Duke-Carolina rivalry takes center stage this week
College basketball has some great rivalries. Kentucky and Louisville have a heated one. So do Xavier and Cincinnati.
Arizona-Arizona State and Kansas-Kansas State don’t like each other much, either.
This week features not only what many consider to be the greatest college basketball rivalry, but one of the best in any sport.
The two meetings — three if they face off in the ACC tournament — are always must-watch programming and Saturday’s game is no different.
Duke (24-6, 12-5) is up to No. 5 in the AP Top 25 after winning five straight games, but lost to unranked Virginia Tech Monday night.
North Carolina (22-7, 11-5) moved up a spot to No. 9 this week after stretching its winning streak to six games.
Neither can win the ACC title — top-ranked Virginia wrapped that up last week — but both a vying for first-round byes in the conference tournament. The Blue Devils also are hoping to lock up a coveted No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The not-so-neighborly teams separated by about 10 miles played an entertaining game their first meeting on Feb. 8.
North Carolina won it 82-78 after rallying from a 12-point deficit at the Smith Center.
“Once everybody got going, we proved to ourselves how good we can be,” said North Carolina’s Kenny Williams, who matched his career high with 20 points in that game.
Duke will be at home and has star freshman Marvin Bagley III back after he missed two weeks with a sprained knee.
Find a way to watch this one.
Wichita State’s move to the American Athletic Conference was a big boost to the Shockers, putting them in a strong conference that should help them come NCAA Tournament seeding time.
It also has strengthened the conference and created some stellar matchups.
A big one comes on Sunday, when No. 10 Cincinnati plays at No. 11 Wichita State.
The Bearcats (25-4, 14-2) lead the ACC by a game over the Shockers (23-5, 13-3), who won the teams’ first meeting 76-72 at Cincinnati. Landry Shamut scored 19 points and Wichita State ended the nation’s longest home winning streak at 39 games in that game.
The Bearcats will certainly looking for payback in this budding rivalry.
BIG 10 BEGINS
The Big 10 is the first Power 5 league to play its conference tournament, kicking off Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
No. 15 Michigan is the only one of conference’s ranked teams that starts on Thursday, facing the winner between Iowa and Illinois.
No. 2 Michigan State, the regular-season champion, plays the Maryland-Wisconsin winner and No. 13 Ohio State gets the Penn State-Northwestern winner. No. 8 Purdue has to wait two games to find out who it will play among Indiana, Minnesota and Rutgers.
No. 7 Gonzaga and No. 22 Saint Mary’s appear to be on a collision course to meet in the West Coast Conference title game for the eighth time in 10 seasons.
The Bulldogs (27-4) won the regular-season title for the 18th time in 19 seasons after going through the conference schedule 17-1. Gonzaga’s only loss was to Saint Mary’s and the Zags avenged that with a convincing 78-65 win in Moraga. The Gaels (16-2) had a surprising loss after that game, paving the way to Gonzaga’s regular-season title.
Gonzaga opens against Loyola Marymount or Portland on Saturday and Saint Mary’s gets the Santa Clara-Pepperdine winner.
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