NCAA

For Terps, Hoyas and Colonials, madness in full swing

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For Terps, Hoyas and Colonials, madness in full swing

For casual college basketball fans, turning attention toward the kids on the hardwood often doesn't begin until the calendar flips an entire year. Even then there might be some additional lag time, say until March Madness talk truly heats up. Despite the buzzer-beaters and burgeoning talent and impact matchups, some viewers use the entire shot clock, as it were.

The local programs, specifically Maryland, Georgetown and George Washington, are providing reasons why you should pick up the pace.

Seeing as Maryland dominates the DMV coverage due to the massive fan base -- and numerous alumni within the local media corps -- you're likely aware the Terps (5-0) rank No. 2 in all the land. Seeing as you were probably busy the last few days, it's possible you missed their two-game swing through Cancun. If so, just know they didn't simply look good in the championship game against Rhode Island, but imposing.

Top 20 matchups with North Carolina and Connecticut headline the next two weeks. Thanks to All-American candidate Melo Trimble plus the frontcourt trio of Jake Layman, Robert Carter and Diamond Stone, coach Mark Turgeon's team is considered a sincere national title contender. If Maryland can survive dealing with such expectations for the first time in years, the Terps might just get there. 

Seeing as its loss to Radford made national headlines, the meeting with Maryland flooded the area with nostalgia and its last game was against Duke, you might realize Georgetown started the season 1-3. You might have also heard some suggest the Hoyas are the best team in years to open a season losing three of four. That's no joke. With interchangeable, athletic pieces all over the place, this group has more upside than the team that earned a bloated fifth seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

Sophomore forward Isaac Copeland appears on his way to a breakout season. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera hasn't produced like an All-American quite yet, but the senior scoring guard remains one of the nation's top perimeter threats. Swingman L.J. Peak is morphing into a two-way threat and freshman center Jessie Govan offers inside and outside help. If they get Paul White (hip) and Tre Campbell (illness) back soon, coach John Thompson III can really have fun with lineup combinations.

The Radford loss will hamper the Hoyas' RPI all season, but résumé boosting help remains with non-conference games against Syracuse (Dec. 5 at Verizon Center) and Connecticut plus the Big East slate. Last week's win over Wisconsin helped. Georgetown opens a seven-game homestand Saturday (12:00 p.m.) against Bryant.

Maryland and Georgetown are the biggest names in town, but George Washington owns the best win among the locals on the young season. It's not just the Mike Lonergan coached the Colonials to a 73-68 over No. 6 Virginia at Smith Center on Nov. 16. It's that the win really wasn't a shocker. GW, coming off consecutive 20-win seasons, boasts impressive non-conference wins against Maryland, Creighton, Wichita State, Miami and now Virginia over the last two plus seasons. The current senior class of Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald fueled the program's turnaround. Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh provides scoring punch previously lacking at power forward.

The Colonials improved to 5-0 for the second time under Lonergan. That previous campaign was 2013-14, which ended with an NCAA Tournament appearance. Nobody wants to look this far ahead, but here' the truth: GW is already tracking for another NCAA trip. Get through this upcoming tricky stretch of five games against top conference opponents starting with Tennessee Friday night in the Barclays Center Classic and don't bomb in the Atlantic 10, ticket punched. Oh, if you think the Colonials look like the best time right now in the A-10, you're not alone.

That's plenty of college basketball goodness for locals with big games galore from now through March. For those that want to dig a little deeper, there's more.

George Mason entered the season projected to finish 13th in the 14-team A-10 conference. The Patriots lived up to the no-hype with season opening losses to Colgate and Mercer. Just when one wondered when first-year coach Dave Paulsen would pick up his first win, George Mason stunned Ole Miss and Oklahoma State in the Charleston Classic before losing to Virginia in the final. Those wins are eye-openers especially since they came without suspended guard Patrick Holloway.

Senior center Shavon Thompson ranks among the national leaders in rebounding, but the real surprise is freshman wing Jaire Grayer. The son of former NBA player Jeff Grayer was a late recruiting pickup for Paulsen who now leads the Patriots in scoring (14.5). Finishing the season .500 might be a chore for this young team but winning games won't be easy for visiting A-10 schools won't be easy.

As for American, the rebuilding Eagles are 0-4 with an average margin of defeat 21 points. Turning this green bunch into Patriot League Tournament champions might be a stretch. Then again, the Eagles labored early in coach Mike Brennan's first season before finding their stride and reaching the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Either way, expect better days from the Ward Circle as the season rolls on.

 Sure, the end is often more interesting than the beginning when it comes to college basketball. Yet the satisfaction comes when going along for the ride almost regardless of the final result. March will get here soon enough. If you like the Madness, it's worth hoping on board with Maryland, Georgetown and George Washington right now. 

Bracketology Round-up: Who’s hot and ignoring the bubble

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USA TODAY Sports

Bracketology Round-up: Who’s hot and ignoring the bubble

Now is the time that teams need to make their late season push. Whether a team is in the tournament or otherwise, the games now matter more than ever.

