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January 18, 2008

Mayo, Love take center stage

» MORE BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | SEC
Arizona at California
Arizona State at Stanford
Oregon State at Washington
Oregon at Washington State
Washington State at Arizona
Washington at Arizona State
USC at Oregon State
UCLA at Oregon

Best matchup: USC at UCLA. One of the biggest storylines of the preseason was the arrival of Kevin Love and O.J. Mayo in Los Angeles. The two mega-hyped freshmen were supposed to make college hoops matter in Hollywood. Love has done his part, averaging a team-high 16.8 points and 10.5 rebounds for the Bruins (16-1, 4-0 Pac-10), who are riding a nine-game winning streak. It hasn't gone as well for Mayo. The Trojans (10-6, 1-3) dropped their first three league games, and Mayo, while averaging a team-high 19.9 points, has shot the ball poorly in numerous games. To knock off Love and the Bruins, the Trojans need a big game from Mayo and plenty of contributions from his supporting cast, particularly freshman small forward Davon Jefferson and sophomore guard Daniel Hackett. The Bruins have won five of their past six meetings with the Trojans.

The pressure is on: Oregon. The Ducks (12-5, 3-2) face the top two teams in the league next, traveling to No. 8 Washington State (15-1, 3-1) and playing host to UCLA. Lose both and they risk falling into the middle of the league standings. Even though the Cougars have a 12-game home-court winning streak, the Ducks should feel confident. They won 77-74 in Pullman last season en route to sweeping the Cougars, who have virtually the same team back, in 2006-07.

Upset alert: UCLA at Oregon. This could be the biggest challenge on the Bruins' league schedule. McArthur Court is the toughest place to play in the Pac-10 and the Ducks have improved since freshman point guard Kamyron Brown was moved into the starting lineup in late December. The Ducks have won three in a row, with Brown averaging 10.6 points and 4.6 assists in that stretch. Senior power forward Maarty Leunen also could provide an advantage. Leunen likes to step out on the perimeter and knock down 3-pointers, which should pull the bruising Love away from the basket.

RPI watch: The conference rating moved up to second behind the ACC. If it wasn't for lowly Oregon State (No. 249), the Pac-10 might be first. UCLA has risen to No. 6 after beating previously unbeaten Washington State at home last week. Arizona is No. 10, thanks to the nation's toughest schedule. The Cougars are No. 23 followed by Oregon at No. 25 and Stanford at No. 35. Arizona State, despite riding a nine-game winning streak and a 3-0 start in league play, fell 10 spots to No. 71. The Sun Devils are being dragged down by their loss to Illinois, which is off to a 0-4 start in the Big Ten.

Key stat: California sophomore guard Patrick Christopher is averaging 17.3 points, up from 5.2 last season. The 12.1 increase is the best improvement in the league.

Freshman to watch: Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless. After missing four games with a sprained knee, Bayless reminded everyone why he had a reputation as a dangerous scorer in high school. Bayless, a Phoenix native, scored a career-high 33 points in the Wildcats' 85-71 win over Houston last week. He made a school-record 18 free throws in 20 attempts.

Who's hot: Arizona State freshman James Harden has scored at least 20 points in each of his past five games and is averaging 23.6 points and shooting 57.8 percent (37 of 64) from the field in that stretch. … UCLA sophomore guard Russell Westbrook is averaging 14.0 points, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals and shooting 23 of 36 (63.9 percent) in his past four games. … Cal sophomore forward Ryan Anderson is shooting 49.1 percent (29-of-59) from 3-point range in his past 10 games. … Since returning from a thumb injury three games ago, Washington State forward Daven Harmeling has made 12 of 16 (75.0 percent) three-pointers. … Arizona sophomore center Jordan Hill has scored in double figures in 11 consecutive games.

Who's not: Stanford junior guard Anthony Goods went 2-for-13 (15.3 percent) from the field in the Cardinal's loss to Oregon last week. Goods is 10-for-42 (23.8 percent) from the field in his past three games. …USC guard Daniel Hackett is 0-for-8 from 3-point range in his past four games.

Worth noting: USC's underclassmen have scored 96.1 percent of the team's points. That is the highest percentage in the nation. … No. 25 Arizona State, which has broken into the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1994-95, will be aiming for its 11th consecutive win for the first time since the 1980-81 season when it travels to Stanford on Saturday. … Oregon is 10-3 against teams ranked in the top 25 over the past two years, including 3-0 this season.

» MORE BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | SEC

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.

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