The Washington Times - March 7, 2009, 12:44AM

Let’s dispense with any introduction here and head right to the matter at hand.

Saturday is a big bubble day, and a lot of teams’ fates will be largely determined by this set of games.

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Obviously, there are still plenty of conference tournament to come. But the task facing a lot of schools will be narrowed down (or widened) based on the next 24 hours.

(Before the full rundown, here’s the Cliff Notes version of who Maryland fans should root for besides their own team on Saturday: Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Seton Hall, Colorado, Missouri, Georgia, UMass, Iowa, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Louisiana State, DePaul, Creighton, Butler, Stanford, Duquesne and Oregon State.

It might not be wise to root against Miami; after all, what ACC team wants to see Jack McClinton in the first round of the conference tournament?)

Onward to the games of note:

* Georgia Tech at Boston College, noon: One more win locks up things for the Eagles, who may well get in based on the quality of their defeats of Duke and North Carolina, anyway.

* Michigan at Minnesota, noon: Punch the Gophers into the field with another home win. As for Michigan, the Beileiners would be wise to win two more games somewhere, and this is a smart start.

* Seton Hall at Cincinnati, noon: Loss at South Florida + Home loss to the Hall = Postseason doom for the Bearcats

* N.C. State at Miami, noon: Don’t quite understand all the love for Hurricanes based on their resume alone, though the home defeats of Florida State and Wake Forest are nice and the presence of a superlative player makes them interesting. If Miami can’t beat N.C. State, it’ll probably just mean McClinton gets at least one home game in the wrong tournament.

* Colorado at Kansas State, 1:30:Wildcats are barely hanging around on the outskirts of the outskirts, and a loss to dreadful Colorado would any NCAA talk.

* Kentucky at Florida, 2: Loser walks.

* Missouri at Texas A&M, 2: Aggies pretty much settle things for themselves with a victory.

* South Carolina at Georgia, 2: The Dawgs spoiled the fun for SEC teams last March; maybe bursting two bubbles this week is a suitable encore.

* Massachusetts at Rhode Island, 2: Rams aren’t a great at-large possibility, and they sure can’t lose to the Minutemen at home.

* Penn State at Iowa, 2:05: Wretched nonconference schedule aside, the Nittany Lions are in preservation mode and are pretty much good to go with a victory.

* Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, 3:30: Pokes are in decent shape, but a surprise victory in a Bedlam game seals a berth for Travis Ford’s team.

* New Mexico at Wyoming, 3:30: Wanna bet this pro-Lobos talk ends with (another) road loss?

* Maryland at Virginia, 3:30: Terps have two pieces of business to take care of; this is step one.

* Louisiana State at Auburn, 4: The rumbling on the Plains, misplaced though it may be, will grow louder with an Auburn victory. If LSU emerges with a win, go ahead and dump Auburn off the margins of consideration.

* DePaul at Georgetown, 5: If I was a Hoyas fan, I’d spend the afternoon watching Syracuse-Georgetown lacrosse rather than a reeling team play an 0-17 conference bottom-feeder. But I’m not, and I’ll do neither.

* Creighton vs. Illinois State, 5:05: Bluejays got a reprieve in the Valley quarterfinals after squandering a 16-point lead in less than four minutes; better not go down that road again, or a very nervous week awaits.

* Wright State at Butler, 7: Suddenly, there’s a lot of midpack power conference teams rooting for the homestanding Bulldogs.

* Stanford at Arizona, 7:30: Beating up on the Oregon schools won’t get it done for Arizona this year; Wildcats would be wise to to turn back the Cardinal.

* Duquesne at Dayton, 8: Flyers really don’t need to be offering reasons to be left out at this stage, but that’s been their habit of late. A home loss, even to the decent Dukes, isn’t a smart move.

* Oregon State at Southern Cal, 8: Just like Thursday – Trojans can’t lose a home game to .500 or below team, lest a precarious positionn worsens.

* UNLV at San Diego State, 10: Aztecs are pretty much finished if they can’t defend the home court, while UNLV is weakened but still viable.

Patrick Stevens