Saturday Basketball Previews:

Steve O Speak

By Guest Blogger Geoff Newolet:

Villanova will edge West Virginia in a battle for second in the Big East

No. 9 Villanova is hosting No. 8 West Virginia in a Big East match up that will determine who earns second place in the regular season Big East title race. More importantly, the winner will potentially earn the two-seed in the Big East tournament – depending on Pittsburgh’s results and the tiebreakers. Villanova has already defeated West Virginia this year by the score of 82-75.

Villanova started the season on a tear. They won 20 of their first 21 games, and they were ranked as high as second nationally. As of late, they have lost three of seven – all to Big East opponents. Villanova also only has two strong victories over ranked opponents at home against Georgetown and West Virginia. They also have quality wins over Maryland, Dayton and a slew of solid Big East teams.

West Virginia is coming off a huge home victory over Georgetown, which propelled them to contention for second in the Big East. The Mountaineers are 23-6 on the year, and five of their six losses came against Big East opponents. Their other loss came against a top-five Purdue team. The mountaineers are led by forwards Da’Sean Butler, Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks. Each of the three averages over 12 points and 6 rebounds, and they have caused match up problems all year for their opponents.

The Wildcats are led by senior Scottie Reynolds who averages nearly 19 points per game. Corey Fisher also chips in at 13 point per contest, and he rounds out one of the best backcourts in the Big East. Beyond those two players, only one other averages in double figures for the Wildcats, which creates an unbalanced attack. Villanova is certainly a top-20 team in the nation, but it seems that they are not quite a top-five team, and their past ranking of second nationally came prematurely.

Villanova has already defeated West Virginia on the road this year, and they will edge them again at home. It will be a close came, though, that could end up going either way. Final score: Villanova 76 West Virginia 72

Duke will pummel North Carolina to stay atop the ACC

The troubled North Carolina Tar Heels will renew their rivalry with the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke is looking to finish undefeated at home for the season, whereas North Carolina is looking for their sixth conference win of the season. No. 4 Duke is 25-5 on the year, and they are tied for the ACC lead at 12-3. North Carolina is in the midst of one of their worst seasons in decades, and will most likely be thrilled when the season finally ends.

Duke is coming off their first loss in nine games against ACC rival Maryland. Maryland is now tied with Duke for first place in the ACC, which will give Duke even more incentive to defeat the Tar Heels. It is hard to imagine Duke losing to an inferior North Carolina team with the ACC title on the line. This certainly will not be a uninspired, unmotivated performance by the Blue Devils.

North Carolina has absolutely nothing to play for aside from bragging rights over their conference rivals. The Tar Heels are 16-14, and they have no chance of making the NCAA tournament. They will potentially receive an invitation to one of the various lesser, irrelevant tournaments such as the NIT or the CBI, but being in one of those tournaments is just as much of a disappointment for the Tar Heels as not making a tournament at all.

North Carolina, though, is slightly headed in the right direction with two straight conference wins over Wake Forest and Miami. It would be quite an accomplishment for them to finish their miserable season with a three-game ACC win streak topped by a road win against the Blue Devils.

Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, that most likely will not happen, as Duke will be too much for them with the combination of their superior guards: Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler. Not to mention, North Carolina will be without arguably their best player – Ed Davis. Duke will handle North Carolina with ease in order to keep pace for the ACC title. Final Score: Duke 80 UNC 60

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