For some teams, the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins on March 18, but for others, they might as well treat these final regular season matchups as elimination games.
Thursday night features some key matchups that won’t necessarily end a team’s tournament hopes, but could be a deciding factor whether or not they play in March.
Here are some teams to keep an eye on tonight.
The Razorbacks walk into hostile territory tonight as they take on No. 17 Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Arkansas, led by head coach Mike Anderson, has lost nine straight at the venue but they did notch a win against their SEC rival earlier in the season. They are currently on the fringe of making the NCAA tournament and a win later tonight could make that a reality.
They have a solid roster that includes three scorers who are averaging double digits and the team currently leads their conference in scoring with 80.5 points per game. This makes them a lethal threat to make a deep run this March. A solid showing tonight against the Wildcats can finally cement their place in the tournament.
The Ducks found themselves within the Top 10 earlier in this season but have since fallen out due to a lack of defense. The team is currently coming off a three game winning streak but they face a tough UCLA team later tonight who is currently second in the Pac-12 standings behind No. 3 ranked Arizona.
After finding their way back into the swing of things, head coach Dana Altman told GoDucks.com that his team is back in contention.
"We played our way out of it. Now we’ve played our way close to being back in it. We’ve got a great opportunity.”
If the Ducks want to impress the committee then a deciding victory over the Bruins will be just the way to do it. However, UCLA has lost only once at home this season and Oregon has not played well on the road. Both teams are averaging about 83 ppg so expect the high scoring to make it an entertaining matchup.
The Hoyas defeated a solid Xavier team on Saturday, which kept their hopes of returning to the big dance alive. Their opponent tonight, the Marquette Golden Eagles, already delivered a loss to the Hoyas earlier in the year. Both teams are in a do-or-die situation at this point in the season, so a win this evening could earn either squad a position in the tournament.
Which bubble team playing tonight will make the deepest tournament run?
Expect Marquette’s backcourt to do most of the workload and carry this team to the victory. Georgetown has a strong offensive presence, but the Golden Eagles’ Derrick Wilson has been known to make even the top point guards look foolish.