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IT'S A JAM-PACKED JIM SEZ: WE DIG INTO TONIGHT'S TOP COLLEGE B-BALL GAMES PLUS THERE'S NBA TRADE DEADLINE NOTES AND OUR NFL DRAFT REPORT WITH THE TOP RUNNING BACKS UNDER OUR 'SCOPE
By Jim Hurley:
Hey, a week from today we shall be saying bye-bye to the month of February and so this 2012-13 College Basketball Season will officially be in "crunch time" mode but let's not forget all the great hoops games on the docket these next seven days including tonight's fun showdowns between #6 Duke at Virginia Tech and the all-important left-coast duel between BYU at Saint Mary's - these West Coast Conference clubs may be unranked right at this very minute now but you had better keep your eyes on both teams come next month's NCAA Tournament.
You heard it here first!
Also, don't forget that this Saturday is BracketBuster Day (yes, the BracketBusters actually tip off with a pair of games tomorrow night) and so lots of great mid-major showdowns on the menu as we go full speed ahead to "March Madness" and gotta believe there's 10-to-12 teams that can "win it all" this spring even if the national media has most folks banging the drums of the Big 10 ...
Folks, don't get us wrong as the likes of #1 Indiana, #4 Michigan State and #7 Michigan are super-duper teams but we don't count any of the above as "unbeatable" and personally we wouldn't be shocked if none of the above threesome even made it to this year's Final Four - so there!
It's time to dig into tonight's action and so here's the Jim Sez Previews ...
#6 DUKE (22-3, 9-3 ACC) at VIRGINIA TECH (11-14, 2-10 ACC) - 9 p.m. ET, espn2
Let's face facts: The Duke Blue Devils are now 25 games into this current campaign and yet many folks still don't know what Mike Kryzewski's squad is all about: Are the Dookies - first and foremost - a three-point shooting team or do they believe inside muscle man Mason Plumlee (17.6 ppg and 10.4 rpg) is their most valuable on-court weapon?
In any event, Duke tries here to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time this season - Coach K's guys followed up setbacks against N.C. State and Miami with wins, remember - and now here comes the post-Maryland tilt when last Saturday the Blue Devils (playing their fourth game in 10 days) were crunched on the boards 38-to-17 as the aforementioned Plumlee managed just 4 points and 3 caroms.
Got enough rest for this one, guys?
It says here Duke needs to win a few more games including at least get to the ACC Tournament Championship Game to ensure a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
BYU (20-8, 9-4 WCC) at SAINT MARY'S (22-5, 11-2 WCC) - 11 p.m. ET, espn2
Forget the non-rankings, if you will, here and instead concentrate on the fact that Saint Mary's averages better than 76 ppg - that's 16th-best in the country - and G Matthew Dellavedova (15.8 ppg) is one of the best late-night entertainers around ... got that, Leno, Letterman and Kimmel?
If Dellavedova can ignite the Gaels on the fast break here than Saint Mary's will get this game speeded up and that's to Saint Mary's advantage although we've seen BYU run-n-gun pretty good at times this year with star G Tyler Haws (21.2) the major cog in this offense that ranks 11th nationally while averaging a nifty 78.0 ppg.
One key here: BYU's got a little momentum following Tuesday's 70-68 win against Utah State when Craig Cusick tipped in a Matt Carlino missed FG with 0.2 seconds left.
Here's a couple of other quick-hitter previews tonight ...
CINCINNATI (19-7, 7-6 Big East) at CONNECTICUT (17-7, 7-5 Big East) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Remember that the UConn Huskies are ineligible for any/all post-season tournies beginning with the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden but this tilt is super-important to on-the-fence Cincy: The Bearcats - losers of three of their last four games while splitting their last dozen tilts - never have been able to gain a consistent foothold from an offensive standpoint and never was that more apparent than in last Friday's 62-55 home loss to 4 ½-point dog Georgetown. The 'Cats shot a putrid 17-of-54 from the field (that's 31.5 percent, folks) and the combo of swingman Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright teamed up to hit just 8-of-27 FG tries. Want to do a bit better here, guys?
