It’s that time of the year. The NCAA and NIT tournaments are right around the corner. Although every game is important, they become even more critical at this juncture of the season.
TEAMS THAT HELPED THEMSELVES THIS WEEKEND
Clemson: The Tigers (19-9, 8-6) needed to beat a bad Wake Forest team and they did, 63-49, on Saturday. Clemson’s 62-44 trouncing of Florida State on January 29 should also help its cause.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies locked themselves into an NCAA Tournament bid with their 64-60 home win over No.1 Duke on Saturday. Virginia Tech (19-8, 9-5 ACC) had won eight of 11 prior to the Duke game to get itself back in the mix. They probably had already earned a bid, but better to be safe than sorry.
Rhode Island: The Rams’ 90-58 blowout of Fordham on Saturday was important. Fordham, which is starting over from scratch with new coach Tom Pecora, has been terrible this season. A loss would’ve all but ended Rhode Island’s NCAA at-large hopes. Rhode Island (18-10, 9-5) is not out of the woods, but at least they are in the conversation.
Colorado: The Buffaloes (18-11, 7-7 Big 12) did themselves some justice with a 91-89 home win over No.5 Texas on Saturday. It still probably isn’t enough. The Buffs had lost seven of 10 before beating Texas. January wins over Missouri and Kansas State will help, but the Buffaloes need to win their last two regular seasons games against Iowa State and Nebraska.
Baylor: The Bears (18-10, 7-7), much like Va. Tech and Colorado, took advantage of their homecourt advantage in a 58-51 win over No.17 Texas A&M. But also like Colorado, Baylor has work to do. Truth be told, they may be fighting Colorado for one of the last at-large bids.
Kansas State: I know, we seem to be on a Big 10 kick now, but hey, it’s a conference that has a lot of unanswered questions. Kansas State (20-9, 8-6) took care of business in an 80-70 win over No.21 Missouri. The Wildcats, who upset Kansas in early February, probably has a bid locked up.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles (18-11, 9-7) extended their winning streak to three straight with an 86-62 win over Providence on Sunday. Most importantly, the knocked off Connecticut for a big road win on Thursday. Earlier wins over Syracuse and Notre Dame might be enough to make Marquette the Big East’s ninth team.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers (18-10, 9-7) rebounded from a Thursday loss at Pitt with a 65-64 win over Rutgers. It’s going to get tight for the Mountaineers, but wins over Georgetown, Purdue, and Notre Dame. Could they be the Big East’s 10th team?
Illinois: The Illini (18-11, 8-8) got a huge win, topping Iowa, 81-68, on Saturday. There are at Purdue on Tuesday. A win in that game gets them into the tournament.
George Mason: The Colonials (25-5, 16-2) are sitting pretty atop the CAA. Their blowout regular-season finale against Georgia State on Saturday was what they needed. It could be enough to get them an at-large bid if the fall shot of the CAA title.
Old Dominion: Yes, the Monarchs (24-6, 14-4) have four conference losses. But they have wins over Xavier, Clemson, Dayton, George Mason and Cleveland State.
Georgia: The Bulldogs (19-9, 8-6) needed their 64-48 win over South Carolina in the worse way. With just one quality win –77-71 win over Kentucky in January– Georgia is on the outside looking in.
Kentucky: The Wildcats (20-8, 8-6) probably don’t belong on this list, but please, humor us here at Hoops Scoops. Kentucky was in a little trouble a few weeks ago after a loss at Florida. But the Wildcats have perked up since, winning four of their last six, including a home win over Florida on Saturday. The Wildcats are in.
UNLV: The Runnin’ Rebels (22-7, 10-5) have benefitted from playing in the same conference as San Diego State and BYU. Their win over Wyoming on Saturday was their fourth straight. But the Rebels can be comforted by the fact that they have wins over Wisconsin and Kansas State.
WEST COAST CONFERENCE
Gonazga: The Zags (21-9, 11-3) have won six in a row, including Saturday’s win over San Diego. Non-conference wins over Marquette, Baylor and Xavier could be enough to push the Zags over the top assuming they lose in the West Coast Conference final.
St. Mary’s: The Gaels (23-7, 11-3) certainly needed that 83-69 win over Portland on Saturday. It stopped a three-game losing streak. With just one quality win, a 76-71 win over St. John’s on November 16, the Gaels are far from a lock. But they do have 23 wins.
TEAMS THAT HURT THEMSELVES
Duquesne: The Dukes (17-10, 9-5) are done. They were looking great on February 2 after a win over George Washington. They were 16-5 overall and 8-0 in conference. But they’ve lost five of six since, including a terrible, 62-51, loss to St. Louis on Saturday.
Nebraska: Done. The Cornhuskers (18-10, 6-8) lost at Iowa State, 83-82, in overtime. It was their second straight loss. Barring winning the Big 12 tournament title, see ya!
Cincinnati: The Bearcats (22-7, 9-7) 67-59 loss to UConn on Sunday could be all she wrote. Yes, they have wins over Georgetown, Louisville and Xavier, but almost all of the other Big East teams in contention have at least that amount of big victories.
Michigan State: The Spartans (16-12, 8-8) on the bubble? Yes, Tom Izzo’s crew has struggled. Their 67-47 home drubbing at the hands of Purdue on Sunday was devastating. They must win their next two against Iowa and Michigan to get a nod.
Memphis: The Tigers (21-8, 9-5) were blasted, 74-47, by UTEP on Saturday. They are in a four-way tie for second place in the conference and have no wins over ranked teams. No conference title could mean a trip to the NIT.
Tennessee: The Volunteers (17-12, 7-7) started the season on fire with wins over Pittsburgh and Villanova in late November and December. Since then the Vols have just one win to hang their hats on, 104-84 win over Memphis. But they suffered a gut wrenching 70-69 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday. The Vols need a strong run in the conference tournament to get any type of consideration.