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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 7, 2014 at 8:51 AM

IT’S MARCH AND THERE’S PLENTY OF MADNESS AROUND – WE CHECK OUT SATURDAY’S BIGGEST COLLEGE B-BALL SHOWDOWNS INCLUDING #14 NORTH CAROLINA AT #4 DUKE AND #25 KENTUCKY AT #1 FLORIDA …

PLUS THERE’S NBA NEWS & NOTES TOO

By Jim Hurley

Hope you didn’t really have anything on your personal calendar for this second Saturday in March … ‘cause there’s so much great College Basketball action on the menu that you are not gonna wish to wander far from your TV or computer screen.

In just a few moments we’ll offer up previews of the top Four (4) games on this Saturday docket – all of ‘em are major doozies, ladies and gents, and the first three tilts come in back-to-back-to-back fashion from noon Eastern time straight on! – and we’ll dial up the “411” when it comes to the NBA, too... but first let’s get you this key information reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will keep steamrolling their way through March with loads of College Basketball winners and take special note that The Network March Madness Package includes all of this weekend’s and next week’s best Conference Tournament Games along with all the upcoming NCAA Tournament Games (remember we banged out a spiffy 20-10 record a year ago in the big tourney) plus all the other tournaments such as the NIT, CBI and CIT Tournies too.

And you get it all for only $150! Yep. Just $150.

Get it either right here online at www.jimhurley.com or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 – plus don’t forget we’re banging out lots of NBA Winners too these days and so go ahead and join the fun and profits today with all the hardwood action this month.

THE COLLEGE B-BALL SATURDAY PREVIEWS

#14 NORTH CAROLINA (23-7, 13-4 ACC) at #4 DUKE (23-7, 12-5 ACC) – 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

Let’s just say that this has not been your typical hoops season along famed Tobacco Road:

Not only have the Virginia Cavaliers already clinched the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season crown – cue the early 1980s music here, folks – but here’s Carolina vs. Duke Part II and talk about two teams that have taken different directions to get to their exact same overall record of 23-and-7!

In fact, Duke – coming off Wednesday’s 82-72 loss at 12 ½-point home underdog Wake Forest – has more than simply basketball worries as iconic head coach Mike Krzyzewski suffered dizzy spells and some light-headedness in that tilt and his Dookie bunch (just 6-of-27 from beyond the three-point line against Wake) has shown major signs of wear-and-tear the past few weeks … maybe they’ve never really recovered from that stretch of four games in eight nights in mid-to-late February.

On the flip side, of course, there’s North Carolina:

Sure, this is the gang that may well go down in Tar Heels history as the worst free-throw-shooting team in school lore but Roy Williams’ squad has reeled off 12 straight wins with the highlight “W” during this stretch happening in the come-from-behind 74-66 win against Duke back on Feb. 20th when G Marcus Paige registered all 13 of his points in the second half including two key late-game buckets.

The Tar Heels – who, by the way, shot a measly 20-of-31 from the foul line in that game (that’s 64.5 percent) – need Paige to rev up his personal motor early here, plus North Carolina’s bench must give ‘em a little jolt too while Duke will come out storming in front of the “Cameron Crazies”, but we’ll be paying particular attention to how the guys not named Jabari Parker (17 points and 11 rebounds in that first meeting) fare here as Coach K and Company must get something significant stat-wise from the likes of G Rasheed Sulaimon (2-of-10 FG shooting for just 6 points in the first meeting versus UNC) and G Tyler Thornton (scoreless in 20 minutes against Carolina to go along with four personal fouls).

Glad coach Kryzewski is feelin’ better – now we’ll see if the Dookies can really make ‘em feel good by puncturing their arch-rival’s double-digit win streak.

#25 KENTUCKY (22-8, 12-5 SEC) at #1 FLORIDA (28-2, 17-0 SEC) – 12 p.m. ET, CBS

First things first and let’s get something off our chest6:

If the Florida Gators win here and then cop the upcoming SEC Tournament in Atlanta, then Billy Donovan’s club will – absolutely – be the numero uno seed in the NCAA Tournament that swings into action on the evening of Tuesday, March 18.

This silly chatter that Florida’s unbeaten in a “weak” Southeastern Conference is just talk – if the Gators are unbeaten in regular-season and mini-tourney play than they get to enter the NCAA Tourney as the top dog and do keep in mind the past two years the team that entered as the overall #1 (that’s Kentucky in 2012 and Louisville in 2013) both won it all … just sayin’.

Now, Florida knows here it is not likely that ace shooter Michael Frazier II will again hit on another 11 trifectas as he did in Tuesday’s rollicking 72-46 win/cover at 12-point underdog South Carolina, but this Kentucky team that seemingly has problems staying focused for five minutes at a time better beware of his downtown shooting prowess.

One key here is how will Kentucky respond if it gets down a bunch of points – remember Florida rallied from down 45-38 to snag a 69-59 win as 2 ½-point dogs in Lexington back on Feb. 15th as Donovan’s guys showed plenty of grit as G Scottie Wilbekin scored 23 points and nailed five late-game key free throws.

