Category archive: Miami (FL) Hurricanes

Check back later Tuesday night for our full bracket. But for now, here are the main changes after Tuesday's Sun Belt championship game:

NOTABLE

• Middle Tennessee lost in the Sun Belt final to Arkansas-Little Rock but stays in the field.

• As a result, North Carolina falls out of the field.

• Middle Tennessee slips to the No. 10 seed line, Princeton rises to the No. 9 line and UALR enters as a No. 14 seed.

LAST FOUR IN

Temple
Iowa State
Michigan State
Texas

FIRST FOUR OUT

North Carolina
Southern California
Michigan
James Madison

NEXT FOUR OUT

Oklahoma State
Kansas
Wake Forest
Arizona State

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN

Big East (8)
SEC (8)
Big Ten (6)
Big 12 (6)
ACC (5)
Atlantic 10 (3)
Pac-12 (2)
WCC (2)
Sun Belt (2)

AUTOMATIC QUALIFIERS

Arkansas-Little Rock (Sun Belt)
BYU (WCC)
Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun)
Dayton (Atlantic 10)
Marist (MAAC)
Maryland (ACC)
Princeton (Ivy)
Purdue (Big Ten)
Tennessee-Martin (OVC)
Tennessee (SEC)
Samford (Southern)
South Dakota State (Summit)

Wake Forest celebratesMark Dolejs/US PresswireWake Forest knocked off No. 2 seed Miami in Friday's ACC quarterfinals.

Quarterfinal Friday at the ACC tournament was the perfect example of why conference tournaments are terrific. And it was also the perfect example of why they aren't. It all depends on your point of view, of course.

If you were wearing NC State red or Wake Forest black on Friday, then you're singing the praises of that extra chance to do something special in a second season that the league tourney provides.

But if you were clad in Duke blue or Miami green/orange, guess what? You overpacked for the trip to Greensboro, N.C., because your team's stay is finished. Then again, you can stick around to grumpily watch the 9-seed Wolfpack meet 4-seed Georgia Tech, followed by No. 3 Maryland -- the Terps avoided the upset bug in their quarterfinal nightcap victory over Virginia -- versus No. 7 Wake Forest.

Now who out there would have picked those matchups for semifinal Saturday? Probably nobody. Duke and Miami were the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in the ACC tournament and projected as No. 2 seeds in the NCAA field, along with Maryland. Now we'll see how that holds up with both the Blue Devils and Hurricanes forced into spectator status so early.

How odd was all this? The top seed at the ACC tournament previously had never been eliminated before the semifinals. And how unlikely was it that NC State would be the one to bounce Duke? The Wolfpack were just 5-11 in conference play this season, losing 83-59 to the Blue Devils back in early January.

Furthermore, there was nothing results-wise in the last month to suggest the Wolfpack would make any noise in Greensboro: They had lost six of their eight games in February. Yet they are in the ACC semifinals thanks to a 74-71 win over Florida State, a mild upset, and a 75-73 win over Duke, a major surprise.

Meanwhile, Wake Forest's 81-74 win over Miami was actually a bit less of a surprise. The Demon Deacons had a pretty good February, winning five of eight. That came after a rough January when Wake went 2-7, but seemed to figure out some things. So have the Deacs now done enough to nudge themselves into NCAA tournament discussion? Also, did No. 5 seed North Carolina, which fell to No. 4 seed Georgia Tech 54-53 in Friday's first quarterfinal, move to the wrong side of the bubble?

One thing is for sure: The big winner seems to be Maryland, which now might well end up getting the best seeding/placement of all the ACC squads. That is, if the Terps can avoid the fate that befell Duke and Miami.

Chiney Ogwumike and Nnemkadi OgwumikeAP Photo/Paul SakumaNneka Ogwumike is an obvious pick, and sister Chiney is a second-team candidate.

There's no such thing as even one choice -- let alone five of them -- that will bring unanimous consent. But when you're talking All-Americans in women's basketball this particular season, the first team likely will get a lot of agreement.

After that, though, all heck breaks loose. You could justifiably choose any number of players for an All-American second team. In fact, you might not agree with any of my picks, and you might not be wrong. There really are that many candidates for those second five spots.

