The Washington Times - February 22, 2012, 01:45AM

Breaking down Tuesday’s biggest risers and decliners with Selection Sunday just 19 days away …

RISERS

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* Colorado State. The Rams knocked off New Mexico at home, giving them a pair of strong wins in the Mountain West (San Diego State being the other). Unfortunately for Tim Miles‘ team, there will be no NCAA tournament games in Fort Collins. Colorado State is 2-8 on the road, including 0-7 against the top 125. There’s still work to do in obvious places, but Tuesday certainly doesn’t hurt.

* Kansas State. Few teams have helped themselves more in the last week than the Wildcats, who followed up a victory at Baylor with a win at Missouri. That gives Frank Martin’s crew a sweep of Mizzou with three plenty manageable contests (Iowa State, @Texas A&M, Oklahoma State) looming before the Big 12 tournament. Winning two of those three probably makes K-State a safe NCAA bet.

* Seton Hall. The Pirates have followed a six-game slide with four wins in five games, the latest a dismantling of Georgetown in Newark. There’s still chances for hiccups – games with Rutgers and DePaul remain – but the Hall is now 19-9 and 7-8 against the top 100. Tuesday might have been a bid-sealer barring a total collapse.

* Virginia. Order has been restored for the Cavaliers, who improved to 21-6 and took over sole possession of fourth place in the ACC after edging Virginia Tech. It’s not a signature victory, but Virginia entered the night 8-4 against the top 100. With Maryland solidifying its spot in the top 100, the Cavaliers might be out of chances for dubious losses – a welcome development as far as seeding is concerned.

DECLINERS

* Illinois. Yuck. Just yuck. The Illini trailed by 16 at the half at Ohio State and lost by that margin. No surprise, right? Certainly not, since it is Illinois’ ninth loss in 10 games. The Illini are 16-12 and 5-10 in the the Big Ten, and only a bunch of strong victories (Gonzaga, Ohio State, Michigan State) are keeping them relevant. Nonetheless, this looks like a team on the road to nowhere.

* Miami. The “But we beat Duke” argument only goes so far; just ask 2011 Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes lost 75-70 at Maryland to fall to 16-10. What’s more, Miami is 4-10 against the top 100 of the RPI (maybe 3-10 if Virginia Tech fell out after its loss to Virginia). The Hurricanes’ resume took a serious hit, and coach Jim Larranaga knows it.

* Mississippi State. Four losses in a row – even if the latest is against Kentucky – isn’t a good sign for the Bulldogs (19-9, 6-7 SEC). Mississippi State’s profile is still adequate, and a 3-2 mark against the top 50 looks solid compared to much of what populates the bubble. But there’s quite a few more questions here than there were two weeks ago.

* N.C. State. The Wolfpack weren’t supposed to beat North Carolina, of course. But they’re now 0-5 against the ACC’s top four teams and 7-1 against everyone else in the league, and their best win (Miami) was devalued when the Hurricanes suffered their own setback. Not a good night for the ACC bubblers.

* Northwestern. The Wildcats aren’t in quite as bad a shape as their B1G brethren in Champaign, but they allowed a superb chance to slip away while losing to Michigan at home. Northwestern’s resume is based as much on what they haven’t done (absorbed a dumb loss) than what they have done (beat Michigan State and Seton Hall). At 16-10 overall and 6-9 in the league, the Wildcats would be wise not to fall at Penn State or Iowa down the stretch.

* Xavier. The Musketeers have won consecutive games once in the last month after failing to do so Tuesday. Xavier couldn’t climb out of a large hole in an 80-73 loss at Massachusetts. The Minutemen are an odd bunch, capable of great swings. Xavier caught them on the wrong night, and slid back toward play-in territory as a result.

Patrick Stevens