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Weekend Preview: Duke-North Carolina highlights a loaded weekend of March hoops

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By far the biggest game of the weekend will happen down on Tobacco Road, where No. 5 Duke will host No. 9 North Carolina as the Blue Devils look to get a measure of revenge on the Tar Heels for last month’s loss in Chapel Hill.

The difference now, however, is that Duke has fully gone over to the dark side: They play zone.

All the time.

It’s still something that is difficult for me to wrap my mind around, but it has changed the trajectory of Duke’s season. Suddenly, they are able to defend at an elite level, which means that we are now talking about a team that could very well be college basketball’s best.

UNC will be their biggest test since making the change, however, and it may truly be the first time that Duke actually faces off with a team that is capable of breaking down that zone. Because here’s the thing about this UNC team: They may not be the best that Roy Williams has ever had, but on paper, they sure do look like a group that can compete against a 2-3 zone.

They have more shooting around their perimeter than they have had in just about in season in recent memory. They also have a pair of players that can get into the high-post and make a play in Theo Pinson and Luke Maye. I still have no idea how they are going to be able to hang with Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter in the paint, but they did just fine with that when they played the first time.

To be frank, losses this week by both teams may have hindered the chances that this game would be a playoff for a No. 1 seed, but I do think this is the kind of test that we needed to see both teams have. Are they truly Final Four contenders, or have they just gotten hot feasting on the dregs of the ACC?


  • THE BIG TEN TOURNAMENT: The semifinals will be held on Saturday afternoon and the title game will take place on Sunday. It should be a fun couple of days in the Garden.
  • FOUR AUTOMATIC BIDS WILL BE EARNED: The Ohio Valley will hand out their league’s automatic bid on Saturday night while the Missouri Valley, the Big South and the Atlantic Sun will determine their NCAA Tournament participant on Sunday.
  • No. 23 KENTUCKY at FLORIDA (-4), Sat. 12:00 p.m.: Kentucky has been playing their best basketball of the season of late, and the lineup that they’ve been using to do so should be able to matchup with Florida’s four-guard look. I know it’s on the road, but if you can actually get Kentucky (+4), take it. Pick: Kentucky (+4)
  • No. 10 CINCINNATI (-2) at No. 11 WICHITA STATE, Sun. 12:00 p.m.: This is exactly how the AAC wanted it to play out. The two best teams in the conference playing for the conference title on the final day of the regular season. Cincinnati’s been the best team in the league, but Wichita State’s playing better of late and is finally getting something out of Markis McDuffie. Give me the points and the home team. Pick: Wichita State (+2)

Police: Thief steals electronics from UNC basketball program

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Police say someone stole thousands of dollars in electronics from the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team locker room and office while they were away for the ACC tournament.

UNC-Chapel Hill campus police said on Twitter that the break-in happened at the Dean Smith Center on March 9, and they released images of a man they believe may have been involved.

A police report says the thief managed to get into the team locker room and basketball office without forced entry, according to The Herald-Sun.

The report says the thief stole a PlayStation 4, Xbox One and clothing worth $2,900 that belonged to the athletic department. Police say the thief also stole a laptop worth $1,200 and a financial document worth about $3,000 belonging to one of the players.

No upsets over here: No. 1 seed UConn women set scoring records in first round game

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The No. 1 overall seed on the men’s side of the NCAA tournament made history on Friday night.

They because the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the first round of the tournament, as Virginia lost to UMBC, if you were still unaware.

Over on the women’s side, the bracket is nowhere near as broken, because UConn’s women made history, too. They set NCAA tournament records for … well, almost everything it seems like.

The Huskies were up 55-19 at the end of the first quarter of their first round game against St. Francis (PA). Those 55 points are an NCAA tournament record. They held a 94-31 lead at the half, another NCAA tournament record, and held on to win 140-52.

The 140 points that Geno Auriemma’s team scored was an NCAA tournament record. The 88 points that they won by was one point short of an NCAA tournament record 89 points that was set by Baylor in a win over Texas Southern last season.

Oh, and the Huskies set the record for more assists in an NCAA tournament game — 38 — for good measure.

All in all, I think it’s safe to say that the fans in Storrs had a better weekend than the fans in Charlottesville. Hopefully, that will allow them to forget the fact that the men’s basketball program has become a laughing stock.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Maryland Governor calls UMBC upset, so does NBC Sports’ writer son

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Never before in the history of the NCAA tournament as a No. 16 seed upset a No. 1 seed.

That was until Friday night, when UMBC sent the No. 1 overall seed Virginia packing.

And if you thought no one had picked that upset, you were wrong.

Let’s start with the Maryland Governor, who was clearly a homer in picking UMBC to not only beat Virginia, but to win a national title:

Never say never, but … that’s never going to happen bud.

But how about this: My son, who is two years old and based his picks on his hard and fast rule of “all the doggies”, called this upset!

He also called Penn over Kansas, Fullerton over Purdue and Butler winning a national title, but whatever.

That bracket is actually pretty good!

VIDEO: Virginia’s Ty Jerome does not appreciate dumb question after UMBC loss

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You have to give Virginia some credit.

After losing to No. 16 seed UMBC in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the players on that roster faced the music. They went up to the dais and answered question from reporters on national television.

There is no way they enjoyed that.

And you can tell because Ty Jerome had absolutely no interest in answering dumb questions from reporters:

He was not amused.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Saturday’s betting lines, point spreads, over-unders

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Here is the full TV schedule, with spreads, over-unders and betting lines, for every game for the first four days of the NCAA tournament.

(Lines are updated for Saturday morning.)

Pittsburgh: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner and Dana Jacobson

  • 12:10 p.m.: No. 1 Villanova (-11.5) vs. No. 9 Alabama, CBS (149.5)
  • 2:40 p.m.: No. 2 Duke (-9.5) vs. No. 7 Rhode Island, CBS (149)

Boise: Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and Lisa Byington

  • 5:15 p.m.: No. 5 Kentucky (-5.5) vs. No. 13 Buffalo, CBS (155)
  • 7:45 p.m.: No. 4 Gonzaga (-4) vs. No. 5 Ohio State, CBS (141.5)

Dallas: Spero Dedes, Steve Smith, Len Elmore and Ros Gold-Onwude

  • 6:10 p.m.: No. 3 Tennessee (-5) vs. No. 11 Loyola (Chicago), TNT (131.5)
  • 8:40: No. 3 Texas Tech (-1.5) vs. No. 6 Florida, TNT (133.5)

Wichita: Brad Nessler, Steve Lavin and Evan Washburn

  • 7:10 p.m.: No. 1 Kansas (-4.5) vs. No. 8 Seton Hall, TBS (154.5)
  • 9:40 p.m.: No. 3 Michigan (-3) vs. No. 6 Houston, TBS (135)