Yet, it is the teams solidly in the field that have been slipping as of late. Rarely have we seen losses from teams on the bubble.

The last 10 days saw the four teams that many assumed were locks for a No. 1 seed all fall to an unranked opponent. None of the falls being quite as bad as Purdue’s who suffered through a three-game losing streak. Nearly across the whole board the Boilermakers only dropped to a No. 2 seed, but their margin for error is a lot smaller than many of the teams around them.

READ ALSO: VIRGINIA REMAINS No. 1 AS TOP 25 IS RE-SHUFFLED

Other Big Ten schools continue to rise with strong showings in conference play. Ohio State is now getting some love as a No. 4/ No. 5 seed and Michigan is not too far off either. The Spartans of Michigan State have begun to leapfrog teams that passed them in January as they are on the No. 2/ No. 3 seed line. 

Texas Tech rode a seven-game winning streak to now a emerge as a contender for the top-8 seeds in the tournament. Auburn has also snuck into that conversation as well.

The Virginia Cavaliers remained as the near-unanimous No. 1 overall seed from the following bracketologists. They rebounded with a solid road win at Miami this past week.

For these reasons, no one is worried about who is in and who is out of the tournament, unless of course your team is involved. The drama around the bubble, for now, is subdued.

For the mid-major fans, Wichita State (now in the AAC) is in the mix as well for a favorable seed. They grabbed their best win of the season at Cincinnati on Feb. 18 in a ‘prove-it’ contest for both teams.

But with all of the lesser Power 5 teams winning against top tier opponents, it is not helping many mid-majors that are floating around the bubble. St. Bonaventure, Temple, and even St. Mary’s basically all face win-out situations.

These projections are based on their latest bracket as of Feb. 19.

Joe Lunardi (ESPN):

East Region:
No. 1 Villanova
No. 2 Duke
No. 3 Cincinnati
No. 4 Ohio State

Midwest Region:
No. 1 Xavier
No. 2 Purdue
No. 3 Clemson
No. 4 Tennessee

South Region:
No. 1 Virginia (No. 1 overall)
No. 2 Auburn
No. 3 Texas Tech
No. 4 Wichita State

West Region:
No. 1 Kansas
No. 2 Michigan State
No. 3 North Carolina
No. 4 Arizona

Last Four in: Baylor, Texas, St. Bonaventure, and Syracuse
First Four out: UCLA, USC, Washington, and Nebraska

Mid-Atlantic Interest:

No. 1: Virginia (South, ACC Champ) vs. No. 16 Nicholls St./ Savannah State
No. 10: Virginia Tech (West, at-large) vs. No. 7 Alabama

Dave Ommen (NBC Sports/ Yahoo/ Bracketville):

East Region:
No. 1 Villanova
No. 2 North Carolina
No. 3 Cincinnati
No. 4 Gonzaga

Midwest Region:
No. 1 Xavier
No. 2 Duke
No. 3 Purdue
No. 4 Wichita State

South Region:
No. 1 Virginia (No. 1 overall)
No. 2 Michigan State
No. 3 Texas Tech
No. 4 Tennessee

West Region:
No. 1 Kansas
No. 2 Auburn
No. 3 Clemson
No. 4 Arizona

Last Four in: Washington, Baylor, St. Bonaventure, and Syracuse
First Four out: UCLA, LSU, Louisville, and Marquette

Mid-Atlantic Interest:

No. 1: Virginia (South, ACC Champ) vs. No. 16 Southern/ Savannah State
No. 9: Virginia Tech (Midwest, at-large) vs. No. 8 Oklahoma

Shelby Mast (USA-Today):

East Region:
No. 1 Villanova (No. 1 overall)
No. 2 Duke
No. 3 Cincinnati
No. 4 Ohio State

Midwest Region:
No. 1 Xavier
No. 2 Purdue
No. 3 Texas Tech
No. 4 Clemson

South Region:
No. 1 Virginia
No. 2 Auburn
No. 3 Michigan State
No. 4 Wichita State

West Region:
No. 1 Kansas
No. 2 North Carolina
No. 3 Arizona
No. 4 Tennessee

Last Four in: St. Mary’s (CA), St. Bonaventure, Syracuse, and Washington
First Four out: LSU, Marquette, UCLA, and Utah

Mid-Atlantic Interest:

No. 1: Virginia (South, ACC Champ) vs. No. 16 Wagner
No. 9: Virginia Tech (Midwest, at-large) vs. No. 8 Michigan
Maryland (“On Life Support”)

Chris Dobbertean (SB Nation) – Updated on 2/16:

East Region:
No. 1 Villanova
No. 2 Duke
No. 3 Michigan State
No. 4 Tennessee

Midwest Region:
No. 1 Xavier
No. 2 Kansas
No. 3 Clemson
No. 4 Gonzaga

South Region:
No. 1 Virginia (No. 1 overall)
No. 2 Purdue
No. 3 Cincinnati
No. 4 West Virginia

