Matchups at PG, center are intriguing


No. 5 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Duke

7:10 p.m. ET

The skinny
This is a rematch of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup that left many Spartan fans wondering what the game would have been like outside of Cameron Indoor Stadium and many Duke fans believing that this year could indeed be special.

Although Michigan State looked awfully athletic, they could not contain Daniel Ewing or J.J. Redick, who each had 29 points.

Duke has had a tremendous year with a team ravaged by injuries and the NBA Draft, while Michigan State has been solid but not spectacular, with zero great wins and zero bad losses.

For Duke to win
The Blue Devils must slow the pace of Michigan State's offense. With Drew Neitzel in the game, the Spartans really look to push the basketball by throwing it up the floor.

Between Maurice Ager and Shannon Brown, a highlight reel could be made from their dunks in transition versus Vermont. In the half court this team continues to struggle to break down a defense when pressured by similar athletes.

Offensively, there should be a concerted effort to include Sheldon Williams early and often. While MSU is deep on the perimeter, the Spartans lack quality depth behind Paul Davis. Of course, Redick will be called on to take and make big shots, but Ewing must try and expose Neitzel when he is in the game as the defensive liability he is at this point in his career.

For MSU to win
Defensively, the Spartans must contain dribble penetration. If Duke stays out of the lane with the dribble, the Devils become 3-point bombers. Although they have tremendous accuracy, the numbers drop if they are contested. Also, MSU must know personnel and help off of Dockery, Love, Nelson and McClure. Oh yeah, how about keeping Redick off the free throw line? He tends to make those.

Paul Davis must see the basketball. He tends to disappear when he does not get easy touches early in the game. Just as he is not backed up by anyone of any consequence, the same can be said of Sheldon Williams.

Davis had some success last time these two met with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while creating foul trouble for Williams.

Chris Hill must be a factor. He has scored only 12 points in his last three games. He is far too good of a shooter to go into the tank in this type of situation.

Key Matchup
Neitzel vs. Ewing. Ewing was huge last time these teams met and Neitzel looked every bit the freshman. The Spartans are 10-2, though, since his addition to the starting lineup. Look to see if Neitzel can get into the lane on Ewing, and if he can get through the on-ball screens on defense.

No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 6 Utah

9:40 p.m. ET

The skinny
Utah has won 22 of 24 and Kentucky has won 17 of 20. Both teams lost twice to the same team in the last couple of weeks of the season (Utah to New Mexico and UK to Florida). Although the schools have met a number of times, these coaches have not. Giacoletti was at Eastern Washington until this season.

For Kentucky to win
The Wildcats must push the tempo and force their will upon Utah. They are deep and much more athletic overall, but sometimes they can get cute and shoot too many 3s.

In their five losses, they are a combined 29-of-106 (27 percent) from 3-point range. Throw out the 10-25 vs. UNC and they are just 19-of-81 (23 percent).

Rajon Rondo's ability to push the basketball should set up Kelenna Azubuike, Chuck Hayes and Patrick Sparks for quality looks. When Sparks gets hot, the Cats usually win a big one – cases in point, the wins at Louisville (25 points) and at Alabama (26 points).

Defensively, Kentucky likes to double the low post with the defender guarding the man nearest the top of the key. When the Cats double Bogut, they must be quick and aggressive, because if he is given time, he can pick them apart. They must also make life hell on Marc Jackson. Look for Rondo to be in his shorts from the jump ball on.

For Utah to win
The Utes must control tempo. Utah runs essentially two different offenses –one is a Princeton set with Bogut at the high post looking for cutters and running the clock and the other is when they roll him into the post with a four out, one in look, cutting off him when the double-team comes.

Utah runs both sets on all long offensive possessions, so it must be able to get into its stuff to be effective. Look for some backdoor plays early to back the pressure off. Also Bryant Markson is a ridiculous athlete who needs to get a dunk early and get his game going.

Defensively, they must contain the speed and athleticism of Kentucky. Make them take 3s with a hand in their face. In fact, long offensive sets may frustrate the Cats into quick shots at their offensive end.

Limiting second shots to Chuck Hayes is a must. Also, Kentucky is not a great free throw shooting team and fouls can be used to slow tempo and make the Cats earn their buckets.

Key Matchups
Bogut vs. Randolph Morris/Sagari Alleyne/Lukasz Obrzut. While Bogut is fast becoming a household name, Morris would have been a first-round pick last year had he come straight out of high school into the NBA. He is an exceptional learner on and off the floor (over 1300 on the SATs) – and he may be in for quite a lesson versus the much more agile Bogut. Watch for Alleyne, who is all of 7'3", to play man-up with Bogut and try and use his shot-blocking ability to disrupt his post game.

Sparks vs. Jackson. Both have returned to glory this year. Sparks had his previous glory at Western Kentucky, where he was first team All-Sun Belt before following his Kentucky dream to Lexington. Jackson was the Mountain West Conference Sixth Man of the Year two years ago but quit the team last season. Both are a step slow, both can really shoot, pass and defend, both grew up in the state they play college ball in, and both are the straws that stir their teams' drinks.

Doug Gottlieb is an analyst for ESPN and co-hosts GameNight on ESPN Radio.