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Saturday’s Pregame Shootaround: Duke and North Carolina highlights final Saturday of regular season

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 14 North Carolina at No. 4 Duke, 9:00 p.m., ESPN

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

It really doesn’t get better than the Duke-Carolina on the final weekend of the regular season. The only odd part about it is that there really isn’t all that much on the line anymore. Virginia’s already locked up the ACC regular season title. Duke pretty much cost themselves a shot at a No. 1 seed by losing to Wake Forest on Wednesday. North Carolina did the same with their struggles earlier this season. If anything, this game will be a chance for the Blue Devils to prove that they actually are a Final Four contender.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 21 New Mexico at No. 10 San Diego State, 10:00 p.m., CBSSN

This will be fun. The two best programs in the Mountain West will square off in arguably the rowdiest environment on the west coast for the right to call themselves Mountain West regular season champions. The Aztecs have long been considered the favorite to win the league title, with their win at Kansas and New Mexico’s struggles earlier in the season. But the Lobos are peaking at the right time. Like I said, this will be fun.

RELATED: Our latest bracket projections — is your team in?

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? Oklahoma State at No. 16 Iowa State , 2:00 p.m., ESPN

Oklahoma State has won four straight games and they’ll look to to avenge a triple overtime home loss to No. 16 Iowa State from earlier in the season when the Cowboys were in the midst of their seven-game losing streak. The Cyclones, meanwhile, have lost back-to-back games and appear to be trending a bit in the opposite direction. Marcus Smart and the Cowboys are playing very good ball since his return and a win here would give them a lot of momentum going into posteseason play.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Western Kentucky at Georgia State 2:30 p.m., ESPN3

The best regular season mid-major contest of the day features the top two teams in the Sun Belt colliding as Western Kentucky travels to face Georgia State. Georgia State won this contest with ease on the road on January 9th but the Hilltoppers shot the ball poorly and should have a better showing this time around.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) Two great battles between top-25 teams in the American on Saturday as No. 19 UConn travels to No. 11 Louisville and No. 18 SMU travels to No. 20 Memphis. Louisville will look to wrap up the AAC regular season title with a home win while SMU will try to pick up a big road win at a tough place to play in Memphis.

2) How will No. 25 Kentucky respond to its recent sluggish play when they travel to Gainesville to face the No. 1 Gators? Florida will be looking to finish the regular season unbeaten in the SEC while the Wildcats could use a confidence boost heading into postseason play.

3) While Creighton is celebrating Senior Night for Doug McDermott, Providence will try to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume with a win — and a regular-season sweep — over Creighton. Can Providence win its second big game of the week after the double-overtime victory over Marquette earlier this week?

4) After struggling on Wednesday night at Oregon State, can No. 3 Arizona win on the road at surging Oregon? The Ducks have won six straight games and Mike Moser is playing out of his mind lately. Oregon lost by a bucket the last time these two teams faced, so this should be a good one.

5) What does Georgetown have in-store after Tuesday night’s huge Big East home win over No. 13 Creighton? The Hoyas travel to Philly to face No. 6 Villanova and Georgetown needs all the wins they can get at this point in the season.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • Missouri State at No. 2 Wichita State, 2:30 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 8 Kansas at West Virginia, 12:00 p.m., ESPN
  • Indiana at No. 12 Michigan, 6:00 p.m., ESPN
  • No. 15 Cincinnati at Rutgers, 12:00 p.m., ESPNN
  • No. 23 Oklahoma at TCU, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Illinois at No. 24 Iowa, 8:30 p.m., BTN

NOTABLES:

  • Utah at Stanford, 2:30 p.m.
  • Missouri at Tennessee, 4:00 p.m.
  • Colorado at Cal, 6:30 p.m.
  • Pitt at Clemson, 4:00 p.m.
  • Arkansas at Alabama, 4:00 p.m.
  • Arizona State at Oregon State, 4:30 p.m.
  • Indiana at No. 12 Michigan, 6:00 p.m.
  • Richmond at Dayton, 7:00 p.m.

Pregame Shootaround: Duke and Syracuse headlines the first day of February

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 17 Duke at No. 2 Syracuse, 6:30 p.m., ESPN

Could this get any juicier? Let’s ignore, for a second, the fact that the team currently sitting in first place in the ACC will be taking on the team that may be playing the best basketball in the ACC. Let’s also ignore that this is the game between the biggest name in the ACC and the biggest name to join the ACC. Then we can also look past the fact that there are going to be somewhere around 35,000 people in the Carrier Dome to watch this game. Or Coach K vs. Boeheim.

