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March 4, 2011Here's our daily NCAA tournament tracker.
We spotlight key games to be played tonight, as well as review important games from Thursday, in the context of how that affects those teams' spots in the NCAA tourney.
We'll continue our tracker through the final days of the conference tournaments. We'll also update as needed the "NCAA locks" chart.
All RPI figures are through Thursday's games and come from collegerpi.com.
GAMES OF INTEREST
Princeton at Dartmouth, 7 p.m.: Princeton owns a half-game lead over Harvard in the Ivy League going into the weekend. Princeton plays at Harvard on Saturday. Dartmouth is last in the league and is one of the worst teams in the nation. Princeton won by 15 at home in their earlier meeting.
Penn at Harvard, 7 p.m.: Harvard must win to keep its Ivy League title hopes alive. The Crimson won by one at Penn in double-overtime in their first meeting. Harvard finishes its regular season Saturday against Princeton, which still has one game left (at Penn on Tuesday) after meeting the Crimson.
Akron at Kent State, 7 p.m., ESPN2: Kent State takes the MAC regular-season title with the win, while Akron is out to spoil the party for its archrival. Kent State is the only MAC team to have won 20 games this season, but Akron can reach that plateau if it pulls the upset.
Conference tournaments: Three No. 1 seeds are in action tonight. In an Atlantic Sun semifinal, top-seeded Belmont plays fifth-seeded Mercer (6:30 p.m., Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast/ESPN FullCourt). Mercer is the tourney host and the Bears have won six of their past seven home games -- with the only setback by 11 to Belmont. In a Missouri Valley quarterfinal, top-seeded Missouri State faces eighth-seeded Southern Illinois (1 p.m., MVC syndication/Fox Sports Midwest/Comcast Sports Net Chicago). Missouri State owns two double-digit victories over SIU this season. And in an Ohio Valley semifinal, top-seeded Murray State meets fourth-seeded Tennessee Tech (8 p.m., ESPNU). Murray State swept the season series. In another league tourney game to keep an eye on, third-seeded Cleveland State faces sixth-seeded Wright State in a second-round game in the Horizon League. Cleveland State has a faint at-large pulse and obviously must beat Wright State to remain on the bubble. The winner gets second-seeded Butler, which swept Cleveland State this season.
Tennessee 73, South Carolina 69: The Vols have been staggering down the stretch but did enough to win on the road against the Gamecocks. Even with the win, Tennessee has lost five of its past eight. Still, the Vols have seven top-50 wins and 11 top-100 wins. They play host to Kentucky on Sunday to close out the regular season.
Seton Hall 84, St. John's 70: There's nothing like a loss to Seton Hall to temper enthusiasm about a team. St, John's had won six in a row and eight of nine before falling to the Pirates on the road. The loss likely ended any hope of the Red Storm getting a double-bye in the league tourney; as it stands now, they must beat USF (which is extremely likely) and have Syracuse lose to DePaul (extremely unlikely) on Saturday. Still, St. John's will get a first-round bye. Seton Hall again showed that it has to be taken seriously because of its offensive firepower.
Wisconsin 77, Indiana 67: Wisconsin remained alive for a second-place finish in the Big Ten, but that's an extreme long shot. The Badgers will have to win at Ohio State and have Purdue lose to Iowa over the weekend. Still, the Badgers were looking to avoid a bad loss against IU, and G Jordan Taylor made sure they did.
Arizona 70, Oregon State 59: Arizona clinched at least a tie for the Pac-10 regular-season title with the victory over the Beavers, who had beaten the Wildcats on Jan. 2. If Arizona beats visiting Oregon on Saturday, it wins the league title outright. Arizona improved to 16-0 at home this season.
Washington 70, UCLA 63: UCLA fell out of a first-place tie with Arizona in the Pac-10 with the road loss. Washington, meanwhile, likely locked up an at-large bid with the victory. UCLA has Washington State on Saturday to close out the regular season, while Washington has USC. If the Huskies win and the Bruins lose, they will tie for second in the Pac-10.
Washington State 85, USC 77: The host Cougars kept their faint at-large hopes alive with the victory. Washington State -- which swept Washington and hammered Gonzaga this season -- now has seven top-100 wins and can really help its at-large hopes by beating UCLA on Saturday.
Conference tournaments: Two No. 1 seeds were in action. Top-seeded Coastal Carolina, which was playing at home, ousted fourth-seeded VMI 89-81 in a Big South semifinal. And top-seeded Long Island, which also was playing at home, cruised past eighth-seeded St. Francis (Pa.) 90-75 in a first-round game in the Northeast Conference.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.