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Bubble Teams Get Chance To Make Large Statement On Fat Tuesday

Tuesday could be a make-or-break night for several of college basketball's biggest bubble teams.

You have no idea how much I hate myself for that headline. As I type this I'm listening to Elliott Smith in the dark and wondering where it all went wrong.

There may be zero matchups featuring multiple top 25 teams on Tuesday, but the evening still has enormous NCAA Tournament implications. At least five teams sitting squarely on the bubble will get a shot to beat a nationally-ranked conference foe and take a large step towards playing themselves into the field of 68.

Here's what to keep an eye on.


Kanas State at No. 3 Missouri (7:00/ESPN2)

K-State notched a huge win over Baylor on Saturday to improve its league record to an even 7-7 and bump its RPI all the way up to 47. They'll look to take their resume to the next level against a third-ranked Missouri team they defeated by 16 on Jan. 7. The Wildcats' potential upset recipe should be the same as it was in Manhattan: bully the Tigers in the paint, limit penetration and dominate the offensive glass.

This will be the 235th meeting between the pair, and remarkable the all-time series is tied 1t 117 apiece.

No. 9 Georgetown at Seton Hall (7:00/SNY/MASN)

The Pirates (18-9, 7-8) are desperate after squandering a key opportunity over the weekend at Cincinnati. They finish the season up against the extremely manageable pair of Rutgers and DePaul, meaning and upset of Georgetown would put them in great position to finish the regular season with a winning record in the Big East, generally an achievement that demands NCAA Tournament inclusion. The Hoyas, meanwhile, would seem at this point to be playing for a spot on the tournament's second line. Even if there weren't serious national ramifications, Herb Pope battling Henry Sims in the paint alone would make this one worth tuning into.

No. 11 Michigan at Northwestern (8:00/Big Ten Network)

It feels like Northwestern has been on the bubble since July and that every other day they've been involved in a "huge" game for their at-large hopes. The Wildcats receive more attention than the usual bubble team, I suppose, because of their well-established status of being the only big six conference team to have never played in the NCAA Tournament.

Folks are going so far as to call Tuesday night's game in Evanston against No. 11 Michigan "the biggest game in program history." A victory would improve the Wildcats' Big Ten record to 7-8, and would, with games at Penn State and Iowa still to play, give them a real shot at finishing with a .500 record in league play. The Wolverines' still riding the high of Saturday night's huge win over Ohio State would certainly seem to play in their favor.

No. 7 North Carolina at NC State (8:00/YES)

There are plenty of storylines here - Roy Williams hates NC State, Scott wood likened the feeling of having never beaten UNC to being cheated on by a wife earlier this year - but more important than anything else, perhaps, is the fact that the Wolfpack (18-9, 7-5) are as squarely on the bubble as anyone else in the country and desperately need a resume win. They're also probably looking for some vindication after squandering a 20-point second half lead against Duke last week.

UNC rolled its in-state rival 74-55 on Jan. 26 at the Dean Dome.

No. 1 Kentucky at Mississippi State (9:00/ESPN)

This morphed from an SEC showdown to a bubble game in the past week and-a-half when Mississippi State dropped three consecutive games to teams no shot at making the field of 68. To make matter worse for the Bulldogs, talented but oft-troubled big man Renardo Sidney had been dealing with back spasms and may not play.

If you were looking for another reason to be interested in this game, I'm your pusher.

Bulldog head coach Rick Stansbury was speaking casually with reporters when the topic of Twany Beckham -- a guard who played two seasons at MSU before transferring to Kentucky, where he has played very sparingly -- was brought up. An AP reporter, not knowing that these comments by Stansbury are ordinarily not recorded, jotted down the following comments:

"I saw his stats the other day in SEC play. Did he make one or attempt one shot? He's seeing some pretty good basketball. He's getting a front-row ticket every night. Yes, sir."

The comments found their way onto Twitter shortly thereafter and predictably exploded (figuratively). Beckham himself later tweeted the following:

"that dude wanna coach where I'm playin at...not worried at all"

Bekham has since deleted the tweet.

Aww lawd it's on in Starkville. On meaning, you know, State will probably give another lackluster effort and Kentucky will win comfortably.

No. 18 New Mexico at Colorado State (10:00/The Mountain)

Not nearly as sexy as the previous four, but still a game you should keep an eye on if you're a fan of another team fighting for postseason position.

Colorado State (15-9, 5-5) has a top 30 RPI and a win over San Diego State, but they don't necessarily pass the eye test. Losses to TCU and Boise State don't help either. The Mountain West as gotten some much-deserved respect in recent weeks, but the Rams still can't afford to finish outside the top four or without another win over a tournament team and feel confident about their chances on Selection Sunday.


Illinois at No. 8 Ohio State (7:00/ESPN)

The Illini made an extremely large statement at Nebraska over the weekend... that they've completely given up on the season. Add in the fact that Ohio State is coming off a loss and looking for revenge against a team that upset them in Jan. and you would seem to have a recipe for a monster blowout.

Xavier at Massachusetts (7:00/Comcast/FS Ohio)

The Musketeers notched a huge overtime victory over rival Dayton on Saturday and now get a shot at another top 100 win against UMass.

No. 25 Virginia at Virginia Tech (9:00/ESPNU)

Virginia would seem to be solidly on the right side of the bubble at the moment, but it's still alarming that they haven't won consecutive games in 2012. A victory over an in-state rival with far less to play for would change that.


Auburn at No. 12 Florida (7:00/ESPNU)

Because Auburn is a terrible basketball team and terrible basketball teams are not fun to watch.

Evansville at Creighton (8:00/FCS/FS Midwest)

The Purple Aces provided the second of three straight losses for Creighton earlier this month. Wichita State's magic number to clinch the regular season MVC title is at 1, which means the Bluejays have to win in order to keep their slim hopes of a shared crown alive.