Pregame Shootaround: Duke/UNC II, more key ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC contests fill Saturday

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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GAME OF THE NIGHTNo. 8 North Carolina at No. 17 Duke, 6:30 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview.

Do I really need to explain this one?

I shouldn’t have to. But I will. Because I’m a nice guy and all.

For starters, it’s Duke-Carolina, which is never not must-see TV. It’s the best rivalry in college basketball. When it’s on, you watch it. Especially when there is an ACC title on the line, which is the case for UNC on Saturday. The Heels are currently tied for first in the conference with Miami, who also happens to be playing on the road on Saturday.

But all that is before you consider what happened last month in Chapel Hill. Duke, playing without Amile Jefferson and, for the most part, Matt Jones, went into the Dean Dome and beat the Tar Heels, erasing a late deficit as the defense-deficient Blue Devils held UNC’s guards to 1-for-14 shooting in the final 11 minutes. They also managed to keep Brice Johnson, who had 27 points and 17 boards in the first 29 minutes, to just two points and two rebounds down the stretch.

It was those 11 minutes that made the media at-large hop off of the North Carolina bandwagon. Words like “physically soft” and “no mental toughness” were mentioned and questions were being asked about whether or not this was truly a team that could be considered the most talented in the country. So in addition to the incentive of trying to win a title, the Tar Heels will be looking to get revenge by making a statement on Duke’s home court.

And doing that to a team with Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram in Cameron Indoor is not going to be an easy thing to do.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKENDNo. 11 Louisville at No. 4 Virginia, 8:30 p.m.

The two best teams in the ACC squaring off isn’t normally must-see TV, but considering that A) Louisville was utterly humiliated by Virginia earlier this season, B) it’s the last game of Louisville’s season thanks to that postseason ban and C) that the winner of this game can win a share of the ACC regular season title if Miami and UNC lose on the road, and what you’re going to see is a battle between two veteran, well-coached teams.

THE OTHER OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 21 Iowa State at No. 1 Kansas, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview.

In October, we circled this game on the calendar as one that could potentially have decided whether or not the Jayhawks would win their 12th straight regular season title. Obviously, that is no longer the case, but it will be the last time that we see this Cyclone team play a Big 12 regular season game. It’s something of the end of an era, as Georges Niang will be facing off with Perry Ellis for the last time in their illustrious, 17-year careers.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 7 Miami at Virginia Tech, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview.

I know I’ve said a lot about how good Miami has been and how good Larrañaga is and how special it would be for the Hurricanes, twice in the span of four seasons, to win an outright ACC regular season title. But that doesn’t change the fact that Miami will be playing on the road tonight, and they’ll be playing against a Virginia Tech team that Buzz Williams has turned into a real threat in Blacksburg. The Hokies haven’t finished above .500 in the ACC since 2011, and they can do that with a win on Saturday. In fact, Va. Tech has already won more games in ACC play this season (nine) than they did in the previous three seasons combined (eight). The ‘Canes better come ready to play.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. The SEC regular season title is going to come down to the final day of the regular season, and depending on how it shakes out, there could very easily be a four-way tie atop the conference. No. 22 Kentucky and No. 20 Texas A&M are tied for first place in the league with Vandy and LSU sitting one game behind them. Vanderbilt plays at Texas A&M at noon on Saturday while LSU plays at Kentucky at 2:00 p.m.

2. The Pac-12 regular season title is going to come down to the final day of the regular season as well. No. 9 Oregon, who is currently sitting all alone in first place, plays at USC on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. while Colorado will pay a visit to No. 13 Utah, who is one game out of first place, at 9:30 p.m. Oh, and should I mention Josh Scott vs. Jakob Poeltl will be awesome for anyone that loves a good throwback battle of the big men?

3. No. 10 West Virginia will pay a visit to No. 19 Baylor on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. which should be an entertaining game to watch as the Mountaineers look to maintain their grip on the No. 2 spot in the Big 12.

4. We get our first autobid officially punched of the conference tournament season as Austin Peay takes on Tennessee-Martin in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. The Skyhawks swept the regular season series between the two teams.

5. There will be an Atlantic 10 game featured on NBCSN on Saturday: George Washington at Davidson (3:30 p.m.). George Washington is battling for an at-large bid in the Atlantic 10 while the Wildcats are still a strong conference team trying to potentially build momentum before a postseason bid.

CLICK HERE to watch this game on NBC Sports Live Extra Saturday afternoon.

OTHER TOP 25 GAMES

  • Ohio State at No. 2 Michigan State, 12:00 p.m.
  • Georgetown at No. 3 Villanova, 12:00 p.m.
  • Creighton at No. 5 Xavier, 2:30 p.m.
  • No. 6 Oklahoma at TCU, 1:00 p.m.
  • No. 16 Iowa at Michigan, 8:00 p.m.
  • No. 25 Cal at Arizona State, 8:00 p.m.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • Ole Miss at Tennessee, 12:00 p.m.
  • N.C. State at Notre Dame, 12:00 p.m.
  • Clemson at Boston College, 12:00 p.m.
  • Seton Hall at DePaul, 12:00 p.m.
  • Providence at St. John’s, 12:30 p.m.
  • Minnesota at Rutgers, 1:00 p.m.
  • Syracuse at Florida State, 2:00 p.m.
  • Pitt at Georgia Tech, 2:00 p.m.
  • Auburn at Mississippi State, 2:30 p.m.
  • Marquette at Butler, 2:30 p.m.
  • Kansas State at Texas Tech, 3:00 p.m.
  • Northern Iowa at Wichita State, 3:35 p.m.
  • Alabama at Georgia, 4:00 p.m.
  • South Carolina at Arkansas, 5:00 p.m.
  • USF at Tulsa, 5:00 p.m.
  • Oregon State at UCLA, 6:30 p.m.
  • VCU at Dayton, 8:00 p.m.