Sunday's Key College Previews
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THE NBA ALL-STAR GAME IS HERE AND SO IT'S BREAK TIME FOR THE PRO HOOPSTERS BUT THERE'S PLENTY OF KEY COLLEGE TILTS ON TAP FOR SUNDAY
By Jim Hurley:
Just as things are cooling down for a few days in the NBA, they sure are heating up in the world of College Basketball.
Let's face it ... there are "must-win games" all over the map when it comes to the college kids and in today's weekend edition of Jim Sez we'll delve into a few key battles and we'll go coast-to-coast while doing so (that's ACC action all the way out West to the Pac-10).
It's time to head into the final week of February and that's like polishing off your appetizer before getting to a huge and delicious entrée called March ... party time!
We'll preview a batch of key Sunday games below plus chuck in some College Basketball News too but first this ultra-important reminder:
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the College Basketball and NBA All-Star Game Side & Totals Winners this winter weekend when you check in on Game Days anytime after 10 a.m. ET and than after 1 p.m. ET on Monday-through-Friday right here online or else at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Make sure to be with America's #1 Handicapper all through this thrilling and profitable b-ball ride that lasts till June!
SUNDAY'S TOP COLLEGE BASKETBALL TILTS
#14 FLORIDA (20-5, 9-2 SEC) at LSU (10-16, 2-9 SEC) - 1 p.m. ET, espn2
Don't look now but the Florida Gators own a two-game lead over Vanderbilt in the chase for top spot in the Southeastern Conference East Division and one major key for Billy Donovan's gang has been the ability to win the close ones - the mighty Gators are 6-3 SU (straightup) in games decided by 5 points or less but the two-time national champion head coach is hoping his guys don't have to go down to the wire to handle lowly LSU.
The fact of the matter is Florida's won its last four in a row and seven of its last eight games but not everything's perfect for the Gainesville gang as Florida committed 10 first-half turnovers leading to 13 Tennessee points in last weekend's nip-and-tuck 61-60 non-cover win against the 5-point underdog Vols and now junior G Erving Walker - the hero in the win against Tennessee, thanks to a driving layup with 14 seconds left - and Company must steer clear of committing mental mistakes in this clash in the Bayou.
P.S., the LSU Tigers enter this contest on a nine-game losing skid - the Bengals last won a game way back on Jan. 12th (a 56-53 triumph over Arkansas) and so that's a long time between drinks!
N.C. STATE (14-11, 4-7 ACC) at MARYLAND (16-10, 5-6 ACC) - 5:30 p.m. ET
Here's a question: Have the Maryland Terrapins been on the NCAA Tournament "bubble" all year long? Okay, so it may only seem that's the case but Gary Williams' guys have indeed ridden a roller-coaster of sorts for the better part of the past two months and all you need to know is the hot-and-cold Terps have split their last 10 games overall and have not enjoyed a winning streak longer than three games (and that's happened three different times this 2010-11 season).
Maryland now enters this Sunday clash off back-to-back losses - road setbacks at Boston College and Virginia Tech - and so it's become now-or-never time for a team that right now is on the wrong side of the bubble and the onus here is on Jordan Williams (a team-leading 17.1 ppg) to riddle an N.C. State team that has perked up recently with back-to-back wins at Wake Forest and versus Clemson in the past few days. Note that the Wolfpack rode the coat tails of talented freshman C.J. Leslie (18 points and 10 rebounds) to Thursday's 69-61 victory against 2 ½-point road fav Clemson.
GEORGIA TECH (11-14, 3-8 ACC) at #5 DUKE (24-2, 11-1 ACC) - 7:45 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Network
More ACC action and - while the Duke Blue Devils hardly find themselves in a "must-win" mode here - the fact of the matter is Mike Krzyzewski's squad would like to notch as many runaway wins as possible so as to stay in the hunt for one of those precious NCAA Tournament #1 seeds next month. One thing about this Duke attack - which is averaging 83.2 ppg to rank 'em first in the league and sixth nationally, by the way - is that freshman G Seth Curry has really stepped up his play and it's not just been limited to the offensive end of the court as Curry (45 total points in his last three games) has disrupted the rhythm of enemy backcourts too in recent weeks and here getting a grip on Georgia Tech guard Iman Shumpert (17.4 ppg) is critical.
UCLA (19-7, 10-3 Pac-10) at CALIFORNIA (13-13, 6-8 Pac-10) - 10 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Network
Folks, don't sleep on these UCLA Bruins who entered this next-to-last weekend in February sitting in second place in the Pac-10 and winners of their last six consecutive games. In Thursday's impressive 69-65 win at Stanford (a pick 'em affair), the Bruins relied on the Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt combo that scored a total of 34 points but head coach Ben Howland was almost flipping out when his Uclans failed to contest many Stanford triples late in this game. Note that the Cardinal drilled nine trifectas and so look for better perimeter "D" here ... or else surging UCLA won't be getting its Bay Area sweep.
One note on the Cal Golden Bears: They rank a dismal 117th nationally in total defense while allowing 72.1 ppg and they come off Thursday's 78-75 home loss to two-point underdog USC despite the 23-point showing by Markhuri Sanders-Frison.
In other College Basketball News & Notes ...
When you begin to look at some teams that have fallen off the map this year, don't forget to include the Providence Friars (14-12, 3-10 in Big East play following Thursday's79-76 loss to 11 ½-point underdog DePaul).
Maybe having the Blue Demons snap their 25-game Big East losing streak against your team isn't bad enough but there's all sorts of problems abounding here for Keno Davis' team as freshman G Gerard Coleman has missed time due to academic reasons and PC has not won a single road game this year and that's only happened two other times in school history (1982 and 1988) ...
On the other coast, the Oregon State Beavers (9-15 overall and 4-9 in Pac-10 play while heading into Saturday's game at archrival Oregon) were not supposed to be this bad but Craig Robinson's club has won just once since Jan. 15th and G Calvin Haynes - who was expected to score somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-to-18 points a game this season - instead is averaging just 9.9 ppg while making only 16 triples all year long.
Could President Barack Obama's brother-in-law be in trouble in Corvallis? ...
Finally, if you're looking ahead to what small schools could provide a first-round - and maybe even first-weekend - upset than keep in mind both Belmont (24-4 overall and 16-1 inside the Atlantic Sun Conference) and Coastal Carolina (25-3 overall and 15-1 inside the Big South Conference at press time). In fact, you might have spotted Coastal Carolina's name in this week's Associated Press "Others to Watch" list following the Top 25.
Both Belmont and Coastal Carolina are well-coached outfits and it might well be a mistake should the NCAA Tournament Committee folks place either of these clubs with a #15 or #16 seed.NOTE: Get our complete weekend College Basketball and NBA wrap-up report in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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