Thursday's bubble review

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Here’s a little East Coast Bias for you – I’m not staying up to pontificate on the tournament chances of the Pac-10 teams playing late.

Needless to say, Southern Cal is toast with a loss to Oregon. Arizona would feel a little wobbly if it loses to Cal.

But the three other games are in the books; two went Maryland’s way, and the other nearly did.

Onward:

* Providence gets hammered at Villanova: Probably not the best way for the Friars to wrap up the regular season. They’re rather tenuous, anyway, and could have used a road accomplishment at this stage. It didn’t happen, and Providence may well be on the outside of tomorrow’s bracket – and certainly behind Maryland.

* South Carolina destroyed at home by Tennessee: It’s close to impossible to conceive of a power conference worse than the SEC this year. Even all those years the Big Ten took potshots, it usually had two or three good teams propping up a whole lot of bad ones.

Louisiana State has the best record and Tennessee the most talent, but what else does the league have going for it? The Gamecocks, run out of their own building by 16, have no top-50 victories and a nonconference strength of schedule of 274. Ruh-roh! South Carolina better not pull a Kentucky and lose to Georgia.

* Penn State escapes to sweep Illinois: All hail Talor Battle. Especially Ed DeChellis, who has saved his job thanks the Battle-led Nittany Lions’ performance.

As for the tournament prospects, all Penn State has to do is avoid something stupid. And “stupid” is defined as losing at Iowa on Saturday. The Hawkeyes aren’t good, but they are 4-4 in the conference in Iowa City.

Get that win, and Penn State is 22-9, 6-5 on the road (including wins at Michigan State and Illinois), 6-9 against the top 50 and will have won five of six down the stretch. That’d be a hard team to leave out, no matter how dreadful the nonconference strength of schedule (312) is. For now, the Nits are ahead of Maryland in the at-large pool.

Patrick Stevens

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