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February 3, 2009

Viewer's guide: Must-win situation for Irish

Here's a look at this week's best games, along with some others that have some intrigue. The games are listed in chronological order.

We'll have our "Weekend Viewer's Guide" feature on Friday afternoon.

This week's five to watch

Notre Dame at Cincinnati, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.: A huge game for the Irish (12-8, 3-6 Big East), who have lost five in a row and need to start worrying about their NCAA at-large hopes. Given whose next on the schedule at UCLA and a home game against Louisville the losing streak could reach eight if they fall in this one. Irish senior guard Kyle McAlarney has scored 28 total points in the past three games, and he has to hit his 3-pointers if the Irish are to win. Cincinnati (14-8, 4-5) has won four of its past six to get into the NCAA at-large discussion. The Bearcats can struggle to score but tough defense has been a constant. Junior guard Deonta Vaughn has to produce offensively for the Bearcats to be at their best.

Minnesota at Michigan State, Wednesday, 8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network: Minnesota (18-3, 6-3 Big Ten) is a game behind first-place Michigan State (17-4, 7-2) in the conference race, and the Spartans won by 12 at Minnesota on New Year's Eve. The Golden Gophers are at their best when they can dictate tempo and keep the game in the 60s or even 50s, but this is the start of a stretch in which they play four of five on the road. Michigan State is coming off a home loss to Penn State, and the Spartans also have lost at home to Northwestern. Outside of guard Kalin Lucas, the Spartans have been spotty offensively in league play. But they also are outrebounding league foes by almost 14 per game, which lessens the impact of the offensive struggles.

Duke at Clemson, Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN: The assumption is Clemson is going to finish fourth at best in the ACC, behind North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest. Clemson (18-2, 4-2 ACC) already has lost to UNC and Wake, and this will be the only regular-season meeting between the Blue Devils and Tigers. A big key for Clemson is how productive junior big man Trevor Booker can be. It would help Booker's cause if senior Raymond Sykes can give the Tigers another inside presence offensively in this game. Duke junior swingman Gerald Henderson is playing extremely well lately, and his battle with Clemson senior K.C. Rivers will be fun to watch.

Missouri at Texas, Wednesday, 9:30 p.m., ESPN2: Missouri (18-4, 5-2 Big 12) has won five of its past six. If the Tigers win this, they become a legitimate contender to finish at least third in the Big 12. Both their conference losses have come on the road, though. Texas (15-5, 4-2) is coming off a home loss to Kansas State. Mizzou wants a fast pace, while Texas would prefer to slow it down and have it end up in the 60s. The higher the point total, the better off Missouri will be. A nice game-within-a-game will be in the frontcourt, with Texas' Damion James and Missouri's DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons.

Washington at California, Thursday, 10:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net Northwest: Cal (16-6, 5-4 Pac-10) has lost four of its past five, but the Golden Bears already have won at Washington this season. Cal's offense has been the problem during its recent swoon, and it needs guards Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle to produce. A lack of depth may be catching up to the Golden Bears. Washington (16-5, 7-2 Pac-10), which has won five of its past six, is tied with UCLA for the Pac-10 lead. This is the third game in a four-game road swing for the Huskies, who are 4-1 in league play on the road. The Huskies have a nice inside-outside attack headed by senior big man Jon Brockman and freshman point guard Isaiah Thomas.

Others to keep an eye on

Purdue at Ohio State, Tuesday, 7 p.m., ESPN: Purdue has won six in a row and is tied for the Big Ten lead in the loss column with Michigan State. Ohio State has five league victories but none against teams with a winning conference record.

South Carolina at Florida, Tuesday, 9 p.m., ESPN: A big game in the SEC East between the Gators and the surprising Gamecocks. South Carolina is looking for a season sweep of the Gators, who are 12-0 at home.

Maryland at North Carolina, Tuesday, 8 p.m., ACC syndication/ESPN FullCourt: Maryland is coming off a home win over Miami, and the Terps won last season in Chapel Hill. UNC has won five in a row overall.

San Diego State at UNLV, Tuesday, 10:30 p.m., The mtn.: This is a matchup of two of the three teams tied for the Mountain West Conference lead (Utah is the other).

West Virginia at Syracuse, Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPN: This is the second game of a tough six-game stretch for WVU, which lost by six at Louisville and has Providence, Pitt, Villanova and Notre Dame after this one. Syracuse has lost three in a row and four of five and has road games with Villanova and Connecticut after this.

Utah at TCU, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., The mtn.: Utah has won four of its past five and squarely is in the title hunt in the Mountain West. TCU, which upset UNLV at home last month, is looking to play spoiler.

Wake Forest at Miami, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2: Miami has lost three in a row and four of five to fall out of the race in the ACC. Now, the Hurricanes need to worry about remaining in the NCAA picture. Big problem for the Hurricanes: Their next three games are against Wake, Duke and North Carolina.

Villanova at Providence, Wednesday, 8 p.m., Big East syndication/Altitude/MSG/ESPN FullCourt: Providence has six Big East victories, but only one (against Syracuse) has come against a team with a winning league record. Villanova still is seeking its first road win over a legit foe.

Tennessee at Arkansas, Wednesday, 8 p.m., SEC syndication/Fox Sports South/Fox Sports Florida/ESPN FullCourt: Arkansas has been pitiful in SEC play, but the Hogs who beat Oklahoma and Texas at home can put a dent in the Vols' SEC title hopes with a victory.

Texas A&M at Oklahoma, Wednesday, 9 p.m., Big 12 syndication/ESPN FullCourt: A&M is 0-3 on the road in the Big 12. OU has won nine in a row and looks as if it could be the only non-ACC or Big East team that has a shot at a No. 1 seed.

USC at UCLA, Wednesday, 10:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net Arizona/FSN Prime Ticket/FSN Northwest: UCLA won by four at USC last month, and the Trojans have won five of six since that loss to get back into the Pac-10 race.

Penn State at Michigan, Thursday, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network: Michigan has lost five of its past six. How crazy a season is it in the Big Ten? A win over Penn State will be a huge boost to the Wolverines.

Temple at Xavier, Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN: Temple can put itself at least on the periphery of the NCAA at-large hunt if it can upset the Musketeers. This is the teams' only regular-season meeting.

Illinois at Wisconsin, Thursday, 9 p.m., ESPN: This is huge for Wisconsin, which has lost six in a row and needs to win this to keep its NCAA at-large hopes alive.

Gonzaga at Portland, Thursday, 11 p.m., ESPN2: With St. Mary's guard Patrick Mills out for a month with broken bones in his hand, Portland looks as if it will be Gonzaga's main challenger for the West Coast Conference regular-season title.

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

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