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March 5, 2011

Rivals.com Daily NCAA Tournament Tracker

Here's our daily NCAA tournament tracker.

We spotlight key games to be played today, as well as review important games from Friday, in the context of how that affects those teams' spots in the NCAA tourney.

This is a huge day. There are three conference tournament finals, which the first three bids to the NCAA tourney go out. In addition, the Ivy League title could be decided today, so that means it's possible that four teams get dance invitations today.

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 Friday's games and come from collegerpi.com.

NCAA TOURNEY LOCKS (32)

(Teams listed alphabetically by league)

ACC (2): Duke, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (2): Temple, Xavier
Big 12 (5): Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Texas, Texas A&M
Big East (10): Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, St. John's, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia
Big Ten (3): Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Colonial (1): George Mason
Mountain West (3): BYU, San Diego State, UNLV
Pac-10 (3): Arizona, UCLA, Washington
SEC (3): Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt
ONE-BID LEAGUE REGARDLESS (18)
America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Ivy, Metro Atlantic Athletic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern Athletic, Summit, Sun Belt
GAME OF THE DAY

Duke at North Carolina, 8 p.m., CBS: The most intense rivalry in college basketball, and an undisputed ACC regular-season title is on the line. Duke still has a shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney. Who knows -- maybe UNC does, too, if it doubles-up and wins the regular-season and ACC tourney crown.

BUBBLE WATCH GAMES OF THE DAY

Virginia Tech at Clemson, noon, ESPN2: Virginia Tech followed up an impressive victory at home over Duke by getting hammered by Boston College at home, so this is vital for the Hokies' at-large hopes. Thing is, it's also vital for Clemson's at-large hopes. Tech's RPI is 62, Clemson's is 63. Both played relatively weak non-conference schedules (Clemson's was weaker than Tech's), both have two top-50 wins and seven top-100 wins and both have three losses to teams outside the top 100. Clemson is 14-2 at home and Tech is 4-5 on the road. This is the teams' only regular-season meeting.

Michigan State at Michigan, 2 p.m., CBS regional: Michigan State is 9-8 in the Big Ten and Michigan is 8-9. The Wolverines won the first meeting, by four in East Lansing on Jan. 27. Michigan State has won three of four and four of six to get itself back onto the good side of the NCAA bubble. The Spartans have played a tough schedule and have nine top-100 wins. But they also have 12 losses overall and haven't played all that well on the road (3-7). Michigan has won five of its past seven to play its way into the NCAA discussion, and sweeping Michigan State would bolster the Wolverines' at-large hopes. Michigan has eight top-100 wins. But the Wolverines also have 12 losses overall and they have struggled at time at home this season (12-5).

Nebraska at Colorado, 9 p.m.: Both are 7-8 in the Big 12. Colorado is coming off a loss at Iowa State, but the Buffs are 14-2 at home this season. A victory puts Colorado firmly back on the NCAA bubble -- and the same goes for Nebraska. Nebraska is coming off a win over Missouri -- which followed a loss at Iowa State. As with Colorado, the Huskers are excellent at home (17-2) -- but this one is on the road, where they have been abysmal (1-6). Nebraska has three top-50 wins and seven top-100 wins, but also three bad losses. Colorado has five top-50 wins and six top-100 wins, but the Buffs are 9-12 against teams in the RPI top 200.

OTHER GAMES OF INTEREST

Kansas at Missouri, noon, CBS: A win would give Kansas the outright Big 12 regular-season title. That means Mizzou -- and its fans -- would like nothing better than to rain on KU's parade. The Jayhawks also are in the running for a No. 1 NCAA seed. Missouri has lost two in a row and would finish at .500 in the Big 12 with a loss.

Louisville at West Virginia, noon, ESPN: Louisville still has a shot at a second-place finish in the Big East, but the Cardinals have to win this to make that happen. WVU, meanwhile, could finish as high as a tie for fourth and as low as a tie for eighth in the league. Given that both are in the RPI top 20, this is a potential seed-booster game for the NCAA tourney, too.

Duquesne at Richmond, noon, CBS College Sports: Richmond is on the NCAA bubble and can't afford a loss to Duquesne, which has lost five of its past seven.

Indiana at Illinois, noon, Big Ten Network: Illinois has lost three of four and four of six to fall to 8-9 in the Big Ten. The Illini have played a tough schedule and have 10 top-100 wins. But they already have lost to Indiana once, and getting swept by a team that has an RPI of 178 would not be good.

Georgia at Alabama, 1:30 p.m., SEC syndication: A victory in this one and Georgia could finish as high as second in the SEC East. A loss, though, and the Bulldogs could finish fourth. It's hard to see Georgia being left out of the NCAA field, but losing to the Tide might make for some hand-wringing among Bulldogs coaches.

