Daily Word: Key to Carolina-Duke rematch?
Every weekday, Andy Katz leads a panel of our college hoops experts in a discussion of the biggest issues, trends and themes happening in and around college basketball.
1. What will be the determining factor in North Carolina-Duke: Round 2?
Andy Katz: I'm going to stick with Marcus Paige. He's the difference-maker for North Carolina. On Saturday, if he plays the way he did in the second half of their first meeting, the Tar Heels can win in Cameron. When Paige has the ball in his hands, he can control the game as well as anyone else on the court.
Myron Medcalf: I think Paige is the most important player in this game. He's been the catalyst during this impressive 12-game win streak for North Carolina. Duke has to find a way to contain him.
C.L. Brown: Duke's perimeter shooting. The Blue Devils shot just 5-of-22 from 3-point range in the first meeting and enter Saturday's game having shot 6-of-27 from deep in their loss to Wake Forest. If that continues, the Tar Heels will be celebrating on Franklin Street. If Duke improves those numbers, it will offset Carolina's inside advantage and Cameron will go crazy.
2. The time for bubble teams to win is wearing thin. Which team can't afford a loss this weekend?
Katz: Pitt. I don't think the Panthers are as safe as they have been perceived to be of late. If Pitt loses at Clemson, it could give the selection committee even more pause to consider the Panthers as a viable at-large candidate.
Medcalf: Tennessee is in better shape than some of the other bubble teams out there, but nothing is guaranteed. A loss to Missouri on Saturday would affect the Vols' tourney hopes.
Brown: Missouri. The SEC isn't littered with opponents that can boost the Tigers' résumé once the league tournament begins. Their survive-and-advance mantra needs to start with Saturday's game at Tennessee.
3. The West Coast Conference tournament is underway. Who's your pick to win it?
Katz: Gonzaga. The Zags are finally playing a complete game. Their dominant performance at Saint Mary's should be what carries them through the tournament. And if that occurs, BYU should sweat. The Cougars are hardly a lock.
Medcalf: It's Gonzaga and everyone else in the WCC right now. The Zags might face some competition from BYU, but I don't see any team topping Gonzaga.
Brown: BYU, because it should be playing like a desperate team. The Cougars are close enough to the NCAA tournament bubble that securing the West Coast Conference's automatic bid is the only way to be comfortable. BYU is peaking, too, having won eight of its past nine games, including a 73-65 home victory over regular-season champion Gonzaga.
Games To Watch
The Shockers' dream season goes on in St. Louis as they meet Evansville -- a team they already beat twice by an average of 15 points -- in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
Both teams dropped big games earlier in the week. Both appear to be safely in the NCAA tournament field, so motivation will come from playing for a more favorable seed.
North Carolina took the first meeting. Now, it's Duke's turn to defend its home floor. The Blue Devils were a mess in a loss at Wake Forest on Wednesday, while the Tar Heels' past three wins came by a combined seven points.
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