Mar 3, 2015 2:26 AM

Final week of regular season filled with intriguing matchups

The Associated Press

Conference tournaments begin this week and there will be some important games for ranked teams in a few of the smaller leagues.

The Missouri Valley Conference tournament kicks off Thursday in St. Louis with No. 8 Wichita State and No. 11 Northern Iowa facing a potential second matchup this season if they can get the championship game.

The Shockers and Panthers still have to win two games to get to there, but after their epically-hyped game last Saturday, there's little reason to expect anything less.

"I've coached 17 years and this is the biggest regular-season home game I've ever had," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said after the Shockers' 74-60 victory.

Murray State is back in the rankings for the first time since its breakthrough 2012 season, debuting at No. 25 after stretching its winning streak to 24 games. The Racers open the Ohio Valley Conference tournament with the semifinals on Friday and will have a shot at returning to the NCAA tournament if they win Saturday's championship game.

The bigger schools have some important games during the final week of the regular season, with Duke-North Carolina topping the list.

The Blue Devils moved up a spot to No. 3 this week and the Tar Heels dropped four places to No. 19 after losing to North Carolina State. The first meeting, as is usually the case in this rivalry, was a thriller, won by Duke 92-90 in overtime. The rematch is in Chapel Hill on Saturday, giving the Tar Heels a solid shot at revenge.

It isn't the only game on the marquee in the ACC. Notre Dame, which dropped three spots to No. 12 this week, plays at No. 16 Louisville on Wednesday in a game between teams trying to gain some steam headed into the conference tournament.

No. 9 Kansas has a couple of tough games this week in its bid to win an 11th straight Big 12 championship.

The Jayhawks, who dropped a spot after losing to rival Kansas State, host West Virginia on Tuesday with a chance to at share the conference title. The Jayhawks also have a game at No. 15 Oklahoma on Saturday, where the outright title could be on the line.

Top-ranked Kentucky's bid to finish off an undefeated regular season starts at Georgia on Tuesday and ends with a home game against Florida on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, No. 21 Butler and Providence face off in a battle for second behind No. 4 Villanova in the Big East.

No. 6 Wisconsin can clinch the Big Ten title outright with a win at Minnesota on Thursday and faces a tough game at No. 23 Ohio State on Sunday.


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