The first five are a lot easier. They have solidified themselves both with their individual performances and their teams' success in 2011-12. All five are from squads that won their conference's regular-season championship.

Only one is on the current list of finalists for the 2012 Olympics, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see all five of them play for Team USA at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016. In fact, you could even envision these five starting as a unit, because they could perfectly cover every spot on the floor.

One is a defensive presence like none other in the women's college game. One is the most exceptional rebounder of the group. One is a great scorer and extremely versatile. Two are highly efficient playmakers who can also rack up the points themselves.

So now, as we're just moving into the Month of Madness, here is a suggested "top 10" that is made up of two teams that could be put on the floor. (In other words, these aren't "three centers/two forwards" kind of squads.) Which 10 players actually will make up the State Farm All-America team that will be announced in Denver? We're sure at least some of them are included here.

First team

Brittney Griner, C, junior, Baylor: The numbers tell the story: 22.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 155 blocked shots. Baylor's opponents are shooting an average of just 30.7 percent from the field. Shooters get gun-shy or greatly rush shots because Griner is so intimidating defensively that foes start seeing her even when she isn't there. Of course, she's usually there. She's also an Olympic finalist.

Nneka Ogwumike, F, senior, Stanford: Coach Tara VanDerveer predicted that as good as Ogwumike was last year, this season she would be markedly better. That has proved true, as Stanford has pummeled its way through the Pac-12 again behind Ogwumike's fabulous senior season. She has increased her scoring (21.6) and rebounding (10.6) averages, plus is shooting a career-best 82.2 percent from the foul line. About the only one who can hang with Nneka on the boards is sister Chiney.

Elena Delle Donne, F/G, junior, Delaware: She'll get well-deserved consideration for player of the year, even though Griner appears to be the favorite. Delle Donne has blossomed as a nearly unstoppable offensive force, averaging a national-best 28.3 points per game with an amazingly versatile attack. The Blue Hens won the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title at 18-0, and their 27 victories thus far is a school record.

G Skylar Diggins, G, junior, Notre Dame: After leading the Irish to the NCAA title game last season, her profile was raised nationally. The added attention hasn't hurt at all. This year, she has sparked Notre Dame to two victories against UConn and the program's first outright Big East regular-season title. Diggins is shooting 52.5 percent from the field while leading the Irish in scoring (17.4), assists (174) and steals (77).

Odyssey Sims, G, sophomore, Baylor: She never seems rattled, always having the right amount of energy and excitement that a team needs from its floor leader. Sims -- 14.7 ppg, 4.8 apg, 45.5 percent shooting from the field -- also has a propensity for making the big play right when needed and is an excellent defender. She and Diggins both see the floor so well.

Second team

Chiney Ogwumike, F, sophomore, Stanford: Little Sis has become, as expected, a force all her own. She is shooting nearly 60 percent from the field as she averages 16.1 ppg. She's getting 10.1 rpg, and hasn't fouled out this season after doing so four times as a freshman.

Julie Wojta, G/F, senior, Green Bay: The versatile Wojta (which is pronounced "white-UH") is the primary reason the Phoenix have had virtually no drop-off in success from last season's Sweet 16 team, despite two big losses to graduation. Green Bay is 26-1 behind Wojta's 19.6 ppg and 10.3 rpg.

Samantha Prahalis, G, senior, Ohio State: Give credit where it's due. She has been an emotionally stable leader as a senior, which was much-needed with the graduation of center Jantel Lavender. Prahalis is the Big Ten Player of the Year; her 20.4 ppg scoring average was second in the league to teammate Tayler Hill's 20.7, plus she led the conference in assists (6.5).

Shenise Johnson, G, senior, Miami: It would be hard for a player to do more for her team than Johnson does for the Hurricanes. She leads them in scoring (16.8), rebounding (7.9), assists (130) and steals (101), plus is shooting 45.3 percent from the field and 87.1 percent from the line.

