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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, February 21, 2014 at 8:38 AM

THE NBA TRADE DEADLINE – THE ROCKETS DON’T GET RONDO AND SO ALL THE SMALL DEALS ARE REALLY NO BIG DEALS AT ALL …

EXTRA, EXTRA: NORTH CAROLINA SURGES PAST DUKE 74-66 IN A RUSH-THE-COURT SPECIAL PLUS WE PREVIEW SATURDAY’S TOP TILTS IN COLLEGE HOOPS-LAND INCLUDING #11 LOUISVILLE AT #7 CINCY, STREAKIN’ ST. JOHN’S AT #9 VILLANOVA & (OF COURSE) STILL-#1 SYRACUSE AT STILL-#5 DUKE

By Jim Hurley

Gotta say it truly was a “big news night” on Thursday as the Miami Heat blitzed Oklahoma City 103-81 as even LeBron James’ bloody nose couldn’t ruin their night, while the college kids had something to shout about as North Carolina won its eighth game in a row with a real comeback special in a 74-66 triumph over fifth-ranked Duke … but we want to know why the Carolina kids felt it necessary to rush the court, and why the ESPN know-it-alls kept referring to this one as an “upset” as the Dookies were a mere two-point betting favorite.

Oh, well.

In the end, the UNC Tar Heels actually revved things up at the free-throw line where Carolina finished a semi-respectable 20-of-31 overall, but we believe the real news on this night was Duke’s inability to score from approximately five minutes into the second half till game’s end … and why didn’t Hall of Fame head coach Mike Krzyzewski do anything different to combat North Carolina’s 1-3-1 zone defense? We want to know!

To quote ESPN game analyst Dick Vitale the “bottom line” is Carolina (19-7, 9-4 ACC) has cranked it up after that hellacious 1-4 start in league play and Duke has some major soul-searching prior to Saturday night’s home game against Syracuse – and more about that one in just a few moments.

It did appear the big news of the sports day – not counting that women’s goal medal hockey meltdown by the U.S.A. against Canada – would come via the NBA Trade Deadline, but the Houston Rockets were unable to pry loose superstar Boston Celtics’ point guard Rajon Rondo – the price tag including small forward Chandler Parsons was too steep – and so this trade deadline basically passed without any major names getting moved although we understand the hub-bub surrounding Indiana’s trade of Danny Granger to Philadelphia for Evan Turner.

While the TNT voices – namely Charles Barkley – hailed the deal and claimed Turner will give the Pacers the upper hand in their fight to win the Eastern Conference – the loss of Granger is tough to quantify simply because he’s never really gotten into a real rhythm with Frank Vogel’s club this season, but might have been a valuable double-double guy come the post-season.

The next-biggest move was Washington’s acquisition of PG Andre Miller, who has not played in weeks because of his personal issues with Denver head coach Brian Shaw, but gut feeling is the Wizards might be better off with their current personnel and adding Miller could steal valuable minutes from younger kids – stay tuned.

So, Rondo stayed put and so did Nuggets’ board-banger Kenneth Faried (see 26 points and 6 rebs in last night’s easy 101-90 win at 5-point underdog Milwaukee) and ditto for the likes of Utah’s Gordon Hayward (wanted by his old Butler coach/current Celtics boss Brad Stevens) and Atlanta guard Jeff Teague – all were prominently mentioned in pre-trade deadline talk but none of ‘em will have to head to the local post office for change of address slips. And now hear this …

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will keep on piling up the profits all this week/month with lots of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online at www.vegassportsmasters.com or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-888-777-4155 – so go ahead and win with all the hardwood action today! On Saturday, it’s …

#1 SYRACUSE (25-1, 12-1 ACC) at #5 DUKE (21-6, 10-4 ACC) – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

No ifs, ands or buts about it …

The Syracuse Orange played with fire just once too often lately as following nail-biter 2- and 1-point wins against Pittsburgh and N.C. State, respectively, the magic ran out in Wednesday’s 62-59 home loss against 13 ½-point dog Boston College – now Jim Boeheim’s guys look for the season sweep against Duke but, hey, that first meeting on Super Bowl weekend was no walk in the park!

