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January 6, 2009

Five to watch: Huskies hit the road

The college football season winds up this week, but if you're already overdosed on football, there are some good basketball games. Here's a look at this week's best, along with some others that have some intrigue. The games are listed in chronological order.

We'll have our "Weekend 5 to Watch" feature on Friday afternoon.

This week's five to watch

Connecticut at West Virginia, Tuesday, 7 p.m., ESPNU: This is the first of three consecutive Big East road games for UConn (12-1, 1-1 Big East) but this is by far the toughest of the three. Guard Jerome Dyson leads the Huskies in scoring, but he has been flat-out bad in their two conference games. WVU (11-2, 1-0) has won its past four by an average of 31.3 points, including victories at Ohio State and Seton Hall. The Mountaineers are playing physical defense and getting needed offense from Alex Ruoff. True freshman Devin Ebanks is WVU's leading rebounder. Watch UConn center Hasheem Thabeet, who had just eight points and eight rebounds in two games against WVU last season.

Texas at Arkansas, Tuesday, 9 p.m., ESPN2: This game became a lot more interesting after the Razorbacks beat up on Oklahoma last week. Junior forward Michael Washington and freshman guard Courtney Fortson have been a dynamic duo for Arkansas (11-1), which wants a fast tempo and is crushing opponents on the boards. Texas' two losses have come by a total of five points. As expected, A.J. Abrams is playing well for Texas (11-2), but the Longhorns aren't getting much offensive production from any other backcourt player.

Davidson at Duke, Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPN: This is the final "Big Six" conference foe this season for the Wildcats (10-2), who have beaten West Virginia and NC State and lost to Oklahoma and Purdue. Duke (12-1) beat Davidson by six points last season. Everybody knows about Davidson's Stephen Curry, but if the Wildcats are to pull the upset, Curry needs some help - particularly from big man Andrew Lovedale and 3-point specialist Bryant Barr. Duke is playing solid defense, and sophomore forward Kyle Singler leads the team in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals. Both teams want a fast pace.

Gonzaga at Tennessee, Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN2: Gonzaga (8-4) was thought to be a Final Four sleeper before the season, but the Zags are a long way from that type of team right now. They've lost three in a row and four of their past five; included are head-scratching losses to Portland State and Utah. The Vols (9-3) lost by nine to Gonzaga in November in Orlando, Fla., but hope home-court advantage will mean something. The Vols also hope their defensive pressure hampers Gonzaga guard Jeremy Pargo, who is the Zags' best ball-handler.

Minnesota at Iowa, Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN2: This is big for the Hawkeyes (11-4, 1-1 Big Ten), who need to hold serve in conference play at home if they want to make it to the NCAA tournament. The Hawkeyes shoot 3-pointers well but need to keep the game in the 60s. This is just the second true road game of the season for the Golden Gophers (13-1, 1-1), who also will be quite comfortable with a game in the 60s. Minnesota spreads the scoring responsibilities around, and point guard Al Nolen is playing well.

Others to keep an eye on

Alabama at Clemson, Tuesday, 9 p.m., Fox Sports South/Sun Sports/NESN/ESPN GamePlan: Alabama is 10-3 and owns an 11-point victory over one ACC team (Georgia Tech), but Clemson (14-0) looks to be quite a bit better than anyone the Tide has played.

Ohio State at Michigan State, Tuesday, 7 p.m., ESPN2: Ohio State (10-2, 1-1 Big Ten) is looking at the very real possibility of opening 1-2 in conference play after falling at Minnesota over the weekend. Including this one against Michigan State (11-2, 2-0), three of the Buckeyes' next four league games are on the road.

Purdue at Penn State, Tuesday, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network: Penn State (12-3, 1-1 Big Ten) acquitted itself well in a narrow loss to Wisconsin over the weekend. But for the Nittany Lions to be taken seriously as a potential contender in the Big Ten, they need to beat teams such as Purdue (11-3, 0-1) at home.

LSU at Utah, Tuesday, 9 p.m., The mtn.: Utah (9-5) beat one SEC team, Ole Miss, on a neutral court earlier this season and now gets a visit from another. LSU (12-1) has been better than expected, but one reason for the gaudy record might be a weak schedule.

California at Washington State, Thursday, 10 p.m.: Cal (13-2, 2-0 Pac-10) beat up on the Arizona teams over the weekend as conference play opened. This will be the first game in a stretch in which Cal plays three in a row and five of seven on the road. Washington State (8-5, 0-1) has struggled to score against the "better" teams on its schedule.

Stanford at Washington, Thursday, 10:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net Northwest/Comcast SportsNet Bay Area: Both teams have been better than expected thus far. Starting with this one, Washington (10-3, 1-0 Pac-10) plays four of its next six at home. Stanford (11-1, 1-1) looked horrible against Arizona State but solid in a win over Arizona.

Rider at Siena, Friday, 7 p.m., ESPNU: These might be the two best teams in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and this is their first meeting of the season. Siena (10-4, 4-0 MAAC), which made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season, has played a far tougher schedule than Rider (8-5, 3-0).

Wisconsin-Green Bay at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Friday, 9 p.m., ESPNU: Butler looks to be the class of the Horizon League, but Wisconsin-Green Bay (10-4, 3-0 Horizon) and Wisconsin-Milwaukee (8-5, 4-0) likely will vie for second place and the Horizon could get two teams into the NCAA tourney this season.

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

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