Utah sports fans will be in their glory Saturday, when they can warm up for the Las Vegas Bowl against rival BYU at Sam Boyd Stadium (12:30 p.m., ABC) — aka the Holy War in Sin City — by watching a Sweet 16 rematch between the Utes and No. 6 Duke at New York’s Madison Square Garden (9 a.m., ESPN).
No. 20 Utah has won the last four meetings against BYU and coach Kyle Whittingham is 6-3 vs. outgoing Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall, but the instate foes haven’t played since 2013 and this will be the first time they’ve met in the postseason and at a neutral site.
The showdown of 9-3 squads sold out quickly and ESPN.com has the game slotted seventh on its rankings of the 40 most entertaining bowls.
Whittingham, a former BYU linebacker, was offered the coaching job at his alma mater following the 2004 season, but turned it down to stay at Utah, where he replaced coach Urban Meyer, paving the way for Mendenhall to take over as Cougars coach. Mendenhall, looking for his 100th victory at BYU, will coach at Virginia next season.
On the hardwood, the Utes (8-2) will try to avenge last season’s NCAA Tournament loss to Duke (9-1), which beat Utah 63-57 en route to winning the national title. Grayson Allen averages a team-leading 21.4 points per game for the Blue Devils, whose lone loss was to then-No. 2 Kentucky, 74-63, on Nov. 17. Jakob Poeltl, a 7-foot Austrian, leads the Utes in scoring (19.1 ppg) and rebounding (9.5 rpg).
Here are four more of the weekend’s best bets on TV.
Los Angeles Clippers at San Antonio Spurs (5 p.m., ESPN, Prime): Two of the best teams in the Western Conference not named the Golden State Warriors meet in a playoff rematch from last season won by the Clips (16-10) in seven games. The ageless Spurs (22-5) have the NBA’s second-best record behind Golden State (25-1) and are off to their best home start (14-0) in franchise history.
UNLV at No. 12 Arizona (6:30 p.m., ESPN2): The Rebels (8-3) face an extremely tough test in trying to bounce back from Wednesday’s disappointing 66-56 home loss to Arizona State. The Wildcats (10-1) own the nation’s longest home win streak at 45 games. They’re led by Ryan Anderson (15.8 ppg, 9.6 rpg), Gabe York (13.4 ppg) and Allonzo Trier (13 ppg). The Rebels upset the then-No. 3 Wildcats 71-67 last season in December at the Thomas & Mack Center. Christian Wood and Rashad Vaughn combined for 45 points and Patrick McCaw, the team’s leading scorer (15.8 ppg), had a key steal in the closing seconds.
Carolina Panthers at New York Giants (10 a.m., Fox): The Panthers (13-0) will try to stay unbeaten against the Giants (6-7), who knocked off the 13-0 Denver Broncos in 1998 and the 18-0 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Carolina will be without injured running back James Stewart and also might be missing tight end Greg Olsen, but NFL Most Valuable Player candidate Cam Newton will be facing a New York defense that allows 425 yards per game, the second-worst mark in the league.
Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers (1:25 p.m., CBS): The Steelers (8-5) have scored at least 30 points in a franchise-record five straight games, winning four of those to tie the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets for the top wild-card playoff spot. The Broncos (10-3) feature the NFL’s best defense but are coming off a 15-12 home loss to the Oakland Raiders in which Brock Osweiler didn’t throw a touchdown pass for the first time in five games.