Let’s focus, instead, on the fact this game will feature one of the nation’s three remaining undefeated teams taking on a team that features arguably the nation’s best player and just so happens to be well-suited to breaking down the Syracuse zone. Going beyond the multitude of story lines, the game itself should be fantastic.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 6 Kansas at No. 25 Texas, Sat. 4:00 p.m., ESPN

Kansas vs. Texas was the single biggest game in the Big 12 for a number of years, and it looks like it may be that way again this season. The Longhorns are much improved this year, defending as well as anyone in the Big 12 and getting enough out of their offense to slide into second in the conference standings. Texas might also be the best matchup of any Big 12 team with the Jayhawks given the size they have inside to combat Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis. The problem? If the Andrew Wiggins that has scored 56 points in the last two games shows up, I’m not sure Texas has a chance.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 21 UMass at St. Joseph’s, Sat. 6:00 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Based on the way that they’ve played over the last month, UMass is one of the most overrated teams in the country. They’ll visit St. Joe’s after losing at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday. St. Joe’s will be looking for revenge after a 66-62 road loss at UMass on January 8th. With both of these teams being tied for third in the A-10 at 4-2, this will be a big game for the winner to keep pace with conference leader St. Louis, who is still unbeaten in the league at 6-0.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Wright State at Green Bay, 7:00 p.m., ESPN2

Two of the preseason favorites in the Horizon collide as the Raiders (13-11, 5-4) travel to face the league-leading Phoenix (17-4, 7-1). Green Bay was cruising through the Horizon League until a 75-60 loss at Valpo earlier this week while Wright State desperately needs a conference road win after losing two straight to have any shot at the league’s regular-season crown.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) There will be four games on the NBC Sports Network on Saturday:

  • 12:30 p.m.: George Washington at Dayton
  • 2:30 p.m.: George Mason at No. 19 Saint Louis
  • 4:30 p.m.: Drexel at Towson
  • 9:00 p.m.: Penn at Harvard

2) No. 7 Michigan State will be without Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson on Saturday as they face Georgetown, which is key for the Hoyas. They don’t have much size inside and this will be a must-win game for them.

3) If you’re looking for an entertaining basketball game, check out No. 23 Oklahoma at No. 16 Iowa State. Both teams spread the floor, shoot threes, play at a faster and struggle defensively.

4) No. 11 Kentucky is coming off of an embarrassing road loss at LSU. Missouri, who is better at home, just picked up a win at Arkansas. Will trends continue? The Tigers need this win if they are going to be a tournament team.

5) No. 1 Arizona will put its undefeated season on the line against a good Cal team that desperately needs this win. Cal has lost three consecutive games in Pac-12 play since starting 5-0 and after an overtime home loss to Arizona State earlier in the week, the Bears can’t afford to get swept at home by the Arizona schools.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • Texas A&M at No. 3 Florida, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Evansville at No. 4 Wichita State, 3 p.m., ESPNU
  • Colorado State at No. 5 San Diego State, 7 p.m., ESPNU
  • Baylor at No. 8 Oklahoma State, 2 p.m., ESPN
  • No. 9 Villanova at Temple, Sat. 4:00 p.m., CBS SN
  • UCF at No. 12 Louisville, 9:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • No. 24 Ohio State at No. 14 Wisconsin 12 p.m., ESPN
  • No. 22 Memphis at SMU, 2 p.m., CBS SN

NOTABLES:

  • Richmond at VCU, Sat. 11:00 a.m., ESPN2
  • N.C. State at North Carolina, Sat. 1:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • Northwestern at Minnesota, Sat. 2:00 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • Arizona State at Stanford, Sat. 4:00 p.m., PAC-12 Network
  • Arkansas at LSU, Sat. 5:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Boise State at UNLV, Sat. 8:05 p.m., CBS Sports Network
  • Tennessee at Alabama, Sat. 9:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • Saint Mary’s at BYU, Sat. 11:00 p.m., ESPN2

Semi Ojeleye wins Duke’s dunk contest but Jabari Parker steals the show (VIDEO)

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Duke’s slam dunk contest on Friday night ended up being a battle of the freshmen, with Jabari Parker and Semi Ojeleye squaring off in the final round. The winner: Ojeleye, who seems to be a bit of a “forgotten man” in some parts due to the presence of Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood when it comes to guys who didn’t suit up for Mike Krzyzewski’s team last season.

