Thursday night features a very important matchup in the Pac-12 of teams that are hoping to make a good case that they should be in the NCAA tournament field. Oregon (20-8, 11-5), who is 13-3 at Matthew Knight Court this season, hosts Colorado (19-9, 11-5) in a matchup of two teams who staged a tight (and controversial) contest about a month ago. A foul call on E.J. Singler with less than a second remaining proved to be the difference in Colorado's 72-71 win in Boulder, and a sweep of the season series would definitely help the Buffaloes when it comes to a possible bubble pecking order.
The officiating was a point of contention throughout the game for Duck fans as Colorado attempted thirteen more free throws (30-17), but the bigger issue was a combined 29 turnovers. One of the biggest culprits for either team was Colorado senior guard Carlon Brown, and frankly he had a February to forget. Brown reached double figures three times but hasn't shot better than 41.6% from the field since a late January win over USC, and if he can't make better decisions the Buffaloes can end up in trouble. The good news for Tad Boyle: he's got other guys who can step up, most notably a freshman named Spencer Dinwiddie.
Dinwiddie's fourth on the team in scoring with an average of 10.6 points per game, and after a pair of rough games against Utah and Stanford the California native rebounded with 15 points in the win over Cal on Sunday. Nate Tomlinson has steadily improved running the show and freshman Askia Booker (17 points in the first meeting) has been a capable reserve for much of the season. CU's got some talent on the perimeter but they'll have their hands full with the Oregon backcourt, which is led by Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph. Joseph, who some believe to be a Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate, leads the team in scoring and ranks second in assists.
The addition of Joseph as a mid-year transfer has done a great deal for Dana Altman's team, as his ability to create has boosted the likes of Singler and Garrett Sim. Singler has been one of the Pac-12's most versatile players and he put up 13 and 13 in the first meeting, and while Sim struggled (six points) he is a 1,000-plus point scorer over his career. The play in the front court will also be worth watching, because while the Ducks have an edge in height Colorado's the better rebounding team thanks in large part to Andre Roberson. Roberson leads the Pac-12 in rebounding with an average of 11.4 rebounds per game, a number that places him in the Top 10 nationally.
Senior Austin Dufault has been the anchor in the middle but he's grabbing just 4.6 rebounds per game, as Colorado tends to rebound by committee outside of Roberson. Oregon has seven players averaging between 3.0 and 5.4 rebounds per game, with Singler leading the way and bigs Olu Ashaolu and Tony Woods being the starters inside. The high-flying Carlos Emory is a key reserve, as are Tyrone Nared and Jeremy Jacob. The problem for Oregon: they allow opponents to grab 31.6% of their misses, but they did a good job of keeping the Buffs off the glass in the first meeting (four offensive rebounds).
There wasn't much separating these two teams on February 4th and there likely won't be on Thursday night either. If Oregon can keep Roberson off the glass and knock down a few three-pointers they'll be in good position to pick up the win. Colorado on the other hand needs Brown to snap out of his funk, or at the very least be sure not to become a hindrance due to questionable shot selection. A win won't do a great amount for either team's resume in regards to the computer numbers, but it could serve the victor well if the two should be compared in the selection room.
Virginia is likely in good shape for an at-large bid but it never hurts to pick up another win against a ranked team, and the Cavaliers will have the opportunity to do so with #22 Florida State visiting Charlottesville. Mike Scott has been one of the best players in the ACC but he's going to need some help from the likes of Sammy Zeglinski and Jontel Evans against one of the nation's best defensive teams. FSU won a tight affair between the two in Tallahassee, and the return meeting should be along those lines as well.
Illinois still has plenty of work to do in regards to simply making the tournament, and a win over #16 Michigan would do wonders for a resume that was nearly ripped to shreds during their recent skid. If Brandon Paul can score and be efficient while doing so the Illini are more than capable of knocking off the Wolverines, and it's important that they remember Meyers Leonard inside as well. And in the WAC the matchup of New Mexico State and Nevada could be a preview of next weekend's WAC tournament final. Deonte Burton and the Wolf Pack have been the best team in the WAC all season long, and a win over the Aggies would mean an outright regular season title.
Top 25 Games
9:00 PM Georgia at (1) Kentucky (ESPN)
7:00 PM (16) Michigan at Illinois (ESPN)
7:00 PM (22) Florida State at Virginia (ESPN2)
NCAA Division I Games
2:30 PM North Florida vs East Tennessee State* (ESPN3)
6:00 PM VMI vs Winthrop* (ESPNU)
7:00 PM North Carolina Central at Hampton
7:00 PM Sacred Heart at LIU Brooklyn
7:00 PM Monmouth at Robert Morris
7:00 PM Quinnipiac at St. Francis (NY)
7:00 PM Southeast Missouri State vs Tennessee Tech*
7:00 PM Central Connecticut State at Wagner
7:05 PM Southern Illinois vs Indiana State*
7:30 PM Morgan State at Florida A&M
7:30 PM Coppin State at Bethune-Cookman
7:30 PM South Carolina State at Delaware State
7:30 PM Savannah State at Maryland-Eastern Shore
8:00 PM Texas Southern at Alcorn State
8:00 PM Charleston Southern at UNC-Asheville (ESPNU)
8:00 PM Norfolk State at North Carolina A&T
8:15 PM Binghamton vs UMBC*
8:30 PM Jackson State at Alabama A&M
8:30 PM Grambling State at Alabama State
8:30 PM Mississippi Valley State at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
8:30 PM Prairie View A&M at Southern
8:30 PM Florida Gulf Coast vs USC Upstate* (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Villanova at Rutgers (ESPN2)
9:00 PM Virginia Tech at Clemson (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Jacksonville State vs Morehead State*
9:00 PM Portland vs San Francisco* (ESPN3)
9:35 PM Bradley vs Drake*
10:00 PM UC Davis at Cal Poly
10:00 PM Utah at Oregon State
10:00 PM Pacific at UC Santa Barbara
10:05 PM Utah State at San Jose State
10:30 PM Washington State at UCLA
10:30 PM Washington at USC
10:30 PM Colorado at Oregon (FSN)
11:00 PM Louisiana Tech at Fresno State
11:00 PM Pepperdine vs San Diego* (ESPN3)
11:00 PM New Mexico State at Nevada (ESPN2)
12:00 AM Idaho at Hawaii