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COLLEGE HOOPS: THE WEEKEND AHEAD
February 24, 2006

SCS.comIt's coming down to crunch time, not only for the bubble teams but also for those that are looking to capture regular season conference titles. The Big XII's best two squads, Kansas and Texas, will go head-to-head in Austin, while the Big East's top two teams, Villanova and Connecticut, will do battle on Saturday as well. Also keep an eye on the Big South where Winthrop and Birmingham Southern will match up with the winner taking home that conference's regular season championship.

MUST-SEE THIS WEEKEND

Michigan at Ohio State
Saturday 12:30 PM CST

With this pair's wins earlier this week, this game just got a lot bigger. The Wolverines took down Illinois on Tuesday before Ohio State went on the road and knocked off Michigan State on Wednesday. The Buckeyes are now tied for the Big Ten lead, while UM is 1.5 games back of the leaders. OSU has won six of their last seven, including three victories against top 25 teams. While the Wolves aren't ranked, Michigan is a near-lock for next month's NCAA Tournament. A win in Columbus would certainly seal their bid.

Iowa at Illinois
Saturday 5:00 PM CST

The second co-leader in the Big Ten, Iowa, has had a week to recover after a four-game stretch that saw the team lose two games to unranked teams while picking up a pair of victories over teams in the top 25. Strange as it sounds, that's been the way the Hawkeyes' season has been. They have struggled away from home, but if they want to pick up their tenth league win of the year, they'll have to get it done in Champaign on Saturday. The Illini have lost three of their last five but aren't out of the Big Ten race. A victory in this game would give these two identical league records and possibly move Illinois into a tie atop the standings depending on what Ohio State does.

Kansas at Texas
Saturday 8:00 PM CST

You might as well call this one the Big XII championship game. Both the 'Horns and 'Hawks are 11-2 in conference play and two games ahead of the nearest contender with just three matchups left. While most expected Texas to be where they are, the same cannot be said for KU. The Jayhawks got off to a rocky start, losing two of their first three league games. Since then, however, Kansas has won ten straight and caught UT in the standings. The Longhorns are not playing their best ball at the moment. After losing by three touchdowns at Oklahoma State last weekend, they only survived at Kansas State by a single point. Look for this game to be close as well, and for the winner to take the regular season Big XII title.

Villanova at Connecticut
Sunday 1:00 PM CST

We told you about the Big XII championship game earlier; now here's a look at the Big East title game. The 'Cats currently lead the Huskies by a single game, but a UConn win on Sunday would split the season series between the pair and possibly lead to a regular season title tie if both win out afterwards. Each is very much in contention for a number one seed when the bracket is released in two weeks, and a win like this will look good on the resume when the committee sits down to dish out those top seeds. Both are ranked among the top three in the country, so why wouldn't you expect a great game?

Florida at Alabama
Sunday 3:00 PM CST

The Gators dropped a close one at home to Tennessee on Wednesday and are now out of the SEC East race. Still, UF is in good shape for the Tournament. Bama, meanwhile, is looking to finish second in the SEC West and is working on securing their berth into the Big Dance. A win over the Gators, once ranked number two in the country, would likely do just that. The Tide, though, has dropped two of their last three games. Two of those were on the road, however, and the good news for Mark Gottfried's team is that this one is in Tuscaloosa. The Gators have underachieved at home recently, so it will be interesting to see if they can steal one on the road from a team trying to work their way into the Tourney.

MUST-SEE MID-MAJORS

East Tennessee State at Lipscomb
Friday 6:30 PM CST

The Bisons are currently tied with Belmont atop the A-Sun standings, while ETSU (along with two others) is just a game behind that pair. Lipscomb won the earlier battle by two on the road. The winner of this second matchup stands a good chance of at least sharing the regular season title.