Tiffany Hayes, G, senior, UConn: She still sometimes frustrates UConn coaches and fans with what seems a lack of "presence" in big moments. But the bar is wickedly high at UConn. So much so that what Hayes has done -- she's the leading scorer (15.9) and second-leading rebounder (5.7) on a team that's still going to get a NCAA No. 1 seed -- is too easily undervalued.

Chelsea Gray, Lynetta Kizer and Stefanie YderstromGetty ImagesTeams from the ACC -- Duke, Maryland and Miami -- have a hold on three of the No. 2 seeds.

Championship Week has arrived. For some, it is the best 11 days of the college basketball season. For others, conference tournaments are a way to kill time until the magic of March known as the NCAA tournament gets started.

But this year, even in the big conferences in which so many teams have already secured bids, the games still have huge meaning. The ACC, Big Ten and SEC tournaments, among others, open Thursday, and for some teams the ramifications are obvious. For others, the value isn't as evident, but these outcomes are no less important.

ACC

Virginia and North Carolina both must win their opening-round games to feel secure, but the Tar Heels could also really use a quarterfinal upset of Georgia Tech. UNC's résumé is OK, but there are bad parts: a lower RPI and some alarming margins of defeat. The Heels' status in the field is largely built on the limited competition for the final few spots, so beating a Top 25 team like the Yellow Jackets could go a long way.

But the ACC tournament will do more than decide the fate of teams on the bubble; it could actually have a lasting effect on how the NCAA tournament plays out. Here's why: Duke and Miami both figure to be at least No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament, and if chalk holds this week, they would meet in the ACC final. If when the time comes the Blue Devils and Hurricanes are both 2-seeds, whichever one (and remember, Maryland is in the mix to win the ACC, too) wins the ACC tournament is also likely to be higher on the selection board (right now, Duke is five, and Miami is six).

With so many host schools (Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, DePaul, LSU and Iowa State) as potential No. 7 or No. 10 seeds, and Maryland (another host) also being projected as a No. 2, there might be only one spot for another No. 2 seed not to be playing a potential second-round game on the road (Nos. 7, 10, 2 and 15 seeds are in the same subregional). So whichever team fairs better in the ACC will be given higher consideration to avoid that road situation. For example, in the most recent Bracketology posted Monday, Duke was higher-ranked on the selection board and therefore -- with only one subregional in that 7, 10, 2, 15 segment unoccupied by a host -- was given that one slot of two truly neutral opening games. Miami, because the Canes came in behind Duke in the ACC standings and on the selection board, got saddled with a potential second-round game against Vanderbilt in Nashville. If the Hurricanes win the ACC tournament, they would leapfrog Duke and get that higher consideration.

So you see, even though both are obviously in the field, and both are No. 2 seeds, triumphing this weekend could make a huge difference in how difficult a team's path is in the NCAA tournament. Not all same seeds are necessarily created equal.

Big Ten

The weekend in Indianapolis is big for a few teams, but for different reasons. Michigan needs to right the ship. Beating Illinois is a must. Beating Ohio State would really help create some safety for the Wolverines if there are some upsets in some smaller leagues (CAA, Horizon, Sun Belt).

The Buckeyes, meanwhile, also need a little bit of a run, probably to the Big Ten final, just to show the committee that what once made them a 23-3 team isn't gone. The blowout losses at Penn State and Nebraska last week have likely left some doubt, and Ohio State's seed will hinge on erasing it.

Penn State is the conference champ but might need to win the tournament title as well to be a No. 3 seed. With anything short of reaching the final, the Lady Lions are probably staring at a No. 4 and the potential burden of playing a No. 1 seed in the Sweet 16.

SEC

Tennessee and Kentucky are the two best candidates for the final No. 2 seed at this point. Given how evenly the résumés stack up, the better team in Nashville will win out. A meeting in the final would be the rubber match and would be the easiest way to solve any question as to which should be seeded higher. Of course, Georgia, South Carolina, LSU and Arkansas will have plenty to say about preventing that matchup, while improving their seed position for the NCAA tournament at the same time.

Arkansas and South Carolina might have the most to gain. Florida also can't afford a stumble against Auburn, and while a quarterfinal loss to Kentucky wouldn't hurt the Gators' chances to make the field, a win would seal the deal.

