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THE TIME IS NOW FOR TEAMS ON THE BUBBLE
February 13, 2009

SCS.comYou often hear that college football’s regular season is much more meaningful without a playoff system. That’s true for championship contenders, which only includes a handful of teams. This weekend, on the basketball side, there are dozens of college basketball teams playing for their NCAA tournament lives. They all want a chance at a championship, and every single February game is important for all of these bubble teams. And they say the hoops season is meaningless!

MIGHT AS WELL BE MARCH
Games you might see in the NCAA tournament

Florida State at Wake Forest
Saturday 3:00 PM Raycom

After staying largely unnoticed for most of the year, Florida State finally cracked the top 25 this week. As the Seminoles rise, Wake Forest is dropping just as quickly. Once on top of the college basketball world, the same team that has beaten both Duke and North Carolina has now lost three of its past four games, all to unranked opponents on the road. The Demon Deacons are glad to be home, but Florida State is not the team they want to see. Toney Douglas’ breakout year along with an intimidating frontcourt has pushed the Seminoles to third place, just a game and a half behind North Carolina. The only problem is FSU sometimes struggles scoring with its suspect outside shooting. Wake Forest will need to clamp down defensively and build a comfortable margin in the first half—but even then, Florida State proved it could rally on the road in a comeback win at Clemson.

Prediction: Wake Forest 75, Florida State 69

USC at Arizona State
Sunday 9:00 PM FSN

Having complete a season sweep of UCLA, Arizona State is getting back into the Pac-10 title conversation. With four conference losses, the Sun Devils have dropped out of the national spotlight a bit, but they are just one game back from first-place Washington. And let’s not forget that James Harden still plays in Tempe. USC is coming off a tough loss at Arizona, but the Trojans are still in fine shape for the NCAA tournament. Tim Floyd’s team has beaten Arizona State once already by holding Harden to 0-8 from the floor and just four points. Don’t expect that to happen again, especially at home.

Prediction: Arizona State 70, USC 62

BUBBLE BURSTERS
Features teams that need to bolster their resumes

North Carolina at Miami
Sunday 6:45 PM FSN

Miami has lost four of its past five games, but all of the defeats came by an average of four points. It’s nice to stay competitive, but the Hurricanes are now 4-6 in the ACC and need to start winning games instead of simply coming close.

Prediction: North Carolina 85, Miami 73

Villanova at West Virginia
Friday 8:00 PM ESPN

The good news for West Virginia is it doesn’t have a bad loss yet. The Mountaineers are beating the teams they’re supposed to, but they haven’t grabbed enough quality wins yet. A victory tonight would change that.

Prediction: Villanova 72, West Virginia 69

UCLA at Arizona
Saturday 12:00 PM CBS

I’m not sure how Arizona has pulled off this winning streak. It’s going to continue tomorrow against a UCLA team that was overrated in this week’s polls just because it beat some decent teams at home.

Prediction: Arizona 69, UCLA 60

Minnesota at Penn State
Saturday 12:30 PM Big Ten Network

It’s February and Penn State’s season is still alive. An actual invitation to the NCAA tournament would be gravy.

Prediction: Minnesota 72, Penn State 66

Nebraska at Missouri
Saturday 12:30 PM Big 12 Network

Though Nebraska lacks substantial non-conference wins, the Huskers’ victory over Texas last week vaults them onto the bubble. They have already beaten this Missouri team and Doc Sadler is 5-1 against Mike Anderson over the past two years.

Prediction: Missouri 77, Nebraska 72

Kansas at Kansas State
Saturday 2:30 PM ABC

Kansas State hadn’t beaten Kansas at home in forever until last year. Two straight wins in Manhattan would lead to full-scale riot.

Prediction: Kansas State 69, Kansas 66

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
Saturday 3:00 PM ESPN

I’m surprised Cincy is still in the hunt. That’s partly due to a weaker Big East schedule. The games get tougher now, starting tomorrow.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 73, Cincinnati 62

Virginia Tech at Maryland
Saturday 3:00 PM Raycom

It’d take a miracle for Maryland to make the tournament, with games against Clemson, North Carolina and Duke coming up after Saturday’s game. Virginia Tech is still very alive and needs this road win desperately.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 80, Maryland 70

Ohio State at Wisconsin
Saturday 8:00 PM ESPN

Sometimes I wish College Gameday would pick its sites during the season rather than before, because this game is not nearly as compelling as we thought it would be. Still, Wisconsin isn’t dead yet in the Big Ten and the Kohl Center will surely have a feeling of urgency.

Prediction: Wisconsin 66, Ohio State 60

Duke at Boston College
Sunday 4:30 PM FSN

Duke needs to rebound after playing a poor second half against North Carolina, but a game at Boston College isn’t the way to do it. The Eagles have some questionable losses this year, but they are actually above .500 in the ACC.

Prediction: Duke 83, Boston College 72

MID-MAJOR GLORY
Please, no hate mail about the term “mid-majors,” just be happy I’m writing about your team

Northeastern at George Mason
Saturday 11:00 AM

Since George Mason already lost to Northeastern this year and trails the Huskies (and VCU) by a game in the CAA, a loss would probably eliminate the Patriots from a league title.

Prediction: George Mason 72, Northeastern 66

Binghamton at Boston University
Saturday 12:00 PM

These two teams are both chasing Vermont, but neither is very far behind.

Prediction: Boston U 69, Binghamton 63

Sam Houston State at Texas A&M Corpus Christi
Saturday 1:00 PM

Like I said in Monday’s “Weekly Preview,” the Southland Conference might be one of the more entertaining league races in the mid-major ranks. The Islanders are looking to avenge an earlier blowout to Sam Houston State as they hold tight to a one game lead in the West Division.

Prediction: Texas A&M CC 70, Sam Houston State 60

East Tennessee State at Belmont
Saturday 7:00 PM

Belmont has NCAA tournament experience and a home court advantage. A win would put the Bruins right at the top of the conference with ETSU and Jacksonville.

Prediction: Belmont 76, ETSU 69

Western Kentucky at Troy
Saturday 7:30 PM

Troy is hanging around the Sun Belt East Division, just a game behind Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers need to create some distance by winning on the road tomorrow.

Prediction: WKU 77, Troy 70

Utah State at Boise State
Saturday 8:05 PM

Against a good Boise State team—the second best team in the WAC—Utah State may be looking at its second loss of the season.

Prediction: Boise State 82, Utah State 79

Portland State at Weber State
Saturday 8:05 PM

The reigning Big Sky Champions aren’t faring as well this year, with Portland State allowing Weber State to take the conference lead. I still haven’t lost faith in the Vikings, my pick to win the league in the pre-season.

Prediction: Portland State 76, Weber State 75

DESPERATION GAME
Someone who really needs a win

Georgetown at Syracuse
Saturday 11:00 AM ESPN

Syracuse has won two games in January and February combined. What’s even scarier is Georgetown might actually need this game more. The Hoyas are three games under .500 in the Big East and have now won just one game in their past seven. Whichever team wins tomorrow may salvage its season—the loser might be destined for trouble.

Prediction: Syracuse 82, Georgetown 75

Last week’s prediction record: 16-3
Overall prediction record: 190-105

U.S.A.
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