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January 16, 2009
It's supposed to be cold almost everywhere in the nation this weekend and this is an especially good Saturday of basketball, so start the fire and/or turn up the heat, settle into your lounge chair and turn on the TV.
With the NFL conference championship games on Sunday, there's no reason not to gorge on college basketball Saturday. There are some big games in the ACC, Big East and Pac-10, and there's even an ACC-Big East matchup.
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.
Georgetown at Duke, Saturday, 1:30 p.m., CBS: The Hoyas and Blue Devils step out of conference for a key showdown. Duke (15-1) has turned up the defensive pressure this season and hasn't allowed an opponent to score more than 67 points in seven consecutive games. In fact, the Blue Devils have allowed only one opponent to score more than 80 points this season. Sophomore forward Kyle Singler is playing at a high level, and sophomore guard Nolan Smith's move into the starting lineup has paid off on both ends of the court. Georgetown (12-3) has scored at least 82 points in each of its past two games and will put Duke's defensive prowess to the test. Georgetown, on average, gets outrebounded, while Duke is beating foes by almost 10 per game on the boards.
Wake Forest at Clemson, Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN FullCourt: Two of the nation's three unbeatens meet up. Clemson junior forward Trevor Booker quietly is putting together an All-ACC-type season. Booker leads the Tigers in scoring, rebounding and blocks (44 already). Clemson (16-0) has good depth and plays tough defense (the Tigers have five players with at least 20 steals and foes are shooting just 39.7 percent from the floor). Wake sophomore guard Jeff Teague is playing lights-out ball. He is averaging 21.2 points and shooting 54.1 percent from the floor and 55.0 percent from 3-point range. Wake likes to pound the ball inside, and in James Johnson, Chas McFarland and Al-Farouq Aminu they have three guys who are each averaging at least 10.9 points and 6.7 rebounds. The Demon Deacons are underrated defensively, especially on the perimeter.
Arizona State at UCLA, Saturday, 3:45 p.m., CBS: This is the second of three tough road games in a row for Arizona State, which lost to USC on Thursday and faces archrival Arizona on Wednesday. UCLA has won four Pac-10 games by an average of 15 points per game ? and three of those were on the road. The Bruins have won 15 in a row at home, and if Arizona State wants to stop that streak, it needs a big game from big man Jeff Pendergraph. Sun Devils guard James Harden was awful offensively Thursday ? 0-for-8 from the field ? and he obviously must play well, too. UCLA has a big depth advantage, and look for the Bruins to use two or three guys on Harden in an effort to wear him down. Arizona State is going to have trouble with UCLA point guard Darren Collison, who is playing extremely well (15.0 ppg, 5.2 apg, 56.9 field-goal percentage, 47.8 3-point field-goal percentage).
Pittsburgh at Louisville, Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN: Top-ranked Pitt has the weekend from hell. First, they play against a Louisville team that seemingly has righted itself; then, the Panthers meet Syracuse. Louisville (12-3, 3-0 Big East) has won four in a row and has one of the nation's best frontcourts, but uneven guard play remains a concern. Pitt (16-0, 4-0) has a big-time duo up front in Sam Young and DeJuan Blair, and point guard Levance Fields has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.7-to-1. Pitt is outrebounding foes by almost 11 per game, thanks to Blair grabbing 13 per game.
Syracuse at Pittsburgh, Monday, 7 p.m., ESPN: Game 2 of the big weekend for Pitt. Syracuse (16-2, 4-1 Big East) has Notre Dame on Saturday. How will the Orange big men handle Pitt's duo? It's vital for Syracuse that junior center Arinze Onuaku plays well. Syracuse is getting good production from its backcourt, and point guard Jonny Flynn also must play well if the Orange are to win. The Orange have been somewhat sloppy with the ball (282 turnovers, 30 more than their opponents), and that can't happen against Pitt. The Panthers won by five at Syracuse in the teams' only meeting last season.
Notre Dame at Syracuse, Saturday, noon, ESPN: Notre Dame (12-4, 3-2 Big East) suffered both of its conference losses on the road. This is Game 2 of a murderous five-game stretch for the Irish, who lost at Louisville on Monday and have Connecticut, Marquette and Pittsburgh in a row after they play the Orange. Then again, the Orange are in the midst of a tough stretch, as well. Syracuse lost to Georgetown on Wednesday and has Pitt and Louisville after this one.
Maryland at Florida State, Saturday, noon, ACC syndication/ESPN FullCourt: It's still early in the ACC season, but this is a big one for both. For Maryland (12-4, 1-1 ACC), it's a chance to win on the road against a team that looks to be better than expected. For FSU (14-3, 1-1), it's a chance to hold serve at home, which is a must if the 'Noles want to finish in the top half of the league.
