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Houston-Kansas, Duke-Carolina highlight marquee Saturday in men's college hoops


You could quite easily label this coming Saturday in men's college basketball with some kind of superlative alliteration.

Super. Spectacular. Special.

Or maybe just call it a stroke of genius by the folks that carved out the schedules this season.

Now that the Kansas City Chiefs are set to defend their Super Bowl title against the San Francisco 49ers in two weeks in Las Vegas, the behemoth of the NFL will take a momentary backseat with only its Pro Bowl event on deck. And that means college hoops can take center stage Saturday by presenting some of the juiciest showdowns of the entire season.

ACC powers meet when seventh-ranked Duke heads to No. 3 North Carolina for the resumption of their Tobacco Road rivalry.

Fifth-ranked Tennessee trips to Rupp Arena to face No. 10 Kentucky in a showdown of SEC heavyweights, while No. 16 Auburn tries to get back on track when it heads to Ole Miss, which is quickly making a statement nationally.

In the Big 12, there's fourth-ranked Houston visiting No. 8 Kansas for their first matchup as league foes, and No. 12 Iowa State tries to build on its 11-spot jump in the AP Top 25 this week when it visits No. 18 Baylor.

“I think as you go along, and you've heard me say this hundreds of times, November basketball is November basketball,” Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson said. "It's amazing how many people react to a win or loss in November. In December, win or lose, it's just December, and you will be better in December than November, and you will be better in January than December.

“Our goal is to keep improving,” Sampson said. “We won't get significantly better but we have to keep getting better.”

That's the case if the Cougars would like to contend for a title in their new league.

TCU returned to the poll at No. 25 this week, giving the Big 12 eight in the standings — double the SEC, which had the next most at four. And that stacked deck almost makes games like the Horned Frogs against Texas, or Cincinnati visiting No. 15 Texas Tech, feel like undercard bouts Saturday when they would demand special attention in most other leagues.

If anybody can vouch for how tough the Big 12 has become, it might be Baylor coach Scott Drew. He has watched his team lose consecutive one-possession games to Kansas State, Texas and TCU — the latter in triple overtime last weekend.

“We've got a talented team,” Drew said, “but we're going through the fire. Sometimes you have to get burned to learn.”

The fire doesn't let up, either. The Bears play UCF on Wednesday night before starting an almost unfair run: the No. 12 Cyclones, the No. 15 Red Raiders, the No. 8 Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse, and home again to face No. 23 Oklahoma.

“It just takes a spark to start a fire,” Drew said, “and we're at that point where we need to get a win, get some confidence going.”


No. 1 UConn plays Providence on Tuesday night before visiting St. John's on Saturday. Second-ranked Purdue may have an even tougher week ahead with Northwestern visiting Wednesday and a trip to No. 6 Wisconsin on Sunday.


For years, the West Coast Conference led by Gonzaga and Saint Mary's was the mid-major league to watch. These days, it is the Mountain West, where Utah State has climbed to No. 17 and New Mexico vaulted into the poll at No. 19 this week.

San Diego State and Colorado State also have spent time in the top 20 this season.

The Aztecs and Rams meet Tuesday night in Fort Collins, Colorado, while Boise State — which has been receiving votes — visits the Lobos on Wednesday. Then on Saturday, Utah State visits San Diego State for a nationally televised game on FOX.


Get poll alerts and updates on the AP Top 25 throughout the season. Sign up here. AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball