Previewing the marquee games from Saturday's must-see slate

Previewing the marquee games from Saturday's must-see slate

The Saturday before the NFC and AFC championship games typically provides a loaded college hoops slate, and this year doesn't disappoint. Three clashes between top 12 teams highlight what may be the most compelling college hoops day of the season so far:

1. Duke at Louisville (Saturday, 12 p.m. EST): The high-profile showdown that once appeared likely to be Mike Krzyzewski's first chance to win his 1,000th game now carries different significance. Duke will lose its third game in a row for the first time in eight years if it can't defeat the Cardinals. For the Blue Devils to have any chance, they must defend better than they have in losses against Miami and NC State. The Hurricanes and Wolfpack both shot greater than 50 percent by shredding Duke off the dribble, exploiting poor transition defense and making the Blue Devils pay for going under screens with 3-pointers. Louisville isn't as deadly from behind the arc as Miami and NC State, but Cardinals guards Chris Jones and Terry Rozier will be a major challenge for Duke to handle off the dribble. Rozier delivers 17.4 points per game and Jones is averaging 17.5 points and 7.0 assists since his post-Kentucky benching.

2. Utah at Arizona (Saturday, 7 p.m. EST): The first meeting between the Pac-12's two premier teams will pit two outstanding defenses against one-another. League title favorite Arizona relies on its size and length to limit opponents to sub-40 percent shooting and compounds that by surrendering the fourth lowest percentage of offensive rebounds of any team in the nation. Top challenger Utah has so far been even more difficult to score against, holding opponents to 36.4 percent shooting and the country's third-lowest points per possession. The most intriguing matchup will be how Arizona attempts to defend national player of the year candidate Delon Wright, the engine of an efficient Utah offense. Look for long-armed, ultra-athletic wing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to draw that assignment most frequently.  The Utes have steamrolled opponents so far in Pac-12 play, but this will be their first chance to send a message to Arizona that they're a true threat to win the league.

3. Kansas at Iowa State (Saturday, 9 p.m. EST): Only one team besides Iowa State has won at Hilton Coliseum in the past three years. That's Kansas, which won an overtime classic in Feb. 2013 and edged the Cyclones against last season. For the Jayhawks to extend their win streak, they'll have to subdue a raucous crowd and an efficient Iowa State offense. Five Cyclones average double figures led by forward Georges Niang, shooting guard Bryce Dejean-Jones and sharpshooters Naz Long and Dustin Hogue. Kansas has improved over the course of the season as Frank Mason has solidified the point guard position and elite freshmen Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander have evolved into impact players. Oubre is averaging 13.6 points in his last seven games after hardly playing in November and Alexander is a defensive anchor who also provides low-post scoring and rebounding. A Kansas win would be a big step toward its 11th straight Big 12 title. The Jayhawks (14-2, 3-0) would be two or more games up in the loss column on every team in the league if West Virginia falls at Texas and Kansas State loses at home to Baylor.

Other games to watch:

Miami at Notre Dame (Saturday, 2 p.m. EST): This battle of elite backcourts will be even more guard-oriented if the Irish still don't have top big man Zach Auguste due to an academic-related issue. Notre Dame isn't a good rebounding team even with Auguste, but they're in real trouble without him.

Ohio State at Iowa (Saturday, 2 p.m. EST): This is a toss-up game between two teams that can look like Big 10 title contenders one night and NIT teams the next. Iowa won 71-65 in Columbus to open Big Ten play behind 18 apiece from Jarrod Uthoff and Aaron White.

Kentucky at Alabama (Saturday, 4 p.m. EST): Alabama is ferocious defensively, improved offensively and unbeaten at home. Could this be the day top-ranked Kentucky loses for the first time this season? Nah.

Michigan State at Maryland (Saturday, 4 p.m. EST): Some critical late-game gaffes ripped a win from the Spartans' grasp in their 68-66 double-overtime loss at Maryland last month. Michigan State will get a chance for revenge Saturday, but it will come on the road.

West Virginia at Texas (Saturday, 6:15 p.m. EST): Two ugly losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have raised questions about whether Texas can contend in the Big 12 this season. The Longhorns return home Saturday against a much-improved West Virginia team winning by forcing turnovers and dominating the glass.

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Saturday, 7 p.m. EST): The basketball version of Bedlam seems to favor Oklahoma — especially in Norman. The Sooners should be able to neutralize sweet-shooting Phil Forte to some extent by sticking Isaiah Cousins on him and they'll pose problems for LeBryan Nash because he'll have to defend either Ryan Spangler or Tayshawn Thomas in the paint.

UConn at Stanford (Saturday, 9 p.m. EST): The last time these two teams met last season, Stanford upset the future national champs in Storrs. The rematch pits two of the nation's better lead guards — Chasson Randle and Ryan Boatright.

BYU at Saint Mary's (Saturday 11 p.m. EST): This is a huge game for two potential bubble teams. BYU and Saint Mary's are probably the two biggest threats to Gonzaga in the WCC this season, but neither the Cougars nor the Gaels notched enough quality non-league wins to feel comfortable about their NCAA tournament chances yet.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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