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Time running short for Terps, Hokies to pad NCAA resumes

- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 3, 2011

Georgetown and George Mason approach the final nine days before the NCAA tournament committee reveals its 68-team field safely assured a spot in the bracket.

Maryland, with its two-game skid and dearth of quality victories, almost certainly will need four wins in four days at the ACC tournament to snag an NCAA berth.

And Virginia Tech? Well, coach Seth Greenberg's Hokies are poised to be filled with anxiety entering the March 13 selection announcement.

As usual.

While there's no certainty there will be a local presence during the March 17 and 19 subregional at Verizon Center (tournament rules prohibit Georgetown from playing on its home court), there will be some interest in area teams when the tournament gets under way in two weeks.

Georgetown (21-8, 10-7 Big East) will probably be the highest-seeded team in the region. The Hoyas won nine straight conference games to surge into contention for a double bye in the Big East tournament, but have dropped three of four. Two of those losses have effectively come without senior point guard Chris Wright, who broke his non-shooting hand Feb. 23 against Cincinnati.

Wright is expected back for the NCAA tournament, something that could mitigate any setbacks suffered in his absence.

"Let's see what happens down the stretch," said Jerry Palm, who operates CollegeRPI.com and regularly projects the tournament field. "The thing with Georgetown is they're not playing bad teams. They have to be considerably different without him than with him for it to really have an impact."

George Mason (25-5, 16-2 Colonial) carries a nation's-best 15-game winning streak into its conference tournament. The Patriots are safely in the field, but they own only two top-50 victories.

As a result, Palm projects Mason to be a No. 8 seed -- at best.

"It's hard to see them much higher than that," Palm said. "You never know. Once you get to the [No.]7 line, you're talking about a borderline top-25 team."

Another area team with a quality win predicament is Maryland (18-12, 7-8 ACC), which owns no top-50 victories and is coming off a lackluster 80-66 loss at Miami on Wednesday. While the Terrapins' regular season finale against Virginia harbors no impact on NCAA tournament selection, Virginia Tech's visit to Clemson earlier in the afternoon could be crucial for both teams.

The Hokies (19-9, 9-6) absorbed a 15-point drubbing against Boston College at home on Tuesday, and can ill afford another defeat heading into the ACC tournament -- a place Virginia Tech's NCAA hopes have gone to die in each of the last three years.

The Hokies did stun then-No. 1 Duke on Saturday, but they have no other top-50 wins and were swept by struggling Virginia earlier in the season.

"It's a profile with a lot of holes," Palm said. "I don't know if they can survive a three-game losing streak to finish the year."

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