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Providence tops Seton Hall to remain firmly on bubble, bolster NCAAs case

Bryce Cotton led Providence to a much-needed win over Seton Hall on Friday. (AJ Mast/AP)Bryce Cotton led Providence to a much-needed win over Seton Hall on Friday. (AJ Mast/AP)

On Friday night, Providence, a team most bracketologists have slotted as an 11 or 12 seed, played at Seton Hall. This was one of those survival games for Providence, and the Friars survived, 74-69.

Senior guard Bryce Cotton led Providence with 24 points on 6-of-12 shooting, while senior forward Kadeem Batts added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

These are the type of games fringe NCAA tournament teams like Providence just can't afford to lose this time of year. A loss could move them back in the bubble pecking order or push them off it entirely.

For a recent example, look no further than Missouri. The Tigers are one of several teams vying to earn the Southeastern Conference a third NCAA Tournament bid (Florida and Kentucky are virtual locks to get in). Mizzou won three games between Feb. 13 and 19, against Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, to bolster its profile. At that point, Missouri seemed to have played its way into the field – just barely into 11 or 12-seed territory. But over the past week, the Tigers lost consecutive road games to Alabama and Georgia. What are the Tigers' chances of making the tourney now? Let’s just say they have some work to do.

As for the Friars, since losing five of seven games between Jan. 30 and Feb. 18 – a brutal stretch putting their tourney hopes in jeopardy – they've won two straight and have the opportunity to score two more big wins before the end of the regular season. Ed Cooley’s team hosts Marquette, another Big East team scrapping for an at-large bid, on March 4 before facing Creighton on March 8 to close the season.

Providence has an RPI of 57, a 2-5 record against the top 50 and a 5-4 record against the top 100. Its only truly bad loss of the season came against Seton Hall, on New Year’s Eve. The Friars have a win against possible No. 2 seed Creighton to hang their hat on, but they could use another big win, i.e. Creighton again, to shore up their dossier. The latest version of the bracket matrix, a compilation of more than 60 bracket projections from across the Internet, slots Providence in the “First four out” section.

Beating either the Bluejays or Golden Eagles will help more than Friday night’s result does. Still, Providence needed to win this game and did. Plenty of teams having found themselves in similar situations wish they could say the same.

Manhattan 80, Iona 77

College football diehards have come to appreciate the spectacle that is Tuesday night #MACtion. College hoops fans have their own treat to enjoy: Friday night #MAACtion. Tonight’s edition featured Manhattan and Iona, the top two teams in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Junior forward Emmy Andujar scored 28 points off the bench to lead the Jaspers past the first-place Gaels. Iona is the league’s regular season champion, but Manhattan has the potential to make a run in the conference tournament. The Jaspers play their final game of the regular season Sunday against fourth-place Canisius.

Princeton 57, Yale 46

Tough loss for the Bulldogs. With three games remaining in the regular season, Harvard holds a two-game lead on Yale for first place in the Ivy League. The Crimson host Columbia on Saturday before playing at Yale a week later. The Ivy does not stage a conference tournament. The league’s one NCAA Tournament bid goes to the team that finishes in first place.
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