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Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Notes from around the country


Quick hitters for Wednesday:

• Georgetown should be dead after losing to St. John's. But what would happen if the Hoyas were to knock off one or two of the top four seeds en route to a championship game appearance? OK, enough with Georgetown. But it's too bad considering the Hoyas had three big-time wins over Memphis and at Connecticut and at Villanova. The Hoyas' loss at St. John's, Notre Dame's loss at home to Villanova and Cincinnati's loss at South Florida might push the Big East down to seven at-large berths if Providence can't win a few more games. The Friars play at Villanova on Thursday to conclude the regular season. If the Friars don't win they'll probably need another quality win in the Big East tournament.

Getting seven bids in the Dance, less than half of the 16 members, would indicate that the Big East isn't the best conference in the country. We'll have to see, but if the ACC can get seven or eight in a 12-team league, the honor should shift to the ACC. Regardless of number of bids, the ACC doesn't have a DePaul in the league. If you look at the rosters at the bottom of the ACC, there are players on Virginia, NC State and Georgia Tech who would start on a number of top teams. There are no scrubs in the ACC.

• St. John's coach Norm Roberts was ecstatic Tuesday night after the Red Storm beat Georgetown. The Red Storm have now taken out Notre Dame and the Hoyas in New York, two of the marquee names in the conference. Roberts said he has no reason to believe he is in any trouble. He said the administration has been great and supportive with his young team that has dealt with injuries, notably to Anthony Mason Jr. Roberts talked about the Red Storm's future in Wednesday's ESPNU College Basketball podcast.

• Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon also joined me on the podcast and discussed why the Aggies are a real threat to get a bid heading into Wednesday's game at Colorado and the finale against Missouri on Saturday.

• Pitt can finish as the No. 1 seed or still as low as No. 5 in the Big East tournament. The Panthers must beat Marquette and Connecticut to have a chance at the No. 1 seed. The Panthers would get the No. 1 seed if they do that and Louisville loses to West Virginia later in the day in Morgantown. Pitt would have a 2-1 record against Louisville and Connecticut. The Cardinals would be 1-1 and the Huskies 1-2. So, the Huskies could be a No. 3 seed in the Big East tournament but easily could be a No. 1 seed.

• Ohio State's Dallas Lauderdale essentially saved the Buckeyes' NCAA berth Tuesday night. Iowa's Jermain Davis was going in for a game-tying layup with seven seconds remaining before Lauderdale came from the weak side and blocked the shot. He also helped get in Davis' face with a potential game-winning 3-pointer as time expired. The Buckeyes were heading in the wrong direction after a 25-point loss to Purdue and couldn't afford to lose to 10th-place Iowa, even on the road. Now Ohio State (9-8 in the Big Ten, 19-9 overall) has to beat Northwestern at home for peace of mind.

• Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said the Purple Eagles are heading into this week's MAAC tournament supremely confident following a BracketBusters win over Illinois State and a home win over Siena.

"We have really defended well and become a team that guards people," Mihalich said. "We've become a team where the players come into the locker room to find out how many steals we have more than points."

Mihalich sent out a warning shot not to take the Purple Eagles lightly if they can win the MAAC tournament.

"There will be teams more talented than us in the power conferences but I think they'll hate playing against us," Mihalich said. "If Siena wins it they've been there so they'll be a tough matchup, too."

• The team that probably didn't get as much pub heading into the Missouri Valley tournament is Illinois State. The Redbirds are extremely athletic and a tough matchup for teams. Champ Oguchi and Osiris Eldridge can go off on any opponent. The Redbirds were one of the last unbeaten teams in the country but struggled a bit in the Valley to finish 11-7. Still, if ISU can get out of the Valley tournament, it could be a tough out in the first round.

• Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said in the past few seasons there has been an assumption that the Virginia teams would dominate the CAA in Richmond, especially VCU and George Mason. But he said there is a sense now that the tournament is wide open. He's probably right. The CAA, along with the Valley, should be one of the most competitive tournaments this week.

• Arizona officially got its letter of inquiry from the NCAA as it investigates possible recruiting violations dating from players who went through the Cactus Classic. This has been ongoing for over a year. Getting the letter shouldn't come as a shock after there were conflicting statements coming from the basketball office about whether former coach Lute Olson authorized a letter that went out asking boosters to support the event. Former assistants were interviewed and according to them they didn't think there was any wrongdoing. Neither does the organizer of the Cactus Classic, Jim Storey. We'll see if this has legs over the next few months. But an NCAA investigation and the unknown of how the economy might affect the price tag for a coach could potentially skew the job applicants.