Monday, February 28, 2011

Who Belongs? Et Tu, Xavier?

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, February 27, 2011

Heading into what is the final week of the regular season for the majority of conferences, the questions of bubbles and belonging have naturally arisen. This season being one of the more tumultuous of the recent past, bubble-sitting has become a crowded affair and the addition of three more teams - as the NCAA field expands to 68 - makes the watching and waiting even more exasperating.

One team nearly certain to get their ticket to the big dance is the #25 Xavier Musketeers, winning their 7th straight - and 14th of their last 15 - with a 66-62 win at Dayton on Sunday.

Tu Holloway, scoring leader of the Musketeers and tied for 16th in the nation at 20.5 ppg, poured in 26 points on 9-for-17 shooting and 8 of 9 from the charity stripe. Holloway and his teammates have compiled a solid 22-6 record and are 13-1 and in first place in the Atlantic 10 conference, holding off 12-2 Temple and 11-3 Richmond.

The Musketeers have already put down double-digit wins over both of those opponents, appearing to be the class of the league. Whether Temple (ranked 24th) and/or Richmond get in will be up to the tournament selection committee and highly dependent on how those teams fare in the upcoming conference tourney.

NOTABLE: As far as determining who belongs in this season's March Mayhem, a ot of energy is being expended on the choices from the Big East, which looks to be sending as many as 11 teams tourney-bound. The league is bifurcated, with 11 at 9-7 or better and the five bottom teams all 5-11 or worse (1-15 DePaul is at the bottom). with five teams - Cincinnati, Villanova, West Virginia, Marquette and Connecticut all sporting that 9-7 mark, reasoning can be discerned for all of them making it in, though the Mountaineers and Golden Eagles seem to be still bubbly, with respective 18-10 and 18-11 records.

20 wins is generally a good guideline, though not always, but the two aforementioned teams will have ample opportunity to prove themselves, with two regular season games and at least one conference tournament tilt remaining. In any case, the Big East will send nine teams at least, and probably all eleven with .500 or better records.

A couple of teams that may not be deserving suffered lopsided losses on Sunday. Stumbling Michigan State - 16-14, 8-8 - lost at home to Purdue, 67-47, and Maryland's 87=76 loss at North Carolina was never really close.

The Terrapins have falling into a tie for 5th place in the ACC with Boston College at 7-7. So the ACC now looks like Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech (10-4), Florida State (9-5) and maybe even Clemson (8-6). Maryland? Sorry, maybe next year.

The Big Ten was supposed to be one of the stronger conferences, but the demise of the Spartans has weakened it substantially. They are tied for 4th place with Illinois and Penn State at 8-8, leaving only Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin the only true locks.

As for the PAC-10, only UCLA and USC seem headed in the right direction, which happens to be bad news for the Washington Huskies, currently in third place (10-6), but hosting both LA teams this week. The Huskies took it on the chin from hopeful Washington St. (18-10, 8-8), 80-69. Arizona, tied with the Bruins for first place, will get either an automatic or at-large bid, but they have the look of a first round loser written all over them.

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