Saturday, February 16th Highlighted Match-ups
|by: Drew Barnette - Staff Writer
|February 16, 2008
|-The "BUBBLE WATCH" section has now been added to each day's game write-ups.
-MICHIGAN STATE AT INDIANA (Big Ten). Both teams are 20-4 on the year and both are coming off losses to big time conference opponents. Still, they’re both in pretty good shape to receive a good seed in the NCAA Tournament. Indiana is just a game behind Purdue, and Michigan State is just two games back, so both are still in the conference race. Indiana’s record is much better than their overall resume, but now that they’re facing some tough Big Ten competition they have a chance to add some quality wins to their profile and boost their credentials. They came close to knocking off Wisconsin the other night, but couldn’t get it done. Michigan State has some good wins of their own, but has lost two of three and oftentimes struggles on the road. This would actually turn out to be one of their better road wins, which would impress the committee, if they can pull off the win.
-STANFORD AT ARIZONA (Pac Ten). Stanford went down the other night in an overtime thriller against Arizona State, which caused them to fall a game behind UCLA in the loss column. The two will face each other later this season, though, so Stanford still controls their own destiny. Arizona is coming off a rather impressive win against Cal and is going to be very tough for Stanford to beat at home. Both are solid tourney teams right now, but Stanford’s credentials appear to be much better than Arizona’s. It would still be a very big win for whichever team pulls it off.
-TEXAS AT BAYLOR (Big Twelve). Texas holds a very long winning streak against Baylor and enters this game with a big head of steam after winning several big games, but Baylor fans will be jacked up through the roof for this one. The Bears have their best team in recent memory, but they’ve lost four of their last five, including a shocking loss to Oklahoma State earlier this week. A win in a game like this would really put them back on track, and give their NCAA credentials much needed nudge. A loss would actually be sort of damaging. They still have plenty of time between now and the end, and Baylor is good enough to rebound, but losing five out of six is never good. Texas, on the other hand, is steamrolling. They’ve won six of seven, and knocked off Kansas in a thrilling game earlier this week.
-CLEVELAND STATE AT BUTLER (Horizon League). Once upon a time Cleveland State had a two game lead over Butler, plus the tiebreaker. They then lost five straight and now trail Butler by three games. Butler has a two game lead over Wright State (who’s won nine straight) and with five conference games remaining they can clinch home court advantage with just four more wins. They’re safe for a bid regardless of what happens, but any loss between now and the end will look bad to the committee and will likely affect their seed.
-TENNESSEE AT GEORGIA (SEC). Georgia finally snapped a long losing streak with a decisive win over South Carolina recently. Tennessee, on the other hand, continues to win impressively and keep themselves in the mix for a #1 seed. Georgia is a pretty good defensive team so it will be interesting to see what they can do against the Vols’ high octane offense, but other than that I think Tennessee is clearly better and should win. They’re all by themselves in first place in the SEC East and could end up running away with it.
-ORAL ROBERTS AT IUPUI (Summit League). This game probably won’t impact the at-large pool, but Oral Roberts does have an RPI in the 40s, and a two game lead over the rest of the conference. They defeated IUPUI earlier this year and can really put some distance between the two if they can manage a win in this one. If Oral Roberts wins out they’ll have a strong RPI and may get some love from the selection committee with a loss in their conference tournament, but that isn’t too likely, especially since the tourney is once again in Tulsa this year.
-COLORADO AT KANSAS (Big Twelve). Kansas is coming off a road loss to Texas, but that isn’t all that damaging. They’re still in good shape as far as the conference is concerned, and could end up with a #1 seed if they’re able to finish strong. Colorado had been in a big time slump, but just picked up a surprising win against Oklahoma. Still, their chances of picking up a win in this one are somewhere around slim and none.
-MISSOURI AT KANSAS STATE (Big Twelve). Missouri won the last time these two faced each other, which was pretty remarkable considering the Tigers weren’t at full strength. Mizzou didn’t really build on it, though, because their only win since then was in overtime against a Nebraska team that’s been free-falling. Kansas State fell to Texas Tech earlier in the week, which was surprising given how well they’d been playing. Every time it looks as though K State has a chance to take over sole possession of first place in the conference, they end up losing a game. They’re still in good shape, though, and are looking to rebound from the earlier loss with a little payback in this one.
-SAINT MARY’S AT LMU (West Coast). This is one of the best teams in the league against one of the worst. The gap is bigger than that. Saint Mary’s is one of the 30 best teams in the country, and LMU is likely among the 60 worst. SMC should win this one going away despite being on the road.