West Region:
No. 1 Auburn
No. 2 Texas Tech
No. 3 North Carolina
No. 4 Arizona

Last Four in: Louisville, UCLA, Texas, and Baylor
First Four out: St. Bonaventure, USC, Temple, and Syracuse

Mid-Atlantic Interest:

No. 1: Virginia (South, ACC Champ)
No. 10: Virginia Tech (at-large)
Maryland (also considered)

Jerry Palm (CBS Sports):

East Region:
No. 1 Villanova
No. 2 Duke
No. 3 Cincinnati
No. 4 Gonzaga

Midwest Region:
No. 1 Xavier
No. 2 Auburn
No. 3 Clemson
No. 4 Wichita State

South Region:
No. 1 Virginia (No. 1 overall)
No. 2 Michigan State
No. 3 Texas Tech
No. 4 Tennessee

West Region:
No. 1 Kansas
No. 2 Purdue
No. 3 North Carolina
No. 4 Arizona

Last Four in: Texas, Butler, Florida, and Syracuse
First Four out: Baylor, Utah, Washington, and Louisville

Mid-Atlantic Interest:

No. 1: Virginia (South, ACC Champ) vs. No. 16 Nicholls St./ Prairie View A&M
No. 9: Virginia Tech (West, at-large) vs. No. 8 Arkansas

Delphi Bracketology (Most accurate bracket projection of past two years – Updated 2/17):

No. 1 seeds: Virginia, Xavier, Villanova, and Purdue
No. 2 seeds: Kansas, Purdue, Duke, and Texas Tech
No. 3 seeds: Michigan State, Cincinnati, North Carolina, Clemson
No. 4 seeds: Tennessee, Arizona, West Virginia, Gonzaga

Last Four in: Texas, Baylor, Louisville, UCLA
First Four out: St. Bonaventure, LSU Temple, and Syracuse

Mid-Atlantic Interest:

No. 1 overall: Virginia (ACC Champ)
No. 9: Virginia Tech (at-large)

Local Rundown:

It is clear that Virginia’s loss to Virginia Tech will chalk up as just a blemish on an otherwise outstanding tournament resume. The Cavalier’s made that clear with their second half in Coral Gables on Saturday.

The top defensive team in the country does have some wiggle room as they close out the 2017-18 season with the madness from the teams behind them. A loss or two will not move them off the No. 1 line, and depending on which team, they might even maintain the top seed.

Virginia Tech, the team that beat the Cavaliers, is taking advantage of the upsets across the NCAA. Paired with their upset win, they went from a borderline bubble team to a No.9/ No. 10 seed. What does make things difficult for them is that their final four games are against three NCAA tournament teams and a bubble team in Louisville.

They honestly are going to need some other teams to fall or themselves to pull out some monster upsets to stay on the good side of the bubble.

With losses to Penn State and Nebraska, the Maryland Terrapins odds to get into the dance are all but vanquished. Only two bracketologists even mentioned the Terps in their analysis. However, they are not entirely out of it with their schedule and a small run in the Big Ten tournament. There remains a small chance, ever so slight. 

The rest of the Mid-Atlantic Region (Delaware, Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) is going to have to rely on upsets in conference tournaments to get more teams in. Keep an eye on these teams as they try and ride momentum into March: Old Dominion (21-5, 12-2 C-USA), VCU (15-2, 7-7 A-10), William & Mary (16-11, 9-7 CAA), Towson (18-11, 8-8 CAA), Radford (17-12, 10-6 Big South), and Mount St. Mary’s (16-13, 10-6 NEC), Navy (19-10, 10-6 Patriot).

Virginia stays at No. 1, Middle Tennessee enters Top 25 for first time ever

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USA TODAY Sports

Virginia stays at No. 1, Middle Tennessee enters Top 25 for first time ever

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Virginia strengthened its hold on No. 1 in the AP Top 25 while Duke jumped back into the top five after a pair of impressive wins.

The Cavaliers earned 42 of 65 first-place votes in the poll released Monday. That's 12 more than last week when they reached No. 1 for the first time since the Ralph Sampson era.

The top four remained unchanged, with No. 2 Michigan State earning 19 first-place votes after rallying from 27 down to beat Northwestern. Third-ranked Villanova got the other four first-place votes after winning at No. 4 Xavier.

Fifth-ranked Duke jumped seven spots after beating Virginia Tech and Clemson despite playing without injured top freshman Marvin Bagley III.

Middle Tennessee checked in at 24th, marking its first AP Top 25 appearance in program history.

Complete AP Top 25 Poll for Week 16:

1. Virginia (42)
2. Michigan State (19)
3. Villanova (4)
4. Xavier
5. Duke
6. Texas Tech
7. Gonzaga
8. Kansas
9. Purdue
10. North Carolina
11. Cincinnati
12. Auburn
13. Wichita State
14. Arizona
15. Clemson
16. Ohio State
17. Michigan
18. Rhode Island
19. Tennessee
20. Nevada
21. West Virginia
22. Saint Mary's (CA)
23. Houston
24. Middle Tennessee
25. Florida State

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.