While conference tournaments are underway in a number of leagues, many teams will be playing their final regular season game of the 2006 season this weekend, and there is much to be decided in terms of both conference titles and NCAA bids. SCS.com breaks down all the games, separating the matchups that will determine league championships from those that have bubble implications. We also preview the top game of the weekend, North Carolina's road trip to Duke on Saturday evening.
GAME OF THE WEEKEND
North Carolina at Duke
The Blue Devils are clearly the ACC's best team this season, and UNC is playing some of the best basketball in the nation. The top three scorers in the conference will all be on the floor at tip-off Saturday night. While Duke will be attempting to rebound from an upset loss at Florida State on Wednesday, the Heels will bring in a six-game win streak that has seen them rack up a 20 point average margin of victory since mid-February. Both are expected to earn very high seeds when the field of 65 is announced, and this could actually be a preview of the ACC Tournament title game next weekend as well.
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Illinois at Michigan State
The conference title hopes of the Illini rest not only on their success at Michigan State but also on Ohio State's fate at home against Purdue. If the Buckeyes lose, an Illinois victory in East Lansing would create at least a two-way tie atop the final Big Ten standings. That won't be easy, however, as the Spartans are looking to build some momentum after Thursday's victory over Wisconsin.
Louisville at Connecticut
The Huskies come into the final game of the regular season tied with Villanova atop the Big East standings. The squads split their two meetings this year, so UConn needs a win and a 'Cats loss to claim the outright title.
Kansas at Kansas State
With the Jayhawks' win over Colorado and Texas's loss at Texas A&M on Wednesday, KU is suddenly tied atop the Big XII standings once again. Though Kansas would lose a tiebreaker with the Longhorns after their defeat in Austin last weekend, a Hawk win at K-State and a UT loss at home to Oklahoma on Sunday would give Kansas the outright Big XII title.
UCLA at Stanford
Thanks to their come-from-behind overtime victory on the road at California Thursday night, the Bruins can capture the outright Pac-10 championship with a victory over the Cardinal on Saturday. If UCLA, who has won three straight, was to lose in Palo Alto, a Washington win on the road at Arizona would create a tie atop the final league standings. The Huskies won both meetings with the Bruins this season.
Wisconsin at Iowa
Thursday's loss at Michigan State knocked the Badgers out of the Big Ten race, but Iowa is still in contention. The Hawkeyes must knock off UW and hope for an Ohio State loss at home to Purdue to claim a share of the 2006 Big Ten title. Steve Alford's team is trying to finish off the campaign without a home loss.
Washington at Arizona
The Huskies head into the weekend a game back of UCLA in the Pac-10 standings but could create a tie for the league title if they can knock off the Wildcats and have the Bruins fall on the road at Stanford. In fact, thanks to their two wins over UCLA earlier in the season, Washington would win the tiebreaker in the event of a tie to capture the top overall seed in next week's conference tournament.
Kent State at Akron
The Flashes have lost just two MAC games all season, and regardless of the outcome in this one Saturday evening, Kent State will have won the outright league championship. Akron, meanwhile, is looking to hold onto the second place position in the Eastern Division.
Houston at Memphis
Thursday night's road loss at UAB means the Tigers still much win on Saturday against the Cougars to capture the outright CUSA title. Memphis, who is 12-1 in league play, is trailed by the Blazers and UTEP, who are both 11-2. If the Tigers were to fall to UH and either UAB (vs Marshall) or UTEP (at UCF) was to win, it would create a tie atop the final Conference USA standings.
Villanova at Syracuse
As mentioned previously, the Wildcats come into the weekend tied with Connecticut atop the Big East standings. If both squads face the same fate, they would share the 2006 title. A 'Nova win and a Huskies loss to Louisville, though, would give the Wildcats the outright Big East championship.
Purdue at Ohio State
It's pretty simple for the Buckeyes. After surviving a close scare against Northwestern on Wednesday, Ohio State needs only to win this home finale against Purdue to claim the outright Big Ten championship. A loss would likely result in OSU splitting the league title with at least one other conference member.
