With the 2012-13 NCAA regular season coming to an end on Sunday before conference tournaments begin next week, there are plenty of games to keep an eye on if you’re already getting a hankering for some March Madness. More importantly, there are plenty of games over this next week that will have some serious ramifications on the results of Selection Sunday (March 17) and the tournament itself.
So without further ado, here are six games to watch over the final six days of the regular season…
*Note: I didn’t include games that involve two ranked teams playing each other, because everyone knows the stakes of those matchups and both teams will likely be in the tournament anyway*
Tuesday, March 5 – Boise State @ UNLV – 10:00 PM ET
A big win over Colorado State on Saturday probably cemented Boise State’s status as a tournament team…if the tournament started today. But the Broncos will first have a couple of tough games against UNLV and San Diego State to test their mettle before the Mountain West championship tournament. A win over UNLV tonight would go a long way in further proving Boise State as not only a tournament team, but a tournament team gaining steam. As for the Runnin Rebels, who lost to Boise State earlier this season, they’ve righted the ship with four straight wins after a shaky 7-6 stretch between late December to mid-February. Led by Canadian NBA prospect Anthony Bennett, UNLV will be one of the favourites to win the MWC title, but in the event they fall short of that automatic bid, they’ll want to take care of the Broncos at home.
Wednesday, March 6 – No. 5 Georgetown @ Villanova – 7:00 PM ET
Georgetown comes into this game the fifth-ranked team in the nation, the first place team in the Big East and a lock to be featured come NCAA tournament time. The only thing left for the Hoyas to determine is whether they’re worthy of a No. 1 seed in the tournament, and with that type of reputation, they’ll have a big target on their backs against the ultimate bubble team in their Big East rival Villanova. An upset win for the Wildcats over Georgetown before even a decent showing in the Big East tournament could be the final push they need to get into the tourney.
Thursday, March 7 – No. 19 Oregon @ Colorado – 9:00 PM ET
Oregon may very well go on to win the Pac-12 next week, but both of these teams can stake a legitimate claim to an at-large bid right now. The 19th-ranked Ducks are probably in either way, and Colorado can all but join them with a win on Thursday night (as long as they take care of Oregon State after that).
Saturday, March 9 – No. 11 Florida @ Kentucky – 12:00 PM ET
A year ago, imagining an NCAA tournament without John Calipari’s Wildcats seemed insane. Now, as Kentucky nears the end of a disappointing season, and without top prospect Nerlens Noel, it’s a legitimate possibility if the ‘Cats don’t make some noise over the next couple of weeks. A win over 11th-ranked Florida to complete their regular season schedule would be a good start.
Saturday, March 9 – No. 3 Duke @ North Carolina – 9:00 PM ET
Duke looks poised for another No. 1 seed and barring a significant collapse, North Carolina should grab an at-large bid to join them in the big dance, so this game doesn’t necessarily have tournament ramifications other than seeding purposes. But it’s Duke/UNC in a Saturday night regular season finale. There’s really no other need to justify having it on this list, is there?
Sunday, March 10 – Maryland @ Virginia – 6:00 PM ET
Both bubble teams are 20-9 overall, but Virginia’s 10-6 ACC record trumps Maryland’s 8-8 in-conference mark, the Cavaliers already have a win at Maryland under their belts from February and also just beat Duke last Thursday, so you know they’ve made the much stronger case for an at-large bid. A Virginia win might just be enough to punch their ticket to the tournament while simultaneously eliminating Maryland from at-large contention. A Terps win, however, could create some bracket madness. What more could you ask for on the last night of the regular season?