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December 24, 2007

Here's a look at the five best games this week:
When: Friday, 9 p.m.
Why you should watch: Before the season, this was a big-time mid-major game. Now? Tune in to see if Southern Illinois can start to turn around its season.
The buzz: Southern Illinois, as usual, is playing tough defense. But the Salukis are struggling to score and are shooting less than 40 percent from the field. Butler also plays tough defense, but the Bulldogs are far more efficient offensively. Before the season, you would have thought a victory in this one would have provided a nice boost come "Selection Sunday." Now, because of SIU's struggles, it looks as if Butler has everything to lose and nothing to gain.
Spotlight player: Butler freshman F Matt Howard has become a starter with the injury to Pete Campbell, and Howard has adapted quite nicely to the Bulldogs' patient offense. He is Butler's leading rebounder, but he'll go up against a rugged SIU frontcourt.

When: Saturday, noon
Why you should watch: Wisconsin has lost both times it has played a big-time opponent (Duke and Marquette). The defeats have come by a combined 29 points, so the Badgers have something to prove.
The buzz: The Badgers will be the second Big Ten team in a row for the Longhorns, who lost to Michigan State on Saturday, then have a week off. Texas' ultra-quick backcourt of A.J. Abrams and D.J. Augustin will cause problems for the Badgers, who are well-balanced offensively and hammering opponents on the boards.
Spotlight player: Sophomore G Trevon Hughes has emerged as Wisconsin's leading scorer, and he is also a solid defender. He is the quickest Badger, and that trait needs to be put to good use defensively against Texas.

When: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Why you should watch: If you like up-tempo basketball, this is must-see TV.
The buzz: Both want to run, so expect a game in the 80s or even 90s. Both have good depth, good athletes and good shooters. This will be the sixth BCS-league opponent for Gonzaga in its 13th game. The Zags only have one more such opponent, so this game is more important for them to win than it is for the Vols.
Spotlight player: Gonzaga G Jeremy Pargo will be the focal point of the Vols' defensive efforts. Keeping Pargo under wraps will go a long way toward keeping the Zags' offense in check. Look for the Vols to be as physical as possible with Pargo, who has struggled from beyond the arc and at the free-throw line.

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Why you should watch: The Flyers have played surprisingly well and look as if they'll be a contender in the Atlantic 10. A victory over Pitt, though, and Dayton becomes a team that could stay in the top 25 all season.
The buzz: Pitt has used its usual modus operandi tough defense and dominating play in the paint to get off to a fast start. Big men DeJuan Blair and Sam Young are an effective duo, and point guard Levance Fields has been excellent. Dayton also is playing good defense, but the Panthers will be the best team the Flyers have seen this season. Freshman F Chris Wright must hold his own in the low block and also stay out of foul trouble for Dayton to have a chance.
Spotlight player: Dayton senior guard Brian Roberts is underrated nationally and is playing at an extremely high level this season. He's the Flyers' only real long-range threat. Pitt's perimeter defense has been outstanding.

When: Saturday, 10 p.m.
Why you should watch: It's another big intersectional game involving Memphis.
The buzz: Memphis continues its tough early season schedule by hosting the Wildcats, who have played a tough nonconference schedule, too. Some big-time freshmen will be on view Arizona's Jerryd Bayless and Jamelle Horne and Memphis' Derrick Rose and Bayless' offense will be huge for Arizona. Memphis has a better frontcourt, and that likely will be the determining factor.
Spotlight player: Arizona sophomore big man Jordan Hill needs a big game on the boards and on defense if the Wildcats are to win this. Hill is Arizona's leading rebounder. He also has been foul-prone. If Hill is on the bench, Arizona is going to get pounded on the boards.

Oklahoma vs. West Virginia at Charleston, W.Va., Saturday, 6 p.m., ESPN2: Bob Huggins' Mountaineers are off to a good start, but they've lost to the best team they've played (Tennessee, by two). This will be a good test for both teams.
Washington at LSU, Saturday, 3 p.m., Fox Sports Net South: LSU has had opportunities for some nice nonconference wins, but the Tigers haven't been able to hold on. The Huskies also lack marquee nonconference victories.
Missouri at Mississippi State, Sunday, 1:30 p.m., no TV: Mississippi State has been a big disappointment, and this will be the Bulldogs' last chance to get a victory over a legit nonconference foe.
Florida State at Georgia Tech, Sunday, 5:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net: The Seminoles have been surprisingly strong thus far, Tech surprisingly mediocre. This is the ACC opener for both, and FSU has had precious few league road victories the past few seasons.
Minnesota at UNLV, Sunday, 7 p.m., no TV: Tubby Smith's team has a nice record, but the Golden Gophers have beaten no one of note. UNLV could use a victory over a BCS-league team.
These games don't necessarily jump out at you as must-see contests, but upon further review, they're worth keeping an eye on.
Connecticut at UCF, Friday, 8 p.m., CSTV: This will be the first true road game of the season for the Huskies, who other than Memphis are the highest-profile team to ever play at UCF. The Knights' new arena should be full and loud.
Illinois State at Creighton, Saturday, 8 p.m., no TV: The Missouri Valley looks to be deep and lacking in an elite team. This is the conference opener for both, and a win by the Redbirds would show they'll be a team to take seriously in the league race.
BYU at Boise State, Saturday, 9 p.m., no TV: This would be a tremendous football game and it should be at least a solid basketball game. Boise State is hoping to finish in the top half of the WAC, and this will be the toughest road test yet for BYU.

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

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