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s bench contributed a grand total of two points (in 47 collective minutes) in that first showdown against Florida and so F/C Willie Cauley-Stein (two points and two rebounds in 27 minutes back then) better step it up!

#19 CONNECTICUT (24-6, 12-5 AAC) at #11 LOUISVILLE (25-5, 14-3 AAC) – 2 p.m. ET, CBS

Don’t know why we keep hearing many of the TV talking heads refer to the newfangled American Athletic Conference as something other than a major.

What, a handful of former Big East teams – including last year’s national champion Louisville – are part of some mid-major, all of a sudden?

Better believe this there’s lots of big-boy basketball played in these parts – the current Associated Press Top 25 poll also includes #15 Cincinnati, #18 SMU and #20 Memphis, for goodness sakes alive! – and this showdown at the Yum Center is a rematch of a Jan. 18th tilt when 2 ½-point road fav Louisville copped a 76-64 victory in Storrs as Redbirds’ F Montrezl Harris was the game’s stat-sheet stuffer deluxe with 18 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocked shots but keep in mind one major key there was Rick Pitino’s team held UConn to just 19-of-54 FG shooting (that’s 35.2 percent) with Huskies star G Ryan Boatright suffering through a 4-of-14 FG night.

If Boatright and fellow backcourt mate Shabazz Napier (he scored 30 points in 37 minutes in that first clash) can avoid costly turnovers here and get some open looks, then Kevin Ollie’s club could flip the script and win one in Louisville’s backyard.

What’s really at stake here besides a little case of revenge?

If Louisville runs the table – that’s win this home game and then cop the AAC Tourney next week in Memphis -- then the Cards could get a nice #2 seed for the NCAA Tournament and that’s not bad one year after snagging that latest national crown.

#3 ARIZONA (28-2, 15-2 Pac-12) at OREGON (21-8, 9-8 Pac-12) – 4 p.m. ET, CBS

Hey, this fabulous CBS tripleheader wraps up in the great northwest where the visiting ‘Zona Wildcats are hoping to close out regular-season play with a sixth consecutive win – Sean Miller’s squad survived a real taffy-pull game at Oregon State this past Wednesday night as 9 ½-point fav Arizona survived 74-69 behind the 25-point, 6-rebound, 4-assist game provided by G Nick Johnson.

Arizona wrapped up the Pac-12 regular-season crown already and the #1 seed that goes with it in next week’s mini-tourney to be played in Las Vegas, but there are times when either the Wildcats don’t pound the boards the way they should or can’t “put teams away” and so we’ll see how this one plays out in Eugene where the Ducks – the top-scoring team in the Pac-12 (82.9 ppg) – have won their last five Pac-12 home games after dropping their first three league home tilts to Cal, Stanford and UCLA.

Note that in the first meeting this year back on Feb. 6th in Tucson, the 12-point favored Wildcats barely hung on for a 67-65 non-cover win against the Ducks in which the aforementioned Johnson needed 16 field-goal attempts (5-of-16) to score 18 points while Oregon couldn’t get over the hump despite the fact the ‘Cats played their first game without an injured F Brandon Ashley, missed 16 free throws and shot a wobbly 4-of-16 from beyond the three-point stripe.    

NBA NEWS & NOTES

Here’s the $64,000 two-part question in/around New York City regarding the future of Knicks mega-star Carmelo Anthony?

Is he better off heading elsewhere this summer via agency … and are the Knicks better off too should he pack his bags and leave for, say, Chicago, Miami or maybe even still the Los Angeles Lakers?

Now that New York – 22-40 while heading into meaningless Friday night home against Utah – has dropped some 5 ½ games back of the eighth and final playoff berth in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, everyone wants to know what ‘Melo is gonna do and it’s interesting that the New York City tabloid writers/reporters have been more than gently shoving Anthony out the door while perhaps looking to punish long-time Knicks' boss James Dolan (not one of the good people to the media masses).

The fact of the matter is – while not getting into all the dollar-and-cents stuff here – is that the Knicks will indeed be better off if Anthony takes the free-agent moolah elsewhere because then New York could really rebuild its franchise with the likes of Tim Hardaway, Jr. and perhaps some new blood (did anyone say current Cleveland Cavaliers PG Kyrie Irving) looking to give Madison Square Garden a new feel.

Anthony’s averaging a whopping 28.1 points a game this season, but he’s worn down mentally by the losing/negativism in/around the “World’s Most Famous Arena” and it’s best for both parties to say their farewells at season’s end …

Finally, there’s a major possibility that a handful of big-name players will be gonzo at the year of this 2013-14 NBA campaign with Boston PG Rajon Rondo, Sacramento C DeMarcus Cousins and Detroit guard Brandon Jennings all look to snag some “change of address” slips and if you had to – right here and right now – place these guys along with the aforementioned Anthony in new locations, then this is how we’d see it (with a reminder that we have the right to change our mind over and over again in the next four-plus months!):

Anthony – Chicago Bulls; Rondo – New Orleans Pelicans; Cousins – Toronto Raptors; and Jennings – Phoenix Suns.

NOTE: More NCAA Basketball News/Notes/Previews in the next Jim Sez.

 

 

 

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