Duke/MiamiMark Dolejs/US PresswireDuke clinched the No. 1 seed in the ACC tourney and at least a share of the league title.

Friday morning, I listed some of the candidates for the coach of the year … but, of course, there are always others who deserve mentioning. One, in fact, got a big victory Friday night.

Duke maintained its mastery over Miami, and in the process earned the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament and at least a share of the league's regular-season championship.

The No. 7 Blue Devils' 74-64 victory over the No. 5 Hurricanes moved Duke's all-time record over Miami to 9-0. And Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie did it with a team that doesn't really look like what she was hoping/expecting it to when the school year began.

The two biggest puzzle pieces -- sophomore guard Chelsea Gray and freshman center Elizabeth Williams -- have stayed in place all season for Duke. And they were excellent Friday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Williams had 19 points, nine rebounds and four steals. Gray had 12 points and nine assists.

Even more weight has been on them because Duke has taken such a large personnel hit. The Blue Devils have lost two forwards to injury -- freshman Amber Henson is redshirting the season with a knee injury and sophomore Richa Jackson suffered a torn ACL on Feb. 15 -- and guard Chloe Wells was suspended for this semester because of a violation of university policy.

Add in the fact that Duke lost three senior starters from last season: Jasmine Thomas, Krystal Thomas and Karima Christmas. There also are two assistant coaches in their first year in that role with the Blue Devils, both of whom previously played for McCallie: Candace Jackson at Michigan State and Joy Cheek at Duke.

As a result of all of this, McCallie has needed to do as much nurturing of young talent as any coach of a top program this season. Duke is 23-4 overall and 14-1 in the ACC. Friday, the Blue Devils showed both the defensive prowess that McCallie's teams are know for … but also more of a needed consistency on offense. Duke shot 48.5 percent from the field.

All things considered -- including the fact that Miami was riding a 13-game winning streak -- Duke appeared vulnerable coming into this game. But that didn't manifest itself the way the Hurricane would have hoped.

One of Duke's primary storylines this season is how a young squad is playing older than its years. Yet Friday showed that some credit does go to Duke's two seniors, Kathleen Scheer and Shay Selby, too. Both had a memorable senior night Friday, starting and combining for 12 points and nine rebounds.

It's been a decade since Duke's "Eight is Enough" team made it to the Women's Final Four in 2002. This squad is also down to eight scholarship players, and Friday's win gives the Blue Devils just a little more cushion come NCAA tournament time in regard to seeding.

That said, Duke still has to face North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Sunday (ESPN2, 3 p.m. ET). The Tar Heels -- who lost by 20 points Friday at Maryland -- definitely have something to play for in terms of adding more security to their postseason position. UNC is 19-9 overall and 9-6 in the ACC.

Duke absolutely shellacked the Tar Heels 96-56 in Durham on Feb. 6, so there is a bit of a pride factor for UNC, too.

Duke has displayed a lot of pride this season. This past Sunday -- just four days after the disappointment and sadness of seeing Jackson get hurt -- the Blue Devils played a gutsy game at Maryland. Though Duke lost 63-61 for its first ACC defeat this year, it showed the Blue Devils' resiliency.

Meanwhile, Miami could still share the ACC title if the Hurricanes (24-4, 13-2) beat Boston College at home Sunday and UNC defeats Duke. But the top seed in next week's ACC tournament is set, as Duke secured it for the third consecutive season.

McCallie's Blue Devils have won the league tournament title the last two years, and were expected to challenge for it again this season, of course. But to still be in such strong position to do that despite the setbacks Duke has faced is one of the national success stories that perhaps has been underappreciated this season.

For years, the Academy Awards conflicted with March Madness, so it was great when the show moved to February. Sure, some folks think the Oscars are bloated and phony and over-the-top, and thus unwatchable. But … those are pretty much exactly the same reasons that I love to watch the show.

I've seen six of the Best Picture candidates, but nine are nominated, and I'm not going to get to all of them before Sunday. Or ever, in the case of "War Horse." Young man separated from his beloved horse, then both must go through the ravages of World War I? No thanks. I teared up enough at the reunited Muppets singing "Rainbow Connection" again.

