Thursday features plenty of interesting matchups, including no fewer than six teams that can clinch at least a share of their respective regular-season titles. A rematch of one of January's best games is also on the docket.
Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP poll.
Best game: No. 5 Duke at No. 15 Florida State (7 p.m., ESPN). Looking back, January 21 is what changed the complexion of the ACC title race. Florida State went into Cameron Indoor Stadium and knocked off the Blue Devils, giving the Seminoles a huge edge heading down the stretch. Florida State has won 10 of its last 11 games, while Duke has become the comeback kids, using late runs to beat North Carolina and North Carolina State in recent weeks. Florida State's defense is usually rock-solid, but it needs to take care of the ball.
Second-best game: BYU at Gonzaga (11 p.m., ESPN2). This is an important game for both teams. A win here for BYU, and the Cougars could feel very confident about their at-large hopes. Moreover, after Gonzaga's loss to San Francisco over the weekend, both the Bulldogs and Cougars are tied at 11-3 in the conference -- one game back of reeling Saint Mary's. BYU won the first meeting by 10, but that was home. The battle inside should be fun to watch, with Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies going against Robert Sacre and Elias Harris.
Another one to watch: No. 17 Louisville at Cincinnati (9 p.m., ESPN). Despite its hideous RPI and computer profile, Cincinnati has won four of its last five and would be in the NCAA tournament if it were selected today. The Bearcats have a chance to really boost their resume with a win over the Cardinals. Louisville has won seven of its last eight to look likely as a top-four seed in the Big Dance. Louisville will need to knock down its outside shots, and also limit the second-chance opportunities for Cincinnati
Guaranteed win: All season long, California has seemed to remain above the Pac-12 fray. The Golden Bears are tied atop the league standings, and should take a half-game lead after tonight as they travel to Utah (9 p.m.). The first time the two teams played, California rolled to a 36-point victory. The Utes have lose three straight single-digit games, but methinks this one will be a bigger margin.
Potential upset: This one shouldn’t surprise anyone, as the first time they played, Iowa won at the Kohl Center on New Year’s Eve. The Hawkeyes are coming off a 12-point win over Indiana, and they have also defeated Michigan at home. No. 16 Wisconsin has actually been better on the road than at home this season, but Iowa’s ability to score inside the arc could be the difference (9 p.m., ESPN2).
Three things to keep an eye on:
- Three teams can win outright conference titles on Thursday, in Belmont, Davidson and Middle Tennessee. LIU-Brooklyn and Bucknell can clinch a share of the championship in their respective conferences. Saint Mary’s can also clinch at least a tie at Portland (10 p.m., ESPNU).
- No. 14 Murray State looks to get revenge for its only loss of the season, at Tennessee State (8 p.m., ESPNU).
- Bubble games: Alabama at Arkansas (7 p.m., ESPN2), USC at Arizona (8:30 p.m.) and Stanford at Colorado (10:30 p.m., ROOT).
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