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Duke-Carolina takes top billing in college hoops this week

One of college basketball’s greatest rivalries and a showdown between two Pac-12 powers highlight this week in college basketball.

The marquee game is Duke vs. North Carolina.

The not-so-friendly neighbors will meet for the first time this season and 239th time overall Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

This will be the first meeting between the rivals since for Tar Heels coach Dean Smith died, so emotions will likely be extra high.

It also will be significant in the ACC race.

No. 2 Virginia leads the conference at 11-1 and No. 10 Notre Dame is second at 11-3. The fourth-ranked Blue Devils are still in the hunt at 9-3, but could make the road much more difficult with a loss. The 15th-ranked Tar Heels are a game behind Duke at 8-4, but have lost three of their past four games.

”We’re not all the way down in shambles, so I don’t know if `resurrect’ is the appropriate term,” North Carolina guard Marcus Paige said. ”This is a great opportunity for a confidence-booster and kind of give us momentum going forward.”

Across the country, the marquee programs in the Pac-12 will square off for the only time this season.

No. 7 Arizona had slipups against Oregon State and Arizona State, but is still the dominant team in the conference. UCLA has started making a stronger case for an at-large NCAA tournament bid, winning five of its last six games, including a home sweep of the two Oregon schools.

The Wildcats and Bruins meet Saturday night at what’s sure to be a great atmosphere at McKale Center.

The Big 12 will have another week of position jockeying in a crowded race to catch No. 8 Kansas.

It starts with Wednesday night’s game between No. 14 Iowa State at No. 22 Oklahoma State. The Cyclones, at 8-4 in conference, are just a game behind the Jayhawks. The Cowboys, at 17-8 and 7-6 in the Big 12, are fighting for an NCAA Tournament berth.

Oklahoma State has another tough game on Saturday, playing at No. 23 West Virginia, which picked up a big win over Kansas on Monday.

”This was definitely a must-win game at home,” said West Virginia’s Juwan Staten, who had 20 points, including a layup with 4 seconds left in the 62-61 win over the Jayhawks.

The Big East could start to shake out a little more this week.

No. 6 Villanova is in control at 11-2 after beating Seton Hall on Monday and faces 3-10 Marquette on Saturday.

No. 19 Butler is two games back after escaping with a victory over Creighton on Monday and faces Xavier on Saturday.

Providence, tied for third with Georgetown, plays at DePaul on Wednesday, while the Hoyas host the Blue Demons on Saturday.

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