-5 overall on the road. RPI: 58th. Record vs. RPI top 50: 3-8. Record vs. RPI top 100: 8-9.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys' late-season surge continued with a thrashing of host Colorado. That was Oklahoma State's fourth victory in a row and puts the Cowboys at 7-6 in the Big 12. The Cowboys really can help themselves in their closing stretch: vs. Texas, vs. Kansas State and at Oklahoma. Winning two would be big. One problem with the Cowboys is their lack of marquee wins, and they've beaten no one of note on the road, either. RPI: 32nd. Record vs. RPI top 50: 2-8. Record vs. RPI top 100: 6-9.
Tennessee: The Vols kept themselves in the mix with a home victory over Mississippi State. The win snapped a two-game losing streak and put the Vols in a three-way tie for second place in the SEC East. But the next two games are on the road, against Florida and South Carolina, and the Vols have lost three in a row on the road in league play. Despite a solid RPI, Tennessee has more work to do. RPI: 26th. Record vs. RPI top 50: 5-6. Record vs. RPI top 100: 6-10.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies got a huge win Wednesday at Clemson to snap a three-game losing streak. Still, the Hokies have lost five of their past eight and could use another win or two. The remaining schedule vs. Duke, vs. North Carolina and at Florida State is tough, but it also affords the opportunity for some more marquee victories. The good news for the Hokies is their best wins Clemson, Miami and Wake Forest have come on the road. RPI: 52nd. Record vs. RPI top 50: 3-5. Record vs. RPI top 100: 6-8.
Kansas State: The Wildcats were trounced at Missouri, and 14 of their 18 victories are over teams ranked 100th or worse in the RPI, including eight over teams that have an RPI of 200th or worse. They're alive in the at-large race but they're a long way behind the lead pack. A long way. RPI: 77th. Record vs. RPI top 50: 3-4. Record vs. RPI top 100: 4-7.
Rhode Island: The Rams got a huge home win Wednesday night over Dayton, but they still have a lot of work to do. They have just one road win over a team that has an RPI better than 150th and have 10 victories overall against teams that have an RPI worse than 200th. Still, the win over Dayton puts them in the at-large mix. They need to win their remaining two regular-season games and make a nice run in the A-10 tourney. RPI: 57th. Record vs. RPI top 50: 2-5. Record vs. RPI top 100: 5-7.
UNLV: After Wednesday night's loss at Utah, the Runnin' Rebels have dropped four of their past seven and are fifth in the Mountain West standings. They must win out in the regular season and make a long run in the league tourney they may need to win it to get in. The regular-season finale at San Diego State is huge. The good news for UNLV, which has won eight games over teams that have an RPI is 200th or worse, is that it hosts the conference tourney. RPI: 49th. Record vs. RPI top 50: 5-2. Record vs. RPI top 100: 9-6.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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