Today's Specials: Virginia has chance for big win vs. Duke
Thursday is a versatile slate, with Virginia trying to play its way into the tournament, Gonzaga showing it's No. 1, and four 1 vs. 2 conference battles.
Wednesday featured a monster slate of bubble games, but it also had Michigan Wolverines and Arizona Wildcats blow its chances at No. 1 seeds. On the slate for Thursday are plenty of key conference clashes, as well as a couple of chances for bubble teams to make statements.
Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP poll.
Best game: No. 3 Duke Blue Devils at Virginia Cavaliers (9 p.m., ESPN). This is a chance for Virginia to state its case for an at-large bid in a major way. The Cavaliers are squarely on the bubble, but their six sub-100 losses means they need to keep winning. They have three top-25 victories, but beating the Blue Devils would certainly be a huge boost to the resume. Meanwhile, Duke can’t be caught looking ahead to its showdown on Saturday against Miami (Fl.). The key in this one will be Virginia’s ability to guard the perimeter, and limit Duke’s open 3-pointers. Moreover, can Mike Tobey and Akil Mitchell handle Mason Plumlee ?
Second-best game: No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs at BYU (11 p.m., ESPN2). Gonzaga has steamrolled through the West Coast Conference this season, winning 11 of its 14 games by double-digits. Moreover, the Bulldogs have the inside track to be ranked No. 1 in the country next week -- if they can get by BYU on the road on Thursday night. The first time these two teams faced off, Gonzaga dominated by 20. BYU has been struggling lately, losing three of its last four WCC games, which has essentially put the Cougars out of the at-large hunt. Can Brandon Davies hold his own against Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris ?
Another one to watch: There are four No. 1 vs. No. 2 conference battles taking place on Thursday. In the America East, Stony Brook Seawolves can clinch the outright regular-season title when it heads to Boston University Terriers (7 p.m.). Over in the Northeast Conference, Robert Morris Colonials ’ late charge has put itself atop the standings -- leading second-place Bryant by one game. The two face off on Thursday (7 p.m.). Mercer Bears has a two-game lead on Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in the Atlantic Sun, but FGCU could make it a race if it knocks off the Bears (7:30 p.m.). In the SWAC, Southern Jaguars and Texas Southern Tigers are tied for first place -- and Thursday’s winner will have the edge (9 p.m.).
Guaranteed win: Western Illinois Leathernecks sits a half-game behind South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the Summit League standings heading into its final two games of the season. SDSU heads on the road for its final game of the season, meaning Western Illinois could have a shot at winning the outright title. First, the Leathernecks need to handle UMKC Kangaroos at home (8:30 p.m.). That shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Potential upset: North Carolina Tar Heels ’s win over NC State last weekend put the Tar Heels in good position for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, but it’s not a done deal just yet. Moreover, North Carolina is heading to Clemson Tigers (7 p.m., ESPN) on Thursday. The Tigers have lost five of six, but their two home losses were by a combined three points and they are above .500 at home in the ACC. Meanwhile, South Dakota State can clinch a share of the Summit title, but a trip to suddenly-hot Nebraska Omaha Mavericks (8 p.m.) won’t be easy.
Three things to keep an eye on:
- A couple of bubble teams are at home on Thursday, and winning would be a good idea. Temple Owls hosts Detroit Titans (7 p.m., ESPN3), while California Golden Bears welcomes Utah Utes (9 p.m., ESPNU).
- Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and Middle Tennessee Volunteers would be interesting at-large cases if either loses in its respective conference tournament. No. 25 Louisiana Tech hosts Utah State Aggies (8 p.m., ESPN3), and Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders visits Troy Trojans (8:30 p.m.).
- Dominic Artis will suit up for Oregon Ducks on Thursday, as the Ducks host Oregon State Beavers (11 p.m., ESPNU). Artis has missed the last month with an injured foot.
- BONUS: Time is running out for
to get its first win of the season. The Tigers host
Alabama Crimson Tide
A&M on Thursday (8:30 p.m.) in its next-to-last game.
Other games to watch:
-- Ranked teams
- No. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes at Northwestern Wildcats (7 p.m., ESPN2)
-- At-large implications
- Missouri Tigers at South Carolina Gamecocks (9 p.m., ESPN2)
-- Conference races
- Rider Broncs at Niagara Purple Eagles (7 p.m.)
- Oral Roberts Golden Eagles at McNeese State Cowboys (8:30 p.m.)
- Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions at Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils (8:30 p.m.)
- Eastern Kentucky Colonels " data-canon="Kentucky Wildcats" data-type="SPORTS_OBJECT_TEAM" id="shortcode0"> at Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (8:30 p.m.)
- Weber State Wildcats at Sacramento State Hornets (10:05 p.m.)
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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