CALIFORNIA (16-9, 8-5 Pac-12) at #23 OREGON (21-5, 10-3 Pac-12) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPNU
It's truly been streak city for the Oregon Ducks who enter this clash riding a three-game winning streak that immediately comes on the heels of a three-game losing skid - and that comes after a nine-game winning streak. If the Ducks are gonna get revenge for the 58-54 loss in Berkeley back on February 2nd, than finishing stronger will be key after blowing a 50-42 lead in that first meeting - note that Oregon played without starting PG Dominic Artis who's now been out since late January.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you wall-to-wall College Basketball and NBA Winners each and every day when you check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Note that the check-in times are after 1 p.m. ET for all the Monday-through-Friday weeknight action and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays/Sundays/Holidays. Pile up all the profits this busy hoops month and gear up for all the March Madness straight ahead
THE NBA TRADE DEADLINE NEWS/NOTES
The clock continues to tick down on today's NBA Trade Deadline and - despite some heavy-duty rumors - it does not appear that either Los Angeles Lakers C Dwight Howard nor injured Boston Celtics PG Rajon Rondo (out for the year) will be dealt by the deadline but two names that keep popping up are ...
Forward Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks should get moved even though GM Danny Ferry was quoted as saying he won't deal the lefthander "just to do it" but either Milwaukee or Brooklyn - who just so happen to be coming off a post-All Star Game home-and-home series -- appear to make the most sense. We'll say the Bucks have the slightest of edges to obtain Smith even if G Brandon Jennings is not part of the package.
The other high-profile name making the rounds is Utah F Paul Millsap who could be headed to Minnesota but don't discount the possibility that the stat-sheet stuffing Millsap winds up in Chicago and it's always possible that Smith and Millsap will be the biggest names in a potential three-team deal involving the Hawks, Jazz and Bulls.
Want a trade deadline sleeper?
Than keep an eye out on Sacramento PG Tyreke Evans who could be a valuable missing "puzzle piece" for someone like the New York Knicks or the Golden State Warriors.
THE NFL DRAFT - LOOKING AT THE TOP RUNNING BACKS
EDDIE LACY, Alabama - The conventional wisdom out there in NFL Draft-land says that there won't be any running backs tabbed in Round One but this 5-foot-10, 220-pounder with multiple national championships under his belt could sneak in late in the opening round should the Atlanta Falcons at pick #30 "get the itch". Lacy and his spin-o-rama moves worked wonders on the college level but there's some belief that he won't be quick enough between the tackles to evade NFL defenders. Still, he's the pick-of-the-litter when it comes to top running backs on this 2013 draft board.
GIOVANI BERNARD, North Carolina - Here's a running back with quick feet/great moves who also doubled as a return specialist for the Tar Heels in his two years in college but there are concerns with his durability as a slew of injuries forced this 5-foot-10, 205-pounder to miss game time. Some NFL scouts question his "breakaway" speed but we like what we see and he shouldn't last past the middle of Round II.
JOSEPH RANDLE, Oklahoma State - The Cowboys star said goodbye following his junior year after leading the Big 12 with 1,417 yards rushing and his quick acceleration and foot speed makes him a likely third-round bargain but there are concerns with his "ball security" and so that could cause him to drop. Odds are Randle - who also performs well as a sound receiver coming out of the backfield - will thrive in an offense that is truly diversified. Did someone say the Green Bay Packers are interested?
ANDRE ELLINGTON, Clemson - This 5-foot-10, 195-pounder is another likely third-round draftee who sports great balance and thus the yards-after-contact numbers are solid but he's a tad injury-prone (see nagging hamstring injury last season) and may have benefited from playing in a real spread-the-wealth offense.
JOHNATHAN FRANKLIN, UCLA - Most mock drafts have this former Bruins star going after the likes of Wisconsin's Montee Ball and Stanford's Stepfan Taylor but his explosive nature makes him a bit of a sleeper here and there is some talk that if someone can coach 'em up so he can avoid fumbles, Franklin could leapfrog into the early part of Round III. Solid Senior Bowl week likely helped his draft cause.
We'll have more NFL Draft position-by-position analyses all throughout the coming weeks ahead.
NOTE: Catch our College Basketball Saturday Game Previews in the next Jim Sez.
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