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Wednesday, February 27, 2013
3-point shot: The brutal Big Ten

By Andy Katz

1. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Tuesday on "Katz Korner" that he told Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski that at least two ranked Big Ten teams might not get byes in the conference tournament, stressing how difficult it will be when the tourney kicks off March 14 in Chicago. He's right. The Big Ten tournament might be more difficult for a Big Ten team to win than the NCAA tournament. This was true for Connecticut in 2011, when it had to get through a five-night, five-day Big East gauntlet to win in New York before winning six to capture the NCAA tournament title. National champs don't always go through three, let alone four, ranked teams to get to the national title. Yet, for a team like Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan or, let's say, Wisconsin to win the Big Ten tournament, it would have to go through a grind like no other this season in at least three consecutive days in Chicago. Whomever gets through that March 17 final will be beaten down, yet will probably feel invincible going into the NCAA tournament. That team probably won't face as daunting a slate of teams, assuming it can get to the Final Four in Atlanta.

2. Arizona State has opportunities many teams on the bubble don't over its final three regular-season games. The Sun Devils can play their way into or out of the NCAA tournament with games at UCLA, USC and Arizona. The Sun Devils suffered a disappointing loss at home to Washington on Saturday. For the Sun Devils to get past UCLA on Wednesday, assistant coach Eric Musselman said, they've got to contain UCLA's wing scorers Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams, cut down transition baskets and establish paint scoring. To beat USC on Saturday, regardless of what occurs against the Bruins, the Sun Devils must defend the 3-point shot and play with intelligence, according to Musselman. ASU can't be pleased that it put itself in this situation, but all is not lost. The Pac-12 could get six teams into the NCAA field if the Sun Devils can show well and win (one of three? two of three?) in the final two weeks. I'm fairly confident Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, Cal and Colorado will all get into the field.

3. Saturday's Miami-Duke game is worthy of the hype. Duke got hammered by 27 in January in Coral Gables. If Duke wins the rematch with the visiting Hurricanes, the ACC regular-season title is still within reach; the Blue Devils could still get a No. 1 seed and likely a No. 1 ranking, for what that's worth, over even No. 2 Gonzaga, after No. 1 Indiana lost at Minnesota on Tuesday (not saying I agree, but voters might do that if Duke beats Miami). But hold on. While I'll assume Miami beats Virginia Tech at home Wednesday, Duke could have a tougher time Thursday at Virginia, where the Cavaliers will make the Blue Devils play their game. Virginia's coaches haven't discussed the Miami-Duke promotional hype (on ESPN) days in advance of the Duke-Virginia game one bit. The coaches are simply locking in on what they do best: Ensure the Cavs defend, play hard and feed off of Joe Harris, who probably is the least-heralded most valuable player to a team in the country (which is from the staff, but another point that I'm on board with). For Virginia to beat Duke, according to the staff, the Cavs must cut the transition baskets and limit the extra possessions.