Weekend Preview: Duke-Virginia, an MVC showdown and UNC-Louisville
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 4 Duke at No. 2 Virginia, Sat. 7:00 p.m.
Does it really get better than seeing a pair of top five teams square off? Duke has had their issues this season, losing three of their last six games and falling at Notre Dame on Wednesday, but this is still a team with the nation’s most dominating interior presence and more than enough fire power around their perimeter. What will be fascinating is to see how Virginia tries to slow down Okafor. The Cavs love to bring a big-to-big double immediately on the catch, but Okafor is one of the best passers out of the post that you will see at this age.
There will be plenty of storylines heading into this game as well. Virginia will be entering the most difficult stretch of their schedule this season -- after Duke, they play at North Carolina, get Louisville at home and head to N.C. State -- while Duke will be playing their first game in the post-Rasheed Sulaimon era.
THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 12 Wichita State at No. 18 Northern Iowa, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
It’s off the radar a little bit but the Shockers have their first legitimate challenger in the Missouri Valley Conference since Creighton left for biggest and better things in the Big East. Northern Iowa is a well-coached, tough team that has some shooters, will get physical defensively and has a MVC Player of the Year candidate in Seth Tuttle. The Shockers are not the same team without Cleanthony Early, but they were also one of the best teams in the country last season. Both Wichita State and UNI are top 20ish teams that are good enough to make a run at the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. This game will go a long way towards determining who is going to win the league’s regular season title.
For the record, big conference showdowns in the Missouri Valley are always must-see TV for any college hoops fan. This will be worth the two hours.
FIVE MORE GAMES TO WATCH
- No. 13 North Carolina at No. 10 Louisville, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: The last time these two teams squared off, Marcus Paige spurred on a 13-point comeback late in the second half as the Tar Heels picked up a much-needed win. The Cardinals are rolling now, however. This should be a great game.
- No. 19 Texas at No. 20 Baylor, Sat. 6:00 p.m.: Texas really needs a win after a rough start to Big 12 play. And Baylor? There’s no team that I’m more torn on in the country than Baylor.
- Kansas State at No. 9 Kansas, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: The Wildcats have to pick up a couple of wins like this to make up for a rough non-conference schedule. Kansas looked like they were hitting their stride before an ugly win at TCU.
- Richmond at No. 14 VCU, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: This is one of the nation’s most-under appreciated rivalries. The Battle for Richmond is intense, both between the teams and the fan bases.
- George Washington at Rhode Island, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: GW and URI are probably the second and third-best teams in the Atlantic 10 this season. The league may only get one at-large bid. This game is going to mean a lot in the conference race.
WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 5 Wisconsin at Iowa, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
Iowa has the talent to be a top 20 team this season, but they’ve had issues closing out games for what feels like the last decade (probably closer to the last season and a half, but whatever). They were absolutely buried at Wisconsin two weeks ago, but during that game, Adam Woodbury twice poked a Wisconsin player in the eye. The announcer during the game -- Dan Dakich -- lit into him, which drew the ire of Fran McCaffery. In other words, Iowa has plenty of motivation to, you know, show up tonight.
One note: Aaron White has an injured shoulder/upper chest. He told reporters that he’ll play. McCaffery said he has to be cleared to play still. We’ll see what happens.
- No. 8 Notre Dame at Pitt, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: The Peterson Events Centers is always a tough place to play, and Notre Dame is coming off of a huge win over Duke. Do they get complacent?
- No. 23 Miami at Florida State, Sun. 12:30 p.m.: As Angel Rodriguez goes, so goes the Hurricanes. He’s got all-american talent, but lacks consistency.
- No. 24 Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, Sat. 8:00 p.m.: Bedlam!
- No. 25 Butler at Marquette, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: Marquette is putting up a fight on a nightly basis in Milwaukee. When Matt Carlino and Duane Wilson get it going offensively, they can play with anyone in their building.
- No. 7 Villanova at DePaul, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: This would normally be a weird pick to make, but DePaul has been feisty at home this season.
FIVE STORY LINES
1. Davidson at Saint Joseph’s, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: A little Saturday afternoon action on NBCSN. You can stream the game here.
2. Auburn at Tennessee, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: Bruce Pearl will be coaching his first game in Knoxville since getting fired back in 2011.
3. Memphis at No. 3 Gonzaga, Sat. 10:00 p.m.: Memphis desperately needs this win if they are going to have any chance of earning an at-large bid this season.
4. Michigan at Michigan State, 1:00 p.m.: This rivalry is really intense. The game this season, however, will be between two teams that are not playing their best.
5. Providence at St. John’s, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: Providence guard Kris Dunn is playing as well as anyone in the country right now. He had a triple-double -- 27 points, 13 boards and 11 assists -- in a win over DePaul on Thursday. St. John’s is reeling.