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Syracuse vs. Duke Round Two, Battles in the Big Ten Among Its Top Teams

With the calendar approaching March, NCAA basketball teams are frantically trying to boost their records and standings. This weekend will again offer a great collection of games and this will begin on Saturday with the No.1  Syracuse (25-1, 12-1) vs. No. 5 Duke (21-6, 10-4) game at 7 p.m. ET.

Both teams are coming off disappointing losses. It’s hard to say which was more upsetting: Syracuse saying goodbye to its perfect record with a loss to Boston College or Duke losing to its arch rival, North Carolina.

Tyler Ennis

Tyler Ennis

The two enter Saturday’s game with a little anger and something to prove–possibly making this matchup more interesting. In their first meeting three weeks ago, the game lived up to its hype with its OT ending. But now with Syracuse’s win streak gone and an inconsistent Duke, what can we expect?

One key to the game will be how Duke plays against Syracuse’s zone. In Game 1 when they got it high into the post, they succeeded but more recently against North Carolina and Maryland, they have struggled against zone defense. Keep in mind Syracuse’s 2-3 zone is different than the other two but it is apparently a weak spot for Duke.

Syracuse succeeded against Duke when scoring their last 23 points either inside the paint or at the charity stripe, according to ESPN Stats & Info but it’s hard to forget the Orange’s 30-plus percent shooting against Boston College.

The Orange is currently in the second ACC spot as No. 14 Virginia (22-5, 13-1) is ahead by a half game while Duke sits in the third position. In addition to bragging rights, neither team wants to kick off a losing streak. Duke gets the win (-6, 134 o/u).

Other Key Games…

No. 11 Louisville at No. 7 Cincinnati (Sat. 12:00 p.m. ET)

Louisville’s (22-4, 11-2) final stretch is a tough one including games at Cincinnati, at SMU, at Memphis and at home versus against UConn. In these two team’s first meeting, a then-ranked No.13 Cincinnati (24-3, 13-1) defeated the Cardinals, 69-66, thanks in part to a clutch Sean Kilpatrick (28 points, 11-for-11 free throws). Again this time, the matchup between Russ Smith and Sean Kilpatrick should be interesting.

The Cardinals have improved since this meeting against not very tough competition. For this game, they’ll get the win (-4, 129.5 o/u).

No. 16 Wisconsin at No. 15 Iowa (Sat. 12:00 p.m. ET): In the last few weeks, Wisconsin (21-5, 8-5) has been playing like we expect them to and in this second matchup between the two, the Hawkeyes could have their hands full. It was a close game in January and Iowa  (19-6, 8-4) almost won but losing coach Fran McCaffrey for his temper didn’t help matters. A win against the Badgers is important for Iowa to show who we think they are.

Iowa gets the win (-6, 144.5 o/u).

Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins

No. 19 Texas at No. 8 Kansas (Sat. 7:30 p.m. ET): Texas (20-6, 9-4) continues moving up in the rankings and with their size, they may be the team to defeat Kansas (20-6, 11-2). They’ll need Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix to have a good game while Kansas will look to its freshman duo, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, to play well.

Texas has defeated Kansas before but it won’t happen a second time (-10, 148 o/u).

No. 13 Michigan State at No. 20 Michigan (Sun. 12:00 p.m. ET)

And on Sunday, it’s a Big Ten battle between the top two teams: Michigan State (22-5, 11-3) vs. Michigan (18-7, 10-3). Both have been struggling lately but for Sparty, the future is starting to look a little brighter as its injured players are returning to the lineup including Keith Appling and Adreian Payne. The Wolverines defeated their in-state rival in their first matchup but if they’re going to do so a second time, Nik Stauskas’ play needs a jumpstart.

Vegas doesn’t have a winner yet but gives Michigan State 17/2 to win the 2014 Men’s NCAA Basketball Championship and Michigan 25/1 to do so.


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