Today's Specials: Another Big Ten showdown highlights final edition

Both Michigan State and Wisconsin are looking to keep their Big Ten title hopes alive. (USATSI)
Michigan State and Wisconsin are looking to keep their Big Ten title hopes alive. (USATSI)

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 at No. 10 Michigan State (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 at Colorado (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 at Massachusetts (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 leads Weber State by one game with two left to play. On Thursday, Weber State has the edge, as the Wildcats host <span data-shortcode= 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 has been playing better lately (9 p.m.). The Grizzlies are also nursing a couple of injuries.

Potential upset: Both Kentucky and Virginia badly need wins on Thursday night, and both are heading on the road -- where nothing is guaranteed. First, Virginia heads to Florida State (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 (7 p.m., ESPN). The Bulldogs are no pushover this season, though. One other game to watch: Long Beach State can clinch the outright Big West title, but it has to go on the road to face UC-Davis (11 p.m., ESPN2).

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. The WAC is going to have some eyeballs on it Thursday. Louisiana Tech can’t afford a loss if it wants an at-large bid, but it heads on the road to third-place New Mexico State (9 p.m., ESPN3). Meanwhile, Denver can stay within striking distance of first place with a win over Texas-Arlington (9 p.m.).
  2. The Southland still isn’t decided, as Stephen F. Austin leads Northwestern State by one game. SFA hosts Sam Houston State (9 p.m.), while Northwestern State welcomes Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (8:30 p.m.).
  3. The MEAC is going down to the wire, as well. Norfolk State is 15-0 and hosts North Carolina A&T , while North Carolina Central sits one game back and heads to Hampton

Conference tournaments:

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