Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday's Pregame Beat: Two big bubble games and a CAA showdown

9:00 pm: VCU @ George Mason: The CAA has four teams that have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the conference race. Three of those teams are tied for first place in the league, and two of those teams take the court in Fairfax, VA, tonight as the Rams and the Patriots do battle to avoid falling out of first place in the league. The Rams are a young team, but they are as hot as any team in the country right now. They haven't lost since January 8th, and some of that youth is starting to showcase why Shaka Smart's last recruiting classes have been so well-regarded. George Mason, on the other hand, is a much more senior laden team, riding the coattails of their talented front line. The winner has a leg up in the chase for the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, a major advantage for a league that looks to only be sending one team to the NCAA Tournament.

7:00 pm: No. 12 Florida @ Alabama: The Gators are coming off of back-to-back losses, to Kentucky and to Tennessee, and are in desperate need of a win to get things back in the right direction for the SEC's stretch run. Right now, Alabama may be the best opponent for that. The Crimson Tide is playing without four starters -- Tony Mitchell, JaMychal Green, Trevor Releford and Rodney Hood -- as they try to make a late-season push to the NCAA Tournament. Can someone please wake Patric Young up for this game? It would be nice to see him take advantage of the fact the Tide has no size in this one.

9:00 pm: No. 6 Ohio State @ Minnesota: One of the best stories in the country this season has to be Minnesota, a team that lost their best player at the start of the year to a torn acl and is still in contention for a trip to the NCAA Tournament. I say "in contention" because Minnesota sits about as squarely on the bubble as you can be. They are one of the teams on the cut line. Knocking off Ohio State would go a long way towards getting them into the dance.

10:00 pm: No. 11 UNLV @ TCU: UNLV is a team that has been very suspect on the road this season. They lost at SDSU, at Wichita State, at Wisconsin and at Wyoming. Their two road wins in MWC play came in overtime against the two teams at the bottom of the standings. Coming off of a win over the Aztecs at home and with a trip to New Mexico coming this weekend, this is as classic as trap games get.

7:00 pm: UNC-Asheville @ Coastal Carolina: Coastal's struggles of late has taken some of the luster off of this game. UNCA has already clinched the Big South regular season title.

7:00 pm: St. John's @ Seton Hall: The Pirates seemed to have bounced back from an ugly stretch in the middle of the season and are on track to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament so long as they win the games they are supposed. This is a game they are supposed to win.

8:00 pm: Cleveland State @ Milwaukee and Illinois-Chicago @ Valpo: Valpo may own a half-game advantage in the Horizon standings -- as well as the tiebreaker thanks to a season sweep of the Vikings -- but Cleveland State is still sitting tied with the Crusaders in the loss column. Neither look to be headed for an at-large bid, but, as always, seeding in the Horizon League Tournament is so important.

Other notable games:

- 7:00 pm: No. 22 Virginia @ Clemson
- 7:00 pm: No. 23 Mississippi State @ LSU
- 7:00 pm: UNC-Wilminigton @ Old Dominion
- 7:00 pm: William & Mary @ Drexel
- 7:00 pm: Buffalo @ Kent State
- 8:00 pm: Texas @ Oklahoma
- 8:05 pm: Creighton @ Southern Illinois
- 10:00 pm: Cal St. Bakersfield @ Nevada

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