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What to watch for in college basketball: Everything leads up to Syracuse-Duke II

You may remember the last time those two teams played. They play again Saturday.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The college basketball world stopped last time Syracuse and Duke played. It will happen again this week. It's not a loaded week of action across the country; in fact, the only game between two ranked teams before Saturday is Tuesday's Texas-Iowa State game. So consider this week your chance to catch up on the rest of the country instead of the roughly four teams everybody has talked about all season.

The ACC's best old rivalry plays Thursday, and its best new rivalry plays Saturday. Some other games happen as well.

Monday, Feb. 17

Oklahoma State Cowboys at Baylor Bears, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN): Oklahoma State is the current feel-bad story of college basketball. Its star, Marcus Smart, had an ugly on-court incident with a fan and was suspended three games, and the Cowboys have lost seven of their last eight games. Oklahoma State will play its final Smart-less game Monday night at Baylor, and the Bears have a lot to play for as well. Both teams are 16-9, and a Baylor win could begin to put it back on the bubble's bubble. They still have a ways to go, but a win Monday would be its third in a row.

Texas State Bobcats at Georgia State Panthers, 7:30 p.m. ET (free video stream at Monday is a slow day in major-conference college hoops, so surf your favorite Internet browser to to get a look at the Sun Belt's likely NCAA tournament qualifier, Georgia State. The Panthers have two high-profile scorers, including former Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow. Harrow is averaging 17.8 points and 4.5 assists per game, and R.J. Hunter is scoring 20.2 points per game. The Panthers are 10-1 in Sun Belt play.

Tuesday, Feb. 18

Texas Longhorns at Iowa State Cyclones, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2): Texas has won nine of its last 10 games and is one of the most pleasant surprises in college basketball this season. Iowa State, meanwhile, has had a few stumbles in conference play, most significant of which was a 102-77 loss to West Virginia on Feb. 10. The Longhorns won the first matchup between the two on Jan. 18, a 86-76 decision in Austin.

Villanova Wildcats at Providence Friars, 7 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1): Two of the Big East's projected tournament teams face off in Providence, and the Friars could use a signature win in a time of need. They've lost four of their last six -- both wins were over DePaul -- and a home game against a top-ranked opponent is their last great chance for a big win. Providence is 5-9 this season against teams in the top 100, but a home win over Villanova would look nice on its résumé next to its 81-68 home win over Creighton on Jan. 18.

Wednesday, Feb. 19

Boston College Eagles at Syracuse Orange, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2): Syracuse is playing, so be ready for a buzzer beater. Maybe not, but that's how last week's schedule went for Syracuse: Buzzer-beating Tyler Ennis with the 35-footer as time expired to beat Pittsburgh, then a C.J. Fair runout lay-up with 6.7 seconds to play to beat North Carolina State on Saturday. Boston College has lost 12 of its last 14, and those two wins are both over Virginia Tech, but tune in any time you have a chance in mid-February to see the unanimous No. 1 team in the country.

Auburn Tigers at Florida Gators, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN3): Of all the ranked teams in action Wednesday, none are facing a team that seems likely get an at-large bid to the big dance. So while you're watching No. 1, how about you surf over to watch No. 2? Florida has won 17 games in a row and is coming off a 69-59 win Saturday night at Kentucky, giving John Calipari just his third loss in 84 home games as the Wildcats' head coach. Auburn stayed reasonably close to Florida the first time the two met, but Florida pulled away on the road for a 68-61 win. Auburn guard Chris Denson leads the SEC with 20.9 points, and you're running out of excuses to watch him.

Thursday, Feb. 20

Duke Blue Devils at North Carolina Tar Heels, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN): Duke and North Carolina are playing, which means it's a big deal and you should probably watch it. You should at least know that it's happening, and know that it's an important game in the ACC considering that North Carolina has recovered from its rotten start to win six league games in a row heading in to this week. With wins over Michigan State, Louisville, Kentucky and Pittsburgh, a win over the Blue Devils would further complicate an awfully strange NCAA tournament résumé. As of now, SB Nation's Chris Dobbertean has the Tar Heels as a No. 7 seed.

Gonzaga Bulldogs at BYU Cougars, 11 p.m. ET (ESPN2): BYU got a big win over St. Mary's on Saturday, and the Cougars have a few days off before hosting Gonzaga on ESPN2. has BYU's offense as No. 31 in the country according to his adjusted offensive efficiency metric, and the Cougars have a handful of tournament-worthy wins -- Stanford, Texas, two over St. Mary's. When the two played in Spokane on Jan. 25, Gonzaga won 84-69.

Friday, Feb. 21

VCU Rams at Massachusetts Minutemen, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2): The Atlantic-10 is having another great season, and two of the teams near the top of the league face each other Friday on ESPN2. VCU has lost two of its last three -- one a 64-62 road loss to conference-leading Saint Louis on Saturday -- and the only VCU-UMass game of the season should be a good one. You'll see both of these teams in the tournament.

Iona Gaels at Rider Broncs, 8 p.m. ET (ESPNU): Iona leads the MAAC with a 14-2 record, so tune in to ESPNU to see the team Chris Dobbertean projects Iowa State to play in the first round of the NCAA tournament. If you don't want to watch this game, too bad. This is about it for Friday. Go hang out with your friends or family or something. Don't shoot the messenger. We don't schedule the games.

Saturday, Feb. 22

Syracuse Orange at Duke Blue Devils, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN): You may remember that the last time these two teams played, people freaked out. But it was OK, as they freaked out because it was one of the best regular-season college basketball games in recent memory. Syracuse won 91-89 in overtime, and we should all be so lucky that the rematch at Cameron Indoor would be half as exciting a game.

Louisville Cardinals at Cincinnati Bearcats, noon ET (CBS): Two of the teams atop the American will face off for the second time; the first time around, Cincinnati validated its gaudy record with a 69-66 road win. The Bearcats lost their first conference game last week, a 76-55 drubbing at the hands of SMU. The matchup between Russ Smith and Sean Kilpatrick is a rare tip-off between two players in's top-10 standings for player of the year; going into this week, Smith is No. 3, and Kilpatrick is No. 8.

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