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January 26, 2010
This should be an entertaining week in college basketball, with big games in the ACC and Big Ten taking center stage.
There also are some good matchups in the Big 12, Atlantic 10 and Mountain West. BYU could all but lock up the MWC's regular-season crown if it can win in "The Pit."
Here's a look at the top five games of the week, along with some others of interest. We will do this again Friday to highlight the weekend's best games.
And because someone actually asked: The games are listed chronologically.
Five games to watch this week
Kansas State at Baylor, 8 p.m. Tuesday, Fox Sports Southwest/Fox Sports Kansas City/ESPN FullCourt: Each team has two conference losses, which means they already trail Big 12 leader Kansas by two games in the loss column. K-State, which is coming off a home loss to Oklahoma State, plays host to Kansas on Saturday. Baylor is 10-0 at home, including a 13-point victory over Oklahoma State. Baylor needs production on both ends of the court from big man Ekpe Udoh. How the aggressive Wildcats defend Baylor guards Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn will be fun to watch. Carter averages 36.5 minutes per game and could get worn down against K-State.
Vanderbilt at Tennessee, 7 p.m. Wednesday, ESPNU: This is Part 1 this season of a nasty in-state rivalry, with the winner being able to lay claim to the moniker "Second-Best Team in the SEC." This is the first in a murderous three-game stretch for Vandy: The Commodores -- who have won nine in a row -- play at Kentucky on Saturday, then play host to Mississippi State next Wednesday. If Vandy center A.J. Ogilvy can avoid foul trouble, he will have some success in the paint. The Vols are 10-0 at home, including an eight-point win over Kansas earlier this month.
BYU at New Mexico, 10 p.m. Wednesday, The mtn.: BYU (20-1) already owns a two-game lead in the Mountain West. If the Cougars win this, it's probably safe to go ahead and pencil them in as the regular-season champs. Cougars guard Jimmer Fredette is playing excellent basketball, and he'll be the Lobos' No. 1 defensive priority. New Mexico has won four conference games in a row after opening 0-2 in league play; one of those losses came at home to UNLV. Forwards Darington Hobson and Roman Martinez are the Lobos' key players. Both teams like to fire away from 3-point range. BYU has a depth advantage.
Wake Forest at Georgia Tech, 7 p.m. Thursday, ACC syndication/Fox Sports Florida/Fox Sports South/Northeast Sports Network: Tech has beaten Duke, Clemson and North Carolina, but lost twice to Florida State and fell to Virginia. The battle in the low post should be entertaining, with Tech's Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors battling Wake's Al-Farouq Aminu. Wake has won three of its past four. If the Demon Deacons can get by Tech, they have a shot to put together a nice winning streak with Miami, Virginia and Boston College to follow on the schedule.
Wisconsin at Purdue, 7 p.m. Thursday, ESPN: Purdue already has lost three Big Ten games, including one at home to Ohio State. It's hard to see the Boilermakers winning the league if they lose another home game. The Badgers beat the Boilermakers by seven in Madison earlier this month. Purdue's 3-point shooting has been abysmal (30.6 percent overall, 29.9 percent in Big Ten play), putting a lot of pressure on big men Robbie Hummel and JaJuan Johnson to be productive every time out. Wisconsin guard Trevon Hughes has emerged as a legit go-to scorer and is a big reason the Badgers are alone in second place in the league.
Other games to keep an eye on
Rhode Island at Dayton, 7 p.m. Tuesday: The A-10 is the nation's best mid-major conference this season (and, truth be told, it also is better than the Pac-10), and this is one of the league's most important regular-season games. This is the only meeting between these teams, which are among the six A-10 squads that look to have a legit shot at an NCAA bid. Dayton, which was the preseason favorite to win the conference, has lost two of its past three games, but both were on the road; the Flyers are 10-0 at home.
Miami at Maryland, 7 p.m. Tuesday, ESPNU: Miami has a gaudy record (15-4), but the Hurricanes are 1-4 in ACC action and just about dead in the water when it comes to an NCAA at-large bid. Maryland, meanwhile, is tied for the league lead with Virginia (Virginia!) and can't afford a home loss to the Hurricanes if it truly has designs on the league title.
Michigan State at Michigan, 7 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN: Michigan looks to be out of it for an NCAA at-large bid, but perhaps a visit from the Wolverines' archrival will awaken them. Michigan State has a two-game lead in the Big Ten and is in the midst of a stretch in which it plays four of five on the road.
Tulsa at UAB, 8 p.m. Tuesday: This is a big game in Conference USA, and it matches the only teams unbeaten in league play. This is the only regular-season meeting between the teams. UAB has won its past three conference games by a total of four points. UAB (17-2) lacks depth and can be sloppy with the ball, but the Blazers are pounding opponents on the boards and play aggressive defense. Tulsa (16-3) has been extremely efficient offensively (47.5 percent from the field, including 50.3 percent in five league games) and must get a big game from 7-foot center Jerome Jordan.
Northwestern at Minnesota, 9 p.m. Tuesday, Big Ten Network: Both are 3-4 in the Big Ten, but the perceptions are vastly different -- Minnesota has been a disappointment, Northwestern a pleasant surprise. If Northwestern can win this, it holds legit NCAA tourney hopes -- and puts a huge crimp in Minnesota's NCAA plans. The Golden Gophers have lost three in a row and four of their past five.
North Carolina at N.C. State, 9 p.m. Tuesday, ACC syndication/ESPN FullCourt: UNC has lost three in a row and four of its past five, and wouldn't the Wolfpack love to hand the Heels another loss. UNC might be the defending national champ, but the Heels need to right themselves soon. In its last home game, N.C. State pounded Duke by 14.
Kentucky at South Carolina, 9 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN: South Carolina needs a big win to keep itself even on the periphery of NCAA discussions. What better opportunity to get a big win than with the nation's No. 1 team in town? But it's hard to envision a one-man Gamecocks offense (guard Devan Downey) outscoring the deep Wildcats.
Temple at Charlotte, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Atlantic 10 syndication/Comcast Sports Net Philadelphia/Comcast Sports Net Washington: This is another big game in the A-10. Charlotte has been a bit under the radar, but the 49ers are 14-5 and a victory over the first-place Owls would put them in a tie atop the league standings. Conversely, a win in this one almost certainly would mean Temple -- which has won six in a row -- would have a nine-game winning streak when it plays at Richmond on Feb. 6.
Notre Dame at Villanova, 7 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN: The Irish are 1-2 in true road games, with the victory by one point over USF, so they need to beat a "good" team on the road to truly be taken seriously as a potential NCAA team. Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody will get his points, but can the Irish find a way to slow Villanova's talented guards?
Texas A&M at Oklahoma State, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN2: The Aggies are 1-3 in true road games, including 0-2 in Big 12 action. Oklahoma State is coming off an impressive road win at Kansas State, and the Cowboys need to hold serve at home if they want to be legitimate Big 12 contenders.
Memphis at Marshall, 8 p.m. Wednesday, CBS College Sports: The second-biggest game in Conference USA this week. This will be one of the toughest league road games for Memphis, as Marshall has played surprisingly well. Herd freshman center Hassan Whiteside leads the nation in blocks.
Florida State at Duke, 9 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN: FSU is coming off a home win over Georgia Tech in which it completed a season sweep of the Yellow Jackets. Duke looks to be the best team in the ACC, but the Blue Devils have lost twice in league play and need to take care of business at home. FSU's size could cause Duke some problems. The Blue Devils will look to force the pace, while the Seminoles would prefer a score in the 60s.
Texas Tech at Texas, 9 p.m. Wednesday, ESPNU: The Longhorns are coming off back-to-back road losses but get their next two foes at home, starting with the Red Raiders. Texas Tech has cooled considerably of late. If Texas wants to win the Big 12 regular-season title, it can't lose at home to the Red Raiders. Texas could use a big game from Dexter Pittman, who was hampered by foul trouble in both losses and basically was a non-factor on offense.
Virginia Tech at Virginia, 7 p.m. Thursday, Comcast Sports Net Washington: Virginia is coming off its first ACC loss of the season, a 12-point setback to Wake Forest. But the Cavs are 10-1 at home. This is the first in a key four-game stretch for the Hokies, who are at Virginia and Miami before getting North Carolina and Clemson at home. A 3-1 mark in that quartet of games would put Tech squarely in the ACC title hunt.
California at Arizona State, 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Fox Sports Arizona/Comcast Sports Net California: The Pac-10 race is a mess, and these are two of the teams with a shot at the regular-season title. Thing is, the way things are going, the Pac-10 is a one-bid league. That means winning the regular-season title may not be that big a deal. Arizona State has allowed more than 70 points just three times -- but the Sun Devils have lost all three of those games.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.