Wednesday is highlighted by the first of two meetings between Duke and North Carolina – or is it? While one of the best rivalries in sports is always a game to watch, there might be another ACC matchup with more attention. It could be where Syracuse suffers its first loss of the season.
Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP Poll.
Best game: No. 1 Syracuse at No. 25 Pittsburgh (7 p.m., ESPN). This has been a game many people have circled, especially since Pittsburgh took Syracuse to the wire at the Carrier Dome last month. In that game, the Panthers crashed the offensive glass and found ways to limit Syracuse in transition. Heading into Wednesday, though, Pittsburgh isn't playing its best basketball. After losing to Duke and Virginia two weeks ago, the Panthers struggled to overtime wins against Miami and Virginia Tech. However, Jamie Dixon has had success against Syracuse in the past, and he has plenty of experience against the 2-3 zone. The battle on the glass will once again be key, especially if Syracuse is without Baye Keita. James Robinson also has to hold his own against Tyler Ennis, and Lamar Patterson has to make shots and be a go-to-guy.
Second-best game: No. 8 Duke at North Carolina (9 p.m., ESPN). This might be the first time in a while that Duke-Carolina is not the best game of the night. North Carolina needs this one more than the Blue Devils, although the Tar Heels have won five in a row and sit in good shape for the NCAA tournament. A win here would give them victories over Duke, Michigan State, Kentucky and Louisville – very few teams can match that quartet of quality wins. On the other side, Duke is starting to look like a Final Four team once again, as Jabari Parker is hitting his stride and being a matchup problem for opponents. If Carolina is to get a win, the Tar Heels need to guard the perimeter and also take advantage of Duke inside. Amile Jefferson and co. are protecting the rim more effectively lately, but the Heels have to attack and finish.
Another one to watch: George Washington at VCU (7 p.m., NBC Sports Network). Both teams are in good shape for the NCAA tournament, but can either team keep pace with Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 standings? George Washington has been dealing with injuries lately, but the Colonials have won seven of their last eight games. VCU lost over the weekend at Saint Joseph's to drop two games back of Saint Louis, but the Rams are still their usual HAVOC-filled selves. Obviously the biggest key in this one is whether Joe McDonald and GW can take care of the ball and not allow the Rams to get running.
Guaranteed win: UMass-Lowell at Vermont (7 p.m.). Vermont was struggling during non-conference play, winning just two of its first 10 non-league games against Division-I opponents. But the Catamounts have gotten it rolling in America East play, taking advantage of Stony Brook's struggles to move into first place in the standings at 9-1. UMass-Lowell started 0-11 against D-I teams, but the River Hawks have won seven of their last 11. They won't win on Wednesday.
Potential upset: Stanford at Washington (9 p.m., ESPN2). The Huskies got off to a hot start in the Pac-12 at 3-1, but they have since lost five of seven to drop below .500 in the league. But they are still very difficult to beat at home, with six straight victories on their home court. Stanford has played itself into the NCAA tournament picture, winning six of its last eight games. But the Cardinal could be poised for a letdown against Washington.
Three things to keep an eye on:
- Delaware looks to remain unbeaten in the CAA with a home game against James Madison (7 p.m.).
- The two preseason favorites in the Mountain West square off (9:15 p.m., CBS Sports Network) – although it might be too late for Boise State, even if it beats New Mexico.
- Some key bubble games: Richmond at Duquesne (7 p.m.), Baylor at TCU (7 p.m., ESPNU), LSU at Texas A&M (9 p.m., ESPN3), California at Washington State (11 p.m., ESPNU).
Other games to watch:
- South Florida at No. 24 Connecticut (7 p.m., ESPN2)
- Coastal Carolina at VMI (7 p.m.)
- Boston University at Colgate (7 p.m.)
- Rhode Island at Dayton (7 p.m.)
- George Mason at Massachusetts (7 p.m.)
- Akron at Western Michigan (7 p.m.)
- Ohio at Toledo (7 p.m.)
- Penn State at Indiana (7 p.m., Big Ten Network)
- Lehigh at American (7:30 p.m.)
- No. 6 Villanova at DePaul (8 p.m., FOX Sports 1)
- No. 14 Kentucky at Auburn (8 p.m., ESPN3)
- Texas Tech at Oklahoma (8 p.m., ESPN3)
- UCF at No. 20 Memphis (9 p.m., ESPNU)