Just five of the AP's Top 25 are in action Thursday night on the college basketball betting slate, but several of the showcase games include teams that need some big wins to enhance their tournament resumes.
We'll start at Jack Breslin Center where the Michigan State Spartans hope to continue their roll through the Big Ten against the Wisconsin Badgers.
Michigan State's win over the Ohio State Buckeyes this past weekend in Columbus sent shockwaves throughout the conference. The Spartans are now just a half-game back of the Buckeyes for first place in the league, and if they win out, they will be the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Spartans have truly excelled on the defensive end of the court this year. Sure, there have been a couple dud games in the bunch, but Tom Izzo's crew has held seven straight foes to 60 points or fewer. Michigan State ranks No. 13 in the country in scoring defense at just 58.6 PPG, and it was this defense that held a normally solid Ohio State offense down to just 48 points this past weekend.
Wisconsin won't go down without a fight, though. The Badgers are 5-3 ATS on the road this year, and they have four straight victories in which they are 3-1 ATS in conference play. The only loss that Wisconsin has suffered since January 8 was a defeat at home to Ohio State.
Jordan Taylor is coming off of a 27-point effort in a win on the road at the Minnesota Golden Gophers last Thursday. Stamina might be a bit of an issue for the starters, as all five played at least 35 minutes, while three of the five played at least 41 minutes in the overtime victory. It was a great time to get the weekend off though, as the Badgers have had a full seven days to prepare for this game.
Michigan State's defense might be great, but Wisconsin's is just out of this world. The Badgers are holding teams to just 50.3 PPG, the best mark in the land.
Michigan State won 63-60 at Kohl Center earlier this year in a fantastic overtime showdown. The victory stopped a streak of three straight covers by the Badgers in this series.
Tip time from East Lansing on Thursday night is set for 7:00 (ET) and can be seen on ESPN and ESPN3.
In the ACC, there are two key battles involving teams that could be on the bubble. The North Carolina State Wolfpack travel to the Duke Blue Devils for a 9:00 p.m. (ET) tip, while the Virginia Tech Hokies are hoping to start a rally when they take on the Florida State Seminoles in Tallahassee at 7:00 (ET) on ESPN2 and ESPN3.
The Seminoles probably punched their ticket to March Madness by winning at Cameron Indoor Stadium a few weeks ago, and now is NC State is trying to do the same. Scott Wood, CJ Leslie and the rest of the Wolfpack know how important this game is for their tournament hopes, as they are clearly one of the last four teams that are either in or out of the tourney right now.
Duke's 73-55 win over the Maryland Terrapins over the weekend was its first cover in an ACC home game this year. The team is just 4-2 SU and 1-5 ATS here at Cameron Indoor Stadium since the middle of January.
College basketball bettors have had a tough time backing either the Seminoles or the Hokies of late. FSU comes into this game having failed to cover three in a row, while Va Tech has dropped six straight and nine out of 10 from an ATS standpoint.
The Seminoles have the goods to be in the NCAA Tournament, but losses like the one they suffered at the Boston College Eagles last Wednesday just won't be tolerated.
Virginia Tech doesn't have a March Madness resume quite yet, but could put itself on the map with a few wins in the next two weeks when the Hokies take on the likes of FSU, Virginia and Duke. The Hokies lost a crucial tilt to Florida State earlier this season in Blacksburg, but last year, they did get the better of the 'Noles in both encounters.
In the last tip of the night, the Santa Clara Broncos will look for their first win in WCC play this year against the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Not only are the Broncos the owners of a 13-game losing streak, but they are just 3-10 ATS in that run. Their defense has allowed at least 82 points in eight of the 13, including an 82-60 loss at Gonzaga when the teams met in early January.
The Zags did lose last year here at the Leavey Center though, so don't think that Mark Few isn't warning his team just how dangerous this fixture really could be. The home team in this series is also 7-1 ATS in the last eight clashes.
This game can be seen at 11:00 (ET) on Thursday night on ESPN2 and ESPN3.