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Pregame Shootaround 3.7.13: Five tourneys, a B1G battle, and bubble galore

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Game of the Night: No. 22 Wisconsin at No. 10 Michigan State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

The first time these two teams got together back in January, the Badgers lost to Michigan State at home by a deuce.

This time, however, the game carries with it a great deal of importance. The Badgers and the Spartans are both sitting tied with Ohio State and Michigan for second place in the Big Ten standings with five losses, just a game behind league leader Indiana. Indiana plays at Michigan in the finale for both teams on Sunday meaning that, if Michigan wins, every team with five losses will own a share of the regular season title.

In other words, win tonight and avoid an upset this weekend, and there’s still a chance you can own a share of the Big Ten title.

But there’s more.

If Wisconsin wins and Indiana loses, the Badgers — barring any other upsets in the league — will own the tie-breaker and get the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament. The Spartans, if they lose, will be forced into the fifth seed and head into the weekend on a four-game losing streak.

Gotta love those March implications!

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Butler at UMass (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Butler, at this point in the season, is just a tad overrated. If the 30 point whooping they took at VCU didn’t convince you, does the fact that their three biggest wins of the season all came on buzzer-beaters? If Rotnei Clarke, Alex Barlow and Roosevelt Jones all miss, Butler is on the bubble. Which, coincidentally, is where UMass currently sits. And since the Bulldogs won all those close games, getting this win will be huge for the Minutemen.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 19 Oregon at Colorado (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

I don’t know if this even counts as an upset, as Colorado is favored to win. But the Ducks are ranked and sit three games in front of the Buffaloes in the Pac-12 standings, so we’ll go with it. Both teams should feel pretty good about their NCAA tournament standing right now, but this would be a key victory when it comes to seeding, and not just in the Big Dance. Oregon has a chance to win the Pac-12 regular season title outright if they can sweep this weekend.

Five Things

1) Five conference tournaments are in action tonight. The Missouri Valley’s first round will be played, as will the second round of the WCC tournament. The Big South, the Ohio Valley and the Atlantic Sun are all hosting their quarterfinal round today as well. You can read through all of our tournament previews here.

2) Montana has a chance to clinch a share of the Big Sky regular season title tonight if they can beat Sacramento State. If the Grizzlies lose, Weber State only has to beat Portland State to tie Montana for first place.

3) Long Beach State can lock up the Big South regular season title by winning at UC Davis tonight.

4) After losing at Boston College on Sunday, Virginia cannot afford any more slipups. They need to win at Florida State tonight.

5) Kentucky will be the team that everyone is keeping an eye on. If the Wildcats can win at Georgia, they put themselves into a position where beating Florida on Saturday can put them into position to earn a tournament bid.

Top 25

  • No. 22 Wisconsin at No. 10 Michigan State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 19 Oregon at Colorado (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Notable Games

  • Virginia at Florida State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • Kentucky at Georgia (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Butler at UMass (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)
  • Louisiana Tech at New Mexico State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Sacramento State at Montana (9:00 p.m. ET)
  • Long Beach State at UC Davis (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Akron reveals special bobble heads for LeBron, high school teammates

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When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.

LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.

Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).

All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.