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Posted at 8:34 AM ET, 03/10/2011

NCAA tournament 2011: Michigan State, Virginia Tech among teams in must-win games

By Eric Prisbell

(Really busy day, but I'd love to hear which team you're thinking of picking to win the national championship this season and which team could be a sleeper. Drop me a quick email: prisbelle@washpost.com.)

Good morning, everyone. Today is when the madness is ratcheted up across the country. The blog posts will come fast and furious all day and late into the night until I become delirious. I'm still on East Coast time, but I'm forced to stay up until an ungodly hour after I return from the arena because of the constant bass and women's voices from the seemingly endless party out by the pool. No, this ain't Greensboro. But it's not exactly the best environment during the busiest week of my year.

Anyway, some teams are playing to revive slim at-large hopes. Some are playing to barely stay in the NCAA tournament field. And still others are playing to improve seeding. We saw two Big 12 bubble teams dash their fading at-large hopes yesterday, most notably Baylor, which saw NBA prospect Perry Jones suspended before the game for allegedly accepting extra benefits. Expect a mess in Conference USA because that is what that mediocre league has become. The ACC is all about bubble teams staying alive today. The Big East should feature great games; let's see if the officials want to hand St. John's another game. (What if yesterday's Rutgers-St. John's game had been the BE title game; would officials have just walked off?) A couple Pac-10 teams need to make their move today. Here is a complete rundown of what to watch for and why:

Bubble watch
Noon: East Carolina vs. UAB: If UAB loses this one, it forces everyone to evaluate their at-large chances. Hope they win.
1 p.m.: Auburn vs. Georgia: If Georgia loses to Auburn, it does not deserve a berth in a 96-team field.
2:30 p.m.: Wake Forest vs. Boston College: If BCS loses to Wake, it does not deserve a berth in a 196-team field.
2:30 p.m.: Southern Miss vs. Memphis: The loser sees its hopes dashed. The Memphis resume is worth a second look.
3 p.m.: Colorado vs. Kansas State: The Buffaloes have already beaten K-State twice, what more can they prove in this one?
3 p.m.: California vs. Southern California: A must-win for USC, which has a peculiar resume.
4:30 p.m.: Iowa vs. Michigan State: The Hawkeyes hammered the Spartans this season. MSU has no margin for error.
5:30 p.m.: New Mexico vs. Colorado State: Both teams are flirting with the bubble. The loser is gone.
6:30 p.m.: Marshall vs. Texas-El Paso: UTEP needs to rack up some wins to bolster a bland resume.
7 p.m. N.C. State vs. Maryland: The Terps need a four-game win streak to reach the NCAAs.
7:30 p.m.: Tennessee vs. Arkansas: The Vols lose games like this. Do it now, they could be in trouble Sunday.
7:30 p.m.: Indiana vs. Penn State: This game can only hurt Penn State
9:30 p.m.: Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech: The Hokies may need to also beat Florida State in the second round.
11:30 p.m.: Washington State vs. Washington: This is a must-win game for WSU.

Seeding watch
Noon: Connecticut vs. Pittsburgh: Pitt needs to win to maintain firm grip on No. 1 seed
3 p.m.: TCU vs. BYU: Even without Brandon Davies, the Cougars can't lose this one, right?
7 p.m.: Cincinnati vs. Notre Dame: Both teams have played well of late. The Irish need to reach the Big East final (at least) to maintain hopes of a No. 1 seed.

By Eric Prisbell  | March 10, 2011; 8:34 AM ET
 
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Next: NCAA tournament 2011: Syracuse, Wisconsin could head to D.C.

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