Conference races still up in the air in season’s final week
Many of the smaller conferences start their postseason tournaments this week, their regular-season champions already crowned.
The major conferences still have a week’s worth of games left before tournament time and there’s still plenty to be decided.
The AAC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Mountain West and SEC are all still up for grabs, so it’s going to be a big week in AP Top 25.
Here’s a rundown of where some of the major races stand:
UCF’s win over No. 12 Houston gave the Knights a big boost to their NCAA Tournament resume. They may not win the AAC regular-season title, but they certainly made the race tighter.
Houston and No. 20 Cincinnati enter the final week tied atop the AAC at 14-2 and their game on Sunday could be to decide the championship.
The Cougars still have to get past SMU and the Bearcats are at UCF on Thursday, but expect Fifth Third Arena to be rockin’. Houston won the first meeting 65-58 on Feb. 10 in Houston.
No. 2 Virginia (27-2, 15-2) took a half-game lead over No. 3 North Carolina with its 26-point win over Syracuse on Monday night. That means the Tar Heels will need to beat Boston College on Tuesday to remain tied heading into the weekend.
After that game, North Carolina faces a stiff test on Saturday in a rematch with rival No. 4 Duke. The Tar Heels rolled in the first meeting after Zion Williamson injured his right knee early due to a blown out shoe. The Blue Devils are hoping to have Williamson back by then, possibly by Tuesday’s game against Wake Forest.
Virginia hosts Louisville on Saturday.
If Kansas is going to win a 15th straight Big 12 title, it’s going to need a lot of help.
The 13th-ranked Jayhawks (22-7, 11-5) entered the final week of the regular season a game behind No. 8 Texas Tech and No. 18 Kansas State.
The Red Raiders blew out Texas and the Wildcats rolled over TCU, so Kansas will be 1½ games back heading into Tuesday’s game against Oklahoma.
The Jayhawks play Baylor on Saturday and will need to win both games to have a chance to extend its Big 12 streak.
Texas Tech plays Iowa State, and Kansas State has Oklahoma on Saturday.
Michigan and Michigan State renew their rivalry on Saturday. No matter which team wins, it may not matter in the Big Ten race.
The seventh-ranked Wolverines and ninth-ranked Spartans may be ranked higher than No. 11 Purdue, but it’s the Boilermakers who are in control of the Big Ten race.
Win their two games this week, against Minnesota on Tuesday and Northwestern on Saturday, Purdue (22-7) can win its second Big Ten regular-season title in three seasons.
The Boilermakers, at 15-3, are a half-game ahead of Michigan at 15-4 and a game ahead of Michigan State at 14-4.
The Spartans play Nebraska on Tuesday and the Wolverines will have a six-day break to avenge a 77-70 home loss to Michigan State on Feb. 24.
No. 16 Marquette and No. 23 Villanova have been the class of the Big East this season, so it’s fitting the conference has a two-team race heading into the final week of the season.
The Wildcats have a half-game lead over the Golden Eagles at 13-4 and have one game this week, Saturday against Seton Hall. Marquette plays Seton Hall on Wednesday, Georgetown on Saturday.
Utah State’s testy win over No. 16 Nevada last weekend gave the Aggies a half-game lead over the Wolf Pack at 14-3.
Utah State can win its first Mountain West title with a win over Colorado State on Tuesday and a loss by Nevada. The Wolf Pack play at Air Force on Tuesday and host San Diego State on Saturday.
Utah State and Nevada split two meetings this season.
No. 5 Tennessee’s win over No. 6 Kentucky on Saturday not only put the Vols back in the mix for an NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed, but also tied them with No. 10 LSU atop the SEC at 14-2. The Wildcats are a game back at 13-3, so this week could be real interesting.
Tennessee plays Mississippi State on Tuesday, at Auburn on Saturday. The Tigers play at Florida on Wednesday, host Vanderbilt Saturday.
Kentucky is at Ole Miss on Tuesday, hosts Florida on Saturday.
LSU would hold the tiebreaker over Tennessee if the teams are tied at the top, thanks to an 82-80 win over the Vols on Feb. 23.
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