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March 1, 2011
Here's our daily NCAA tournament tracker.
We spotlight key games to be played tonight, as well as review important games from Monday, in the context of how that affects those teams' spots in the NCAA tourney.
We'll continue our tracker through the final days of the conference tournaments. We'll also update the "NCAA locks" chart as needed.
All RPI figures are through Sunday's games and come from collegerpi.com.
GAME OF THE DAY
Boston College at Virginia Tech, 9 p.m., ESPNU: Both are squarely on the NCAA bubble, and this one is huge for each team's at-large hopes. Virginia Tech is coming off a win over Duke, just its second over a team in the top 50 of the RPI. The Hokies, who close the regular season at Clemson, have won four of their past five. Boston College, which won the first meeting between these teams by two points at home, has lost two of its past three. This should be an interesting guard matchup between Tech's Malcolm Delaney and BC's Reggie Jackson.
OTHER GAMES OF INTEREST
Illinois at Purdue, 7 p.m., ESPN: Purdue trails Ohio State by a game in the Big Ten race, and the Boilermakers
Alabama at Florida, 7 p.m., ESPNU: Both already have clinched their respective SEC divisions, but this one is for the overall SEC regular-season title. Both are coming in off losses
Baylor at Oklahoma State, 7 p.m., ESPN2: This is a must-win game for Baylor if it wants to stay on the NCAA bubble. The Bears have struggled away from home (3-8) and have just two top-50 wins (both over Texas A&M). Oklahoma State actually has more top-50 wins than the Bears, with three. Oklahoma State is 12-2 at home this season. Baylor won the first meeting by 19 in Waco on Jan. 22.
Missouri at Nebraska, 8 p.m., Big 12 syndication/Altitude/Mid-Atlantic Sports Network/ESPN FullCourt: Missouri has struggled in true road games this season (2-6, with all six losses in league play) and needs to win this if it has any designs on finishing third in the Big 12. Nebraska has lost two in a row, including a devastating setback Saturday at Iowa State that likely ended any realistic at-large hopes. Half of the Huskers' 18 wins have come against teams ranked 200th or worse in the RPI. Still, they are 16-2 at home.
Vanderbilt at Kentucky, 9 p.m., ESPN: When this game tips off, Vandy should know if it still has a shot to tie for the SEC East regular-season title; the Commodores trail division leader Florida by two games and finish the regular season by playing host to the Gators on Saturday. UK, meanwhile, is 14-0 at home this season and would move into a tie with Vandy for second place with a victory. In addition, both are playing to improve their NCAA seeding. Vandy beat UK by four in Nashville on Feb. 12.
Ohio State at Penn State, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network: Ohio State owns a one-game lead in the Big Ten and is at the front of the line for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney. Penn State owns a couple of big wins at home, but the Lions lost 12 games overall and four of their past seven.
San Diego State at Wyoming, 10 p.m., The mtn.: San Diego State is coming off a home loss to BYU and can't afford any kind of hangover against the woeful Cowboys. San Diego State still has a legit shot at a No. 2 seed, but those hopes would take a huge hit if the Aztecs were to lose to a team that has an RPI of 258.
Conference tournaments: Top-seeded Coastal Carolina plays host to eighth-seeded Gardner-Webb (7 p.m.) in the first round of the Big South tourney. In the Horizon, which gives the top two seeds a bye into the semifinals, third-seeded Cleveland State plays host to 10th-seeded Illinois-Chicago (7 p.m.) in a first-round game. Cleveland State has a slight at-large pulse, one that would be lost if the Vikings fall to UIC.
Notre Dame 93, Villanova 72: The Irish locked up a double-bye in the Big East tourney by toying with Villanova, which saw its free-fall continue. Villinova has lost five of seven and is in real danger of finishing outside the top eight in the league; that means no bye in the tourney. The slide also has had a hugely negative impact on Villanova's likely NCAA seeding. Notre Dame remains in the running for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tourney.
Kansas State 75, Texas 70: K-State handed the host Longhorns their third loss in four games and, in the process, nailed down an NCAA at-large bid. K-State has won five in a row and seven of eight, and now has a real shot at finishing third in the Big 12. Texas, meanwhile, fell into second place in the league race and is playing itself into a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tourney two weeks after it looked as if it would be a No. 1.
Gonzaga 96, Cal State Bakersfield 51: This game against an independent served as a tune-up game for the West Coast Conference tourney for the Zags. Avoiding a bad loss was crucial for Gonzaga; mission accomplished.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.