Have you ever caught a bubble?  It usually bursts when coming into contact with skin or any surface.  While a bubble can soar it can also disappoint.  And there’s no true, hard-line definition of a bubble’s dimensions.  In college hoops, the bubble is waiting room with no guarantee your name will be called.  Did the maître de just say “Hoyas, party of five”?  No, I think he said “Hoosiers”.  How long do we have to wait for our table to be ready?  While a few locals (Maryland, Virginia) are all but assured spots in the NCAA Tournament, the at-large bubble awaits the beltway bunch.  Unless you’re sub-500 in your league or in a one-bid conference.  Instead of a waiting room, you’re stuck in drive-through (the conference tournament–where they rarely get your order correct).

 

Friday 7pm– Richmond (14-11, 6-7 Atlantic 10) at VCU (19-7, 11-2), ESPN2.  The best rivalry nobody talks about has been one-sided as of late with the Rams taking eight straight in the series:  Melvin Johnson scored 6 of his 17 points in their 94-89 overtime win January 16th.  Expect more fireworks this time out:  the Spiders lead the A-10 in shooting and assist-to-turnover ratio while the Rams are tops in the conference in turnover margin and three-point shooting.  Coach Will Wade’s team is on the bubble after a lackluster performance against non-conference foes…and can ill-afford a home loss to a middling conference foe.  No matter how big a rivalry game this is.

 

Saturday

NOON- Georgetown (14-13, 7-7 Big East) vs #8 Xavier (23-3, 11-3), FOX.  The Hoyas upset the Musketeers on the road earlier this winter–and that has been their best win of the season.  Coach John Thompson III’s team held the Musketeers to 35% shooting and beat the Big East’s best rebounding team on the boards.  It appeared to be a team turning the corner after multiple false starts.  Six losses in eight games later, it’s not exactly crisis-mode at Verizon Center-but the window of opportunity is closing fast.  They almost need to sweep their final four regular season games (they wrap up at #1 Villanova) and advance to the Big East Finals for at-large consideration.  Minus senior center Bradley Hayes and his broken hand, a team that struggles to rebound will find life even more difficult against a team chasing down a top-4 seed in the NCAA’s.

1:30pm- Navy (18-10, 9-6 Patriot League) vs Army West Point (16-11, 7-8).  Nowhere near the hype of their football counterparts, this should actually be a fun watch as I’m sure the Black Knights have beaten the Midshipmen at least once in the last 14 years.  Both entered conference action playing well…and given the volatility of the league tournament, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see these two teams tangle in the Semis or Finals.  Will Kelly led the Mids with 15 points and 10 rebounds in a 14 point win at West Point…in a game where the Black Knights shot 27%.  But since then Zack Spiker’s team has won four of five…the only blemish being a one point overtime loss to Loyola (MD).

3pm- Virginia Tech (13-13, 5-8 ACC) vs Florida State (16-10, 6-8).  Both teams have hit on hard times after enjoying strong starts in conference play that included home wins over Virginia:  the Seminoles have dropped 3 in a row while the Hokies have lost 7 of 8.  With just one senior on the roster, the foundation is being laid by Buzz Williams in Blacksburg.  While the Seminoles can play their way back onto the bubble with games against Duke, Notre Dame and Syracuse looming…coach Leonard Hamilton’s team is probably more like the one that just lost to Georgia Tech than the one that bounced the Cavaliers in January.   ACC funfact:  Hamilton is the second-longest tenured coach in the league (behind Coach K)…the stipulation being the conference calendars for Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino and Mike Brey didn’t begin until each of their schools joined the ACC.

4pm- Howard (11-15, 5-6 MEAC) vs Savannah State (10-13, 6-6).  Who says the middle class is shrinking?  Two games separate 4th from 9th place in the league standings (oh, the beauty of a 13- team conference).  While the Tigers are upwardly mobile with three straight wins, the Bison have been heading down the opposite escalator with five losses in six games.  Their victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore saw both sides of the season:  Division I’s leading scorer James “J-Bird” Daniel III poured in 38 points while the team turned the ball over 22 times.

 

Sunday-

Noon- George Washington (19-7, 8-5 Atlantic 10) vs LaSalle (6-18, 2-11), NBC Sports Network.  The race is on for 4th place in the A-10 (and the bye into the quarterfinals that comes with it)…and GW trails St. Bonaventure by a game (in effect two games because the Bonnies own the head-to-head tiebreaker).  Can GW’s big three of Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Tyler Cavanaugh come together for a stretch run?  The Colonials’ depth should be a factor–as Explorers Jordan Price, Cleon Roberts and Johnnie Shuler each average over 36 minutes a game.

American (8-18, 6-9 Patriot League) at Holy Cross (10-16, 5-10).  Fresh off a one point victory over last place Lafayette…the Eagles visit the ninth place Crusaders.  Jesse Reed scored 16 points in AU’s 58-45 win in DC February 1st…which was the team’s first home victory of the season.  Since then, Holy Cross has dropped 3 of 4 with the only victory coming against…Lafayette.  This winter the last-place Leopards are the prey of every team in the wild.

 

1pm- #6 Maryland (22-5, 10-4 Big Ten) vs Michigan (19-8, 9-5), CBS.  The Wolverines topped the Terps in Ann Arbor by 3…a game where Melo Trimble shot 1-for-7 with 4 turnovers.  In losses to Wisconsin and Minnesota, the sophomore has been held to 4-25 shooting with 10 turnovers.  It’s never ideal to have your catalyst hit a snag this late into the season…and with recurring back and hamstring issues one hopes the sophomore can straighten things out.  Before moving on, how bad was that loss to the Golden Gophers?  Richard Pitino’s team was one of four Division I schools winless in conference play (Boston College, Rutgers & Chicago State rounding out the futile four) and had an RPI (according to ESPN) of 213.  The previous worst RPI loss by the Terps was at #54 Michigan.  Could the slide continue Sunday?

4pm- George Mason (9-17, 3-10 Atlantic 10) at UMass (11-14, 4-9), NBC Sports Network.  Credit the Patriots for keeping things close in a rebuilding year…four of their last six games have been two-possession affairs.   The 2-point overtime loss to St. Louis drops the Patriots to 13th place in the conference;  the Minutemen are also on a different sort of bubble as they’re tied for 10th.  The bottom four teams play in the A-10 Tournament first round…an honor looked upon with the enthusiasm of the Vice Presidency.  Necessary but not aspired.

 

 

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