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February 10, 2009

Viewer's guide: Duke-UNC highlights big week

Any week that features Duke-North Carolina is a good one, and this week certainly qualifies. There are also marquee matchups in the Big East, Mountain West and Pac-10 as well.

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 Five to Watch" feature on Friday afternoon.

This week's five to watch

Marquette at Villanova, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2: Marquette is coming off a shocking loss at USF, its first setback in Big East play. Villanova has won five in a row and ripped Syracuse in its most recent outing. Marquette (20-3, 9-1 Big East) has the better backcourt, Villanova (19-4, 7-3) the better frontcourt. Dante Cunningham has been huge for the Wildcats this season, and the Golden Eagles will need to make him their defensive focus. Conversely, Villanova's backcourt needs to make sure Jerel McNeal doesn't take over the game. Both these teams remain in the hunt for the Big East regular-season title, and in that respect, Villanova must win this game to remain within striking distance of Connecticut. Marquette beat Villanova by seven in Milwaukee on New Year's Day.

Clemson at Boston College, Tuesday, 9 p.m., ACC syndication/Fox Sports South/Fox Sports Florida/NESN/Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic: This is the second game of a tough five-game stretch for BC (18-7, 6-4 ACC), which lost at Wake Forest on Sunday and plays Duke, Miami and Florida State back-to-back-to-back after this. BC, which is at its best when the score is in the high 60s/low 70s, plays solid perimeter defense, but can be sloppy with the ball and isn't always proficient offensively. Senior guard Tyrese Rice must play well if BC is to win. Clemson (19-3, 5-3) followed up a rout of Duke with a loss at home to Florida State in which it blew a 19-point, second-half lead. This is the first game in a stretch in which Clemson plays three of four on the road; at the same time, Clemson has more talent than each of the next five teams it plays BC, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

North Carolina at Duke, Wednesday, 9 p.m., ACC syndication/ESPN: This is the first meeting of the season in the best rivalry in college basketball. These teams split last season, with each winning on the other's home court. North Carolina (21-2, 7-2 ACC) has won seven in a row and only one has been by less than 15 points. Duke (20-3, 7-2) has struggled a bit of late, going 2-2 since putting together a 10-game winning streak. Duke must find a way to stay even on the boards. The Blue Devils also have to get a big game from Kyle Singler or they have no shot at a win. The faster the pace, the better it is for the Tar Heels. Both teams get to the foul line an inordinate amount of times. UNC has made 51 more free throws than its opponents have attempted; Duke has made 16 more than its opponents have attempted.

San Diego State at Utah, Wednesday, 10 p.m., The mtn.: The Mountain West has a good shot at getting four NCAA bids, and these are two of the teams vying for those bids and the conference lead. San Diego State (17-5, 7-2 Mountain West) has won four in a row and beat the Utes by nine last month in San Diego. San Diego State has a solid frontcourt headed by Lorrenzo Wade, who missed the Aztecs' last game with the flu; he is expected to play against the Utes. San Diego State is tough defensively and averages 8.5 steals per game. Utah (16-7, 7-2) has won four in a row, and 7-1 center Luke Nevill is a big reason, literally and figuratively. Utah's 3-point shooting will be key, which means guard Lawrence Borha and/or 6-8 forward Shaun Green must play well.

UCLA at Arizona State, Thursday, 9 p.m., ESPN: UCLA (19-4, 8-2 Pac-10) has won four in a row but plays four of its next six on the road. Arizona State (18-5, 7-4) beat UCLA by three in overtime last month in L.A. The Bruins are playing their usual tough defense, but their offense has been revved up to the point where they're averaging 85.8 points in the four wins. Senior forward Alfred Aboya suddenly has blossomed into an offensive force; he has scored in double figures in a career-high four consecutive games. The perimeter group of Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday and Josh Shipp can be tough to handle. Arizona State counts on James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph to produce. The Sun Devils want a slow pace and will have trouble if this game gets into the 70s.

Others to keep an eye on

Michigan State at Michigan, Tuesday, 7 p.m., ESPN: Michigan has lost six of eight, but a victory over its archrival in its only meeting this season would bolster its NCAA hopes. Michigan State, meanwhile, is in the driver's seat in the Big Ten race.

Oklahoma State at Texas, Tuesday, 8 p.m., Big 12 syndication/ESPN FullCourt: Texas has lost three in a row; Oklahoma State has lost five of seven. Both need a win.

Florida at Kentucky, Tuesday, 9 p.m., ESPN: Kentucky has lost three in a row and fallen almost 30 spots in the RPI, to 74th heading into Monday's games. A Florida victory would give the Gators a two-game lead over UK in the SEC East, but the Gators laid a big egg in their last road game, a 16-point loss at Tennessee. UK won by 18 in Knoxville last month.

Penn State at Purdue, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network: Purdue is 0-3 in Big Ten games in which sophomore forward Robbie Hummel missed, and his status for this one won't be determined until game time. Penn State has lost two in a row since winning at Michigan State, and after this, the Nittany Lions have Minnesota, Illinois and Ohio State in a row.

Syracuse at Connecticut, Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPN: UConn has won 11 in a row and appears on its way to nailing down a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney perhaps the overall No. 1 seed. Syracuse has lost five of its past seven overall and has lost four in a row on the road.

Xavier at Dayton, Wednesday, 7 p.m., ESPN Classic: This is a prime opportunity for Dayton to strengthen its NCAA tourney case. This is the second game in a stretch in which Xavier plays four of six on the road; the Musketeers lost the first one, at Duquesne.

LSU at Mississippi State, Wednesday, 8 p.m.: LSU leads Mississippi State by a game in the SEC West race, and a win in this one by the Tigers will make it tough for anyone to catch them in the division. These are the only West teams above .500 in league play.

Tulsa at Memphis, Wednesday, 8 p.m., CBS College Sports: Tulsa is second, behind Memphis, in the Conference USA race. The Golden Hurricane need to win this if they're to have a realistic shot at winning the regular-season crown.

Oklahoma at Baylor, Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN2: Baylor has lost five in a row, and the Bears' NCAA hopes are dwindling. OU, meanwhile, has a legit shot at a No. 1 seed.

USC at Arizona, Thursday, 10:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net: Arizona has won five in a row to get back on the "plus" side of the ledger in Pac-10 play. USC beat Arizona by one last month in L.A.

Gonzaga at Saint Mary's, Thursday, 11 p.m., ESPN2: This looks like the last tough West Coast Conference game for Gonzaga. But Saint Mary's has lost three of four since star point guard Patrick Mills broke his wrist late last month.

Villanova at West Virginia, Friday, 9 p.m., ESPN: The second big Big East game for each this week, as WVU played Pitt on Monday and Villanova plays Marquette on Tuesday. This the only regular-season meeting between the teams.

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



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