The Washington Times - February 23, 2012, 12:36AM

Only 18 days until Selection Sunday …



* Dayton. The Flyers remain relevant after beating Duquesne and have a real chance to roll into the Atlantic 10 tournament with six wins in seven games. Now at 17-10 with victories over Alabama, Saint Louis and Temple, Dayton can at least stick around the discussion into the last week of the season.

* Iowa State. The Cyclones hit the 20-win plateau for the first time since 2001, dispatching a rebuilding Texas Tech. Given the state of the field overall, one more win down the stretch (against Kansas State, Missouri or Baylor) might just do the trick to all but secure an NCAA bid.


* Louisiana State (beat Georgia at home). The Tigers won their fourth straight, inching ever-so-slightly toward the bubble. They still possess a deeply flawed resume (no top-150 wins outside Baton Rouge), but a relatively friendly finish means they bear some mild monitoring.

* Marshall (beat Houston at home). The Thundering Herd (17-10) is barely lingering in the discussion. They’ll need strong performances against Memphis and Southern Mississippi in the next week and a half.

* Memphis (beat East Carolina at home). Josh Pastner‘s bunch did what it was supposed to do. Nothing more, nothing less.

* Purdue (beat Nebraska at home). The Boilermakers handled the Huskers with ease, leading by 17 at halftime. There wasn’t much to be gained and plenty to be lost, but Purdue took care of its business.

* South Florida (lost at Syracuse). Despite a strong start in the Carrier Dome, this wasn’t a game the Bulls should have won. They would, however, be wise to dispatch Cincinnati this weekend.

* Virginia Commonwealth (won at UNC Wilmington). An at-large long-shot, the Rams still possess the CAA’s best overall profile. Beating the struggling Seahawks ensures the pleas for a possible at-large bid for a second straight year remain alive.

* West Virginia (lost at Notre Dame). An ugly margin (71-44), no doubt, and the Mountaineers still haven’t won consecutive games in a month. But they’re still on the inside looking out, and get a chance to solidify their credentials with Marquette visiting Morgantown on Friday.


* Central Florida. The Golden Knights took a loss they simply couldn’t afford, falling at Rice. It might be Conference USA title-or-bust at this point.

* Minnesota. Losing to Michigan State doesn’t hurt quite so much as simply absorbing yet another loss to anyone. The Golden Gophers took their fourth straight setback and have Indiana and Wisconsin up next. At 17-11 (5-10 Big Ten), it sure sounds like NIT is calling.

* Mississippi . The Rebels dropped their third straight and fifth in six outings this month, falling 73-60 at Tennessee. Andy Kennedy‘s team is now 15-12 overall, 5-8 in the SEC and barely in possession of one top-50 victory (Miami). This appears to be an NIT team at this stage.

* Saint Joseph’s. A bit of an RPI paper tiger, the Hawks had won five of six before a surprising home loss to Richmond. Temple comes to Hawk Hill this weekend, followed by a trip to St. Bonaventure. At 18-11 with one top-50 win (Creighton) and four losses to teams outside the top 100, Saint Joseph’s needs to regroup in time for its only realistic NCAA path —- the A-10 tournament.

* Southern Mississippi. The RPI loves the Golden Eagles, but their best victories (Colorado State, Memphis, South Florida) don’t make for the strongest hand. Now, after losing at Texas-El Paso in overtime, Southern Miss has three shaky losses this month (also: at UAB and at Houston) and a diminished at-large profile.

—- Patrick Stevens