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Surpirse: Loyola has top postseason shot


It's almost March Madness time, with tournament play for some conferences beginning this week. But there's a possibility that when the NCAA and the National Invitation Tournament announce their Division I pairings, that the state of Maryland will be shut out.

With a week left in the regular season, just two of the nine state Division I teams (Coppin 15-11, and Towson 14-12) have winning records, and just two others (Loyola 12-13, and Maryland 10-13) have a shot of finishing over .500 (none of the other five teams have won more than eight games).

With no automatic qualifier in the East Coast Conference, Towson is shooting for an NIT bid. That is improbable unless the Tigers finish 17-12, winning their last regular-season game and two games to win the ECC tournament.

With Maryland still ineligible for the NCAA tournament, that leaves Coppin and Loyola as the two teams with the best shot of gaining an NCAA tournament berth.

Coppin was in first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in the middle of the season, but has struggled lately, falling to the middle of the pack in the league.

That leaves Loyola as the state's best bet to gain a tournament berth. Since upsetting Xavier earlier this month, Loyola has lost just one game, at La Salle. The Greyhounds get a rematch against the Explorers at Reitz Arena on Wednesday. A win over La Salle -- a team Loyola hasn't beaten since 1944 -- might give the Greyhounds the mental edge they need going into next week's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, whose winner gets an automatic NCAA bid.

Blue Jays clinch title

Johns Hopkins (19-6, 7-2) clinched the title of the Mid-Atlantic Conference Southeast Section on Saturday with an 85-76 win over Washington College. Luke Busby had 23 points for the Blue Jays, who play at home on Thursday in an MAC Southern Division semifinal.

Uphill fight awaits Morgan

It's been another forgettable season for Morgan State, which lost, 82-64, at Howard on Saturday to drop its record to 4-22.

A year ago Morgan (4-11 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) finished seventh in the league and went on to surprise No. 2 seed Delaware State in the first round of the conference %J tournament. But a repeat performance next week in Norfolk, Va., appears unlikely.

Although last year's team had a poor record, the players appeared to jell as a group toward the end of the season and no one in the league wanted to face them in the MEAC tournament. But that jelling has failed to develop with the young team Michael Holmes has tried to teach this season. The Bears take a three-game losing streak into their regular-season finale Saturday against UMES.

0-27, but record must wait

Don't call basketball a major sport at Prairie View University.

You can call it a major disappointment, especially after Prairie View dropped to 0-27 with Saturday's 108-86 loss to Texas Southern. It was Prairie View's last game of the regular season, and puts the Panthers on the verge of setting an NCAA record for most losses in a season when the team faces Mississippi Valley State -- the co-champion of the Southwestern Athletic Conference -- in the first round of the league tournament on Wednesday.

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