A look at the three most notable games (bubble-wise) on Tuesday's schedule:
Kansas State at Oklahoma State
The last Big XII at-large belongs to Texas A&M for now, but these two teams are also still in the mix for a bid. Kansas State was in our Field of 65 the last three weeks, but they are on the outside looking in this week after getting destroyed at Missouri on Wednesday. Oklahoma State wasn't even on the Next Four Out list in last week's bracket, but wins over Colorado and Texas now have them very much alive. Tonight, the Wildcats and Cowboys square off in what is essentially an elimination game for both. If Kansas State wins, they have a great chance at finishing 10-6 in conference (they host Colorado on Saturday in their season finale), which would be good enough to get them a bid. If Oklahoma State wins, they still have to face Oklahoma in Norman on Saturday in a game we fully expect them to lose. That would get the Cowboys to 9-7 and would put them in decent shape to get a bid if they were to win their first round Big XII tourney game (two wins would make them a lock). It's tough to bet against the Cowboys tonight considering the way they've played at home lately. They've won their last four conference home games, and on the season, they have lost just two conference home games - to Missouri by two back on Jan. 21 and to Oklahoma by eight on Jan. 26. Kansas State has road wins over Texas and Texas A&M on its resume, but they have struggled in their past two road games, winning by just four at Iowa State and getting smoked by the Tigers this past week.
Wake Forest at Maryland
When we put Maryland in the bracket back on Feb. 16, we did so based on the rationale that the Terps needed four wins in ther last five games to get a bid. They are halfway to that total - thanks to wins over Carolina and N.C. State - and if they get two more this week, they'll finish 9-7 in conference and lock up an at-large bid. Their biggest challenge obviously comes tonight at home against the Demon Deacons, who have won three out of four after losing three of four in one stretch. Maryland fans have to love their chances in this one for a couple of reasons - there isn't a guard in the country playing better right now than Greivis Vasquez, and they are playing a Wake team that has lost its last four road games (three of which came against non-tourney teams). As we've mentioned several times over the last couple of weeks, a 9-7 finish will get Maryland a bid. If they lose this game, beat Virginia, and finish 8-8, however, their spot in the field would not be guaranteed. Given their strong OOC resume, though, we feel very confident that an 8-8 Maryland team would get the nod over an 8-8 Virginia Tech or an 8-8 Miami team as long as Maryland won its first ACC tourney team and as long as the Hokies or Hurricanes don't go on a huge run to the semifinals.
Cincinnati at South Florida and Georgetown at St. John's
Now that Notre Dame has played its way into the NIT (just as we expected...cough, cough) the door has been flung open for the rest of the Big East bubble to stake ther claim at an at-large. If we had to do a bracket today, Providence would be in the field as the eighth Big East team, but right behind the Friars would be Cincinnati and Georgetown. For both the Bearcats and the Hoyas, their mission over the next two weeks is simple: win out and get to 10-8 and 8-10 respectively, then win two Big East tourney games, pray a little bit if you're Georgetown, and then you're in. Cincinnati's stretch run starts tonight in South Florida against a Bulls team that has lost 11 of its last 13. If the Bearcats can win tonight and finish up with a win over Seton Hall at home this weekend, they would enter the Big East tourney ahead of Georgetown in the pecking order, since they swept the Hoyas head-to-head., but behind Providence, who beat Cincinnati twice. Even above .500 in a brutal league, they would still need to win two Big East games to feel safe since their conference schedule was "easy" compared to some other Big East schools (they played Georgetown, Providence, and St. John's twice) and since they didn't do much out of conference. The Hoyas, meanwhile, becoming a very, very intruiging case if they finishing 8-10 and win two Big East tourney games. It's tough to ignore a sub-.500 Big East finish, but it's also hard to ignore wins at UConn and at Villanova, a neutral court win against Maryland, and home wins against Memphis and Syracuse. If the committee looks at "who you beat" and ignores some obvious warts on the Hoyas' resume, they could be a controversial at-large pick on Selection Sunday. First things first, though, they need knock off St. John's tonight and DePaul at home on Saturday. A Providence loss at Villanova would certainly help, too. That way, Georgetown (and Cincinnati) wouldn't have to worry about being the ninth team out of the Big East and could try to be the eighth in instead.
Also receiving votes: Florida State at Duke, Ohio State at Iowa, Virginia at Clemson, Utah at New Mexico