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February 13, 2009
Viewer's guide: Good weekend, great Monday
This is a good but not great weekend for college basketball – until you get to Monday, which has one of the best games of the season in Connecticut-Pittsburgh.
While you look to fill time before Monday night's Big East showdown, there are some intriguing games in the Pac-10, Big 12 and ACC on Saturday and Sunday.
Here's a look at this weekend's best games. We do this every Friday; every Tuesday, we give you an early peek at the best games during the coming week.
UCLA at Arizona, Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS regional: Arizona looked dead in the water in mid-January, but the Wildcats have won six in a row to get back on the periphery of the Pac-10 race – and have put themselves squarely in the discussion about NCAA at-large bids. In Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger, the Wildcats have two big-time NBA prospects, and Nic Wise is a solid point guard. Depth is a big problem for the Wildcats, though. UCLA's four-game winning streak was snapped Thursday night at Arizona State – the Bruins' second loss this season to the Sun Devils – and it now is tied with Washington for the Pac-10 lead. The Bruins crushed Arizona by 23 in Los Angeles last month thanks to a balanced scoring attack – five guys in double figures – and lockdown defense on Wise. The Bruins get the majority of their offense from the perimeter, and senior Alfred Aboya is the only consistent interior presence on both ends. Keep an eye on the point-guard battle between Wise and UCLA's Darren Collison ; if Collison again keeps Wise in check, UCLA will be in good shape.
Kansas at Kansas State, Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC regional/ESPN FullCourt: K-State has won six in a row, including wins over Missouri, Texas and Texas A&M. But the winning streak came on the heels of a four-game losing streak, and the Wildcats' RPI going into play Thursday was a relatively lackluster 72nd, mainly because of a pitiful non-conference schedule. What does that mean? It means K-State needs some more big wins, and beating hated KU certainly would apply. The Wildcats get most of their offense from the perimeter, though 6-foot-10 senior Darren Kent has emerged as a legitimate offensive force in the past month. K-State has a lot of complementary big men, and the Wildcats are tough defensively in the paint and on the boards. KU is coming off its first Big 12 loss of the season, at Missouri, but the Jayhawks can remain in the title hunt as long as they win this game. Guard Sherron Collins leads the team in scoring, but he's struggling a bit of late. KU also plays solid defense and is crushing foes on the boards. This one may be decided by Collins' output.
Florida State at Wake Forest, Saturday, 4 p.m., ACC syndication/ESPN FullCourt: Wake Forest has a ton of young talent, but the Demon Deacons are sixth – sixth! – in the ACC after losing four of their past six. The only wins in that span have come at home, and the good news for Wake is that three of their next four are in Winston-Salem. Wake is not playing good defense of late, but Florida State – which has won three in a row – isn't exactly an offensive juggernaut. Senior guard Toney Douglas is the only Seminole averaging in double figures, but FSU always seems to get a solid game from at least one complementary player and plays aggressive, in-your-face defense. Wake has designs on playing in nearby Greensboro, N.C., in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tourney, while FSU is just looking to make the tourney field for the first time since 1998.
North Carolina at Miami, Sunday, 7:45 p.m., Fox Sports Net: North Carolina has won eight in a row, and after an 0-2 start to league play, the Tar Heels are all alone atop the ACC standings. The second win in the current streak was a 17-point pasting of UM in Chapel Hill last month. All five UNC starters average in double figures, which is good, considering the lack of offense from its reserves. The backcourt of Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington has played well of late. The Hurricanes have a lot of big guys they can throw at UNC, but Miami has to get a big game from guard Jack McClinton. He is on a big-time hot streak, averaging 27.8 points in his past four games; he had 21 in the first meeting with UNC. Even though McClinton has been hot, Miami has lost four of its past five (three in overtime) and its NCAA hopes are fading.
Pittsburgh at Connecticut, Monday, 7 p.m., ESPN: Both play Saturday but both should win Saturday, meaning this should match teams ranked in the top three or four in the nation. It also matches two teams squarely in the hunt for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney. This is the first of two regular-season meetings, as the teams close out their regular seasons in Pittsburgh on March 7. This should be a titanic matchup of frontcourts, with Pitt's DeJuan Blair, Sam Young and Tyrell Biggs going against UConn's Hasheem Thabeet, Jeff Adrien and Stanley Robinson. There's also a great point guard matchup with Pitt's Levance Fields against UConn's A.J. Price. It looks as if UConn shooting guard Jerome Dyson, who injured his knee in Wednesday's win over Syracuse, will miss this game. If you're a college basketball fan, this is must-see TV.
