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Championship Week: 5 Storylines to Watch That May Impact the NCAA Tournament

1. Can UConn get back into the NCAA tournament? From a talent standpoint, how many other teams have two lottery picks starting? I’m feeling confident about the Huskies with Jim Calhoun back on the sidelines. The Huskies probably need two wins in the Big East tournament to feel comfortable about their chances just in case insanity reigns this week. Reminder: The NCAA has ruled no tournament for UConn next year, so Calhoun better get it done. If you took UConn 50:1 to win the title in the offseason, you’re paying attention to the Huskies closely this week.

2. Harvard. The Crimson haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1946, and they could either get in Tuesday if Penn loses to Princeton. If Penn wins, both teams will be 12-2, and a playoff will determine who gets the automatic bid from the Ivy League. Harvard’s got a solid resume (RPI 36!) but the key numbers here will be 1-0 vs RPI top 25 (neutral court win over FSU) and SOS (224). It’d be a travesty if Tommy Amaker missed the tournament because the Crimson are very good and their defense and talent could get them to the Sweet 16.

3. The Most Dangerous Team on the Bubble: Washington. The Huskies have two first round picks in Wroten and Ross, but yet they managed to lose to a bad UCLA team Saturday. The Pac-12 was so awful this year that one could argue any of seven bad/mediocre teams could win the conference tourney. I think the one most likely to do damage in the NCAA Tournament is Washington, which would be a scary 11/12 seed.

4. Will anyone in the SEC tournament play Kentucky within 10 points? The Wildcats have had three SEC road tests in the last month, and passed them all with increasingly flying colors (beat Vandy by six, beat Mississippi St. by nine, beat Florida by 14). Just a reminder: Yes, Kentucky’s won the last two SEC tourney titles, but the two years prior to that, things got wacky and Georgia and Mississippi St. went on memorable runs to the title. Remember two years ago when No. 2 Kentucky nearly let Mississippi St. sneak into March Madness?

I don’t see a long shot making a run this year – Kentucky’s just too good – but Mississippi St, Vanderbilt and Tennessee all avoid UK to the final and if I had to take one of those to pull the upset, I’d pick the Vols, who are peaking (won eight of nine). Tennessee’s tough enough and streaky enough to give UK fits.

5. The Demise of Xavier. A preseason Top 20 team, their season was going swimmingly until that ugly brawl with Cincinnati. Who can forget Xavier’s best player, Tu Holloway telling the media, seconds after the brawl, “put Cincinnati in a fucking body bad.” Tough season for the Musketeers, er “those bitches.” This appeared to be a Sweet 16 team thanks to great guard play, but Xavier’s not a lock to go dancing without a little run in the A-10 tourney.

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