Northern Iowa at Southern Illinois
Saturday 1:00 PM CST

Since losing three of their last four, the Panthers have dropped two games back of MVC-leader Wichita State. SIU, who also claims an 11-6 league record, is very much on the NCAA bubble and desperately needs to halt their three-game losing streak to keep those at-large hopes alive. The loser here must begin (or continue) to worry about their NCAA status.

Miami (Ohio) at Kent State
Saturday 6:00 PM CST

Kent State has a one-game lead on both Akron and Miami (Ohio) in the MAC standings, and each team has just three games remaining on the regular season slate. A Flashes victory would keep KSU on top and lead to a huge showdown next weekend with Akron for the MAC championship.

Winthrop at Birmingham-Southern
Saturday 7:00 PM CST

This is the Big South regular season title game. Both have 12-3 league records and are tied atop the Big South standings heading into the weekend. The Eagles destroyed BSU by 41 points in the pair's meeting earlier this season, but the Panthers have bounced back for an impressive conference run. Winner takes home the crown!

Creighton at Missouri State
Saturday 7:35 PM CST

While other conference members have been struggling, this pair has quietly been going about their business. The Blue Jays have worked their way into second place in the MVC, and if they beat MSU and see Wichita State lost at home to Illinois State, Creighton would tie WSU for the regular season title. Missouri State, meanwhile, has won four straight and worked their way into a NCAA bid over the last two weeks.

Nevada at Utah State
Saturday 8:05 PM CST

The Wolfpack continues to lead the WAC, while Utah State finds themselves in second place. The Aggies won the earlier meeting this season, but USU has also lost two of their last five. Each is on the bubble for NCAA selection at this point, as well.

Iona at Manhattan
Sunday 5:15 PM CST

Call this the Metro Atlantic title game. The Gaels were upset at home Thursday night, meaning these two squads are tied atop the MAAC standings with matching 13-4 league records heading into the weekend. It's the season finale for both, so the winner walks away with the top seed in next week's conference tourney. The Jaspers won the earlier battle by 19 points.

YOU'LL WANT TO CATCH THESE, TOO

Syracuse at Georgeotwn - Saturday 11:00 AM CST
  How will SU follow up big home win over West Virginia?

Arkansas at Tennesssee - Saturday 12:00 PM CST
  Vols are rolling. Upset here would lock Arkansas into the Tourney.

Vanderbilt at South Carolina - Saturday 12:00 PM CST
  Whether either team has a NCAA chance is very questionable at best.

Louisville at West Virginia - Saturday 12:30 PM CST
  Is UL really done? WVU needs to snap out of slump before March.

Virginia at Clemson - Saturday 1:00 PM CST
  After win over BC Tuesday, this victory could give the Cavs 8 ACC wins.

Seton Hall at DePaul - Saturday 2:00 PM CST
  Must-win for SHU, who has played itself back onto the bubble.

Boston College at NC State - Saturday 2:45 PM CST
  Both lost in very disappointing fashion earlier this week.

Kentucky at LSU - Saturday 2:45 PM CST
  Tiger victory would clinch SEC West. UK win could clinch Big Dance berth.

Nebraska at Texas A&M - Saturday 3:00 PM CST
  Both teams looking for 8th Big XII win and a move onto the bubble.

Marquette at Notre Dame - Saturday 5:00 PM CST
  Red-hot Eagles looking for third straight win.

Florida State at Virginia Tech - Saturday 6:00 PM CST
  Noles stayed alive with win over Maryland. This one is a "must" as well.

Houston at UTEP - Saturday 8:00 PM CST
  Both need to finish with a flurry to have a Tournament chance.

Michigan State at Indiana - Sunday 11:00 AM CST
  Spartans have lost three of four. Hoosiers looking for 7th Big Ten win.

Maryland at North Carolina - Sunday 4:30 PM CST
  Heels are playing as well as anyone. Terps now just 6-7 in the ACC.

California at Washington - Sunday 7:00 PM CST
  Does anyone want to win the Pac-10? These two both have a shot.

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