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February 7, 2011
Let's face it: Saturday was not a great day for marquee matchups.
We won't have the same problem this week as the schedule offers plenty of high-profile games. The first North Carolina-Duke game of the season is Wednesday. Saturday, undefeated Ohio State has its toughest Big Ten road trip when it heads to Wisconsin. There's also Pittsburgh at West Virginia and Missouri at Kansas on Monday, Louisville at Notre Dame on Wednesday, and Kentucky at Vanderbilt and Tennessee at Florida on Saturday.
Here's a look at the top games and matchups in a key week for a handful of teams. All times Eastern.
Game of the week: North Carolina at Duke, Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN. North Carolina had won four in a row over the Blue Devils before last season, when eventual national champion Duke took out years of frustration on the NIT-bound Tar Heels with an 82-50 rout. This one has ACC title implications as North Carolina is tied with the Blue Devils in the loss column. Both teams have dealt with some turmoil in the past week. Larry Drew II abruptly left North Carolina, leaving the Heels with only one true point guard (Kendall Marshall, who had 16 assists in Sunday's win over Florida State). Duke was embarrassed by St. John's last Sunday, then recovered to pound Maryland and N.C. State. The lead-in for this game is another big-time rivalry, as Syracuse visits Georgetown (7 p.m., ESPN) in a battle of teams looking to stay within striking distance of first place in the Big East.
Don't overlook this one: Ohio State at Wisconsin, Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN. In a "normal" week, this would be the top matchup, but it gets bumped down thanks to North Carolina-Duke. If Ohio State is going to lose a game during the regular season, this one is a good candidate. The Kohl Center is the site of one of the nation's best home-court advantages: Eventual national champion Duke lost there last season, and the Badgers are 24-7 against ranked teams in Madison. In addition, Wisconsin is 149-11 at home
Mid-major to watch: Xavier. The Musketeers don't like to be called a mid-major, but we also know this is a huge week for them. When Xavier started 8-5, there was some rumbling about the Musketeers, but coach Chris Mack and G Tu Holloway have done a great job of rallying the team in Atlantic 10 play. Despite losing to Charlotte last week, Xavier still can take the A-10 lead in its game against surprising Duquesne
Coaching matchup to watch:
Injury update: Pittsburgh G Ashton Gibbs could be out 10-14 days with an MCL injury in his left knee. ... Kansas G Josh Selby (ankle) did not play Saturday against Nebraska and is questionable for Monday's game against Missouri. ... Louisville G Preston Knowles (hamstring) missed the Cardinals' game against DePaul and could miss Wednesday's game against Notre Dame. ... Tennessee G Scotty Hopson (ankle) missed the loss to Alabama and is questionable to play against Kentucky. ... Northern Iowa F Lucas O'Rear will miss the rest of the season with a fractured right ankle. The Panthers lost their first game without O'Rear, 72-69 at Drake on Saturday. ... Indiana F Christian Watford is out indefinitely with a broken hand.
Key stat: Providence G/F Marshon Brooks had the nation's 17th 40-point output this season when he scored 43 in Saturday's 83-81 loss to Georgetown. Brooks' effort was the fifth 40-point game in a conference matchup and the only one in which the 40-point scorer was on the losing end. BYU's Jimmer Fredette has hit the milestone in three Mountain West wins, over Utah (47 points), San Diego State (43) and Colorado State (42). Chattanooga's Ricky Taylor scored 41 points in a double-overtime win over Southern Conference foe UNC Greensboro. Brooks' 43 points is the fifth-highest total ever in a Big East game.
Tournament implications: Penn State at Michigan State, Thursday, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network. Penn State is in NCAA tournament contention thanks to wins over Michigan State, Wisconsin and Illinois