Today's Specials: Ohio State and Duke tangle in top-five battle

Today's Specials: Ohio State and Duke tangle in top-five battle

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft will need some help if Ohio State is to upset Duke in Durham. (US Presswire)

Several teams sent messages on Tuesday during the first day of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but none of the games were overly competitive from start to finish. With a top-five matchup on the docket for Wednesday, maybe that will change.

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

Best game: No. 4 Ohio State at No. 2 Duke (9:30 p.m., ESPN). According to the rankings, this might be the best nonconference game of the season. According to reality, Ohio State isn't a top-five (or top-10) team. With that said, the Buckeyes will look to prove themselves against a Duke team that is the talk of the nation after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis. Deshaun Thomas has the ability to carry the Ohio State offense, and he will prove to be a difficult matchup for Ryan Kelly. Meanwhile, can Aaron Craft pester Seth Curry into an off night? Duke is at home, so it gets the edge.

Second-best game: No. 13 Michigan State at Miami (7:30 p.m., ESPN). Neither team has looked great, with Michigan State losing its opener to Connecticut and surviving multiple close games and Miami dropping a game to Florida Gulf Coast. That said, Miami looked better with Durand Scott back from suspension and Reggie Johnson should be in the lineup. On the other hand, Michigan State is without freshman guard Gary Harris for the next couple of weeks. Keith Appling will have to continue playing well, and Michigan State has to hold its own inside.

Another one to watch: The rest of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. There wasn't a clear-cut third-best game of the night, but it will be interesting to see if the ACC can come back and win the 2012 challenge. They are down 4-2 heading onto Wednesday night, and a best-case scenario seems like a 6-6 tie. Virginia visits Wisconsin (7 p.m., ESPN2) in a slow-it-down game; Purdue faces Clemson (7:15 p.m., ESPNU) in a battle of two teams looking to figure things out; Illinois puts its undefeated record on the line against Georgia Tech (9 p.m., ESPN2); and a thoroughly unexciting game will also take place with Boston College at Penn State (9:15 p.m., ESPNU).

Guaranteed win: Jack Murphy is doing good things at Northern Arizona on the recruiting trail, but the Lumberjacks are going to struggle against No. 9 Arizona (10 p.m., Pac-12 Network). They simply don't have an answer for Arizona's big and loaded frontline.

Potential upset: Oklahoma should contend for a potential bubble spot in the Big 12, but the Sooners have to visit in-state opponent Oral Roberts (8 p.m., ESPN3). The Golden Eagles have some good talent in the frontcourt and should be able to hold their own against Oklahoma's big men. Can they slow down Steven Pledger on the perimeter and get a win?

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. Washington has struggled mightily, but the Huskies can right the ship when they host Saint Louis (Midnight, Pac-12 Network).
  2. Boise State took Michigan State to the wire before falling short, and the Broncos' backcourt is playing well. They visit No. 11 Creighton (8:05 p.m., ESPN3).
  3. Conference play kicks off tonight in the Southern Conference and MAAC. In the Southern: Western Carolina at Furman (7 p.m.) and Elon at Georgia Southern (7 p.m.). Niagara visits Iona in some MAAC action (7 p.m.).
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