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Top of the Arc - January 29, 2009

Jan. 29, 8 a.m.: Last-second shots in games involving Duke and North Carolina highlighted an exciting night of college basketball. But, around here, recent developments on and off the court have signaled the continued demise of many local teams, at least for this season.

It wasn’t too long ago that Maryland was a perennial NCAA tournament team. And most remember only a few years ago when George Washington had a gaudy record and George Mason crashed the Final Four party. A year later, Georgetown reached the Final Four.

Expect a little bit different March Madness this season, a frenetic four-week period that could be more about coaching searches and headhunters than about net cutting and high seeds.

Maryland will likely miss the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years. The bigger question is whether Coach Gary Williams will return next season. Recruiting problems and a fractured relationship between Williams and Athletic Director Debbie Yow – not to mention on-court struggles – put Williams’s return in question.

Georgetown has recruited particularly well in recent years. But the Hoyas lost their fourth straight game last night, losing at middling Cincinnati. Georgetown (12-7, 3-5) likely won’t be able to simply feast on the conference’s lightweights – Rutgers, St. John’s – in order to garner an at-large berth. An NCAA tournament berth in not in doubt, but it is in question. The Hoyas have three top 50 wins and the nation’s second-toughest schedule. But they will need to win more games than they lose the rest of the way, and that is no longer a certainty.

In the CAA, recent victories over George Mason and VCU have established Northeastern as the favorite. VCU and George Mason remain in contention, but the Patriots will need to win the conference tournament to reach the NCAAs.

Virginia (7-9) has lost four straight games and fans and media are examining the direction of the program and the future of Coach Dave Leitao. Virginia Tech, meantime, has refocused its season after a series of nonconference heartbreakers. But the Hokies may need a 9-7 conference record in a league, and the final four games are particularly difficult: at Clemson; Duke; North Carolina; at Florida State.

George Washington has lost 10 straight games and sits in the cellar of the Atlantic 10. Will Karl Hobbs be on the sideline next season? His future is certainly in question, if not in doubt.

In the Patriot League, Holy Cross has a half-game lead over American in the conference standings. American will look to avenge its recent loss to Holy Cross on Feb. 21, and then will set its sights on the league tournament.

Amid a down year in local basketball, maybe the Patriot League can save us all.

By Eric Prisbell  |  January 29, 2009; 8:12 AM ET
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