Three days until Selection Sunday…as Quarterfinal Quadrupleheaders arrive in half of the multi-bid leagues.  What’s nice outside of the wall-to-wall basketball is that most of the fringe bubble teams need wins to keep at-large hopes alive…with games taking the form of a final exam.  And if you lose today?  It’s like realizing you missed an entire section in the exam with 15 minutes left and there’s no remaining room in the blue book.  Hand your exams in now, please…


In with the In Crowd:

Virginia–#1 seed in the East, headed to Charlotte for the first weekend with a round of 64 matchup against the winner of Manhattan and Robert Morris (ESPN) or Montana (CBS).  Barring getting blown out in the ACC Quarterfinals, they’re probably not sliding out of 1-seed land with a loss.

Maryland–#3 seed in the East, headed to Pittsburgh and a matchup with Northeastern (CBS).  They play the winner of Indiana-Northwestern Friday in the Big Ten Quartefinals;  the Terps beat the Wildcats by 1 and the Hoosiers by 2 in College Park this year while losing on the road at IU by 19.

Georgetown–CBS has the Hoyas a #4 seed in the South, playing Stephen F. Austin in Seattle while ESPN has Gtown a #6 seed in the East facing Oklahoma State in Pittsburgh.  No word on with all of Georgetown’s troubles against double-digit seeds recently if coach John Thompson III has asked to be seeded 8th or 9th.

VCU–CBS sends the Rams to Pittsburgh as the #8 seed in the West Bracket, facing North Carolina State.  ESPN sends Shaka Smart’s team to Omaha as the #10 seed in the East where they will meet Iowa.  I’m surprised that with the Rams finish (5-6) this team isn’t ticketed to Dayton.


On the Outside Looking In—

George Washington (20-11, 10-8 Atlantic 10) was once a bubble team in most models, but that was the 16-4 Colonials–not the GW that lost 7 of 11 entering the A-10 Tourney.  Four wins in four days?  Stranger things have happened. 

Richmond (19-12, 12-6 Atlantic 10) enters the A-10 Tourney ahead of VCU in the standings but behind the Rams in the at-large pool.  The Spiders get a chance to go 3-0 against their crosstown nemesis Friday–if VCU wins its second round game.

Old Dominion (24-6, 13-5 Conference USA) just a few years removed from the CAA plays in the C-USA Tournament in Birmingham.  A loss in the finals to league champ Louisiana Tech might be enough to sneak the Monarchs into the field…any less will probably send Jeff Jones’ team to the NIT.

Howard (16-15, 10-6 MEAC)– they are playing this tournament, right?  One more day of preparing and waiting to face Delaware State– this gives all of the other players on the team the chance to legally change their names to James (Daniel, Carlton and Miller currently average 10+ points a game) so they can further confuse DSU in tonight’s quarterfinal. 


Over and Out–

American (17-16, 8-10 Patriot League) saw its return trip the NCAA Tournament end one step short as the Eagles lose to Lafayette 65-63.  The Leopards’ Nick Lindner completed his tour de force through the postseason tournament (24ppg, 5apg, 64%FG, 60%3PT) by scoring 25 points against AU.  Coach Mike Brennan’s team hung tough despite allowing 65% shooting while getting outrebounded by 7…helping cause 18 Lafayette turnovers.  Unfortunately it wasn’t enough.

George Mason (9-22, 4-14 Atlantic 10) is the first team headed home from Brooklyn…as the Patriots fall 71-65 to Fordham.  Shevon Thompson tallied more turnovers (6) than points (4) and Mason was unable to contain Rams freshman Christian Sengfelder (27 points on 10-of-13 shooting).  The two-possession defeat was GMU’s first loss by single digits since February 7th.

