Trio of huge games tonight as College Basketball heats up
ESPN calls this week Rivalry Week--and true to form, the best rivalry games in the ACC and Big East will be played tonight. No. 5 North Carolina hosts No. 10 Duke--and that game barely needs an introduction. In the Big East, No. 2 Syracuse takes on No. 12 Georgetown. And then there is a third clash of titans tonight--though No. 6 Baylor and No. 7 Kansas aren't traditional rivals, they are both Final Four candidates.
We are about a month away from March Madness, so it's about time to get ready for it. Here are your game previews and home for all three showdowns.
No. 2 Syracuse vs. No. 12 Georgetown, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Big East's best rivalry has everything you look for in a game between two perennial adversaries. Rich history, solid current squads and a lot at stake. These teams' rivalry has survived the continually changing face of the Big East from the days of the Patrick Ewings, Alonzo Mournings and Derrick Colemans to today.
Syracuse got out of the gate 20-0 this season and was ranked No. 1 in the country. However, academic issues for star sophomore center Fab Melo led to his suspension and the team's first loss. Melo is back, and the Orange are 23-1 and lead the Big East with a 10-1 record in conference. They are also 15-0 at the Carrier Dome this year.
Georgetown sits just two games behind Syracuse in the Big East at 18-4 and 8-3 in conference. The Hoyas have really overachieved this season, and they do it with a stifling defense. After an early-season loss to Kansas, Georgetown ran off 11 consecutive wins, including victories over Memphis, Alabama, Louisville and Marquette. If the Hoyas want a chance to win the Big East, winning tonight's game is paramount.
No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 7 Kansas, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN 2
The Jayhawks have their second-consecutive road test tonight at Baylor. On Saturday, Kansas lost a controversial heartbreaker at rival Missouri, blowing an eight-point lead in the final three minutes. Can the Jayhawks rebound?
Kansas has won seven consecutive Big 12 titles, and in the past these are the sorts of games the Jayhawks have won to ensure conference titles. Kansas, led by National Player of the Year favorite Thomas Robinson, handled the Bears when they came to Lawrence in January, with a convincing 92-74 victory. After losing later that week to Missouri, all Baylor (21-2) has done is win four straight.
For both teams, this is a vital game. Both are 8-2 in conference, and sit a half game behind the Tigers in the Big 12--but are tied in the loss column. If Baylor wins tonight, it sets up a huge Saturday matchup with the Tigers in Columbia, with first place in the conference on the line.
No. 5 North Carolina vs. No. 10 Duke, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
It's North Carolina vs. Duke, so one thing is certain tonight: Dan Shulman will be babysitting Dick Vitale in the pressbox.
In all seriousness, both teams are coming off of sluggish performances, as each may have been looking head to the other on Saturday. North Carolina had to rally from seven down to beat a mediocre Maryland team, while the Blue Devils fell in overtime at home to Miami.
The Blue Devils need to rebound quickly as they head across town to hostile Chapel Hill with first place in the ACC on the line. North Carolina (20-3, 7-1 ACC) sits just a game ahead of Duke (19-4, 6-2 ACC) in the conference. It will be interesting to see which Tar Heels team shows up tonight. At times, the star-studded squad has looked like the nation's best team and at others like a half-interested team (see the team's 33-point loss to Florida State for reference).
Expect this game to be high-scoring. The Tar Heels are the nation's top-scoring team and Duke is 11th.
My Picks, in case you care:
Georgetown, Kansas and North Carolina
Other games of interest tonight:
Boston College vs. No. 17 Florida State
No. 12 Michigan State vs. Penn State
No. 20 Virginia vs. Wake Forest
Nebraska vs. No. 25 Michigan