|If Saint Louis beats Butler again on Friday, the Billikens will have the inside track to an A-10 title. (USATSI)|
This is our first Friday version of Today's Specials in a long time, but with Bracket Busters tipping off on Friday night and a major showdown in the Atlantic 10 all on the docket, it was necessary (although we did cut it down a little bit because there are only eight games). This is the perfect appetizer to a very important weekend of hoops.
Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP poll.
Best game: Saint Louis at No. 15 Butler (7 p.m., ESPNU). Saint Louis has been sending messages left and right in the last month, blowing out Butler and VCU at home to make a move to the top of the Atlantic 10 standings. Butler sits a half-game back of the Billikens, with a home loss to Charlotte last week knocking them down a peg. Saint Louis' recent run of eight wins in a row has them in good shape in terms of an at-large bid, while Butler is still pushing for a top-four seed. Butler will need to take care of the ball and knock down perimeter shots, while Saint Louis has to get the Bulldogs in foul trouble.
Second-best game: North Dakota State at Akron (7 p.m., ESPN2). Akron received an unlucky draw in the Bracket Busters, as the Zips aren't playing a game that can help their at-large case. The wins over Middle Tennessee and Ohio likely won't be enough to get a bid if they lose the MAC tournament, despite winning 17 in a row heading into the weekend. North Dakota State has slipped to third place in the Summit, losing four of its last eight since leading scorer Taylor Braun went down with an injury.
Another one to watch: Stephen F. Austin at Long Beach State (9 p.m., ESPNU). Both teams are atop their respective leagues, although Stephen F. Austin is tied with Northwestern State. Long Beach State has become much more dangerous since it got Tony Freeland and Keala King eligible, and the 49ers won't be an easy out in the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, SFA's loss at Southeastern Louisiana really killed its at-large chances, but running the table would give them an outside, outside chance. They do own a win at Oklahoma.
Three things to keep an eye on:
- Florida Gulf Coast is one game back of Mercer in the Atlantic Sun standings, and it needs to stay within striking distance by winning at Stetson (7 p.m., ESPN3).
- Harvard sits atop the Ivy League at 7-1 in conference play, but the Crimson head on the road to Brown (7 p.m.), which took them to double overtime in early February.
- There are three other games on the schedule, all in the Ivy League. We've got Dartmouth at Yale (7 p.m.), Penn at Cornell (7 p.m.), and Princeton at Columbia (7 p.m.).
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