Today's Specials: Minnesota, Tennessee aim for upset wins
Tuesday could be a big day in the at-large hunt, as Tennessee looks for a signature win and Minnesota also tries to bounce back.
Monday featured a couple of great games, including Kansas vs. Iowa State, which was one of the best games we’ve seen all season. Here’s hoping Tuesday brings more of the same. Both Minnesota and Tennessee are looking for signature wins, while Memphis steps out of Conference USA.
Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP poll.
Best game: No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers at Minnesota Golden Gophers (7 p.m., ESPN). The first time these two teams played, it seemed like Minnesota would certainly be a factor in the Big Ten race -- while Indiana at its best was arguably the national title favorite. One of those things turned out to be true. Indiana is playing like a national champion lately, but Minnesota isn’t playing like much of anything. The Gophers have lost four of their last five and eight of their last 11, but they do have games against Penn State, Nebraska and Purdue after Tuesday. They need two more wins to feel truly comfortable. Minnesota has to get Cody Zeller in foul trouble and also crash the offensive glass effectively, and keep the Hoosiers out of transition.
Second-best game: No. 8 Florida Gators at Tennessee Volunteers (9 p.m., ESPN). This has turned into a monster game for Tennessee, which has quietly played itself into the at-large hunt with five straight wins -- including a four-overtime victory over Texas A&M on Saturday. A win over the Gators, though, would be a huge resume-booster. Florida is fighting toward a No. 1 seed, but the Gators need to stay healthy and figure out how to close games. The battle on the perimeter will be key, as Tennessee guards the perimeter effectively, but Florida loves shooting the 3-pointer. Also, can Florida’s bigs stay out of foul trouble against Jarnell Stokes ?
Another one to watch: No. 19 Memphis Tigers at Xavier Musketeers (7 p.m., ESPN2). A nice little nonconference game amid all the conference races and bubble battles. Memphis has essentially locked up an NCAA tournament bid, given the Tigers’ 18-game winning streak and 13-0 Conference USA record. Xavier was fighting toward the bubble, but the Musketeers blew a second-half lead against VCU and are now likely headed to the NIT. Tempo will be a major factor in this one, as Memphis will look to get out in transition. The key for Xavier will be avoiding turnovers and slowing the game down.
Guaranteed win: Winner of five of its last six games, Wisconsin Badgers is playing itself into a potential top-four seed in the NCAA tournament -- if it continues playing this well. Fortunately, the finishing stretch is pretty friendly, aside from a road trip to Michigan State next week. It starts Tuesday, when Nebraska Cornhuskers comes to Madison for a visit (9 p.m., Big Ten Network). The Cornhuskers are playing better, but it’s going to be tough against Bo Ryan’s club.
Potential upset: There isn’t much outside of the above games, but two games could feature road teams coming close to surprises. Towson Tigers is two games back of Northeastern in the CAA standings, but it’s a longshot that the Tigers can catch the Huskies. With that said, they will pose a challenge to George Mason Patriots on Tuesday (7 p.m.). Meanwhile, Wake Forest Demon Deacons is coming off a 15-point win over Miami -- while Florida State Seminoles is continuing its disappointing season. Can the Demon Deacons keep it close (9 p.m., ESPNU)?
Three things to keep an eye on:
- With three games remaining, Detroit Titans is one game back of Valparaiso Crusaders in the Horizon. The Titans host Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (7:30 p.m.), while Valpo hosts Youngstown State Penguins (8:05 p.m.).
- Alabama Crimson Tide ’s three-overtime loss at LSU really put the Tide on the wrong side of the bubble, but they will try to bounce back against Auburn Tigers (7 p.m., ESPNU).
- Wyoming Cowboys and Air Force Falcons were both on the bubble at one point or another, but now both only have a slight chance (9 p.m., Root).
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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