In eight days the field of 68 will be set in stone.  But there are already automatic qualifiers for both the NCAA (Harvard taking the Ivy League) and NIT (High Point losing in the Southern Tournament)…as the end of the regular season for most leagues gives fans rivalry games or schedule-fillers.  Say what you will about Duke-UNC, but the ACC does it right by having these two schools meet at the end of the regular season.  How is Indiana NOT playing Purdue this weekend?  Kansas-West Virginia is supposed to get me excited?  At least the SEC has Kentucky playing Florida…

SATURDAY–

2PM–Georgetown (17-12, 8-9 Big East) at #6 Villanova (27-3, 15-2)–the Hoyas try to spoil senior day for the Wildcats and boost their own NCAA Tournament prospects (#14 strength of schedule in Division I).  They turned the ball over 18 times in a five point loss to Villanova in January… and one reason ‘Nova’s already wrapped up the Big East title has been an aggressive defense.  Markel Starks notched 20 points in the DC matchup—the senior’s averaging 21 points over the last three games.

2PM–Virginia Tech (9-20, 2-15 ACC) at Georgia Tech (14-16, 5-12)–the winter of discontent is almost over for the woeful Hokies.  The loss to Maryland sentenced them to last place in the league…while the Yellowjackets upset win at #4 Syracuse gives GT a little late-season momentum. VT looks to limit Trae Gordon–who leads the Jackets with 13ppg but was held scoreless in 31 minutes at Notre Dame and scored 2 against Duke.  Scoring has been an issue late for the Hokies…failing to reach the 55 point mark in 4 of their last 6 games.

4:30–George Washington (22-7, 10-5 Atlantic 10) at Fordham (9-19, 2-13)–a Colonials win plus a loss by UMass or Saint Joseph’s locks up a first round bye in the conference tournament.  The Rams have already wrapped up last place in the league…so a win would set up a rematch in the A-10 first round.  GW dominated the Smith Center meeting–leading by 23 at the half.  Good news from Foggy Bottom:  ESPN reports guard Kethan Savage will be back from a broken foot for postseason play (the team is 15-3 with and 7-4 without the sophomore).

5:30–American entertains Holy Cross in the Patriot League Semifinals–the Eagles swept the Crusaders in the regular season with the home game quite a bit closer (a 63-57 decision where HC hit 60% of their shots)…thanks to handcuffing leading scorer Dave Dudzinski (6ts and 8reb in the February 1st game).  The 6-foot-9 center’s averaging 15 points over his last six games. Tony Wroblicky will have his work cut out again…

7PM–George Mason (11-18, 4-11 Atlantic 10) hosts Duquesne (12-16, 4-11) in the fight for 10th place in a league that despite its name has ten members.  The Patriots notched their first ever A-10 win over the Dukes February 8th thanks to Sherrod Wright’s 23 points.  Duquesne boasts British import Ovie Soko (18ppg, 8rpg)–the London native scored 21 against the Patriots earlier this year.  A win this weekend would mean coach Paul Hewitt’s team went 5-3 over the second half of the conference campaign.

SUNDAY–

NOON–Maryland (16-14, 8-9 ACC) hosts #5 Virginia(25-5, 16-1) in the final regular season ACC matchup between the two longtime foes.  While Duke and North Carolina are often the focus of the Terrapin faithful– the Cavaliers was the great rivalry that wasn’t over the last 60 years.  Undercutting the close proximity of College Park and Charlottesville was the fact that the two schools were rarely great at the same time…so although they met the stakes were rarely what they were if they met UNC or Duke (or even NC State pre-1990).  There was always a mutual disdain–as the hardscrabble Terrapin faithful thought the Cavalier fans were a little too popped-collar for their taste, and the Charlottesville folk found the cretins of College Park to be beneath them (after all, Thomas Jefferson founded their university–did you know he not only wrote the Declaration of Independence but also was our third President?).  In the meeting at John Paul Jones Arena, the Terps were betrayed by poor 3-point shooting (29%) and the patented second half surge (17-6 UVa run between the 12 and 4 minute marks).  While the Cavaliers are already assured of the top seed in the ACC Tournament…Maryland with a win plus a Florida State loss would take the 7th seed next weekend.  The Seminoles have that rivalry game with Syracuse–because Miami’s busy playing rival Wake Forest.  At least the ACC did it right one last time– putting the Terps and Cavaliers on the floor to end the season one last time.

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