So what does the Academy Awards show have to do with the coach of the year race in women's basketball? Nothing, really. It's just that the Oscars are Sunday, and I enjoy making these forced links to one of the few areas of pop culture in which I still attempt to stay current.

Perhaps I should connect a coaching award to the Best Director nominees. But there are only five of those, and I have six coach nominees. Plus, some of my forced links are just to movie titles, not actually to what the movie was about. I really couldn't cheat that same way with using the names of the directors.

So here we go, by alphabetical order, with the Best Picture candidate the nominee represents (if only in my own mind). Then at the end, the Oscar winner … er, my pick right now for coach of the year.

Geno Auriemma, Connecticut: "War Horse"

Geno AuriemmaAuriemma
Just because I won't see this movie doesn't mean I wouldn't vote for Auriemma. No matter what happens to UConn -- it has to face injuries and graduation the same way everybody does -- Auriemma's Huskies keep persevering, just like Joey the War Horse.

Auriemma lost a three-time Wade Trophy winner in Maya Moore to graduation. His top returning scorer was Tiffany Hayes (13.7 ppg last season), who never really had to fill a leadership role before.

He has needed to run a four-guard offense much of the time because of personnel, and that has required convincing 5-foot-11 Kelly Faris to play like she's about five inches taller. Because Auriemma is such a good maestro, he has been able to pull this off. Of course, it also has a lot to do with recruiting the type of player who will not balk at being placed out of her comfort zone.

Auriemma has a lot of talent, true. But who brought that talent there? How many teams could lose a player such as Moore, yet still have lost only three games going into late February and be on track for a No. 1 seed again?

Jim Crowley, St. Bonaventure: "Moneyball"

Jim CrowleyCrowley
This is the easiest link of all. Crowley really did read the book "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis about Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane; it subsequently was turned into a Brad Pitt movie.

The book helped inspire Crowley to develop the system that has the Bonnies currently at 26-2 overall and 13-0 in the Atlantic 10.

It's too simplistic to say Crowley's emphasis is on taking care of the ball. But limiting turnovers is one of the principal tenets for a program that's on its way to its first NCAA tournament berth. St. Bonaventure went to the WNIT last year.

The Bonnies now have won 20 games or more for four consecutive seasons, and this one is shaping up as the best of all in Crowley's 16 years at St. Bonaventure. He signed a contract extension this past summer to remain at the school through 2017.

Tina Martin, Delaware: "The Help"

Tina MartinMartin
You think you have no chance to sign the player who's not just best in your state, but possibly best in the country. She's off to "the" powerhouse up north. But guess what? She comes back home and starts playing on the volleyball team at your school.

You can barely contain yourself, but you don't pressure her at all. You want it to be so that when Elena Delle Donne does decide on her own to return to hoops, she will be comfortable with you and her new team.

Martin navigated that very well, along with balancing having a megatalent alongside the right kinds of players to "help" her.

You can't win with one player in basketball, no matter how good she is. Martin has put together the right mix of personalities, along with figuring out how best to maximize Delle Donne's ability, for the 25-1 Blue Hens.

Katie Meier, Miami: "The Descendants"

Katie MeierMeier
Meier played at Duke from 1985-90, having to miss a year rehabbing a knee injury. She then played overseas at a time when cellphones and email were still a few years away from being commonly used. So she experienced the slightly "older" era of women's basketball from which today's game has descended. But she also has a strong link to the present era as one of the still-rising stars in the coaching ranks.

She can trace her love and skill for basketball back to her late father, whom she never met, as he died in a plane crash four months before she was born. Gerry Meier played at DePaul, and those who knew him say his daughter looked and played a great deal like him.

Miami's rise under Meier has been fueled by guards Riquna Williams and Shenise Johnson, but they lost a major contributor when forward Morgan Stroman went down with an Achilles injury on Jan. 19. Even so, Meier has put the Hurricanes in position to potentially win the ACC.

Kim Mulkey, Baylor: "The Artist"

Kim MulkeyMulkey
I actually know some folks who don't really watch women's hoops at all, except to see Mulkey. For her interesting apparel, sure, but also for the demonstrative pantomime and facial expressions that make it seem as if she could have been on the silver screen, circa 1925.

