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Top of the Arc - March 10, 2009

March 10, 11:30 p.m.: When Cleveland State Coach Gary Waters raised two fists in the air for a victory salute inside Hinkle Fieldhouse, you could almost hear Maryland’s Gary Williams and Virginia Tech Seth Greenberg pound their fists in frustration.

Cleveland State – of all teams – has just made it more difficult for Maryland and Virginia Tech to earn at-large berths in the NCAA tournament.

Cleveland State’s 57-54 upset of Butler in the Horizon League title game means that the Horizon will get two teams into the NCAAs. Cleveland State earned the conference’s automatic berth. Butler, a team with a sound resume, high RPI (17) and 11 road wins, is expected to earn an at-large berth.

Cleveland State had lost two games to Butler by a total of four points earlier this season. Waters’s team played with more desperation than the Bulldogs in the Horizon final because claiming the automatic berth was his team’s only route to the NCAAs. Butler is all but guaranteed to play on next week in the NCAAs as well.

That means one fewer bubble team will get an invite.

If Maryland beats North Carolina State and Wake Forest in the first two rounds of the ACC tournament this week, the Terrapins will have a strong argument. And if the Hokies beat Miami and North Carolina in the conference tournament, they also will have a strong case.

But there are a finite number of at-large slots, 34 to be exact. And there are only three or four that are probably open at this point. Fans of Maryland and Virginia Tech need to root for the favorites in all the conference tournaments. They also need to root against some teams in danger of falling back, namely Arizona, Minnesota and Penn State.

In a way, Cleveland State’s win helps the tournament selection committee because it has to make one less decision about teams with mediocre resumes. It’s gotten to the point where the teams that will earn the final at-large berths will be the ones that damage their resumes the least this week.

And after the Horizon final, the margin for error for Maryland and Virginia Tech is even smaller than it was earlier in the day. They can thank Cleveland State.

After reviewing the field again, the final four slots still appear open. Arizona could solidify one slot with a win in the Pac-10 tournament. UNLV or San Diego State will probably get another slot. A third SEC team -- likely Florida or South Carolina -- will likely do enough in the league tournament to get one. That leaves one open slot. (Yes, things are bound to change daily, and everything remains fluid.)

Arizona (19-12, 9-9)
Beat Kansas, Washington and Gonzaga
Cons: 2-9 road record, 9-11 vs. top 100

Nevada-Las Vegas (21-9, 9-7)
won at Louisville, swept BYU
Cons: Got swept by San Diego State, 9-7 MWC record

Florida (22-9, 9-7)
Beat Washington, 22 overall wins
Cons: 2-6 vs. top 50, 2-7 on road

Miami (17-11, 7-9)
Beat Wake Forest, Florida State
Cons: 7-9 ACC record, 2-7 vs. top 50

Saint Mary’s (23-6, 10-4)
Mills is back, 8-3 road record
Cons: 145 SOS, 0-0 vs. top 25

San Diego State (19-8, 11-5)
Swept UNLV
Cons: 1-5 vs. top 50

South Carolina (21-8, 10-6)
21 overall wins
Cons: 281 non-conference SOS, 1-5 vs. top 50

Providence (18-12, 10-8)
Win vs. Pittsburgh, winning BE record
Cons: 70 RPI, 2-8 vs. top 50

Maryland (18-12, 7-9)
two top five victories
Cons: 2-6 on road, 11-12 vs. top 200

Virginia Tech (17-13, 7-9)
two top 25 road wins
Cons: 2-8 vs. top 50, 1-6 down the stretch

Creighton (26-7, 14-4)
three top 25 wins, 26 overall wins
Cons: 10-0 vs. 200 or worse, 107 SOS

By Eric Prisbell  |  March 10, 2009; 11:34 PM ET
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Always the optimist, I'm holdin' out hope that the Terps will take care of business in the ACC tourney. Two wins, and I'll be holdin' my breath on selection Sunday. I don't like holdin' my breath, so LET'S WIN THIS THING!!!


Posted by: msveasey | March 11, 2009 8:29 AM

Neither Virginia Tech nor Maryland should be in the NCAA tourney unless they win the conference title. They're both less than mediocre ACC teams, and the Terps victory column is tainted with a large numbers of wins against creampuffs from the MEAC, Patriot League, America East, etc. They have only one in-conference triumph against a team with a winning conference record. At least the Hokies can point to 3 such wins over BC, Clemson, and Wake Forest.

Posted by: Fairfax4 | March 11, 2009 9:04 AM

awwwww Fairfax4 is a bitter Mason fan, isn't that cute?

Posted by: Lee26 | March 11, 2009 9:41 AM

I notice Lee26 can't offer a reason whatever team he roots for should be in the tourney. Obviously, he can't. It's nice when people who try to attack you end up proving how right you are. Thanks Lee, think before you post next time.

Posted by: Fairfax4 | March 11, 2009 10:45 AM

All this missery will be over this weekend. For Maryland chances are it will be tomorrow night.

Posted by: pstotts15 | March 11, 2009 10:50 AM

I root for MD. Right now they are rightfully on the wrong side of the bubble. I would actually argue that Miami should be on the wrong side of that bubble as well, possibly replaced by St Marys who is pretty good with Patty Mills healthy which he might be next week. IF MD wins two ACC tourney games and plays close in a third I think they deserve a birth with the bubble being weak this year. None of that really has anything to do with the reason you are on here not talking about you team, but taking pot shots at other peoples teams. For that you will have to look inward my son.

Posted by: Lee26 | March 11, 2009 11:52 AM

I am a Morgan Bear that was at the game when Maryland lost to my school- Maryland should not go anywhere! Morgan was not great, and I don't know a lot about the sport but we came from behind and beat them at home! A small MEAC school beat the big ACC school? CRAZY! All of my family are graduates of Maryland and talk soo much trash- they don't have a lot to say now! GO BEARS!!

Posted by: purplelady1 | March 11, 2009 12:05 PM

So Lee26 expounds a load of hot air, and still can't come up with a single reason Maryland deserves to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney. Typical of his sort, as is the dreadful spelling ("birth" when he means "berth").

They were beaten like gongs by a mediocre Georgetown squad, and humiliated at home by Morgan State. For that last alone, it should be decreed that an ACC tourney championship is the only thing that gets them in. And the chances of that happening are slim, to say the least.

Posted by: Fairfax4 | March 11, 2009 4:10 PM

"And there are only three or four that are probably open at this point." -Eric Prisbell

"things are bound to change daily, and everything remains fluid." -Eric Prisbell

Eric is trying to have it both ways, as usual lately, and claim there are only 3-4 spots open while at the same time claiming that things are bound to change daily--meaning there are more than 3-4 spots open if some of those that are just barely in the NCAA tourney as of now lose their opening round games.

To say there are only 3-4 spots open is ridiculous at this point.

Posted by: Barno1 | March 11, 2009 10:00 PM

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