Television - ESPN
In regards to bubble teams Wednesday saw a lot of teams leave the door open for someone to sneak in and grab an at-large bid, and it's made quite the case why we're just fine with sixty-five teams. But with this arguably being the weakest bubble pool in the 64/65 era there are ample opportunities for teams seemingly off the radar to sneak in and grab a bid. One of those teams is Dayton, who visits a Richmond team that looks to be a safe bet for the Big Dance.
While the best game of the night is the Top 5 battle between rivals Kansas State and Kansas, in regards to a conference title Duke visits Maryland with the winner either winning the ACC outright (Duke) or taking a step towards earing the top seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament (Maryland). Duke dominated the first meeting with Brian Zoubek playing an excellent game against a team that lacks the size required to deal with a seven-footer. Jordan Williams, the reigning ACC Rookie of the Week, will need to play arguably his best game of the season in the paint for the Terrapins.
While three leagues begin conference tournament play on Tuesday there's also plenty of things to be settled in conferences who won't start their tourneys until next week. Florida and Illinois are two teams that look to be in good shape as of right now but both are faced with ranked opponents who would vault them into the Big Dance for sure were they to win. The Gators host Vanderbilt, a team that's still got designs on the SEC's overall title, in a game they can win provided guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton make sound decisions with the basketball.
At one point a near-lock to wrap up a double-bye in the upcoming Big East Tournament, West Virginia finds itself just a game ahead of Louisville and Marquette in the race for one of those final two slots. They host a Georgetown squad that's in serious need of some positive momentum coming off of a double-digit home loss to Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon. The formula for the Hoyas is a rather simple one: as Chris Wright goes so do the Hoyas.
Touted as the "Game of the Year" in the Big East, either Villanova or Syracuse will take a step towards a regular season title in front of what's expected to be the largest crowd in Carrier Dome history. The Wildcats bounced back from two straight losses to beat USF earlier this week while the Orange outran a Providence squad whose defense would be complimented if described as a "speed bump". Can the Wildcats find enough open looks (that they want) against the tough Syracuse zone?
Does Thursday represent Conference USA's "last stand" in regards to possibly avoiding the fate of being a one-bid league? Probably not but an upset by Tulsa at Duke would go a long way in giving the conference at least two bids. The Golden Hurricane can give the Blue Devils some trouble inside due to the presence of an NBA-caliber big man in senior Jerome Jordan.
Another night and another opportunity for bubble teams throughout the nation to add a solid victory to their resumes. Florida and Louisville have opportunities at home to just that and it's fitting that the coach of one school (Billy Donovan) was coached by the head coach of the other (Rick Pitino). The Gators are coming off of a crucial win at Ole Miss on Saturday in a game that likely was an "elimination match" for the loser.
In terms of NCAA Tournament importance there's really only one game you need to watch on Monday night. UConn hosts West Virginia with the opportunity to pick up one more resume-building victory at their fingertips. Just one week ago Jim Calhoun's team was given up for dead by many as a result of their loss to Cincinnati, a performance that Coach Calhoun described as "embarrassing".
Northern Iowa 71, Old Dominion 62
The Panthers won their second straight without center Jordan Egleseder, knocking off the Monarch in Cedar Falls behind a 23-point night from Ali Farokhmanesh. Farokhmanesh hit five of nine shots from behind the arc and Kwadzo Ahelegbe added ten points. Gerald Lee led the Monarchs with 19 points but it wasn't enough to prevent ODU's first loss in the BracketBusters event.
Iona 69, William & Mary 53