Mulkey as a silent-movie star? Admittedly, it's hard to imagine her or any coach being totally quiet on the bench. But the actors in silent movies weren't necessarily "silent," either. Audiences just couldn't hear them.

Nobody ever has that problem with Mulkey, especially not referees. But even if you did mute the sound on your TV during a Baylor game, Mulkey would entertain you.

"The Artist" appears to be the Best Picture favorite, and it should be: It's got two lovable leading characters (three if you count the dog) who must go through various difficulties to be together. The most basic, simple movie plot ever? Yes, but this amazing, sweet -- and silent -- film makes it seem fresh.

Baylor looks to be the favorite for the NCAA title. The Lady Bears have a ton of talent, led by Brittney Griner and Odyssey Sims, but somebody has to recruit it and orchestrate it. That's Mulkey.

Tara VanDerveer, Stanford: "Midnight in Paris"

Tara VanDerveerVanDerveer
Coaches always have to look forward; they can't dwell in the past -- no matter how rosy that past might look in retrospect.

We're now approaching the 20-year anniversary of Stanford's last NCAA title. It seems kind of weird that it has been so long, considering the Cardinal have been in the Final Four the past four years. But indeed, when Stanford beat Western Kentucky in Los Angeles for the 1992 title, it was not only the most recent for VanDerveer, but also for the entire West Coast.

In the event that you haven't seen "Midnight in Paris," I don't want to reveal much of the plot, except to say that it concerns the way we can sometimes revere the past to the degree of missing what's in front of us.

VanDerveer has been the guiding hand behind one of the most consistently competitive women's hoops programs in the nation, one that -- as mentioned -- has carried the Pacific Time Zone flag.

The Cardinal lost starters Kayla Pedersen and Jeanette Pohlen to graduation. But once again Stanford is steamrolling the Pac-12 and in line for a No. 1 seed.

Others worthy of mention: "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

Have to admit I didn't much care for this film -- the words contrived and manipulative come to mind -- but I chose the title to represent some of the folks who will have a loud cheering section for coach of the year and were close to making my ballot, too.

UTEP's Keitha Adams: The Miners are 25-2 overall and 14-0 in Conference USA.

Green Bay's Matt Bollant: Another coach hit by graduation, the Phoenix are 14-1 in the Horizon League and 24-1 overall.

DePaul's Doug Bruno: Few coaches have lost as many players to injury this season -- including star Keisha Hampton -- as Bruno. Yet the Blue Demons are 20-8 and still in the upper half of the Big East.

Gonzaga's Kelly Graves: Courtney Vandersloot has gone to the WNBA, but the Bulldogs are atop the West Coast Conference again at 13-2 and are 24-4 overall.

Florida Gulf Coast's Karl Smesko: He has the Eagles soaring in the first season they are eligible for the Division I NCAA tournament. They are 25-2 overall and 17-0 in the Atlantic Sun.

Penn State's Coquese Washington: In a difficult year for her university, she has led the Lady Lions to their first Big Ten regular-season title since 2004.

And if I had to vote right now, the winner would be …

Tina Martin, whose Delaware team has maintained its chemistry and its success thus far.

Chelsea Gray, Lynetta Kizer and Stefanie YderstromGetty ImagesTeams from the ACC -- Duke, Maryland and Miami -- have a hold on three of the No. 2 seeds.

One month from Monday we will know the field for the 2012 women's NCAA tournament, so Play 4Kay, which dominates the landscape of women's college basketball for these two days, not only serves as awareness for a great cause, it also marks the beginning of the final sprint in the selection process. Every game from here on out has ramifications for teams fighting for conference positioning, a place in the NCAA field, or a better seed. So which teams used Sunday to get out of the gates quickly for this final stretch, and which squads might now be running the race from behind?

Bracketology winners

West Virginia: The Mountaineers were the biggest winner Sunday and it wasn't even close. On the outside looking in most of the season, West Virginia was creeping closer to the field. Then with one tremendous, 40-minute effort at Notre Dame, Mike Carey's always hard-working team exploded into the field. West Virginia's 65-63 out-of-nowhere upset of the Irish was the biggest surprise of the season so far.

