Today's Specials: Duke and UK tangle in battle of blue bloods

Will former walk-on Jarrod Polson have to again bail out Kentucky against Duke on Tuesday night? (US Presswire)

The 24-hour marathon got off to a bit of a slow start, as Gonzaga steamrolled West Virginia, but there’s still 14 hours of hoops left to go. Plus, it’s college basketball during the day. On a Tuesday. In November. Enjoy it.

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

Best game: No. 8 Duke at No. 3 Kentucky (9:30 p.m., ESPN). For two teams consistently near the top of the rankings, they rarely face each other. In fact, this is the first time these two teams are matching up since 2001, when Duke beat Kentucky in overtime. Fast-forward to this season, and neither team is close to how they will be come March. Kentucky is clearly a work in progress, while Duke will likely tinker with lineups for a bit. The key could be the inside battle between Mason Plumlee and Nerlens Noel; Maryland’s Alex Len dominated the Wildcats’ post players.

Second-best game: No. 14 Michigan State at No. 7 Kansas (7 p.m., ESPN). This game might have had a bit more luster had Michigan State not dropped one to Connecticut in Germany on Friday. Expect a defensive battle between two teams still figuring out their offense. Michigan State struggled at times on the offensive end, although freshman Gary Harris looked like he will be a legit player all season. Kansas is always a lockdown defensive group, but Bill Self will have to find some go-to offensive options on his roster. I think he’ll be fine.

Another one to watch: Butler at Xavier (4 p.m., ESPN). Before I get into the matchup, it’s worth nothing both teams are now Atlantic 10 rivals – but this is a non-conference game. Xavier lost a ton from last season, but the Musketeers dropped 117 against Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday. Freshman Semaj Christon should be healthy. Butler is a conference contender, with Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke leading the way. This game could show whether the Bulldogs are ready to make a run at the A-10.

Guaranteed win: Mississippi Valley State was a fun team to watch last season, winning the SWAC in dominant fashion. Unfortunately, the Delta Devils lost nearly their entire team – as well as their coach. Going against an experienced and talented Cincinnati team (7 p.m., ESPN3) probably isn’t the best way to get some confidence going in the early season.

Potential upset: I don’t like showing bias, so I only mention Delaware when it’s legitimate – and Tuesday’s trip to Virginia fits the bill (7 p.m., ESPN3). The Cavaliers are struggling at both ends of the floor without Jontel Evans and Malcolm Brogden, while Delaware has plenty of offensive talent on its roster. Outside of Joe Harris, Virginia doesn’t have too many consistent options – the Blue Hens are simply more explosive.

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. The Connecticut bandwagon is pretty full after the Huskies surprised everyone and beat Michigan State in Germany on Friday. But can they bring it consistently? Vermont is the America East favorite, and won’t back down. The two New England teams will tangle (7 p.m., ESPN3).
  2. Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum dropped 36 against Baylor last week, and is one of the best scoring guards in the country. What will Jamie Dixon and Pittsburgh have in store for him? (9 p.m., ESPNU)
  3. Can Long Beach State be as good as it was a year ago? The 49ers lose a ton, but they still have James Ennis and have a collection of transfers. Speaking of transfers, Tuesday will be an early test for USC (9:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network).  

BONUS: How cool is it that Alabama-Huntsville will be the final game of the 24-hour marathon? After beating North Texas, they have a chance to get to New York City at Kansas State (10 p.m., ESPN2).

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