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Weekend fare: fine matchups

THE BALTIMORE SUN

There are 16 days until Selection Sunday, and only eight until the first conference tournament championship games.

Adding to the yammering about at-large candidates, the bubble, bad losses and good wins that are making you dizzy, here's a couch potato's guide to the ramifications of assorted matchups on the last full weekend of the regular season in college basketball. If no television network is noted, you'll have to get off your butt, start up the car and buy a ticket.

Harvard at Penn, tonight, 7: With no conference tournament, the Ivy League is the last place in Division I where the regular season is paramount. The Quakers can close in on another title by winning tonight, and tomorrow against visiting Dartmouth. Penn has a two-game lead on Princeton, thanks to last week's win over the offensively challenged Tigers. Best sign at The Palestra that night: "Only Dick Cheney shoots worse than Princeton."

Northern Iowa at Southern Illinois, tomorrow, 2 p.m., ESPN2: The Missouri Valley Conference lost much of its five-bid bluster last weekend, when its home-court advantage in ESPN's BracketBusters series set it up for a fall. Northern Iowa was lucky to beat Bucknell, and Southern Illinois lost to Louisiana Tech, which had been getting little at-large consideration. That was the second of three straight losses for the Salukis and their second at home, where they had been invincible.

Duke at Temple, tomorrow, 2:30 p.m., ESPN: Will J.J. Redick remain tight as he nears the Atlantic Coast Conference's all-time scoring record? Will the Atlantic 10 be another one-bid conference, as it was last season? Villanova and A-10 leader George Washington are the only teams to win at Temple this season. Mardy Collins, the Owls' ace guard, may be the best senior in the nation who has never appeared in the NCAA tournament. A win over the Blue Devils might get him there.

Ohio at Akron, tomorrow, 4 p.m., ESPN2: Ohio and Leon Williams, its sophomore big man out of Cardinal Gibbons, will have to make another memorable run in the Mid-American Conference if they want to return to the NCAAs. Kent State, Miami and Akron all stand ahead of the Bobcats in the MAC's loaded East Division. Williams has had to make do without his point guard, who left the team and school after a death in his family.

Florida State at Virginia Tech, tomorrow, 7 p.m.: Baltimore's Todd Galloway and the Seminoles are making a run at their first NCAA berth since 1998. They've won four of their past six in the ACC. One of the losses was at Duke, and afterward the ACC reprimanded the officials for a blown call that could have affected the outcome of the game. The NCAA men's basketball committee will consider that circumstance, according to chairman Craig Littlepage, the Virginia athletic director. Blacksburg, by the way, is lovely this time of year.

Kansas at Texas, tomorrow, 9 p.m., ESPN: The suggestion that the 12-team ACC could only get four in the NCAA overlooks the fact that there isn't much depth in some other conferences, either. The Big 12 could be looking at only three bids. The Jayhawks started 2-3, but thanks to some underperformers elsewhere and the impact of freshman Brandon Rush, they've won 10 straight to gain a share of the Big 12 lead with the Longhorns. Texas and Daniel Gibson are playing for a No. 1 seed.

Michigan State at Indiana, Sunday, noon, chs. 13, 9: The Spartans are 2-5 on the Big Ten road. The Hoosiers have not beaten one of the conference's top eight teams since Jan. 17, when they took down Illinois, but they still have a chance to make it seven Big Ten teams in the NCAA tournament. It's the last game at Assembly Hall for Mike Davis, who has thrown in the towel as Indiana's coach. If he has any sense of humor, he'll toss a chair on his way out.

Villanova at Connecticut, Sunday, 2 p.m., chs. 13, 9: These two have distanced themselves from some fine teams in the Big East, where the Wildcats have a one-game lead on the Huskies thanks to last week's wild win in Philadelphia. No matter what happens in the rematch and the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden, both of these teams look like No. 1 seeds. They're playing to see who will be placed atop the regional that will go through MCI Center. paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

SEEDING REPORT

Paul McMullen's weekly prediction of the top regional seeds for the NCAA tournament.

Washington .......................... Minneapolis

Villanova .............................. Connecticut

Tennessee ............................. Gonzaga

Iowa ..................................... UCLA

North Carolina ..................... Illinois

Atlanta .................................. Oakland

Duke ..................................... Memphis

Ohio State ............................ Texas

Pittsburgh ............................ Wisconsin

Oklahoma ............................ LSU

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