Duke v Syracuse

Pregame Shootaround: Syracuse – Duke 2 highlights big day of top-25 battles

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 1 Syracuse at No. 5 Duke, (7:00 p.m., ESPN):

CBT’s own Rob Dauster broke down this weekend’s top matchups in our weekend preview:

This game has lot a bit of luster, hasn’t it? Three weeks ago, the Orange and the Blue Devils played the best game of the season. The rematch was supposed to be between a streaking Duke team and an undefeated Syracuse team. Instead, the Orange lost at home to Boston College while the Blue Devils dropped a game at North Carolina.

The key here? What is Duke going to be able to do against the Syracuse zone. They struggled when Maryland went zone last Saturday. They lost on Thursday because North Carolina switched to a zone, and while the 2-3 that Syracuse runs is very different from the junk defenses that the Terps and the Heels threw at them, it still doesn’t change the fact that Duke’s offense has struggled getting the ball into the middle of the defense.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 11 Louisville at No. 7 Cincinnati, (12:00 p.m., CBS) :

This is the start of Louisville’s brutal last-season slate. In their last five games, they play at Cincinnati, at SMU, at Memphis and at home against UConn. The Cardinals have been much improved from the team that we saw earlier this season, but they’ve done it beating up on lesser competition that, quite frankly, they should be beating up on. Cincinnati, for lack of a better word, big-boyed the Cardinals the first time these two got together. Russ Smith vs. Sean Kilpatrick will be fun.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 2 Florida at Ole Miss (12:00 p.m., CBS) :

I really like Florida and still believe them to be a Final Four team, but with the way the Gators played at home this week are they going to be prepared to travel into Oxford for a tough road game at Ole Miss? The Rebels have lost three straight games but at 16-10 and 7-6, they really need a high-profile win to feel safer going into March.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: South Dakota State at North Dakota State (3 p.m.)

Big game in the Summit League on Saturday afternoon as Dakota rivals South Dakota State and North Dakota State goes head-to-head. South Dakota State has won six straight games but its last loss came at home to the Bison. Now North Dakota has a chance to sweep the season series with a home win and they already own a one-game lead over South Dakota State in the league.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) The Big Ten has a big top-25 battle on Saturday as No. 16 Wisconsin travels to No. 15 Iowa. The Badgers seem to have righted their ship in recent weeks, which makes this win all the more important for an Iowa team that has yet to really prove themselves.

2) The Big 12 also has a pair of top-25 teams doing battle Saturday as No. 19 Texas goes to No. 8 Kansas. Texas might be the team best-equipped to beat Kansas given the size that they have along their front line. They can match up with the Kansas big men, and as long as Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix are making good decisions, they’ll have a shot to win at Phog Allen.

3) Can No. 18 Kentucky play better after its mediocre showing against LSU on the road? The Wildcats are playing better now and they should be aided by their home crowd, but this one is one to track.

4) St. John’s needs a win to bolster its NCAA Tournament profile and they’ll have a great chance when they go against No. 9 Villanova on the road in a Big East clash at 1:30 p.m.

5) New Mexico also gets a nice chance for a signature win with a home game against No. 6 San Diego State. The Lobos have the pieces to match-up with the Aztecs and are always very tough at home.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • Drake at No. 3 Wichita State, 8:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 4 Arizona at Colorado, 9:00 p.m., ESPN
  • George Washington at No. 10 Saint Louis, 8:00 p.m.
  • Notre Dame at No. 14 Virginia, 2:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • No. 17 Iowa State at TCU, 4:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • Temple at No. 22 Memphis, 9:30 p.m., ESPNU
  • No. 23 UCLA at Stanford, 6:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • Minnesota at No. 24 Ohio State, Sat. 6:00 p.m., BTN

NOTABLES:

  • Xavier at Georgetown, Sat. 11:30 a.m.
  • Baylor at West Virginia, Sat. 1:47 p.m.
  • Marquette at DePaul, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
  • N.C. State at Virginia Tech, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
  • Tennessee at Texas A&M, Sat. 3:00 p.m.
  • Fordham at Saint Joseph’s, Sat. 3:00 p.m.
  • La Salle at Richmond, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
  • Saint Mary’s at Santa Clara, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
  • Missouri at Alabama, Sat. 8:00 p.m.

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)
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.