Georgetown at Syracuse, Saturday, noon, ESPN: This should be an old-style Big East slugfest, but both teams come in wheezing. Syracuse has lost six of its past eight games, while Georgetown has lost six of seven and eight of 11, and its at-large hopes are almost gone. The Hoyas beat the Orange by 14 last month.
Northeastern at George Mason, Saturday, noon, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic/Comcast SportsNet New England/Comcast Sports Southeast: Northeastern's surprising home loss to Drexel on Wednesday tightens the race for the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title. Northeastern is tied for the lead with Virginia Commonwealth, with George Mason two games back in third. No one in the league has a legitimate shot at an at-large berth, but this game should be close and entertaining.
Nebraska at Missouri, Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Big 12 syndication/ESPN FullCourt: Nebraska has won three in a row after losing three in a row, and its NCAA hopes would get a huge boost with a win at Mizzou. Missouri has won four in a row and eight of its past nine, and is 15-0 at home this season. The Tigers trail Oklahoma by two games in the Big 12 race and can't afford a loss to the 'Huskers.
Minnesota at Penn State, Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Big Ten Network: Penn State has lost three in a row and its at-large hopes are on life support. Minnesota still has a shot at a second-place finish in the Big Ten. Minnesota won by 20 at home over the Nittany Lions last month.
Vanderbilt at Tennessee, Saturday, 3 p.m., SEC syndication/ESPN FullCourt: Vandy has been disappointing this season and now is cast in the spoiler's role in the SEC. The Vols won by 13 at Vandy last month but are just 3-3 since.
Virginia Tech at Maryland, Saturday, 4 p.m., ACC syndication/ESPN FullCourt: Maryland has lost five of eight to see its at-large hopes fade, and the Terps' next four games are tough: vs. Virginia Tech, at Clemson, vs. North Carolina and vs. Duke. But that also means the Terps can play their way back into at-large contention. Virginia Tech has won seven of nine, but three of the Hokies' next four are on the road.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN: Cincinnati has won three in a row and five of six, and the Bearcats hope they can catch Pitt looking ahead to Monday's monster showdown at Connecticut. A victory would be a huge boost for the Bearcats' NCAA hopes. This is the start of a tough four-game stretch for Cincy: at Pitt, vs. Louisville, vs. West Virginia and at Syracuse.
Stanford at California, Saturday, 5 p.m., Fox Sports Net: Cal remains in the hunt for the Pac-10 regular-season title behind first-year coach Mike Montgomery. After this, Cal plays four of its remaining six league games on the road. Stanford won the first meeting this season, by six in Palo Alto.
Texas A&M at Baylor, Saturday, 6 p.m., Fox Sports Southwest/ESPN FullCourt: Think of this as an episode of the new show "Desperate Basketball Teams." Baylor has lost six in a row, meaning it's fair to say its season is spiraling out of control. A loss in this one and the Bears' at-large hopes are all but extinguished. Texas A&M has lost two in a row and five of seven and needs to get untracked in its quest for a fourth consecutive NCAA bid. The Aggies won by 11 at home over the Bears last month.
BYU at TCU, Saturday, 7:30 p.m., The mtn.: BYU looks to be in good shape in its bid for an at-large spot, but the Cougars must win games like this. TCU has lost five in a row but has beaten UNLV and has the potential to pull the upset if things break right.
Utah State at Boise State, Saturday, 9 p.m.: Utah State is unbeaten in WAC play and basically already has wrapped up the league's regular-season title. But the Aggies' at-large chances will be hurt if they lose a few conference games.
Ohio State at Wisconsin, Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN: Ohio State has won four in a row to at least move peripherally into the hunt for the Big Ten regular-season title. Wisconsin has won three in a row to get back to .500 in the league – and put itself back in the NCAA discussion. The Badgers have allowed just 48.7 points per game in the three victories.
Duke at Boston College, Sunday, 5:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net: Duke has lost three of five and now plays four of its next five games on the road. This is Game 3 in a tough five-game stretch for BC, which has lost to Wake and Clemson and has Duke, Miami and Florida State left.
USC at Arizona State, Sunday, 10 p.m., Fox Sports Net: USC has lost two road games in a row and finish up a tough road trip (UCLA and Arizona were the first two games) with the Sun Devils, who have won three in a row.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.