Oklahoma State at Baylor, Saturday, 1:45 p.m., Big 12 syndication/ESPN FullCourt: Baylor (13-3, 1-1 Big 12) is coming off an 11-point loss to Texas A&M. If the Bears want to be taken seriously as a Big 12 title contender, they need to win this one.
Arkansas at Florida, Saturday, 2 p.m., SEC syndication/ESPN FullCourt: Arkansas (12-3, 0-2 SEC) has been mystifying of late. The Hogs beat Oklahoma and Texas, then turned around and lost to Mississippi State and Ole Miss. This is a big game for the Rebels. Florida (15-2, 2-0) is one of just three SEC schools without a league loss, but the Gators' frontcourt has played soft - which won't cut it against Arkansas.
Oklahoma at Texas A&M, Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN: This should be one of the toughest road trips of the season for the Sooners (16-1, 2-0 Big 12). Big men Bryan Davis and Chinemelu Elonu of A&M (15-2, 1-1) will have their hands full with Sooners star Blake Griffin.
BYU at New Mexico, Saturday, 4 p.m., The mtn.: New Mexico (10-7, 1-1 Mountain West) is scuffling along, but a win over the Cougars (14-2, 2-0) ? who are the only team unbeaten in conference play ? could right the ship.
Illinois at Michigan State, Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN: Illinois (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) has been one of the nation's biggest surprises and already has won at Purdue. A victory in East Lansing over the Spartans (14-2, 4-0) would perhaps stamp the Illini as the team to beat in the Big Ten.
Dayton at Duquesne, Saturday, 7 p.m.: Duquesne (12-4) has been a pleasant surprise in the Atlantic 10, leading the league with a 3-0 record. Dayton is 15-2, but one of the losses came in its only A-10 road game, to a mediocre Massachusetts team.
Ohio State at Michigan, Saturday, 8 p.m., Big Ten Network: Ohio State (12-3, 2-2 Big Ten) has lost both its conference road games. This starts a tough four-game stretch for the Buckeyes: at Michigan (13-4, 3-2), at Illinois, vs. Michigan State, vs. Michigan.
Arizona at USC, Saturday, 8 p.m., Fox Sports Net Prime Ticket/FSN Arizona: The Trojans got a big win Thursday by beating Arizona State, and they try to complete the Pac-10's Arizona sweep against the Wildcats. Arizona already has lost three league games and is in danger of falling out of the title hunt with another loss.
California at Stanford, Saturday, 8 p.m., Comcast SportsNet Bay Area: New Cal coach Mike Montgomery makes his first return to his old stomping grounds. To make things even hotter, both teams are playing well.
Vanderbilt at Mississippi State, Saturday, 8 p.m., Fox Sports Net South/Sun Sports, ESPN FullCourt: Mississippi State (12-5, 2-0 SEC) is the only SEC West team without a league loss. Vandy (12-4, 1-1) has been a bit of a disappointment this season, and this is the first game in an important three-game stretch for the Commodores, who play host to Tennessee and Florida after this.
Miami at North Carolina, Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN: North Carolina (15-2, 1-2 ACC) certainly hasn't started conference play like most thought it would, but the Tar Heels still are supremely talented. What has to worry UNC coach Roy Williams is his team's lack of defensive intensity; that will hurt with guard Jack McClinton and Miami (13-3, 2-1) coming to town.
Marquette at Providence, Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN2: Providence (11-5) has been a surprise in the Big East (3-1 league record). If the Friars can come away with a win over the Golden Eagles, the potential exists for a 6-1 start with Cincinnati (at home) and Seton Hall (on the road) up next. Marquette (15-2, 4-0) is coming off a 22-point rout of West Virginia, but plays five of its next seven on the road.
Boise State at Utah State, Saturday, 9 p.m.: These are the only two WAC teams in the top 100 in the RPI. Utah State is off to a great start and appears well on its way to a 10th consecutive 20-victory season. If Boise can win at Utah State, the Broncos will have served notice that they again are a legit contender for the league crown.
Iowa at Purdue, Sunday, noon, Big Ten Network: Iowa (11-6) started hot but already has lost three Big Ten games. A loss to the mildly disappointing Boilermakers (13-4, 2-2) and it's time to make NIT plans for the Hawkeyes. Conversely, if Purdue loses at home to Iowa, the Boilers move from "mildly disappointing" to "what in the world is happening?"
Texas A&M at Kansas, Monday, 9 p.m., ESPN: This is the first game in a five-game stretch in which A&M plays three road games ? against KU, Texas and Oklahoma. The Jayhawks, meanwhile, play five of seven on the road after this.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.