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January 7, 2008

Here's a look at the five best games this week:
WHEN: Wednesday, 8 p.m., SEC regional network
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: A matchup of so far, at least two of the three best teams in the SEC.
THE BUZZ: Ole Miss is unbeaten, but this will be just the second true road game for the Rebels. Can they handle the defensive pressure the Vols will throw at them? Tennessee got hammered by Texas on Thanksgiving weekend, but the Vols have looked good since and have recent wins over Gonzaga and Xavier. This is the SEC opener for both.
SPOTLIGHT PLAYER: Ole Miss freshman PG Chris Warren was overshadowed last season as a high school senior in Orlando by Florida's duo of Nick Calathes and Chandler Parsons, but Warren has made a huge impact for the Rebels. He needs to show he can handle the variety of defenses he'll see from the Vols.

WHEN: Thursday, 11 p.m. Fox Sports Net
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: First, you can see USC super freshman O.J. Mayo. Second, you can see the epitome of team play with Washington State.
THE BUZZ: The first of two monster games this weekend for the Cougars, who play UCLA on Saturday (more on that in a minute). This is the second of three consecutive Pac-10 road games to open the league season for the Cougars, whose schedule hasn't been that taxing. USC has a lot of talent, but not surprisingly the Trojans have struggled early breaking in a bunch of new players.
SPOTLIGHT PLAYER: Washington State generally plays lockdown defense, so it'll be intriguing to see how the Cougars try to stop Mayo, a supreme offensive talent. Mayo has taken almost twice as many shots as any other Trojan, and you can bet the Cougars are going to use a variety of looks and people in order to frustrate Mayo.

WHEN: Saturday, 2 p.m., no TV
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: This is an important early-season game in the Big East between teams that harbor hopes of finishing in the top three in the league.
THE BUZZ: Notre Dame started slow, but has gathered itself. Marquette's Tom Crean and Notre Dame's Mike Brey are good coaches, and there's a nice game-within-the-game: How will the Irish handle Marquette's backcourt and how will the Golden Eagles deal with Notre Dame's tough frontcourt.
SPOTLIGHT PLAYER: Notre Dame sophomore F Luke Harangody is close to averaging a double-double, and he's a big reason the Irish are crushing opponents on the boards.

WHEN: Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: Nothing like a big-time Big East rivalry on a Saturday afternoon to get you pining for March Madness.
THE BUZZ: UConn has played well, but the Huskies haven't exactly played a who's who of the nation's best teams. This will be, by far, their toughest test yet. But for the most part, the Hoyas also have been beating up on patsies. Still, Georgetown looks deeper and more talented.
SPOTLIGHT PLAYER: Let's make this spotlight players, focusing on Georgetown C Roy Hibbert and UConn C Hasheem Thabeet. Their matchup in the low post should be fun to watch.

WHEN: Saturday, 2:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: These are the two best teams in the Pac-10 (on paper, at least) and also two of the best teams in the nation.
THE BUZZ: The second of two huge Pac-10 road games for Washington State, who will have played USC less than 48 hours earlier. Expect a grind-it-out affair, with good defense and some forced shots on both sides. A sweep of the L.A. schools would be incredibly impressive for Washington State and make them the leading contender to win the Pac-10. And, frankly, two losses wouldn't hurt that much.
SPOTLIGHT PLAYER: Washington State C Aron Baynes is a plodder, but he has been effective in the low post. He is the Cougars' leading rebounder and also has been a solid scorer. He'll be going against an athletic UCLA frontcourt. Baynes is foul-prone, and the more he is on the court, the better chance the Cougars have of coming away with the victory.

Rhode Island at Dayton, Wednesday, 7 p.m., no TV: Dayton has an 11-game winning streak; Rhode Island has won nine in a row. A case can be made that the winner especially if it's Rhode Island becomes the team to beat in the surprisingly strong Atlantic 10.
Wake Forest at Boston College, Saturday, 4 p.m., ACC regional network: Think of this as an early-season shakeout game in the ACC between teams that hope to finish in the top three or four in the league.
Kansas at Nebraska, Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN: The Huskers have a gaudy record, including an OT victory over Oregon. But playing the Jayhawks is a whole different level. A win in this one legitimizes Nebraska.
Syracuse at West Virginia, 2:30 p.m., Sunday, ESPNU: This will be just the third true road game for Syracuse, and it comes against a Mountaineers' team that has been surprisingly good. But WVU has struggled a bit of late.
Virginia at Duke, Sunday, 8 p.m., Fox Sports Net: This will be the Cavs' first game after a 10-game layoff, and what better way to announce you're a serious contender for the ACC title than to win at Duke? This will be just the second game against a legit foe in about a month for Duke, which lost the other (to Pitt).
These games don't necessarily jump out at you as must-see contests, but upon further review, they're worth keeping an eye on.
Northern Iowa at Illinois State, Tuesday, 8 p.m., no TV: A big early-season game in the wide-open Missouri Valley. Illinois State has been a pleasant surprise, and this is the second game in a four-game homestand for the Redbirds.
Charlotte at Clemson, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., no TV: The 49ers had a nice three-game winning streak against Wake Forest, Davidson and Southern Illinois, but haven't played that well since. For Clemson, this game is sandwiched between conference contests against North Carolina and Florida State. Can the 49ers catch the Tigers napping?
San Diego State at New Mexico, Saturday, 9 p.m., The mtn.: Two former Big Ten coaches (San Diego State's Steve Fisher and New Mexico's Steve Alford) meet in a key early-season Mountain West contest. Is either of these teams an MWC contender? Both have nice early-season records.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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