Revenge is such a strange animal. Take last night at Missouri, for example. The No. 3 Tigers certainly had a case of revenge going for them after Kansas State gave them a thorough spanking in Manhattan some six weeks ago. Surely the vast majority of the 15,000-plus inside Mizzou Arena were eager to taste revenge's sweet nectar.
Frank Haith and the Tigers couldn't buy a bucket, however, while Frank Martin's Wildcats seemingly couldn't miss in their 78-68 upset victory, leaving Missouri with possible double-revenge should K-State appear on the Big 12 Tournament schedule.
Three more teams will be in a vengeful mood Thursday night when Duke, Murray State and Gonzaga look to get even with squads that recently handed them defeats. The Blue Devils and Racers take to the road seeking their good fortunes while the Bulldogs will have the luxury of playing in front of their home fans, and all three games will be aired by the ESPN family of networks.
No. 5 Duke at No. 15 Florida State
Tallahassee, FL – 7:00 p.m. (ET) ESPN
Far more than revenge is at stake for the Blue Devils and Seminoles. North Carolina's victory at NC State on Tuesday gave the Tar Heels temporary sole possession of first place in the ACC, the winner of this game destined to reclaim a share. Missouri's second loss of the campaign to Kansas State also may have opened the door for Duke to be a frontrunner for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, putting more pressure on Mike Krzyzewski's crew to hold that advantage.
The Tucker Center crowd should be ready to do its part to help quickly remove that advantage. Florida State has dropped just one game at home, and stands a perfect 6-0 hosting conference foes (3-3 against the spread). The 'Noles have won 10 of their last 11, the most recent a 76-62 decision at North Carolina State as 1½-point underdogs to snap a 4-game ATS skid.
Half of Duke's victories in the present 4-game win streak have been the result of frenzied rallies, first at UNC on Feb. 8 and then about a week later in Durham vs. NC State. The Blue Devils are 6-0 in ACC road affairs (5-1 ATS), meaning something has to give with FSU unbeaten at home in conference tilts.
Duke was 10-point chalk at home on Jan. 21 against the Seminoles who got the 76-73 buzzer-beating win. The victory was the second straight over the Blue Devils for Florida State who handed Duke a 66-61 loss on this floor in Jan. 2011, last season's only meeting. The last five played in Tallahassee have finished 'under' the total.
No. 14 Murray State at Tennessee State
Nashville, TN – 8:00 p.m. (ET) ESPN3
Revenge is all Murray State has to play for in this one. The Racers have already clinched their third straight regular-season honors in the Ohio Valley Conference, and are coming off a very big victory over Saint Mary's in the BracketBusters series. Steve Prohm and his club would no doubt like to even the score with Tennessee State for dishing out Murray State's only loss of the campaign, but just how far will Prohm go to get it?
The Racers have rebounded very well from the Feb. 9 home setback to these Tigers. Saturday's decisive win over a wounded Gaels team was the third straight for Murray State, all three also pointspread triumphs. One would think the Racers are a lock for the NCAA Tournament, but stranger things have happened.
Tennessee State is playing exceptionally well right now, entering this contest with a 9-game win streak (7-2 ATS) after Sunday's 68-61 victory at Miami (OH) as a 4-point road 'dog. The Tigers' path to March Madness requires winning the OVC tourney, so this contest isn't all-important to them either, other than a chance to hang a second loss on their conference rivals.
Murray State was big 10½-point chalk for the matchup with TSU two weeks ago. The Tigers' 72-68 victory broke an 8-game losing streak against the Racers who had gone 5-1-1 ATS in the previous seven meetings.
Brigham Young at Gonzaga
Spokane, WA – 11:00 p.m. (ET) ESPN2
What a way to cap the evening off. It would appear that BYU, Gonzaga and Saint Mary's will all get into the NCAA Tournament from the West Coast Conference, but each knows that Loyola Marymount is lurking in the wings and ready to spoil their plans. Brigham Young and Gonzaga are presently just a game behind the Gaels in the league standings, putting the Cougars in position to claim the conference crown in their first WCC season while the Bulldogs are seeking at least a share of their 12th consecutive regular season title.
Gonzaga missed a golden opportunity to knot Saint Mary's at the top this past weekend. Five point favorites at San Francisco, the Bulldogs fell 66-65 to the Dons whose pressing defense helped create 22 turnovers by the Zags. The defeat stopped a 4-game Gonzaga win streak that began just after they lost 83-73 at BYU on Feb. 2.
Brigham Young enters with a string of five consecutive victories that started with that same Groundhog Day game. The Cougars were at Santa Clara this past Saturday as 13½-point favorites and had just enough to cover that spread with an 82-67 triumph.
The two teams played evenly for the first 11 minutes of the Feb. 2 meeting in Provo before BYU closed the half on a 19-7 run. Gonzaga's poor shooting from 3-point range (3-for-19) kept them from ever getting back into the game while Brigham Young (-2½) came up with 14 steals as part of a 19-turnover evening for the Bulldogs. That game was the first time the two teams met as conference foes, and Thursday's will be BYU's first trip ever to Gonzaga.