Super Bowl Sunday college hoops previews

Super Bowl Sunday college hoops previews

Super Bowl Sunday college hoops previews
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

Penn State Nittany Lions at Michigan State Spartans (-12.5, 140)

With star Raymar Morgan suffering from a viral infection, Michigan State has needed different players to help carry the team.

The backcourt duo of Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers have been up to the challenge.

Lucas and Summers look to continue their sudden surge and help the ninth-ranked Spartans improve to 17-0 all-time at home against Penn State on Sunday.

Morgan, a preseason all-Big Ten selection, helped Michigan State (17-3, 7-1) climb atop the league standings, but his illness has limited his contributions in the last three games.

The 6-foot-8 junior forward finished with two points in eight minutes off the bench Thursday, but was hardly missed in a 71-56 victory over Iowa.

The backcourt led the way, as Lucas matched his career high with 24 points and Summers added 21 as the Spartans won for the 13th time in 14 games. That tandem has combined for 91 points in the last two games.

The Nittany Lions are off to their best conference start since beginning the 1995-96 season 6-2, but they open a daunting schedule with five of their next seven games on the road.

Penn State has lost nine straight road games against ranked opponents since a 66-65 win over then-No. 6 Illinois on Feb. 4, 2006.

The Nittany Lions should be rested for this game after having a week off since last Saturday's 63-59 win over Iowa.

The break came at a good time, with Big Ten scoring leader Talor Battle nursing a sore hip and groin in recent weeks.

"Got my wind back, my legs, 100 percent," Battle said on Friday.

Battle, who is averaging 18.5 points, had 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in the loss to the Spartans earlier this season.

The Nittany Lions, who have already surpassed last season's win total (15), have won three straight games. They have not won four consecutive league games since 1995-96.

Cincinnati Bearcats at Villanova Wildcats (-12, 131.5)

Villanova's confidence should increase after finally beating a ranked opponent. The same can be said for Cincinnati.

On Sunday, the 21st-ranked Wildcats hope to avoid a letdown after a huge Big East victory as they try to prevent the visiting Bearcats from knocking off their second straight ranked league foe.

In the final college basketball game at Philadelphia's historic Spectrum, Villanova (16-4, 4-3) used a dominating second-half performance in posting a 67-57 victory over No. 3 Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

It was the Wildcats' first victory over a ranked team after falling to then-No. 6 Texas in December and then-No. 23 Louisville and then-No. 3 Connecticut earlier this month.

The Bearcats enter this contest having won four of their last five, including road wins over the Red Storm and DePaul. The victory over the Hoyas marked the third time in five games Cincinnati has held an opponent to fewer than 60 points.

"We're getting our feet on the ground," said Vaughn of the Bearcats, who are 2-2 on the road in conference play. "We're letting everyone know we're coming out to play hard. We need to keep playing like this to win. It tells everybody that we play hard. We don't care who the team is but we are going to play hard."

Cincinnati has already surpassed its win total from last season, when it went 13-19 and won only three road games in the Big East.

Iowa Hawkeyes at Illinois Fighting Illini (-12.5, 114)

Coming off its lowest-scoring effort in 24 years, Illinois should be happy to return home where it's been practically unbeatable this season.

Hoping to remain in the Top 25, the No. 19 Illini look to bounce back while trying for an eighth straight home victory over struggling Iowa in a Big Ten contest Sunday afternoon.

Illinois (17-4, 5-3) continued its recent league road troubles with a 59-36 loss at Minnesota on Thursday. Despite shooting a Big Ten-leading 47.1 percent on the season, the Illini shot 29.4 percent in scoring its fewest points since a 54-34 loss to Purdue on Jan. 30, 1985.

"You feel as low as you can feel," said Illinois coach Bruce Weber, whose team was outrebounded 44-29. "It's a humbler, that's for sure. If it isn't, we're in trouble."

After a third straight Big Ten road loss, Illinois returns to Assembly Hall, where it is 11-1 and has won eight in a row - including all four league contests.

Illinois needs to improve on its facing a Hawkeyes team yielding 58.7 points per game. Dominique Keller scored a team-high nine points off the bench against Minnesota while Illinois' starters combined for 18 points.

Averaging a team-leading 12.2 points, sophomore guard Demetri McCamey looks to bounce back after being held to six against the Gophers. He did score a season-high 25 in the previous game, a 64-57 win over Wisconsin on Jan. 24.

Even if the Illini struggle again offensively, they have a chance to compensate on the defensive end.

Allowing a Big Ten-best 56.7 points per game, Illinois has limited conference opponents to 50.5 points on 36.7 percent shooting at Assembly Hall.
 
That doesn't bode well for Iowa, which is 10th in the Big Ten in scoring at 62.3 per game and coming off a 71-56 loss to No. 9 Michigan State on Thursday.

Virginia Cavaliers at Duke Blue Devils (-22.5, 145.5)

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski liked what he saw when his team rallied from a late deficit against the No. 6 team in the country in its last outing. The conclusion of that game, however, was much less encouraging.

After giving up a game-winning layup in the final second of their first conference loss, the Blue Devils - still ranked No. 1 for now - look to bounce back by extending their dominance at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Sunday when they meet ACC rival Virginia.

Duke (18-2, 5-1) took over the top spot in the AP poll with a 5-0 start to ACC play only to lose its first game as No. 1 on Wednesday night. The Blue Devils allowed Wake Forest forward James Johnson to get to the basket off an inbounds play and make an open layup in the final second that sent them to a 70-68 loss to the sixth-ranked Demon Deacons.

"We were not physical on that play," Krzyzewski said. "We deserve to lose if you don't do that."

Though ultimately disappointing, the loss gave Krzyzewski reason to be optimistic. His team rallied from a 13-point deficit with 8:49 remaining to tie the game with 10 seconds left before its defensive lapse.

Duke has won 12 straight home games against Virginia (7-9, 1-4) since a 91-88 double-overtime loss Jan. 14, 1995. The Blue Devils have been ranked in each of their last 27 overall meetings with the Cavaliers, and are 24-3 in that stretch. They're 14-0 all-time in the series when ranked No. 1.

That doesn't bode well for a Virginia team that's lost four straight ACC games since opening conference play with an 88-84 overtime win at Georgia Tech on Dec. 28. The Cavaliers were held to three field goals in the first half of a 73-62 home loss to Florida State last Saturday, finishing the game 17-for-48 (35.4 percent).

Virginia coach Dave Leitao credited Florida State's defense.

"With the few open looks that you get and make and the other times that you don't, you have to really work to get balanced and quality shots and obviously we didn't do that," he said. "And obviously we paid a price for it."

Leitao's team could again have its hands full against Duke, the only team in the ACC that allows fewer points per game (60.0) than Florida State (63.3). The Blue Devils had given up an average of 51.6 points in conference play before Wednesday night's loss.

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