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March 3, 2011Here's our daily NCAA tournament tracker.
We spotlight key games to be played tonight, as well as review important games from Wednesday, 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.
GAMES OF INTEREST
Tennessee at South Carolina, 7 p.m., ESPN: The Vols have lost five of their past seven and could finish fifth in the SEC East. They have lost 12 games and play Kentucky on Saturday. Still, they have played the third-toughest schedule in the nation and have seven top-50 wins and 11 top-100 wins. But some of the losses are of the "bad" variety, and losing to the Gamecocks definitely would fit into that category.
St. John's at Seton Hall, 7 p.m., ESPN2: St. John's has won six in a row and eight of nine, and the Red Storm have moved into fourth place in the Big East; they would tie Louisville for third with a win in this one. St. John's also is in good shape to get a double-bye in the league tourney.
Wisconsin at Indiana, 9 p.m., ESPN2: The Badgers will finish at least third in the Big Ten and could finish tied for second. They're also safely in the NCAA field. But a loss to the Hoosiers could have a negative impact on their potential NCAA seeding.
Oregon State at Arizona, 9 p.m., Fox Sports Net: Arizona has lost two in a row and now is tied with UCLA for the Pac-10 lead. The Wildcats lost by one at Oregon State on Jan. 2, but the Wildcats are 15-0 at home this season.
UCLA at Washington, 9 p.m., ESPN: While UCLA is tied with Arizona for the Pac-10 lead, the Bruins' final weekend of league play is far tougher than the Wildcats'. UCLA has Washington State on Saturday to close out the regular season, while Arizona has Oregon. Washington still has a shot at finishing in a three-way tie for first in the league, though finishing second remains a much stronger possibility. A win in this one would lock up an NCAA bid for Washington, which, frankly, looks good for a bid anyway.
Conference tournaments: Two No. 1 seeds are in action. Top-seeded Coastal Carolina plays host to fourth-seeded VMI in a Big South semifinal (8 p.m., ESPNU) and top-seeded Long Island plays host to eighth-seeded St. Francis (Pa.) in a first-round game in the Northeast Conference (7 p.m.)
Cincinnati 67, Marquette 60: Marquette basically could have locked up an NCAA at-large bid with a home win, but it wasn't to be. Instead, Cincy removed any doubt about whether it would get a bid. The Bearcats also kept alive their shot at a first-round bye in the league tourney. Marquette has a must-win game (or, rather, a must-avoid-a-loss game) Saturday at Seton Hall to close out the regular season. The Golden Eagles have four top-50 wins (actually all four are against teams in the RPI top 25) and six top-100 wins, and they don't have any bad losses. But they have a lot of losses overall and are 11-12 against teams in the top 200.
New Mexico 82, BYU 64: This was BYU's first game without starting big man Brandon Davies, who has been suspended for the rest of the season, and it was ugly. And it was at home, too. New Mexico -- which is 7-8 in Mountain West play -- finished off a season sweep of the Cougars with a dominant win. BYU fell into a tie with San Diego State for first place in the MWC, but BYU swept SDSU and owns the tiebreaker. The NCAA selection committee is supposed to consider injuries/suspensions, and it's hard to see BYU getting a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney without Davies.
Michigan State 85, Iowa 66: Michigan State has won three of four and now resides in fourth place in the Big Ten. They're on top of the NCAA bubble going into Saturday's regular-season finale against Michigan, which also is on the bubble.
East Carolina 68, Memphis 57: Memphis lost for the third time in four games and now is in fourth place in Conference USA. This was the second loss in that span to a team whose RPI is worse than 100th. The Tigers have three such losses this season, and those may outweigh the four top-50 wins, considering those four wins came against Southern Miss and UAB (twice each).
UAB 67, Southern Miss 66: Speaking of Southern Miss and UAB, the Blazers hit a final-seconds 3-pointer to win on the road and remain in first place in C-USA. This was UAB's first top-50 win of the season, which means the Blazers don't exactly have a strong case for an at-large bid. Southern Miss is tied for fourth in the league with Memphis, and the Golden Eagles don't really have a strong NCAA case, either.
North Carolina 72, Florida State 70: Harrison Barnes hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds to lift the Tar Heels to the road victory. UNC stayed tied with Duke atop the ACC standings, and they meet in Chapel Hill on Saturday in the regular-season finale. UNC has won six in a row and 11 of 12, and are in line for a No. 3 NCAA seed -- and maybe even a No. 2, depending on how things break. FSU finishes Sunday at N.C. State, and the Seminoles will be able to feel good about an at-large as long as they don't fall to the Wolfpack, who are 103rd in the RPI.
Richmond 69, Saint Joseph's 54: This was all about avoiding a bad loss for Richmond, which squarely is on the NCAA bubble. The victory locked up a third-place finish in the Atlantic 10.
West Virginia 65, Connecticut 56: This win puts WVU in a good spot to get a first-round bye in the Big East tourney. A victory in Saturday's regular-season finale against Louisville would lock up a bye. UConn, on the other hand, fell to ninth place in the league and finishes Saturday with a home game against Notre Dame.
Iowa State 95, Colorado 90: This was a big blow to Colorado's NCAA at-large hopes. The Buffs continued their pitiful play on the road -- they now are 3-9 in true road games -- and also fell to 9-12 against teams in the top 200. Another huge negative: The non-conference schedule was a joke. The only thing keeping them on the bubble -- albeit the wrong side at this time -- is that they have five top-50 wins. They have Nebraska on Saturday in a must-win game for both heading into the Big 12 tourney.
Georgia 73, LSU 53: Georgia remained in a tie for second place in the SEC East and avoided what would've been a bad loss. The Bulldogs are at Alabama in Saturday's regular-season finale and are in good shape for an at-large berth.
Northwestern 68, Minnesota 57: Stick a fork in Minnesota, as the Gophers' at-large hopes are done. They have lost four in a row and eight of nine, and look likely to finish ninth in the league. Maybe these teams will meet again in the NIT.
Colorado State 78, Utah 65: Colorado State snapped a three-game losing streak and kept themselves on the NCAA bubble. The best thing that has happened for the Rams is that, despite their losses, they remain in the NCAA mix because so many other bubble teams also are losing.
Duke 70, Clemson 59: Duke stayed tied for first in the ACC with archrival North Carolina. Clemson, meanwhile, missed out on an opportunity for a needed marquee win. While Duke -- which plays ay UNC on Saturday -- remains in the hunt for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney, Clemson needs to beat visiting Virginia Tech at home Saturday in the regular-season finale to give itself a legit shot at an at-large bid.
Kansas 64, Texas A&M 51: KU remained in the lead in the Big 12 and also remained in the running for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney. A&M dropped into a tie with Kansas State for third place in the league.
Utah State 58, New Mexico State 54: Utah State already had clinched the WAC regular-season title, but this still was an important game for the Aggies if they wanted to be a viable at-large candidate. Utah State is 27-3, but it has just two wins over teams in the top 100.
Louisville 87, Providence 60: The Cardinals won for the fifth time in six games to take a half-game lead in the race to finish third in the Big East. Louisville also clinched a double-bye in the league tourney.
Xavier 68, Charlotte 48: The Musketeers clinched at least a tie for the regular-season title in the A-10, and they also nailed down the No. 1 seed in the league tourney with the easy win. They close with a game at Saint Louis on Saturday. Xavier has won eight in a row and 15 of its past 16.
Temple 73, Massachusetts 67 (OT): The Owls prevailed and still have a shot at sharing the A-10 regular-season crown with Xavier. But for that to happen, Xavier has to lose to Saint Louis and Temple has to beat La Salle in its finale on Saturday.
Pittsburgh 66, USF 50: Pitt clinched at least a tie for the Big East regular-season title and stayed firmly in the hunt for a No. 1 seed with a big second half in Tampa. The Panthers close the regular-season Saturday at home against reeling Villanova. Pitt leads Notre Dame by a game in the Big East race, but Notre Dame owns the tiebreaker between the teams.
Conference tournaments: Two No. 1 seeds moved on. Top-seeded Belmont downed eighth-seeded Kennesaw State 72-57 in the first round of the Atlantic Sun tourney in Macon, Ga., and top-seeded Bucknell hammered eighth-seeded Army 78-51 in the first round of the Patriot League tourney. As the top seed, Bucknell plays all its league tourney games at home.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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