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North Carolina is struggling for a signature win. Duke would fit the bill. Are the Tar Heels ready?
Unpredictability has been the hallmark of the 2012-13 college basketball season.
Just last week, TCU defeated Kansas for perhaps the biggest upset during the regular season since Chaminade defeated Virginia and Ralph Sampson in Maui. On Saturday, an ugly game in regulation turned into the game of the year in five overtimes when Notre Dame defeated Louisville 104-101.
And the No. 1 team in the country lost a game on a boneheaded defensive play in the final seconds -- and remained No. 1 a week later in part because a team defeated North Carolina by 26 points was not enough to vault that team to the top spot.
So what does that mean for this week? The best rivalry in the sport will have its first matchup, though Mike Krzyzewski has his Duke team in much better shape than Roy Williams has North Carolina. The Heels, by the way, are coming off the 87-61 loss to Miami.
Elsewhere, this will be a key week for Western teams outside of the Pac-12. Bubble team Saint Mary’s will have its game of the year when it faces Gonzaga in Moraga. And Colorado State will aim to take its time in the sun in the Mountain West with a week against UNLV and Air Force.
All times Eastern.
FEB. 13 NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET UDPATE
MOST IMPORTANT GAME:
North Carolina at Duke (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
The Tar Heels had better hope this is one of those throw-out-the-records rivalry games because this will be a mismatch. The last time North Carolina visited Cameron Indoor Stadium unranked while Duke was in the top 10 was in 2012 when the Heels lost 82-50. Duke will hope its 62-61 close call against Boston College (10-13) was a case of looking ahead rather than any major flaws. Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry scored 37 of Duke’s 62 points against BC.
Related: Feb. 11 Power Rankings
ALL EYES ON: Colorado State
San Diego State (Wednesday, 10 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
at Air Force (Saturday, 4 p.m., Altitude)
No one’s really paying attention to Colorado State, though the Rams are a game behind New Mexico in the Mountain West. Colorado State (6-2 in the MWC) has a chance this week to build some space between San Diego State (6-3) and Air Force this week (5-4). How good is Colorado State’s rebounding? The Rams are grabbing 59.7 percent of all offensive and defensive rebounds, nearly three percentage points better than the next-best team (Maryland). That rebound rate is better than any team since Michigan State in 2000-01 (61.8 percent).
Related: Key stats from last week
UNDER PRESSURE: North Carolina
at Duke (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
Virginia (Saturday, noon, ACC syndication)
This week is more than a road trip to Duke. North Carolina has won three of the last four, but those wins were over the bottom teams in the league. With Maryland (whom UNC defeated on Jan. 19) falling out of the NCAA Tournament picture, the Heels haven’t defeated a Tournament lock since Dec. 29 against UNLV. The home date with Virginia may be a more telling game than Duke. Carolina lost 61-52 on Jan. 6 to the Cavaliers, who have suddenly figured out how to score some points. A sweep this week may slide Carolina onto the bubble.
Related: Ranking the SEC coaching tandems
at Minnesota (Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN)
Ohio State (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS)
When the season started, the line on the Badgers was that the top of the Big Ten was too good and Wisconsin had lost too much in departing senior point guard Jordan Taylor and then an injured Josh Gasser. Well, Bo Ryan and the Badgers’ homecourt advantage in the Kohl Center have worked the magic. Wisconsin is 8-3 in the league, one of four teams separated by one game atop the Big Ten standings. The Badgers don’t have the non-conference resume isn’t as strong as other teams in the league (their best non-conference win is over Cal), so their seeding may not match Indiana or Michigan. Still, a Big Ten title is a possibility.
Related: Ranking the Pac-12 coaching tandems
Pittsburgh (Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS)
Marquette has a nice record and ranking, but the Golden Eagles haven’t proven they’re among the top teams in the Big East. Marquette’s last five have been over Seton Hall, Providence, USF (twice) and DePaul while the losses have come to Cincinnati, Louisville and Georgetown -- all on the road. A home game against a hot Pittsburgh team will be a good chance for Marquette to return to form. The Eagles defeated Pitt 74-67 in overtime on the road on Jan. 12.
MID-MAJOR TO WATCH: Saint Mary’s
Gonzaga (Thursday, 11 p.m., ESPN2)
at Loyola Marymount (Saturday, 7 p.m., Time Warner Sportsnet)
What would February be without Saint Mary’s sitting on the bubble? The Gaels’ lackluster non-conference schedule puts more emphasis on their West Coast Conference season, and more specifically a matchup against a top-five Gonzaga team. Gaels point guard Matthew Dellavedova averages 24.3 points per game on 60 percent shooting against Gonzaga at home compared to 15 points per game on 32.7 percent shooting against the Zags in Spokane.
Syracuse at Connecticut (Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPN)
UConn hasn’t defeated a Tournament-bound Big East team in more than a month and needed overtime to defeat Providence and USF in the last two weeks. Perhaps the Huskies will have more in store for Syracuse in their final visit to campus before bolting for the ACC.
UNLV at Air Force (Wednesday, 9 p.m., Time Warner Sportsnet)
Air Force’s chances of reaching the Tournament field diminished when they lost at New Mexico and at Nevada last week. This will be a critical week for the Falcons at home against UNLV and Colorado State.
St. John’s at Louisville (Thursday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
This is our first chance to see how Louisville reacts to missing a handful of chances to put away Notre Dame before falling in five OTs in South Bend. St. John’s will be the Cards’ toughest opponent before visiting Syracuse on March 2.
Georgetown at Cincinnati (Friday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
Forward Otto Porter is carrying Georgetown to a six-game win streak. He could have another good matchup against a vulnerable Cincinnati frontcourt.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Big 12 syndication)
Marcus Smart is averaging 20.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and five assists in Oklahoma State’s last four games.
Missouri at Arkansas (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN2)
Mike Anderson faces Missouri for the first time since leaving Columbia. Lucky for Anderson, he catches Mizzou in Fayetteville where the Razorbacks are 10-3 against SEC opponents under Anderson.