A look at the six most notable games on Wednesday's schedule:
Connecticut at Marquette
After Pitt's loss last night, there is four-way tie in the loss column atop the Big East standings. Marquette controls its own destiny with games remaining against all the teams they are tied with. This is the only home meeting they have out of the three, so it is probably their best chance for a win. They are currently on the 3 line but have a great chance to climb up with their schedule. They don't have much on their OOC resume so they would have to win out to climb up to the 1 line. The Huskies are the only team left in the country with an undefeated road record, but they haven't fared too well since they lost starting guard Jerome Dyson for the year. His replacement, Craig Austrie, has averaged around six points a game and has only shot 28%, while A. J. Price has only averaged 12 a game and shot 32%. They will need much better guard play if they are going to win the Big East title that they expected to win this year. The loser in this one can probably forget about any chance of winning the Big East title outright.
Duke at Maryland
Terp fans are probably still celebrating the win over UNC and now they get their bitter rival Duke coming in. If the Terps can manage to pull off another upset they would be in great shape for a bid. It would get them to 7-6 in conference, and if they can finish with 9 wins they would be safe. They're going to need another big game out of Greivis Vasquez tonight if they want to get win No. 7. In their last three wins, Vasquez he has averaged almost 24 a game while hitting nearly 50% of his 3's. We expect plenty of "F___ Duke" chants out of the classy Maryland student section. We've mentioned plenty of times how difficult of a schedule Maryland and Virginia Tech have left, but Duke is in the same boat. They have two more road games left with Virginia Tech and UNC and will take on Florida State at home. The Blue Devils are still in the mix for a 1 seed but they will need to win out to get there.
Virginia Tech at Clemson
No bubble team did more damage to their at-large chances than Virginia Tech did last week. The Hokies lost at Virginia and at home to Florida State to fall from an 11 seed to off the Last Eight Out list altogether. They got passed in the ACC pecking order by Maryland and Miami, and with the brutal stretch they have left, they are going to need a minor miracle to get a bid. Their first order of business is to find a way to win at Clemson tonight. They then have the "luxury" of playing Duke and Carolina at home before finishing up with a tough roadie at FSU. Clemson beat the Hokies by four in Blacksburg the first time these two teams played, and a season sweep would just solidify the Tigers' spot on the 2 line. If Clemson can go 2-2 over their last four games (VT, at FSU, Virginia, at Wake), they should be no worse than a 3 seed on Selection Sunday. Unlike previous Clemson teams, who have played a cupcake OOC schedule, this year's team has road wins at Illinois, Miami, and South Carolina and a neutral court win over Temple, all of which the committee will like when they are placing the Tigers in their bracket.
Kentucky at South Carolina
Both of these teams enter the final two weeks of the season with the same goal - go 2-2 in their over their last four games to finish 10-6, win a game in the conference tourney, and (likely) get a bid. At 8-4, the Wildcats and Gamecocks are tied for first place in the SEC East, a half game ahead of Florida. A closer look at their resumes, though, shows that their match-up tonight means a lot more to South Carolina than it does to Kentucky. The Gamecocks have a head-to-head win over Kentucky and a better RPI (44 vs. 62), but overall, they have only one Top 50 win (a home win over the Gators) and no real quality OOC wins (their best win was at Baylor). A loss here means South Carolina would need to win two of its final three games, which are at Vandy, home against Tennessee, and at Georgia, to feel safe. A South Carolina win tonight would knock Kentucky (for the moment) back to a double-digit seed, but wouldn't put them in danger of falling out of the field. Their season sweep of Tennessee, which they completed last week, really helps their at-large chances, as does their five Top 50 wins, their OOC win over West Virginia, and their home win over Florida. After this game, Kentucky hosts LSU on Saturday, and then finishes up next week with games against Georgia at home and against the Gators in Gainesville.
Kansas State at Missouri
In most years, a team with Kansas State's resume wouldn't be in the field right now. But this year, with no one seeming to want the last few at-large spots, the Wildcats are hanging on to one of the final bids - barely. Kansas State's computer numbers aren't pretty - their RPI is 75 and their non-conference SOS is 313 - but they've managed to pick up some big wins in conference to keep themselves in the mix (at Texas, Missouri, at Texas A&M). Their win over Texas looks even nicer now that the Longhorns beat Oklahoma, and their road win at A&M is huge considering the Aggies, after their miracle win at Nebraska, are still very much alive in the Big XII bubble picture. If the Wildcats were to win this game and complete a season sweep of the Tigers, they'd be in great shape to finish 10-6 and get a bid given the schedule they have left (this game, Nebraska, at Oklahoma State, Colorado). A loss here would make their game against the Cowboys a must-win if they want to stay in the at-large discussion. For Missouri, this game is must if they have any hopes at winning the Big XII title. The Tigers, who have won six in a row, currently sit a game a half behind Kansas and a half game behind Oklahoma in the standings. They play the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday and then host the Sooners (and we assume Blake Griffin) next Wednesday.
UNLV at Utah
The Rebels have hung onto an at-large bid even with their MWC struggles because of their strong OOC wins. They are going to have to win a tough road game down the stretch to keep holding on. They got a huge win against BYU over the weekend and now will need to win this one or their last game at SDSU to really solidify their spot in the bracket going into the MWC tourney. The Rebels are tied for 4th in conference right now, which isn't good, and they will need to finish 3rd or better to really like their chances. The Utes, at this point, are more concerned with how high of a seed they can earn. They are two games up in the loss column, and barring a late season collapse, they will win the regular season title. They have a tough schedule left, but if they can win out they will see their seed skyrocket to no lower than a 6.
Also receiving votes: Dayton at Rhode Island, Mississippi State at Tennessee, Rutgers at Notre Dame