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Seeding the Field

Saturday, February 19, 2005; Page D05

A weekly look into the crystal ball at who will qualify and where they'll go in the 65-team NCAA men's tournament:

Syracuse Regional

1. Wake Forest

_____Game of the Week_____

No. 5 Wake Forest at No. 7 Duke, 6:30 p.m. tomorrow

After four losses in its past seven games, Duke needs to catch a second wind. Wake Forest (22-3, 10-2 ACC) beat the Blue Devils, 92-89, in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Feb. 2, and leads North Carolina (21-3, 9-2) by a half-game in the conference standings. The Tar Heels play at Clemson today, and then have road games at North Carolina State and Maryland, before hosting Duke in the March 6 regular season finale. Wake Forest seems to have an easier road in its three remaining ACC games after Duke: The Demon Deacons host Virginia and Georgia Tech, and then play at N.C. State in their finale. Duke (18-4, 8-4) still plays at Georgia Tech and hosts Miami before closing against the Tar Heels. The Blue Devils, whose three best players are averaging more than 33 minutes apiece, seem to be wearing down.

_____RPI Watch_____

Memphis, left for dead after its stunning 7-7 start, is making a late push for NCAA at-large consideration. The Tigers have won eight of their past 11 games, including victories over Marquette, DePaul and Louisville. But Memphis Coach John Calipari is still a long way from feeling comfortable. The Tigers (15-10, 8-3 Conference USA) have an RPI rating of No. 110 -- no team outside the RPI top 100 has ever received an at-large bid. New Mexico (No. 74) in 1999 and Air Force (No. 70) last year were the lowest-rated teams in the RPI to receive an at-large bid. Memphis will have three chances to really improve its résumé -- the Tigers will play Charlotte, Louisville and Cincinnati, which are all ranked in the RPI top 25.

_____Top 5 Mid-Majors_____

Teams outside the top seven power conferences:

1. Gonzaga (20-4): The Bulldogs have won seven in a row and could secure an NCAA No. 2 seed.

2. Pacific (21-2): The Tigers have won 17 in a row, tied for the second-longest streak in Division I.

3. Southern Illinois (21-6): Three tough games in a row: at Kent State today, at home against Northern Iowa and Wichita State.

4. Vermont (19-4): The Catamounts' lead in America East Conference is down to one game after loss at Boston U.

5. Nevada (19-5): The Wolf Pack has won five in a row to take control of the Western Athletic Conference.

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2. Boston College

3. Michigan State

4. Louisville

5. Wisconsin

6. Texas Tech

7. Cincinnati

8. Villanova

9. G. Washington

10. Vermont

11. UCLA

12. Arizona State

13. Pennsylvania

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