Virginia Tech (11-22, 2-16 ACC)– it had to end sometime…and the Hokies couldn’t duplicate their win over Wake, instead falling to Miami 59-49.  Far from the 21-point blowout last Saturday, Coach Buzz Williams’ team actually took a 38-37 lead with 8:47 left and was within one point with 5:30 remaining.  Unfortunately the Hokies missed their next two shots (both layups) and the Hurricanes pulled away with a 15-6 finishing kick.  Back to spring football and smoked turkey legs in Blacksburg.


On Tap Today–

NOON–ACC Quarterfinals–Virginia plays Florida State.  The Seminoles beat Clemson in the noon game Wednesday (it feels like it’s grandfathered into the ACC Tournament that the Tigers or Seminoles HAVE to play in that first noon game) 76-73 and at 17-15 Leonard Hamilton’s team’s only path to the NCAA’s is to win the ACC Tournament.  Please stop laughing.  UVa won the regular season matchup between the two schools 51-41…holding FSU to 33% shooting and 14 turnovers.  Justin Anderson did not play in that game–Anthony Gill paced the Cavaliers with 13 points and 9 rebounds.  Since then Florida State freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes has made a name for himself, beginning three days later when he scored 30 of his 35 points against Miami during the last 4:38 of of the game.  Rathan-Mayes began the ACC Tournament with a bang–dropping 30 points against Clemson.  Can the Cavs contain this Canadian–and how much of a factor will Justin Anderson be recovering not only from a broken pinkie but an appendectomy?

2:30PM–Atlantic 10 Second Round–VCU faces Fordham in true Rams vs Rams fashion (it’s a bummer the league’s third Ram, Rhode Island, isn’t in that half of the bracket).  The two teams met once during the regular season, with the VCU prevailing 75-58 in a game where they missed more free throws than three point shots (14-30 from the line, 7-22 from outside the arc).  The key stat for that game though was Fordham turning the ball over 28 times.  How will A-10 Defensive Player of the Year Briante Weber’s teammates make up for his absence in the conference tournament?  This is potentially a bubble-bursting game.

2:30PM–Conference USA Quarterfinals–Old Dominion meets Middle Tennessee as the Monarchs look for a little revenge:  on January 22nd Jeff Jones’ team lost in overtime at Mufreesboro by ten.  What hurt ODU that day was offensive ineffectiveness:  Trey Freeman shot 7-19 from the field (at 37% under his 46% for the season) while the other four starters hit 4 of 19 shots against the Blue Raiders.  All five of the Monarch’s league losses came away from home…how will they deal with a neutral court?

7PM–Big East Quarterfinals–Georgetown plays Creighton as the last-place Blue Jays upset 7th seeded Depaul (shades of Depaul doing the same last year to #7 Georgetown).  The Hoyas won both games handily during the regular season, by 15 at home and by 17 in Omaha.  Defense was the difference on both occasions: Creighton made just 22% of their shots in the two games (21% from 3-point range).  Will D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera’s knee be good enough for the Hoyas leading scorer to play effectively?

8PM–MEAC Quarterfinals–Howard deals with Delaware State.  The two teams met January with the Hornets prevailing 79-76 thanks to 25 points from freshman Todd Hughes. Amere May remains the main weapon for Delaware State–the senior scores 21 points a game.  Still, the Bison boast the three James (Daniel, Carlton and Miller) who combined for 66 of the team’s 76 points that day.  One should expect more of the same.  How sluggish will the Bison be after eight days off?

9PM–Atlantic 10 Second Round–George Washington takes on Duquesne in what I want to call the first round but is actually the second round thanks to the blasted double-bye bracket.  The Colonials and Dukes split the regular season series, each school winning by double digits on its home floor.  GW’s 74-59 win at the Smith Center saw the Colonials shoot 48% (and 50% from three point range) while Patricio Garino and Joe McDonald combined for 36 points.  Their 78-62 loss in Pittsburgh saw GW shoot 32% (and 28% from outside the arc) while Garino and McDonald combined to make 4 of 22 shots.  Duke to watch:  junior guard Micah Mason tallied a career high 24 points against GW last month and has been scoring 17 points a game since (5 above his season average)