-FLORIDA STATE AT MARYLAND (SEC). Florida State has been on a nosedive since conference play began. The Terps are coming off a loss to Duke, but that isn’t too alarming because there aren’t too many teams in the country that would be able to beat Duke at home, much less on the road. They’re still one of the hotter teams in the nation right now and this appears to be a winnable conference game for them.
-AUBURN AT MISSISSIPPI (SEC). Ole Miss has now lost five of their last seven, which is a disturbing collapse given how good of a start they had. This is a winnable game for the Rebels, but then again Auburn did beat them at the beginning of this seven game stretch where they’ve struggled. They really need to take care of business and string together some wins or else they could wind up on the bubble. Auburn has lost five in a row and has a really poor RPI, so it would be a damaging loss for Ole Miss if they slip up in this one.
-VIRGINIA TECH AT NORTH CAROLINA (ACC). North Carolina has struggled without Ty Lawson, but they are one of the best teams in the country with him and should be fine once he’s back. They narrowly escaped against Virginia earlier this week and will have to play better today if they wan to survive this one. Virginia Tech has lost two in a row, but they’re a young team that appears to be improving as the season progresses. The Hokies may be able to make some noise down the stretch.
-DRAKE AT NORTHERN IOWA (Missouri Valley). Drake is coming off just their second loss of the season against a Southern Illinois team that’s tough at home, but as well as they’ve been playing they shouldn’t have too much trouble rebounding from that and taking care of Northern Iowa despite the fact that they’re on the road. Regardless of what happens it looks as though Drake will skate to the regular season conference title.
-PURDUE AT NORTHWESTERN (Big Ten). As well as Purdue has been playing it’s hard to imagine that Northwestern would give them any trouble tonight. They are in first place in the Big Ten and are set up to get a very nice seed in the NCAA Tournament. Northwestern is a very poor 6-15 on the year.
-LOUISVILLE AT PROVIDENCE (Big East). Louisville is one of the hottest teams in the conference right now, and Providence is one of the coldest. Nevertheless, it’s never easy to win on the road in the Big East, especially this year, and we’ve seen some pretty crazy things so Louisville can’t afford to overlook the Friars. It’s big for Providence because they’re a half game out of 12th place and are fighting for a spot in the Big East Tournament. It’s big for Louisville because they’re fighting for a chance to finish in first place.
-GONZAGA AT SAN FRANCISCO (West Coast). The Bulldogs are neck and neck with Saint Mary’s in the conference race and appear to be on a safe track to the NCAA Tournament. A loss like this one will hurt their seed because USF has such a poor RPI, but unless they really go into the tank they should be fine for a bid.
-CONNECTICUT AT SOUTH FLORIDA (Big East). South Florida just picked up their first conference win earlier this week against Syracuse. Chances are there aren’t too many more coming, especially not today against a UConn team that’s in a race for first in the league, and should be able to set themselves up for a great seed in the NCAA Tournament.
-GEORGETOWN AT SYRACUSE (Big East). Syracuse’s depth, or lack thereof, is becoming more and more of an issue. Their loss to South Florida earlier this week pretty much confirms that they need to finish strong just to get into the discussion for a bid. That being said, there is still some time and they have come very close to knocking off several big opponents. They lost to rival Georgetown earlier this year in overtime and they’re at home in front of fans that should be jacked way up for this one. Georgetown has had some narrow escapes lately as well, but are still in contention to finish first, and should get a very good seed in the NCAA Tournament.
-OKLAHOMA STATE AT TEXAS A&M (Big Twelve). TAMU has won five straight, and after some early road struggles have shown they can play and win both at home and on the road. If they can finish strong they should end up with a very good seed in the NCAA Tournament. Okie State is coming off a surprising win against Baylor, but other than that they’ve been anything but impressive, especially on the road, where they are winless on the year.
-MEMPHIS AT UAB (Conference USA). This could be one of the tougher tests Memphis faces in conference between now and the end, but it isn’t THAT tough and they should be able to take care of business. The Tigers always get a team’s best shot when they go on the road, but they’ve absorbed all the punches that have been thrown at them so far, and remain the top team in the nation.
-FLORIDA AT VANDERBILT (SEC). Florida really needs this win much more than Vandy, especially after their loss to LSU earlier this week, which was their third loss in four games. If the Gators can’t put some quality wins on their resume between now and the end they may be NIT bound. Vandy absolutely crushed a Kentucky team that had been playing very well in their last game, so the Gators better watch out, especially considering they gave Vandy a beat down in Florida earlier this year.
