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Four ranked teams and three championship coaches tip off under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden tonight in honor of the late Jim Valvano's foundation, and it's going to be a beauty BAY-BEE! With Dick Vitale on the horn you know this will be a big one (and you might have to put the TV on mute in the second half). The Memphis Tigers face the Kansas Jayhawks at 7 p.m., and the Michigan State Spartans take on the Syracuse Orange at 9 p.m. on ESPN. Three teams come in on a seven-game-or-better win streak, so someone's run will be halted in the Big Apple tonight.
First game highlights: I see Kansas handing Memphis a defeat because this is the Tigers' first real test of will this season. Look to see how the Tigers handle the pressure of taking on their first ranked team, an undefeated Jayhawks squad rolling off a close and controversial win against UCLA. Second-year Memphis coach Josh Pastner is trying to play this off as just another game. Kansas coach Bill Self surely isn't filling his players' head with that poppycock. No. 14 Memphis against No. 4 Kansas, the leading team in field goal percentage (57 percent), in New York City, not a big deal? If you believe that, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.
Second game highlights: I've got Michigan State coming out on top simply because Tom Izzo and the No. 8 Spartans have already held their own against Duke, and No. 7 Syracuse is 0-2 in its last two appearances at MSG for the Jimmy V Classic. The Classic will have a home game feel for Syracuse, which it will use to its advantage, but it might not be enough. Also don't let the Orange's 8-0 record fool you, this is the first time they will take on a ranked team, and weaknesses will be uncovered tonight. Syracuse is only shooting 43 percent from field and averaging 70 points per game. The 6-2 Spartans look a tad bit better with a 49 percent field goal percentage and 76 ppg. Look for Scoop Jardine to put up big numbers for Cuse, and Durrell Summers to lead the Spartans. Michigan State came out 1-1 after walking through the fire of two ranked teams earlier this season and should be ready for the heat tonight.
A high-octane offense vs. a shut-down defense makes for an interesting matchup. Which side of the ball will prevail tonight? The Mavericks are on a nine-game winning streak with their defense holding teams to just 92.2 ppg. Look to see if they can do the same against the run-and-gun offense of the Golden State Warriors, who have scored 100 points or more 10 times in the last 17 contests. Just shooting the lights out won't work for the Warriors tonight, who are on a three-game skid. Golden State is going to have to step up on the defensive end to keep from becoming another victim of the Big D's D.