Georgetown at Cincinnati, 2 p.m., Big East syndication/Mid-Atlantic Sports Network/SportsNet New York/ESPN FullCourt: The Big East office says there are 22 (22!) scenarios involving these teams for the Big East tourney. Each could finish as high as fourth in the league with a victory -- or as low as a tie for eighth with a loss. Each team also could enhance its NCAA seeding with a win.

Oregon at Arizona, 2 p.m., CBS regional: A victory gives Arizona the outright Pac-10 regular-season title. Arizona beat the Ducks by 21 at Oregon in January.

Notre Dame at Connecticut, 2 p.m., ESPN: The Fighting Irish still have a shot to share the Big East regular-season title; they must win and have Pitt fall to Villanova. UConn, meanwhile, could finish itself finishing ninth or 10th, which means no first-round bye in the league tourney. The Huskies have lost three of their past four.

Xavier at Saint Louis, 2 p.m., CBS College Sports: Xavier wins the Atlantic 10 regular-season title outright with a victory. If the Musketeers lose and Temple beats visiting La Salle, the Musketeers and Owls share the crown.

Wyoming at BYU, 3:30 p.m., The mtn.: BYU's first game without suspended big man Brandon Davies did not go well, as the Cougars were hammered at home by New Mexico on Wednesday. If BYU wins this, it will be the No. 1 seed in the Mountain West tourney.

Villanova at Pittsburgh, 4 p.m., CBS: A Pitt victory means the Panthers win the Big East regular-season title outright. It also keeps alive their hopes of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney. Villanova, meanwhile, is in a free-fall; the Wildcats have lost three in a row and five of seven, and have seen their RPI plummet 24 spots, to 32, in the past six weeks.

Purdue at Iowa, 4 p.m., ESPN: Purdue has to win to keep its Big Ten regular-season title hopes alive; if the Boilermakers win, they then need Wisconsin to win at Ohio State on Sunday to share the title with the Buckeyes.

Big South championship, UNC Asheville at Coastal Carolina, 4 p.m., ESPN2: Top-seeded Coastal meets the third-seeded Bulldogs for the league's NCAA berth. The teams split in the regular season with, oddly enough, each winning on the other's home court. UNCA's win at Coastal came on Feb. 22. UNCA is looking for its second NCAA berth in school history; the Bulldogs also went in 2003 and were involved in the play-in game. Coastal is seeking its first NCAA bid since 1993; the Chanticleers also went in 1991.

UCLA at Washington State, 5:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net: When this one tips off, UCLA will know whether it has a shot to tie for the Pac-10 regular-season title (the Bruins need Oregon to beat Arizona). A loss could mean the Bruins finish tied for second in the league, with Washington. Washington State, meanwhile, is looking to burnish its NCAA at-large resume. The Cougars have six top-100 wins, and a win over the Bruins would give them three top-50 wins.

Atlantic Sun championship, Belmont vs. North Florida, 6 p.m., ESPN2: Top-seeded Belmont gets sixth-seeded UNF in the final in Macon, Ga. Belmont swept the season series, but its two-point win in Jacksonville over the Ospreys on Feb. 5 was the Bruins' closest conference game this season. Belmont is looking for its fourth NCAA bid in six seasons. It's shocking that UNF is in the final; just two of UNF's 10 conference wins this season came over teams that had winning league records. The Ospreys became a full-fledged Division I member in 2005-06. UNF has won 15 games this season; in their first five seasons in Division I, the Ospreys won a combined 26 games.

Florida at Vanderbilt, 6 p.m., ESPN: Florida already has clinched the SEC East crown and at least a portion of the overall SEC crown. If Alabama loses earlier in the day to Georgia, the Gators win the overall title no matter what they do in this game. Both teams are looking to enhance their NCAA seeding with a win in this one.

Marquette at Seton Hall, 6 p.m., Big East syndication/MSG network/Mid-Atlantic Sports Network/ESPN FullCourt: Marquette has four wins over teams in the RPI top 25. But the Golden Eagles are under .500 against teams in the RPI top 200, and a loss to a Seton Hall team that has an RPI of 97 wouldn't be good for their NCAA at-large hopes. A win conceivably could mean Marquette would finish in a tie for sixth in the Big East race.

Utah State at Louisiana Tech, 7 p.m., Altitude/ESPN FullCourt: Utah State long ago wrapped up the WAC regular-season title. But the Aggies' at-large resume isn't a good one, and they a loss to the lowly Bulldogs would be a huge at-large setback.

Princeton at Harvard, 7 p.m.: If Princeton wins, it nets the Ivy League crown and gets the league's NCAA berth. That would finish off a season sweep by the Tigers of the Crimson. If Harvard wins, the title won't be decided until Tuesday, when Princeton plays Penn. In that scenario, Princeton faces a must-win game in order to force a one-game playoff for the Ivy title.