In addition to his dunk in the video above Parker threw down a spectacular reverse slam during the team’s inter-squad scrimmage. Josh Hairston and Marshall Plumlee weren’t enough to prevent Parker from dunking, and he was fouled on the play as well.

Duke begins four-day road trip to New York

Mike Krzyzewski
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With NCAA rules giving programs more time in which to practice for the upcoming season, coaches are now faced with the task of figuring out what to do with the extra down time that comes with having 42 days for 30 practices. How’s Duke going to make use of some of its extra time? The Blue Devils are headed to New York during the school’s fall break this weekend for a “field trip” of sorts.

Mike Krzyzewski’s team will get some on-court work in during their stay in the Big Apple but they’ll also participate in some educational activities according to Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer. The four-day “Duke Elevate” tour will include visits to the Museum of Modern Art, the Apollo Theatre, the National 9/11 Memorial and One World Trade Center. The traveling party will also take in a Broadway show and spend a day at West Point, where Krzyzewski attended college.

There will also be conversations with influential Duke alums and supporters, including Grant Hill and Goldman Sachs partner Ashok Varadhan, who was a team manager during his time at Duke. 

“We’ll practice each day. We want to develop our team, and we want to develop our guys,” said Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski. “We try to do that on the court, and we also try to do that off the court and exposing them to different experiences, hoping they can learn from whether it’s the people up at West Point or gaining a greater perspective by visiting the 9/11 memorial, just being together on the road. All of those things go into us growing together as a group, getting to know one another better and educating ourselves on what we need to do to be successful as a team.”

Last year the Blue Devils spent some time during the preseason at Fort Bragg, and there’s definitely value in such experiences. Instead of merely lounging around during a long weekend with nothing to do except for practice, the players will be able to pick up pointers that can help them achieve success in areas other than basketball.

As for the basketball portion of the trip, the Blue Devils will be able to get some work done in unfamiliar surroundings, which could benefit the team by their having to adjust to a routine that differs from the one they’re likely used to.

Don’t expect Duke to schedule Maryland in the near future

Mike Krzyzewski
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We’ve seen it happen before in this current era of conference realignment. A school announces its decision to switch conferences, and the reactions from their current conference range from sadness and disappointment to outright anger. What those moves also do is open the door for programs to re-evaluate their relationships, and such is the case for Duke when it comes to Maryland.

Whether or not the game is a bonafide “rivalry” seems to depend upon who you ask. While Maryland fans love nothing more than to knock off the Blue Devils (the Terps have won the last two meetings), the series doesn’t elicit similar vitriol from the folks who cheer for Mike Krzyzewski’s program (to be fair, they’ve got North Carolina as a major rival). And on Thursday Coach K reiterated his stance on playing Maryland once the Terrapins join the Big Ten, stating on ESPN Radio 980 that he won’t be scheduling Maryland.

“The quality of athlete on the court and then the atmosphere that they were able to play in really brought out some special moments,” Coach K agreed, discussing the Duke-Maryland games of the late ’90s and early 2000s. “You can’t just say you’re going to replicate that in another conference right away. That was already there. It was established over a period of time, and that won’t happen again. That’s not gonna happen again, because we’re not gonna schedule them. It’s tough to schedule anybody when you have 18 conference games. But when we schedule non-conference, it’s usually outside of our conference area, so that we play national teams.”

At least Coach K gave an answer focusing on his program’s strategy when it comes to scheduling non-conference games, as opposed to other instances in which schools throw a fit and refuse to play the departing school out of anger. While it would be great to see the two programs schedule a series of some sort, with in-season tournaments and conference schedules that tend to be 18 games it is difficult to fit in every marquee game the fans may want to see.

But there is hope in the form of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, provided schools aren’t allowed to outright refuse to play the team selected by the conferences and TV rights holder ESPN. Those match-ups are usually dictated by the strength of the programs, so if there is a day that Duke and Maryland meet in the Challenge that would bode well for both programs (especially Maryland, with Mark Turgeon looking to making his first NCAA tournament appearance at the school).

Former Duke forward Ryan Kelly proposes to Lindsay Cowher

ACC Basketball Tournament: Maryland v Duke
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Last Thursday, former Duke forward Ryan Kelly–a potential pick in the NBA Draft–tweeted out that he proposed to Lindsay Cowher.

Yes, Lindsay is the daughter of that Cowher, as in former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach and current CBS analyst Bill Cowher.

Kelly and Cowher both attended Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, NC. Like Kelly, Cowher excelled on the hardwood earning a scholarship to Wofford College.

According to reports, the proposal came in Raleigh’s Durant Nature Park.

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11