- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2008

FORTUNES RISING

LOUISVILLE

 It would seem the Cardinals are back, and much of it has to do with having a full complement of players to work with. Louisville blew past Marquette and Georgetown to re-establish itself as a Big East contender and will have a chance to make up ground on both Notre Dame and Georgetown in head-to-head meetings. But here’s a memo to Rick Pitino: Ditch the all-white ensemble for good. Please.

FORTUNES FALLING

JOHN BRADY

 That was a rapid fall from grace. Brady led Louisiana State to the Final Four in 2006; 23 months later, he was fired in the middle of the season. Nothing has gone right for the Tigers since their sweet regional weekend (and the corresponding victories over Duke and Texas), and this season quickly turned into a debacle. Brady’s also the latest college coach to get canned in the middle of the season, a rather unsettling trend.

MID-MAJOR SPOTLIGHT

RIDER

 If you don’t have plans Monday night, one good way to pass the time will be driving up to Baltimore and watching Loyola play host to the Broncs. Rider forward Jason Thompson is a legitimate NBA prospect and has the Broncs tied for first in the Metro Atlantic and in the hunt for their first NCAA berth since 1994, even after their 10-game winning streak was snapped Sunday.

THIS WEEK’S SIX-PACK

TOMORROW

No. 22 PITTSBURGH (19-5, 7-4 Big East) at MARQUETTE (17-6, 7-5)

9 p.m., Bradley Center, Milwaukee, ESPN

Skinny: Both teams have shuffled back toward the Big East pack in recent weeks, with Pittsburgh still stinging from injuries to Mike Cook and Levance Fields and Marquette simply proving to be a top-25 or top-30 team rather than one entrenched in the top 15. While Pittsburgh has a decent resume even without its injured starters, the Golden Eagles could use a home victory over a solid opponent, lest they continue to slide toward the bubble.

SATURDAY

FLORIDA (19-5, 6-3 SEC) at No. 24 VANDERBILT (21-4, 6-4)

3 p.m., Memorial Gymnasium, Nashville, Tenn.

Skinny: Billy Donovan’s Gators are the ultimate “on-good-faith” team: defending national champions, excellent record, winning mark in conference play and a thin overall resume. Florida’s best accomplishment is a home rout of the Commodores, and completing the sweep finally would give the Gators a quality road victory. As for Vanderbilt, it would be well-served to beat one of the SEC’s above-average teams before the season is out.

No. 10 MICHIGAN STATE (20-4, 8-3 Big Ten) at No. 13 INDIANA (20-4, 9-2)

9 p.m., Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind., ESPN

Skinny: Chances are this is a first-to-60 wins affair for two of the top teams in the Big Ten. Then again, that’s rather typical in the rough-and-tumble league anyway. The Spartans have been vulnerable on the road, losing to Iowa, Penn State and Big Ten-leading Purdue to tarnish an otherwise clean conference season. Falling at Assembly Hall — where the Hoosiers have lost twice in nearly two seasons under Kelvin Sampson — would be neither a surprise nor a blemish.

SUNDAY

No. 6 UCLA (21-3, 9-2 Pac-10) at SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (15-8, 6-5)

10 p.m., Galen Center, Los Angeles, CSN

Skinny: The Bruins’ lone stumble the first time through the Pac-10 came at home against coach Tim Floyd and the O.J. Mayos, who continue to do just enough to remain comfortably within the NCAA field without actually building up an ultra-impressive set of performances. A key matchup will be the inside play of UCLA’s Kevin Love and Southern Cal’s Davon Jefferson.

MONDAY

No. 16 TEXAS A&M; (20-4, 6-3 Big 12) at No. 11 TEXAS (20-4, 7-2)

9 p.m., Erwin Events Center, Austin, Texas, ESPN

Skinny: The Aggies proved they could win on the road last week, poaching a pair of victories over mediocre Big 12 North teams. This will be a little bit more challenging, particularly because of Longhorns point guard D.J. Augustin. A&M; has won five straight since a three-game skid, a stretch highlighted by a home rout over Texas. A victory for either team would go a long way toward securing a bye in the conference tournament.

WEDNESDAY

No. 5 NORTH CAROLINA (23-2, 8-2 ACC) at N.C. STATE (15-8, 4-5)

7 p.m., RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C., ESPN

Skinny: Sidney Lowe likely will have his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat out for this one, which comes more than a month after his Wolfpack were humbled in Chapel Hill. N.C. State is as well-equipped as anyone in the ACC to slow down center Tyler Hansbrough, but containing the Tar Heels’ backcourt is another matter. The Wolfpack have a passel of top-100 victories but could use a signature win to solidify their postseason credentials.

Patrick Stevens

64 PLUS ONE

A look at the locals: Georgetown’s loss at Louisville won’t cost the Hoyas their spot on the No. 2 line just yet, but it is a far from secure place for John Thompson III’s team. Meanwhile, Maryland continues its phoenix-like rise and lands as a No. 9 seed in this bracket. As for George Mason? The Patriots’ at-large hopes are increasingly slim after losing at Old Dominion. And this is no joke American has the Patriot League’s nod for now.

EAST REGION

1. Duke*

2. UCLA

3. Texas

4. Wisconsin

5. Louisville

6. Notre Dame

7. Florida

8. Arizona

9. Gonzaga

10. Brigham Young*

11. Saint Joseph’s

12. VCU*

13. Oral Roberts*

14. Siena*

15. Belmont*

16. Wagner*

SOUTH REGION

1. Memphis*

2. Georgetown*

3. Michigan State

4. Drake*

5. Kansas State*

6. Arkansas

7. Clemson

8. Marquette

9. Southern California

10. Ohio State

11. Dayton

12. Mississippi State

13. Utah State*

14. UMBC*

15. Austin Peay*

16. Alabama State*/ Lamar*

MIDWEST REGION

1. Kansas

2. Stanford

3. Indiana*

4. Connecticut

5. Butler*

6. Vanderbilt

7. Saint Mary’s*

8. Rhode Island

9. Maryland

10. UNLV

11. Syracuse

12. Arizona State

13. Davidson*

14. UNC Asheville*

15. Cal State Northridge*

16. Morgan State*

WEST REGION

1. North Carolina

2. Tennessee*

3. Xavier*

4. Purdue

5. Washington State

6. Texas A&M;

7. Pittsburgh

8. Baylor

9. Mississippi

10. N.C. State

11. South Alabama*

12. West Virginia

13. Kent State*

14. Cornell*

15. American*

16. Portland State*

* Automatic qualifier

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