Game of the Week: No. 14 Miami at No. 19 NC State (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)
Clearly, the best game this weekend is between Michigan and Indiana, but seeing as we already devoted 800 words to that matchup, we’re going to go ahead and highlight some other folks here.
Miami wants to stake their claim as the best team in the ACC, and they did a pretty good job of that when they beat Duke by 27 points to take a commanding two-game lead in the league standings. The Hurricanes have, seemingly out of nowhere, developed one of the stingiest defensives in the country, one that’s strong enough to overcome the fact that they’ve only played about a third of the season at full-strength. Shane Larkin has been a revelation this season, slowly becoming the best point guard in the ACC and a guy that’s going to merit some all-america consideration come March.
And that’s where the problem for the Wolfpack lies. Miami is a tough defensive team with a talented point guard, which is not a good thing for a team that will, in a best case scenario, have a banged up Lorenzo Brown running the show. He sprained his ankle against Virginia and never returned to the game. Can freshmen Tyler Lewis and Rodney Purvis handle the pressure in his absence?
Five more games you have to watch:
- No. 25 Marquette at No. 12 Louisville (Sunday, 2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN): Louisville ended their three-game losing streak on Monday with a win over Pitt at home. But the win was anything but convincing, as the Cardinals needed a 3-12 performance from the line from the Panthers to avoid another late-game meltdown. There is no program in the country that has a better reputation for winning close games in conference play than Marquette. Keep an eye out for Wayne Blackshear. He missed Louisville’s last game with a shoulder issue.
- No. 16 Ole Miss at No. 4 Florida (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU): Here’s our chance to get a gauge on both Ole Miss and Florida. The Rebels have a gaudy record, but they are coming off of a home-loss to Kentucky where their star — Marshall Henderson — had one of his worst shooting nights of the season. Throw in the fact that he’s had some of his past issues dug up in recent weeks, and we’ll see just how focused he is. Florida, on the other hand, has absolutely obliterated the SEC this season. A lot of that has come against the dreck at the bottom of the conference, however. Can they do the same to Ole Miss?
- Ohio at Akron (5:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU): The two undefeated teams in the MAC squaring off. Ohio, under a new coaching regime, has one of the nation’s most under-appreciated point guards in DJ Cooper running the show, while Akron has built their team around the presence of the massive Zeke Marshall in the paint. Worth noting: Ohio had their game on Wednesday cancelled when a gunman made his way onto campus.
- No. 6 Syracuse at Pittsburgh (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN): ACC basketball doesn’t get better than this.* Syracuse will be a bit shorthanded heading into this game, as DaJuan Coleman and James Southerland will both be in street clothes. That will open room for Jerami Grant to slide into the starting lineup, but it could create a problem for the Cuse: the Panthers look like a Pitt team of old, as they have a massive, veteran front line that attacks the offensive glass. Missing their best shooter and biggest body could end up being an issue.
- Baylor at Iowa State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2): I don’t know how good either of these two teams are. I’ll be honest. But the way they matchup — Baylor’s size and athleticism against ISU’s versatility and three-point shooting — should make this game quite the entertaining watch.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.