Today's Specials: Another Big Ten showdown highlights final edition
The final edition this season for Today's Specials is highlighted by yet another Big Ten battle.
Welcome to the final edition of Today’s Specials for this season. With the weekend coming up and conference tournaments taking over next week, it’s time to focus on the postseason action. But before we go, Thursday doesn’t let us down. There is a Top-25 battle, conference clashes and some important bubble games.
Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP Poll.
Best game: No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers at No. 10 Michigan State Spartans (9 p.m., ESPN). Clearly the marquee battle of the day, both teams still have a shot at a share of the Big Ten title -- although the loser could drop as far as fifth in the conference tournament. Wisconsin has won six of its last eight games, but the Badgers were shocked at home by Purdue on Sunday. Michigan State has lost some of its luster over the past couple of weeks, losing three in a row -- although it was by a combined 13 points to Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan. Which team gets back on the right track?
Second-best game: No. 19 Oregon Ducks at Colorado Buffaloes (9 p.m., ESPN2). Both teams are looking for momentum with the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments on the horizon. Oregon got freshman point guard Dominic Artis back last week against Oregon State and won by double digits, but the Ducks will need to be hitting on all cylinders in a few weeks. On the other side, Colorado was dominated at California last weekend, dropping the Buffaloes into a tie for fifth place in the conference. They have great computer numbers, but one more good win would seal the deal in terms of their at-large hopes.
Another one to watch: Butler Bulldogs at Massachusetts Minutemen (7 p.m., NBC Sports). This has become quite the important game in the Atlantic 10. Butler has dropped two in a row, including getting obliterated at VCU last weekend. The Bulldogs’ NCAA tournament seed is slipping quickly, and they need to right the ship ahead of the postseason. Massachusetts is on the wrong side of the bubble, but back-to-back wins over Dayton and Xavier have kept the Minutemen alive. A win over Butler would do wonders for their profile.
Guaranteed win: The Big Sky race isn’t over yet, as Montana Grizzlies leads Weber State Wildcats by one game with two left to play. On Thursday, Weber State has the edge, as the Wildcats host Portland State Vikings State" data-canon="Portland Pilots" data-type="SPORTS_OBJECT_TEAM" id="shortcode0"> (9 p.m.) in what should be an easy victory. Montana isn’t as lucky, as Sacramento State Hornets has been playing better lately (9 p.m.). The Grizzlies are also nursing a couple of injuries.
Potential upset: Both Kentucky Wildcats and Virginia Cavaliers badly need wins on Thursday night, and both are heading on the road -- where nothing is guaranteed. First, Virginia heads to Florida State Seminoles (7 p.m., ESPN2), which might be the most disappointing team of the season. However, the Seminoles still have pieces and will be on their homecourt. Meanwhile, Kentucky will look to bounce back from its road loss at Arkansas with a win at Georgia Bulldogs (7 p.m., ESPN). The Bulldogs are no pushover this season, though. One other game to watch: Long Beach State 49ers can clinch the outright Big West title, but it has to go on the road to face UC Davis Aggies (11 p.m., ESPN2).
Three things to keep an eye on:
- The WAC is going to have some eyeballs on it Thursday. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs can’t afford a loss if it wants an at-large bid, but it heads on the road to third-place New Mexico State Aggies (9 p.m., ESPN3). Meanwhile, Denver Pioneers can stay within striking distance of first place with a win over Texas-Arlington Mavericks (9 p.m.).
- The Southland still isn’t decided, as Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks leads Northwestern State Demons by one game. SFA hosts Sam Houston State Bearkats (9 p.m.), while Northwestern State welcomes Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders (8:30 p.m.).
- The MEAC is going down to the wire, as well. Norfolk State Spartans is 15-0 and hosts North Carolina A&T Aggies , while North Carolina Central Eagles sits one game back and heads to Hampton Pirates .
- Big South quarterfinals (Game to watch: Liberty Flames vs. High Point Panthers )
- Atlantic Sun quarterfinals (Game to watch: South Carolina Upstate Spartans vs. Jacksonville Dolphins )
- Missouri Valley first round (Game to watch: Drake Bulldogs vs. Bradley Braves )
- Ohio Valley quarterfinals (Game to watch: Southeast Missouri State Redhawks vs. Eastern Kentucky Colonels )
- West Coast second round (Game to watch: Loyola Marymount Lions vs. San Francisco Dons )
For more college basketball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCBB on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed and subscribe to our College Basketball Newsletter. You can follow Jeff Borzello on Twitter here: @jeffborzello
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