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College basketball kicks off March with big games in Virginia, Wichita

College basketball is unofficially entering its biggest month of the year on March 1. Of course, March 1 doesn't kick off the actual March Madness, especially since the regular season is far from over. However, the next 30 days will drive college basketball fans mad indeed, starting with a series of big games to kick off the month.

No. 4 Syracuse vs No. 12 Virginia - 4 p.m. est: Akil Mitchell and the Cavaliers can solidify ACC lead with statement win over Orange.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Orange, Grant get big ACC road test at Virginia
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The big game of the day is in Virginia, which stands to shake up the surprising top of the ACC order. Although the Syracuse Orange were perfect to start their time in the ACC, two losses have knocked the formerly No. 1 Orange out of the first place. In fact, a veteran ACC program that isn't the Duke Blue Devils or North Carolina Tar Heels is leading the conference -- and the Virginia Cavaliers can now get a signature win to lock up the ACC regular season title.

At 15-1 in the ACC and No. 12 in the nation, the Cavaliers have still gone under the radar thanks to the Orange, Blue Devils and Tar Heels. But now that Virginia has its chance at a national coming out party, and now that Syracuse has become quite vulnerable after its 25-0 start, this game may put the Cavaliers on the map for many March Madness prognosticators.

However, the Cavaliers have not been perfect this season, and only one college basketball program can still say that it is. The No. 2 ranked Wichita State Shockers are one win away from completing the first perfect regular season since the St. Joseph's Hawks did it 10 years ago.

Yet even beating Missouri State this afternoon, or entering the NCAA tournament without a loss, won't erase doubts about the largely untested Shockers. This is partly why the two-loss Florida Gators remain No. 1 despite some recent scares, although they hope to have it easier against the LSU Tigers.

Between these games and many more showdowns in the AAC, Big 12, A-10 and SEC, March 1 will be a busy day in college basketball. Nevertheless, there will be much busier days during the rest of March. The accompanying slideshow lists the games of the day, as the buildup to the true March Madness gets into full swing.

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