The NCAA released the first RPI standings on Monday, giving us a good picture of which teams are in good shape for the post-season, which need help and which are on thin ice. Syracuse took a big step toward hosting a first round game after a 13-12 win over Cornell Wednesday night. Here are six games this weekend that will also have a major impact on who makes the field of 16.
No. 8 Duke (9-4) at Virginia (5-6) 6 p.m. Friday
No, there isn't a typo or a missing number next to Virginia. The Cavs are unranked for the first time in 10 seasons thanks to a five-game losing streak, the longest since 1966.
"I feel for the kids. I feel for the seniors. The unexpectedness of it all is tough," said Virginia head coach Dom Starsia.
Righting the ship in Durham will be a tough task. The Blue Devils have won 12 of the last 13 in this rivalry and are currently on a seven -game winning streak, the longest winning streak in the nation. As you can imagine, though, Duke is not taking Virginia lightly.
"All you have to do is put on the tape to see how good they are," said Blue Devils head coach John Danowski. "Every game they have played for the most part has been close and you just hope this isn't the day they break out."
No. 19 Lehigh (8-4) at No. 11 Bucknell (10-2) 7:30 p.m. Friday
Nobody involved is downplaying the importance of this one.
"This is about as big as it gets," said Bucknell head coach Frank Fedorjaka. "All of our goals are right in front of us and it starts with winning the league. You throw in Friday night lights and it's going to be great."
"It's a big one for us," said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. "We have never hosted the Patriot League tournament, so we would much prefer to stay home. It's an intense rivalry, but a lopsided one even though we were able to break through last year."
For the Bison to make everyone travel to Lewisburg they will have to contain Dave DiMaria, who is second in the Patriot League with just under four points a game.
"He has developed into a scorer, so now he is a double threat," Cassese said. "If you slide to him, he'll get four assists. If you don't, he'll get four goals. Everything he's had, he's earned."
No. 3 Denver (9-2) at No. 5 Loyola (9-2) 11 a.m. Saturday
It's hard to believe that the defending national champions have been under the radar, but that has been the case after the Greyhounds' two losses to Maryland and Duke.
"These big wins have eluded us this year but we are different team than earlier in the season," said Loyola head coach Charlie Toomey. "Then you combine a lot of factors of playing at home, needing a resume win, senior day and I think there will be a lot of energy in both locker rooms."
No. 15 Johns Hopkins (6-4) at No. 1 Maryland (8-1) 3 p.m. Saturday
The Blue Jays are not sugarcoating their situation at all. After losing to Albany last week, senior captain Tucker Durkin told the media that the playoffs start now. A road win against the No. 1 team in the country would help Hopkins make the tourney for the 42nd straight year. Head coach Dave Pietramala is stressing shot selection this week, because bad shots against Niko Amato will lead to fast break opportunities for Jesse Bernhardt.
No. 6 North Carolina (8-3) at Hofstra (7-4) 7 p.m. Saturday
Pride head coach Seth Tierney has plenty on his mind this week, but one think he does not have to worry about is what kind of crowd will be on hand Saturday night.
"The atmosphere is going to be pretty cool," Tierney said. "Tickets have been flying off the shelves, the weather is warming up and there is a buzz. It will be electric."
Hofstra's defense leads the nation in allowing 6.4 goals a game, but Tierney admits that the Tar Heel trio of Marcus Holman, Jimmy Bitter and Joey Sankey will be a different animal.
"Ninety percent of their possessions start with the ball in one of their sticks and for good reason," he said. "You have to pick your poison, and all seven guys on the defense have to play well."
Georgetown (5-6) at No. 4 Notre Dame (8-2) 11 a.m. Sunday
The Hoyas may be under .500, but their last win was over a St. John's club that defeated the Irish in South Bend two weeks ago.
"They have a lot of different weapons and can score, and they are hungry," said Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan. "They need this to get into the Big East tournament."
After an early season gauntlet of a schedule, the Irish have spent more time recently on self-evaluation.
"We need to turn stops into possessions," Corrigan said. "Then, offensively, we have to be patient and let our playmakers make plays. If we take too many quick shots we are going to be playing defense for four or five minutes at a time."