Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Four Pack For Tuesday

A look at the four most notable games on Tuesday's schedule:

Michigan State at Michigan
How does a team that's lost six of its last eight suddenly find itself back on the bubble? In the case of Michigan, it's a combination of a blowout win against Penn State, a solid showing against the top-ranked team in the country, and the up-and-down play of the middle of the Big Ten. The Wolverines are still a bit behind Wisconsin and Penn State on the Big Ten bubble list, but that can change in a hurry tonight if they can pull the upset at home against the Spartans. Michigan has played well at home this season; it's the road that's killed them (they're 1-6 away from Ann Arbor). That record, and the fact that Michigan plays four of its last seven on the road, makes this game all the more important. It's the best opportunity Michigan has left to pick up a marquee win - something they haven't done in over two months. Michigan State, meanwhile, has bounced back quite nicely from its shocking loss to the Nittany Lions nine days ago. Overall, they have won four of five, their RPI is has risen to 7 and, thanks to some slip-ups by Wake Forest and Marquette, the Spartans are up a 2 seed in our latest bracket. A win here would give Michigan State a little comfort on the 2 line (they're the last 2 this week) and would give them even more confidence heading into what will be another tough road test next Tuesday at Purdue.

Marquette at Villanova
Marquette has had a stranglehold on the Big East's fourth bid for a while now, but suddenly Villanova is creeping up on them. The Wildcats have won five games in a row, including a road win at Providence last Wednesday and a one-sided victory at home against Syracuse on Saturday. Those wins helped moved 'Nova up to a season-high 4 seed in our latest bracket, just four spots on the S-curve behind Marquette. The Golden Eagles saw their perfect conference record - and their 2 seed - disappear at South Florida over the weekend, as they shot 4-for-24 from three and 10-for-23 from the free throw line in a one-point loss to the Bulls. The lone bright spot for Marquette in that game was the continued solid play of Jerel McNeal. McNeal has been an absolute beast over the past three weeks; he's scored 20 or more points in seven straight games. If Marquette is going to pick up a quality road win tonight, they'll need McNeal to go off again, and he'll have to get some help offensively and defensively from Wesley Matthews and Dominic James against 'Nova's talented backcourt. If Villanova wins, and if they can complete a 2-0 week with a win at West Virginia on Friday, they'll jump up to the top of the 3 line in our next bracket. A Marquette win would give them a season sweep over the Wildcats and a two-game lead over them in the Big East standings, and if they get a little help, the Golden Eagles might be able to work their way back onto the 2 line come Monday.

Florida at Kentucky
How do you go from the top-seeded SEC team in the bracket to the last team in the field within two weeks? You drop three conference games in a row, including two straight home games. That's just what Kentucky has done, and now they need a win badly against the newest top SEC team, Florida. Kentucky's RPI has dropped all the way to 74, which is not a good place to be in February. To make things worse, the Wildcats' second-half SEC schedule is much more difficult than their first half. They will still have to travel to Florida and South Carolina, and take on LSU and Tennessee at home. A win over the Gators would be a huge confidence builder and would once again solidify their standing in the bracket. If they suffer another loss, they'll be in serious trouble. They would drop to 5-4 in the weak SEC, where 10 wins is probably going to be the benchmark for at-large teams. Florida has fared well in recent years against the Wildcats, having won seven of eight, and they'll look to continue that run tonight.

Clemson at Boston College
Clemson goes on the road this week to try and maintain their current 2 seed. Their blowout win over Duke last week got them to the 2 line over slumping Wake Forest. We think the Tigers have a good chance to stay on the 2 line for a while because of the relatively easy schedule they have left. They don't have any games left with Duke or UNC and they get Virginia twice. The Tigers are one of the few teams who have actually fared better on the road (one loss) than at home (two losses) this season. That solid road resume has landed them on the 2 line, and they will need to continue that strong road play against BC. The Eagles are in the midst of their toughest scheduling stretch and could use another marquee win to solidify their resume. They get a great chance to get that win this week with Clemson and Duke visiting. If they can't pick up a win this week, then their trip down to Miami next week will be that much more important. The Hurricanes have already beaten the Eagles in Chestnut Hill, which is key considering these two teams' resumes might be compared to each other come Selection Sunday.

Also receiving votes: Oklahoma State at Texas, TCU at UNLV, Providence at South Florida

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