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Posted at 8:35 AM ET, 02/11/2011

NCAA tournament 2011: A critical weekend for Maryland, Virginia Tech

By Eric Prisbell

[Note: If you are planning to run an NCAA tournament office pool or a pool among friends, please contact me via e-mail. I'd like to hear from you about your pool. I'm not quoting you or anything; I'm just interested in your thoughts about an idea I have. prisbelle@washpost.com.
Thanks.]

This is an important weekend for local schools in contention for at-large NCAA tournament berths. Here's why:

Georgetown (19-5) vs. Marquette (15-9), Sunday, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
The Hoyas have beaten four top 50 teams -- Syracuse, Louisville, Villanova and St. John's -- during their seven-game win streak and are as hot as anyone this side of Texas. The next few weeks are all about seeding for the Hoyas and whether they can make a run at a No. 1 seed. The schedule is as manageable as it can get in a treacherous league like the Big East. But in addition to continuing to win, the Hoyas likely need a current potential No. 1 seed like Pittsburgh to start to slide. It is unlikely that Texas, Kansas or Ohio State will take a significant step backward. Marquette is squarely on the bubble and needs to address a losing record against top 200 teams.

Maryland (16-8) at Boston College (15-9), Saturday, 1 p.m., WTTG-5
Enough of the chatter and debate about Maryland's NCAA tournament chances and how Gary Williams has rallied the team in the past. Now is the time to do it. Here's the deal: Maryland's best RPI victory is against Clemson (64). It has just three top 100 wins. That's not going to cut it. The game at Boston College is as close to a must-win as you're going to find. Maryland needs to start collecting top 50 wins. The Terps need their first on Saturday and another Feb. 27 at North Carolina. The Terps need at least a 9-7 league record - wins over BC and UNC - and two wins in the ACC tournament.

Virginia Tech (15-7) vs. Georgia Tech (10-13), Sunday, 1 p.m., WDCA-20
This is a virtual must-win game for the Hokies, who have been the quintessential bubble team for some time. The Hokies have two top 50 wins - Oklahoma State and Florida State (two more than Maryland). But the Hokies also have something else Maryland lacks: bad losses. VT has lost to Virginia and Georgia Tech, two sub-140 RPI teams and can't afford to get swept by GT, which will be playing without Brian Oliver. The Hokies can't afford any more bad losses, period.

George Mason (20-5) vs. James Madison (18-8), Saturday, 5 p.m., Comcast SportsNet
With 10 straight victories, the Patriots have become a trendy mid-major pick to watch in the NCAA tournament. Their potential NCAA tournament seed is improving as their win streak grows and other bubble teams stumble and bumble their way to mediocrity. The Patriots are in the 8/9 range right now. A strong finish to the season might enable them to climb even further and, ideally, avoid a No. 1 seed if they are able to win a game. But that's looking ahead, too far ahead. You can't take anything for granted as a CAA team and need to finish strong and see if you can steal a win at Northern Iowa on Feb. 19.

By Eric Prisbell  | February 11, 2011; 8:35 AM ET
 
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Next: NCAA tournament 2011: Last four teams in, first four out

Comments

Eric, you do realize that Mason is tied for first in the CAA? And they still have to face JMU, Northern Iowa, and VCU in Richmond. By the way, VCU is riding a 22 game home court winning streak. So let's not hype Mason up just yet my friend.

Posted by: psock1 | February 11, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

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