-MINNESOTA AT WISCONSIN (Big Ten). Wisconsin got a huge road win against Indiana earlier this week and won the first meeting between these two rather handily, so one has to really like their chances today at home. Minnesota has played well at times this year, and are certainly much improved from last season, but they’re still inconsistent. That fact was evidenced by their blowout loss to a struggling Illinois team earlier this week.
-CALIFORNIA AT ARIZONA STATE (Pac Ten). Cal has lost two straight games, the most recent being at Arizona the other night, and they need to start putting some big wins on their resume. Arizona State is also on the bubble, but they’ve won two straight against Arizona and Stanford, which is a huge boost for a team that had gone into a slump. If they can win this game they should appear in this week’s projections, and more importantly it would give them another conference win that would impress the selection committee.
-UNLV AT BYU (Mountain West). I believe that both these teams are inside the bubble, but this is still a huge game because neither team has a large margin for error. BYU is on a tear with seven straight wins, and can give themselves a two game cushion in the conference standings with a win in this one. UNLV, on the other hand, can get themselves into a tie for first place, which would impress the committee. Winning a conference road game like this against a quality team would also really impress the committee. It’s a huge, pivotal game for both teams, and it will hopefully be a good one.
-TEMPLE AT DAYTON (Atlantic Ten). These are two teams that are going in drastically different directions. Temple has won seven of nine, and just defeated a good Rhode Island team in a thrilling, come from behind victory. They’re in a tie for second place in the conference standings, and if they can finish strong they may play their way into the discussion for an at-large. They need to take care of business virtually every time out though, including this one today. Dayton, on the other hand, is sinking like a lead balloon, and if it keeps up they may not make the NIT, much less the NCAA. They can still play their way into the dance with a strong finish, but anything short of that and they won’t be selected.
-SMU AT HOUSTON (Conference USA). Houston played pretty well against Memphis the other night, and actually led at the half, but Memphis’s defense was too tough and Houston just couldn’t convert on several key possessions. Houston’s RPI is in the 40s and they don’t have any bad losses so it’s possible they’ll get some consideration, but they’ll basically need to win out and either beat Memphis in the conference tournament, or not lose to anyone other than Memphis in order to get any consideration at all.
-OHIO AT KENT STATE (Mid American). Ohio was going strong and appeared to have a shot at an at-large if they kept it up, but it’s never easy to keep it up and they’ve added some bad losses to their resume recently. They’re still a good team and could be dangerous in the MAC Tourney, but anything short of winning it and they aren’t likely to go dancing. Kent State still has a shot at an at-large, but they probably need to win out or come close to it, and win at Saint Mary’s in the Bracket Buster. The margin for error is razor thin, and they need to take care of business at home in this game.
-CLEMSON AT NORTH CAROLINA STATE (ACC). NC State has far too many disturbing losses on their resume to feel safe right now. They’re only RPI top 50 came against a Miami, FL team who doesn’t appear to be in the NCAA Tournament picture right now either. NC State needs this win because right now they don’t have any on their resume that are as good as this. They’re currently on the outside looking in and won’t make the tournament if they can’t finish strong. Clemson, on the other hand, appears to be safe for a bid barring a collapse. There is still room for improvement, though, so this is an important game for them as well.
-WASHINGTON STATE AT OREGON (Pac Ten). Washington State has turned it around with two straight wins after going through somewhat of a slump. Oregon is outside the bubble and really needs a win like this to give their resume a boost. They have won three out of their last for, but when it comes to bubble teams a win like this could make the difference of whether the committee takes them or not.
-FLORIDA ATLANTIC AT SOUTH ALABAMA (Sun Belt). It’s pretty much the same old story every time out for South Alabama. If they win out, they should be fine for a bid even with a loss in the conference tournament. This is a very winnable game for them at home today.
-VILLANOVA AT SAINT JOHN’S (Big East). Nova lost their last game against Georgetown, which featured a ridiculous call at the end. They’re not even on the bubble right now and will have to finish strong just to get themselves back into the picture. More urgently, they haven’t even secured themselves a spot in the SEC Tournament yet.
-OKLAHOMA AT TEXAS TECH (Big Twelve). Oklahoma got a much needed win earlier this week against Iowa State, but they need another one today. They’re right on the bubble and it wouldn’t take too many losses to knock them off of it. Texas Tech got a big win earlier this week against Kansas State, so even though Oklahoma appears to be better Texas Tech is still more than capable of beating them.
-OLD DOMINION AT VCU (Colonial Athletic). It’s the same story out every night for VCU as well. They need to win out and then they should have a chance for an at-large bid if they fail to win the conference tournament. VCU has won 11 of 12, so they’re a very solid team and should be able to take care of rival Old Dominion at home today.
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