Today's Specials: Duke and UNC tangle on Tobacco Road

Tuesday saw a couple of top-10 teams make statements that they’re ready for the stretch run. Wednesday features a deep slate with plenty of teams needing wins, as well as a couple of intriguing conference clashes, but it all starts with one of the best rivalries in the sport.

Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP Poll.

Best game: North Carolina Tar Heels at No. 2 Duke Blue Devils (9 p.m., ESPN). On paper, this game is probably not the best of the night. But this rivalry is not one decided on paper. While it’s still one of the most-hyped games of the week, Duke has a major edge heading into Wednesday. North Carolina has defeated exactly one NCAA tournament team this season, back in December. Meanwhile, Duke is starting to come together with Ryan Kelly still on the mend. If North Carolina is to upset Duke, it will need to knock down perimeter shots and also get Mason Plumlee in foul trouble. Defensively, guard the 3-point arc and stay disciplined.

Second-best game: San Diego State Aztecs at No. 24 Colorado State Rams (10 p.m., CBS Sports). Which team will stay within striking distance of New Mexico near the top of the Mountain West standings? Colorado State is only a half-game behind the Lobos, while San Diego State sits one game out. The first meeting between the two teams was terrific, with San Diego State pulling it out in overtime. The contrast in personnel between the teams is interesting. Colorado State relies heavily on its inside play and rebounding, while Jamaal Franklin -led San Diego State is perimeter-oriented.

Another one to watch: No. 6 Syracuse Orange at Connecticut Huskies (7 p.m., ESPN). Too bad this is going to be the last time that these two teams play as conference opponents, since Connecticut can’t play in the Big East tournament and Syracuse is off to the ACC next year. Syracuse is starting to become a threat to get a No. 1 seed, with James Southerland back and the Orange starting to hit on all cylinders again. Connecticut is busy playing spoiler all season, winning four of its last five. The Huskies have a tough finishing stretch -- which only means they can make life difficult for everyone else. 

Guaranteed win: The Patriot League race is heating up at the top of the standings, with both Bucknell Bison and Lehigh Mountain Hawks tied for first place. The two don’t face each other again until next Monday, and here’s hoping they’re still tied by then. Wednesday shouldn’t be much of a problem, as Lehigh hosts American Eagles (7 p.m.) and Bucknell hosts Colgate Raiders (7 p.m.). Both conference contenders should roll. 

Potential upset: There are a couple of potential roadblocks for teams in need of wins on Wednesday. Creighton Bluejays has lost two in a row. And while the Bluejays are still in OK shape, another loss would raise even more questions. Next, they take a trip to Northern Iowa Panthers (8 p.m.), which has won three in a row and is really defending well lately. Iowa State Cyclones is a bubble team out of the Big 12, but the Cyclones could be in store for a tough one at Texas Longhorns (8 p.m., ESPN3). The Longhorns welcome back Myck Kabongo , who will have something to prove after being suspended for 23 games.

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. No. 1 hasn’t been kind to many teams this year, and it wasn’t great for Indiana Hoosiers last week. At No. 1 again, the Hoosiers should handle Nebraska Cornhuskers (7 p.m., Big Ten Network).
  2. How will Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes fare after moving into the top five? The Hurricanes take a trip to Florida State Seminoles State" data-canon="Florida Gators" data-type="SPORTS_OBJECT_TEAM" id="shortcode0"> (7 p.m., ESPN2).
  3. If Northeastern Huskies beats Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens (7 p.m.), the Huskies will clinch at least a share of the CAA regular-season title.

Other games to watch:

-- Ranked teams

  • Charlotte 49ers at No. 11 Butler Bulldogs (7 p.m.)
  • No. 17 Oklahoma State Cowboys at Texas Tech Red Raiders (7 p.m., ESPNU)
  • DePaul Blue Demons at No. 21 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7 p.m., ESPN3)
  • UCF Knights at No. 22 Memphis Tigers (8 p.m., CBS Sports)
  • No. 19 New Mexico Lobos at Fresno State Bulldogs (10 p.m.)
  • No. 23 Oregon Ducks at Washington Huskies (11 p.m., ESPN2) 

-- At-large implications

  • La Salle Explorers at St. Bonaventure Bonnies (7 p.m.)
  • Ole Miss Rebels at Texas A&M Aggies (7 p.m., ESPN3)
  • Fordham Rams at Xavier Musketeers (7 p.m.)
  • Arizona State Sun Devils at Utah Utes (8 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
  • Missouri Tigers at Mississippi State Bulldogs (8 p.m., ESPN3)
  • Drake Bulldogs at Wichita State Shockers (8 p.m., ESPN3)
  • West Virginia Mountaineers at Baylor Bears (9 p.m., ESPN2)
  • Purdue Boilermakers at Illinois Fighting Illini (9 p.m., Big Ten Network)
  • UNLV Rebels at Air Force Falcons (9 p.m.)

-- Conference races

  • Ohio Bobcats at Central Michigan Chippewas (7 p.m.)
  • Akron Zips at Eastern Michigan Eagles (7 p.m.)
  • Gardner-Webb Bulldogs at U NC-Asheville Bulldogs (7 p.m., ESPN3)
  • Cal State Fullerton Titans at Long Beach State 49ers (11 p.m., ESPNU)

For more college basketball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCBB on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed and subscribe to our College Basketball Newsletter. You can follow Jeff Borzello on Twitter here: @jeffborzello

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