Oklahoma at Texas
After the Longhorns' upset loss at Texas A&M on Wednesday, UT now must win this showdown with OU to earn at least a share of the conference title. Texas owns the tiebreaker with KU if both teams win (or lose). A Longhorn win and a Jayhawk loss at Kansas State would give the 'Horns the title outright.
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Providence at Marquette
The Eagles could have slammed the door on their bid with a Wednesday night win at Louisville but dropped that contest in overtime. Still, Marquette can grab their tenth Big East win of the season to go with a very strong RPI and be sitting pretty heading to NYC for the conference tournament next week.
Alabama at Mississippi State
After losing two of three, the Tide has bounced back to win two straight and move to 10-5 in SEC play. Alabama carries a solid RPI as well and can lock up a first round bye in next week's SEC Tournament with a victory on the road over the young and struggling Bulldogs.
Florida at Kentucky
The Wildcats ended any bubble discussion with a huge come-from-behind victory at Tennessee Wednesday night. UK, winners of four of its last five, is now 9-6 in league play and could pick up its 20th win of the campaign with a home triumph over the Gators on Sunday.
Arkansas at Georgia
At one point, the Hogs were 5-6 in SEC play, but since then, UA has won four in a row - including victories over Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee - and moved to 9-6 in league action. The Razorbacks also picked up their 20th win of the season on Wednesday and could actually work themselves into a first round bye in the SEC Tourney with a win and an Alabama loss.
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Seton Hall at Pittsburgh
After losing three straight and nearly playing themselves right out of the discussion, the Pirates bounced back this week for a home win over fellow Big East bubbler Cincinnati. A big-time victory like this would tremendously help SHU's plummeting RPI rating. A loss leaves the Hall with work to do in NYC next week.
West Virginia at Cincinnati
The Bearcats' situation has been shaky all season, and a Tuesday night loss at Seton Hall certainly did not ease the nerves. Still, a victory over the Mountaineers on Saturday would put the 'Cats at 8-8 in league play to go along with a very strong RPI. A loss means a large load of work in next week's Big East Tourney.
Texas A&M at Texas Tech
An enormously huge Wednesday night victory over in-state rival Texas has gotten the Aggies back in the Tournament talk. TAMU brings a 9-6 league record into the weekend and will face a Tech squad that has lost three games in a row. A win here and an ever-improving RPI may put them in the Dance.
Indiana at Michigan
The Hoosiers have won four straight and worked themselves back to a game above .500 in Big Ten play in the process. A big road win would give both IU and UM matching 8-8 conference records this season and get the Hoosiers back in the NCAA talk. A loss means a much larger work load for Mike Davis's team at the league tournament next week.
Air Force at Colorado State
The Falcons are going to finish behind San Diego State in the regular season Mountain West standings. AFA is also in the running for a NCAA bid, and as a bubble team, they can't afford to drop a game to a team sitting in next-to-last place in the MWC standings. A loss makes room for others; a win keeps them in the running.
Tennessee at Vanderbilt
The Commodores have won three of four, while Tennessee has lost two straight and played themselves right out of a chance at the SEC title. If Vandy can continue the Vols' woes, it would move the 'Dores to 8-8 in SEC play and give them a shot to earn their way into the Big Dance during the SEC Tournament next week.
Iowa State at Colorado
The Buffaloes are just 8-7 in Big XII play after a blowout loss at Kansas on Wednesday. CU has dropped five of its last eight, and a loss to the Cyclones on Saturday might knock Colorado out of the Tournament, especially with the recent success of fellow Big XII member Texas A&M.
Florida State at Miami
The Seminoles' NCAA hopes were revived with a win over top-ranked Duke, while Miami saw their dreams dashed with a close road loss at Maryland on Wednesday. With a bad RPI, however, Florida State desperately needs to find a way to win this one on the road. A victory would be their ninth in ACC play and possibly get FSU in the Dance.
Maryland at Virginia
The Terps kept their slim NCAA hopes alive with the victory over Miami on Wednesday. If Maryland can knock off Virginia on the road, UM would move to 8-8 on the season, but combined with their poor RPI, the Terps would still need to do some damage in the league tourney next week. A loss ends their dancing dreams.