CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Weekend Look Ahead: Stakes couldn't be higher on Tobacco Road

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Duke and North Carolina is big. So is Wisconsin-Ohio State. And Kansas-Missouri. And Notre Dame-Connecticut. And Villanova-Pittsburgh. And ...

You know what?

Let's just get to it.

Here's the Weekend Look Ahead.

Top game: I rooted for both to win Wednesday. They both did. So now we're all set for No. 4 Duke vs. No. 13 North Carolina at the Dean Smith Center. The Blue Devils are 27-3 overall, 13-2 in the ACC. The Tar Heels are 23-6 overall, 13-2 in the ACC. In other words, Saturday night's game will determine the outright ACC champion. Yes, I'll be there.

Another interesting matchup: When I wrote Wednesday morning that both Duke and North Carolina needed to win Wednesday night to ensure Saturday's game would be for the outright ACC title, lots of readers e-mailed to say the regular-season finale would be for a share of the ACC title regardless. Obviously, that was true. But sharing a title is not the same as winning an outright title. Don't believe me, ask Ohio State's Jared Sullinger. "It's like sharing your girlfriend or your husband," Sullinger told ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil. "You wouldn't want to share your husband, would you?" (Curious, I asked Dana for an answer to Sullinger's question. Her response: "No, I can't share a man who takes care of two kids, a puppy and a house pretty much solo for the month of March and who only rolls his eyes when the phone rings at 10 p.m. and it's a man calling -- a coach, athlete or coworker. Although perhaps I should clone him.") Anyway, sharing stinks. That's the point. And it's why Sunday's game between No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 1 Ohio State is huge, because Sullinger will almost certainly be sharing the Big Ten title with Purdue's JaJuan Johnson if the Badgers beat the Buckeyes for a second time.

Yet another interesting matchup: Guess who else needs to win to secure an outright league title? Kansas. The No. 2 Jayhawks are 28-2 overall, 13-2 in the Big 12 and thus one game ahead of No. 7 Texas. So Kansas can secure the outright championship by winning at No. 22 Missouri early Saturday or by having Texas lose later at Baylor. Because I can't imagine Bill Self wanting to spend his Saturday night rooting for the Bears, I would advise him to take care of the Tigers in the afternoon, be done with it, travel home and hit the Salty Iguana for a celebratory dinner.

Guaranteed to be a blowout: BYU looked bad in its first game without Brandon Davies, but the Cougars aren't that bad. I mean they can't be, right? Plus, I'm pretty sure one under-reported aspect of the school's Honor Code is that the men's basketball team is not allowed to lose back-to-back-home games. Thus, the No. 3 Cougars should cruise to an easy win over Wyoming on Saturday. Otherwise, the entire team might be suspended immediately, Jimmer included. As it should be.

Guaranteed to be an upset: My rule on this has always been unranked team over a ranked team. Nothing more. So with that in mind, I could go with unranked West Virginia over No. 11 Louisville on Saturday. But WVU will probably be favored when the lines are posted, and then readers will e-mail and call me a cheater. So if you're one of the readers who rejects West Virginia over Louisville, for you I'll go with unranked Tennessee over No. 20 Kentucky on Sunday. And if you're one of the readers who rejects that pick too, honestly, just go get your upset picks from Seth Davis. I'm doing the best I can.

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Player trying to keep rolling: Ben Hansbrough's decision to transfer out of Mississippi State was wise for a variety of reasons. Not only did it ensure he would never be punched in the face by Renardo Sidney, it also allowed Hansbrough to enjoy a nice senior season during which he has escaped the large shadow of his brother and developed into a legitimate All-America candidate. Hansbrough is averaging 27.7 points by making 12 of 20 3-point attempts during No. 8 Notre Dame's three-game winning streak. If he keeps that up, the Irish will have a chance to win Saturday at No. 16 Connecticut and then possibly earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Player trying to get rolling: If the Irish win at Connecticut they'll talk to the media, shower and quickly turn their attention to No. 19 Villanova at No. 4 Pittsburgh because that game would then have huge implications for Notre Dame. A Notre Dame win followed by a Pitt loss would allow the Irish to share the Big East regular-season title with the Panthers and be the No. 1 seed in next week's Big East tournament. So my guess is that Hansbrough plans on making a bunch of jumpers and then rooting for Corey Fisher to make a bunch of jumpers, too. Problem is, Fisher is just 3 of 24 on 3-point attempts during Villanova's three-game losing streak. Needless to say, that's very un-Hansbrough-like.

Three things you need to know

1. Despite losing twice to BYU, San Diego State will share the Mountain West Conference title with BYU if Steve Fisher's team beats Colorado State on Saturday. So the BYU Honor Code has been bad for the Cougars but good for the Aztecs. Funny how things work like that sometimes.

2. Arizona will take the outright Pac-10 title Saturday with a win over Oregon. Considering the 18th-ranked Wildcats have already beaten Oregon 76-57 at Oregon, and considering this game will be played at Arizona, let me be the first to say, "Congratulations, Wildcats. The path you took to hire Sean Miller was a little bizarre. But you got it right, clearly."

3. If you like bubble games -- and really, who doesn't? -- then Saturday's game between Virginia Tech and Clemson is for you. Both schools still have reasonable at-large hopes. But whichever team loses here will enter the ACC tournament on a two-game losing streak, and that's not good for momentum. Or for at-large hopes.

Final thought: The Missouri Valley Conference tournament is happening this weekend.

I hate that I'm missing it.

I attended the event a few years ago, but on this weekend in recent years I've found myself tied to games like Saturday's showdown between Duke and North Carolina. No question, that's where I should be. Duke-UNC is and will be huge. But I'm still compelled to use this space to remind everybody that almost nobody does a league tournament better than the MVC and the thousands and thousands of fans who converge on St. Louis every March.

The Big East tournament is probably better because of New York City.

But for a diehard basketball fan, I wouldn't put anything else above the MVC tournament.

It's terrific from start to finish.

I hope to return one day, schedule permitting.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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