It's not as if the Mountaineers hadn't been making noise -- they had just beaten Louisville and won five of six games before arriving in South Bend. But Notre Dame has just been that good. St. John's 15-point loss was the closest anyone had come against the Irish since Jan. 7, and Notre Dame had gotten into a habit of rendering the outcome academic by halftime. West Virginia slowed down the Irish and then knocked them around. The deliberate, physical play wasn't to Notre Dame's liking, and West Virginia grabbed the win it needed, the same kind of victory every bubble team strives for this time of year.

Texas Tech: The Lady Raiders were fading and about to play themselves out of the field. The only wins they've managed since Jan. 7 were over lowly Missouri and even faster-fading Texas. Tech couldn't let Iowa State get of Lubbock with a win. It didn't, even on a day when the ball and the basket did not meet very often. Chynna Brown scored 19 points in her first start of the season and Texas Tech used defense and second-chance points to win 51-41. Nothing about the game looks that impressive, except the Lady Raiders had to have it. Why? Four of Tech's final six games are on the road and all except a visit from Texas on Wednesday are against teams ahead of Tech in the standings. The Lady Raiders survived as a winner this Sunday but might need to win on a few more Sundays before this race is over.

Miami: On a day when top scorers Shenise Johnson and Riquna Williams weren't shooting it all that well, and the Hurricanes got outrebounded by 10, Miami still managed to waltz into College Park and steal a win (and a season sweep) over Maryland. The outcome was huge for two reasons. By beating the Terps, Miami kept alive its hopes that the Feb. 24 game at Duke will mean something (that game will likely now be for the ACC regular-season championship). It also nearly assures that Miami will end up with a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Barring a few unforeseen results, it's extremely unlikely for other contenders -- Maryland, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Ohio State, Delaware or Georgetown -- to catch Miami. A loss on Sunday coupled with another to Duke, and the Hurricanes might have been vulnerable.

Bracketology losers

Kansas: While not officially part of the Play 4Kay lineup, Kansas versus Kansas State was one of the day's biggest games because it pitted two teams in a battle in the Big 12 standings and fighting to gain ground on the selection board. Just a few minutes into this rivalry game, however, the Jayhawks lost leading scorer and junior forward Carolyn Davis to a leg injury. If the injury is severe as it appears and Davis is lost, Kansas' outlook for the NCAA tournament changes. That puts more pressure on senior forward Aishah Sutherland, who was good (12 points, 17 rebounds) without her running mate against Kansas State -- but not good enough as the Wildcats won 47-43. The Jayhawks were on their way to a bid in their best season in a decade or so. But they don't appear to be good enough to survive the final six regular-season games without one of the nation's top post players.

Florida: This time of year is all about taking advantage of opportunity. Losing to South Carolina in a close game on the road by no means kills the Gators' chances of making the field, but winning a game like this would have vaulted Florida into a significant position of safety. But while the Gamecocks provided an open door, the Gators failed to walk through. Twice in the final minute South Carolina missed free throws, keeping it a one-possession game. But after one of those misses, Florida failed to secure the rebound. After the second, Florida got a great look at a 3-pointer that would have tied the score, but Lily Svete couldn't knock it down. The Gamecocks won by four, and Florida waved goodbye to an easier path to March.

Rutgers: The good news was that Khadijah Rushdan was back after missing three full games following a concussion, and led the Scarlet Knights in scoring. The bad news was the offense still sputtered and Rutgers lost to St. John's, the Scarlet Knights' fourth straight defeat. Once thought of as possibly the third-best team in the Big East and a possible No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, the Scarlet Knights are now in eighth place in the conference and fighting for a No. 5 or 6 seed. Sunday's game against St. John's was one of the final shots Rutgers had at a true résumé-worthy win, but once again, the shooting woes that early in the season looked to be a thing of the past were impossible to overcome. A trip to West Virginia is up next, and then it's a run of games that Rutgers should (and must) win to stabilize its tournament position. That was something a better showing against St. John's on Sunday could have done.