In fact, the ‘Cuse was more than a little fortunate to have survived that early February win in upstate New York when Jerami Grant scored eight of his career-high 24 points in overtime and the Dookies made good on 15 trifectas (out of 36 attempts) and still could not pull off the stunning upset against the 4 ½-point favored Orange.

No doubt Syracuse – now coming off Wednesday’s 62-59 overtime home loss against Boston College – will be clearly focused on this task at hand, but can Boeheim’s bunch count on another 28-point game from C.J. Fair, or might it be too must to ask the visiting team here to shoot 57.4 percent from the floor (that’s an amazing 31-of-54)?

#11 LOUISVILLE (22-4, 11-2 AAC) at #7 CINCINNATI (24-3, 13-1 AAC) – 12 p.m. ET, CBS

It’s safe to say that the good folks in Cincinnati – and that includes season-ticket holder Oscar Robertson – have been waiting a long time form a championship-type team … you know, like the folks in Louisville got to love just last year.

While the U of L Cardinals remain on their season-long mission to defend their national championship (yes, we know a major chunk of that title team is gone) the Cincinnati kids are the real story here as Mick Cronin’s guys have won 17 of their last 18 games, and take note that Cincy’s comes off its largest margin-of-victory win this calendar year as Wednesday’s never-in-doubt 77-49 triumph at 6 ½-point pup UCF featured a 23-point game by G Sean Kilpatrick (that included six trifectas) and how about the fact the Bearcats held Central Florida to a wobbly 29.6 accuracy rate from the floor (that’s 16-of-54 FG makes)?

Not likely that Cronin’s kids will limit the ‘Ville to 30 percent-or-so shooting from the floor here, but that stifling defense remains a key, and keep in mind Cincinnati held Louisville to just 20 first-half points in a 69-66 upset win against the then-8 ½-point favored host Redbirds when Rick Pitino’s veteran hands Luke Hancock and Russ Smith combined for just 11-of-27 shooting from the floor and only 4-of-14 shooting from trey-land.

Can Cincinnati complete the season sweep against the Cards?

Bearcat Nation can’t wait to find out …now go ahead and take your seat, “Big O”!

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ST. JOHN’S (18-9, 8-6 Big East) at #9 VILLANOVA (23-3, 11-2 Big East) (at Wells Fargo Center) – 1:30 p.m. ET, Fox 1

Geez, if the ‘Nova Wildcats could have just eliminated Creighton from its schedule this 2013-14 season, then folks all ‘round the land would be talking up Jay Wright’s club as a legit national championship team.

The fact is that Villanova’s been buried – twice – by Creighton as the Bluejays rolled 96-68 and 101-80 in those two Big East affairs, but otherwise Wright’s guys have done little wrong with just a loss to mighty Syracuse back in late December.

Now, here’s Villanova facing a real stiff test from someone outside of the city of Omaha as the Red Storm roll into Philly having won six in a row and nine of its last 10 games, and save for a game-winning triple by Creighton’s Doug McDermott way back on Jan. 28th this would be a 10-game winning streak enjoyed by Steve Lavin’s born-again bunch from Queens.

Note that the Johnnies here will be without shot-blocker Chris Obekpa, who suffered a knee injury in practice one day before the team’s rollicking 77-52 win/cover versus 8 ½-point underdog Butler, but there’s plenty of depth on this SJU crew starring G D’Angelo Harrison (17.9 ppg) and Akron native/LeBron James pal JaKarr Sampson, who poured in a career-best 23 points against the Butler boys this past Tuesday night.

If ‘Nova is gonna slow down the streaking Red Storm here then it needs to follow the formula of that 74-67 win against St. John’s back on Jan. 11th at Madison Square Garden. The ‘Cats – a 4 ½-point betting fav in that clash – won the board battle 42-to-31 and held the Johnnies to 2-of-11 from beyond the three-point stripe while Villanova reserve G Josh Hart gave ‘em a boost with 14 points and 5 rebounds in 27 game minutes.

NOTE: Catch more College Basketball News & Notes in tomorrow’s edition of Jim Sez.

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