Ohio Valley championship, Morehead State vs. Tennessee Tech, 8 p.m., ESPN2: Fourth-seeded Tennessee Tech upset top-seeded Murray State in a semifinal and faces second-seeded Morehead State with an NCAA bid on the line. Morehead State swept the season series, winning the two games by a combined 28 points. Morehead State is looking for its second NCAA appearance in three seasons and its seventh in school history. Tennessee Tech has been to the NCAAs twice but not since 1963, when it suffered the worst loss in tourney history, by 69 points to eventual national champ Loyola (Ill.) in the first round. Tech coach Mike Sutton, 54, is a great inspirational story. In 2005, Sutton -- a former assistant to Tubby Smith at Kentucky -- was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder that attacks the nervous system. He spent three months on a ventilator and still has trouble walking even though he uses a cane. He sits on a stool on the sideline during games.

East Carolina at UAB, 8 p.m.: A UAB win gives the Blazers the Conference USA regular-season title. A loss could mean a three-way tie for the crown.

Texas at Baylor, 9 p.m., ESPN: Texas has lost three of its past four and is looking to stop the bleeding against a team it beat by nine at home on Feb. 12. Baylor, meanwhile, is trying to claw its way back onto the NCAA bubble. The Bears have lost four of their past six to fall to 7-8 in Big 12 action, and outside of two wins over Texas A&M, the Bears have zero top-50 victories. Beating Texas means the Bears would have legitimate NCAA aspirations heading into the league tourney.

Colorado State at San Diego State, 10 p.m., The mtn.: A win means San Diego State at least shares the Mountain West regular-season title. But this game is more important for Colorado State. San Diego State is safely in the NCAA field and could be a No. 2 seed. Colorado State, though, is on the wrong side of the bubble right now and desperately needs a marquee win.

USC at Washington, 10:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net: When this one tips off, Washington will know whether it can tie UCLA for second in the Pac-10 standings. In addition, a win could end up helping the Huskies' NCAA seeding.

Conference tournaments: Seven No. 1 seeds will be in action in a quarterfinal or semifinal in their league. Top-seeded George Mason meets ninth-seeded Georgia State (noon) in a Colonial quarterfinal in Richmond, Va. Top-seeded Vermont meets eighth-seeded Binghamton (2:30 p.m.) in an America East quarterfinal in West Hartford, Conn. Top-seeded Missouri State faces fifth-seeded Creighton (2:30 p.m., MVC syndication/Fox Sports Midwest/Comcast Sports Net Chicago) in a Missouri Valley semifinal in St. Louis. Top-seeded Fairfield is at home against ninth-seeded Marist (4:30 p.m., MSG2) in a Metro Atlantic Athletic quarterfinal. Top-seeded Oakland faces eighth-seeded Southern Utah (7 p.m.) in a Summit League quarterfinal in Sioux Falls, S.D. Top-seeded UW Milwaukee is at home against fourth-seeded Valparaiso (8:30 p.m.) in a Horizon League semifinal. And top-seeded College of Charleston meets eighth-seeded Elon (9:30 p.m.) in a Southern Conference quarterfinal. Two other league tourney games feature teams with NCAA at-large hopes. In another CAA quarterfinal, second-seeded Old Dominion squares off against seventh-seeded Delaware (6 p.m., Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast/ESPN FullCourt). A victory -- or, rather, avoiding a bad loss -- likely sews up an at-large bid for the Monarchs. And in the other Horizon League semifinal, second-seeded Butler meets third-seeded Cleveland State (6 p.m.). Butler swept the season series. Butler has a stronger resume than Cleveland State, but the at-large pool is so weak this season that Cleveland State gives itself a legit chance for a bid if it can beat the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, Butler would be looking good for an at-large bid if it beats the Vikings.

FRIDAY REVIEW

Princeton 77, Dartmouth 55: Princeton maintained its half-game lead over Harvard in the Ivy League going into today's showdown.

Harvard 79, Penn 64: Harvard improved to 13-0 at home this season and kept its Ivy title hopes alive by beating Penn. It was the 22nd victory for the Crimson, which sets a school record for victories in a season.

Kent State 79, Akron 68: Kent State won the MAC regular-season title with the victory over its archrival. The regular-season crown guarantees the Golden Flashes a spot in the NIT should they lose in the MAC tourney, which is what happened last season.

Conference tournaments: Three No. 1 seeds were in action and one was upset. Murray State, which lost in the NCAA tourney's second round by two to Butler last season, fell 64-59 to fourth-seeded Tennessee Tech in an OVC semifinal in Nashville. In an Atlantic Sun semifinal, top-seeded Belmont 80-72 beat fifth-seeded Mercer 80-72 in Macon, Ga., on Mercer's home court. And in a Missouri Valley quarterfinal, top-seeded Missouri State mounted a furious late rally to nip eighth-seeded Southern Illinois 58-56 in St. Louis. The Bears' winning basket came with 1.4 seconds left, and the final margin was Missouri State's only lead of the game. Meanwhile, in a second-round game in the Horizon League tourney in Milwaukee, third-seeded Cleveland State ousted sixth-seeded Wright State 73-59. The victory kept the Vikings' extremely slim at-large hopes alive.

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



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