The College Basketball Notebook

December 3, 2010 7:37 AM

The Weekend Ahead

DukeButler.jpgEven the most ardent of Duke-haters have to concede their willingness to step out and play real competition in non-conference. Three days after beating Michigan State, the Blue Devils will take on another Final Four team from last year, this one a rematch of their national championship game with Butler (3:15 ET, ESPN). I don't know that the Bulldogs will find Cameron Indoor Stadium as hospitable as the RCA Dome was in Indy last year when they nearly pulled the shocker, but this road trip will be good experience for them as they try and prepare for another March run. Just down the road in Chapel Hill will be another big one when North Carolina hosts Kentucky (12:30 ET, CBS). The Tar Heels have really hit a gut-check point already and if they keep losing marquee games in non-conference, they're really going to have their back to the wall when ACC play begins. Kentucky's doing some re-tooling and a road trip like this to a struggling opponent will tell us how far they're along in that project.

Other noteworthy games include Alabama-Purdue (3:30, ESPN2). The Crimson Tide aren't going to win in West Lafayette, but whether Purdue can step up and put the hammer to them will be an early indicator of how good the Boilermakers are. At 5:15 EST, there are nationally televised games between Illinois-Gonzaga (ESPN) and N.C. State-Syracuse (ESPN2). The Wolfpack were destroyed at Wisconsin on Wednesday and I can't see how a trip to Syracuse is going to end any happier. Illinois looked good in picking apart North Carolina Tuesday night and following it up by winning out in Seattle would be a good early statement for Bruce Weber's team.

Away from the lights of national television on Saturday is Texas Tech-Washington, with both teams being at the point where they need wins like this if they're going to make the NCAA Tournament. And on Sunday, Temple visits Maryland. The Owls appear to be the better team early on, but Gary Williams' Terps have a way of springing surprises when least expected.

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Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football , game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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