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February 12, 2010It's shocking but true: There's a big Friday night game to kick off the weekend.
Two of the Big East's best teams will be on view Friday when West Virginia visits rival Pittsburgh; Pitt will be looking for some payback after losing at WVU earlier this month.
The ACC takes center stage on Saturday, with a battle for first place between Duke and Maryland.
Here's a look at the weekend's top five games, along with some others of interest. We will do this again Tuesday to highlight the week's best games.
This week's five to watch
West Virginia at Pittsburgh, 9 p.m. Friday, ESPN: A rare huge Friday night game. WVU needs to win to stay in contention for the Big East regular-season title. Pitt has lost four of its past seven, but the Panthers are 13-1 at home. A problem in the losses is that the Panthers have struggled offensively. WVU is coming off a home loss to Villanova, which snapped a six-game winning streak. WVU is 5-2 on the road and plays three of its next four away from home. WVU beat the Panthers by 19 in Morgantown on Feb. 3, but WVU led by two with about 10 minutes left before pulling away. That game included a player skirmish and Pitt assistant Tom Herrion being hit in the face by a coin thrown by fans. At one point, WVU coach Bob Huggins grabbed the PA system microphone and admonished fans for throwing stuff on the court. Pitt officials say they plan no extra security for this game.
Maryland at Duke, 1 p.m. Saturday, CBS: This is for first place in the ACC. Duke was expected to contend for the title, Maryland wasn't. The Terps have won six of their past seven, but they have just two RPI top-50 wins -- both over Florida State. Duke has won five of its past six and is 13-0 at home this season. How will Duke attack Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez? Vasquez must play well if the Terps are to win. The teams meet again March 3 in College Park.
Rhode Island at Temple, 4 p.m. Saturday, Atlantic 10 syndication/Comcast Sports Net Philadelphia/Comcast-Charter Sports Southeast: Both have been surprisingly good this season and both are in the mix for the A-10 regular-season title. These teams also have the best RPIs in the A-10 -- Temple at 16th, Rhode Island at 19th -- meaning a win certainly would burnish the NCAA resume. The Owls won by four at Rhode Island in early January. Rhode Island plays four of its final six regular-season games on the road, but URI is 8-2 on the road. The Owls are 10-1 at home.
Georgia Tech at Wake Forest, 8 p.m. Saturday, ACC syndication regional/ESPN FullCourt: Wake has won three in a row and five of its past six, and quietly has put itself in position to legitimately contend for the ACC title. Tech, on the other hand, has lost two of its past three and would fall below .500 in the ACC if it loses this. The Yellow Jackets are 3-5 on the road, but they did beat Wake by 21 in Atlanta on Jan. 28. The frontcourt battles between Wake's Al-Farouq Aminu and Tech's Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors will be fun to watch, but the play of the backcourts will determine the winner.
Ohio State at Illinois, 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS: All of a sudden, Illinois has caught fire. The Illini have won five in a row, including back-to-back victories over Michigan State and Wisconsin. Ohio State also has won five in a row. These are two of the four teams tied for the Big Ten lead in the loss column, and the Illini have played themselves into the NCAA tourney mix as well. As with all Ohio State opponents, Illinois will need to stymie highly productive Buckeyes swingman Evan Turner if it's to win. Illinois is 12-1 at home and the Buckeyes are 3-5 on the road. These teams meet again March 3 in Columbus in the regular-season finale for both.
Others to keep an eye on
Miami at Clemson, noon Saturday, ACC syndication/Fox Sports Florida/Fox Sports South/Northeast Sports Network/Comcast Sports Net Washington: This is the second game of a three-game homestand for Clemson, which needs some more wins. In the first game of the homestand, the Tigers upended Florida State. But they still have won just twice in their past six games. UM is coming off a home win over Georgia Tech, but the Hurricanes are 0-6 on the road in ACC play.
Cincinnati at Connecticut, noon Saturday, Big East syndication/Sportsnet New York/Mid-Atlantic Sports Network/ESPN FullCourt: Think of this as the start of the last stand for both teams as they attempt to balance themselves on the NCAA bubble. Both have a shot at an upper-division finish in the Big East, but each needs to win games like this. UConn has lost four of five; Cincinnati has lost three of four.
Missouri at Baylor, 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Big 12 syndication/YES Network/Altitude/ESPN FullCourt: Mizzou is tied for second in the Big 12, three games behind Kansas. Baylor is another game back. This is the start of a stretch in which Mizzou plays four of six on the road.
George Mason at Old Dominion, 4 p.m. Saturday, Comcast Sports Net Washington/Comcast Sports Net Philadelphia: These teams are tied for second in the Colonial, a game behind Northeastern. ODU has a chance at an NCAA at-large bid, George Mason doesn't. George Mason won the first meeting at home by 16 points on Jan. 2.
UNLV at San Diego State, 4 p.m. Saturday, Versus: UNLV is in third place in the Mountain West, a game behind co-leaders New Mexico and BYU. The Runnin' Rebels are 4-1 on the road in league play and need to win this to keep any conference title hopes alive. San Diego State has played well at home and looks like a lock for an NIT bid.
Texas A&M at Texas Tech, 5 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2: Texas Tech is under .500 in the Big 12, yet has the fifth-best RPI in the league. This would be a nice win on A&M's NCAA resume. A&M has won five of its past six, and one of the wins was a 15-point affair over Tech on Jan. 30. But the Aggies are just 2-4 on the road.
Xavier at Florida, 6 p.m. Saturday, ESPN: A big game for both teams, especially Florida. Xavier looks to be in good shape for an NCAA bid, while the Gators have some work to do. Florida has just two RPI top-50 wins and needs to protect its home court. The Gators need center Vernon Macklin to play well against Xavier big man Jason Love.
Memphis at Tulsa, 7 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2: Memphis seems extremely unlikely to earn an NCAA at-large berth. Tulsa has a shot at an at-large bid, but the Golden Hurricane need to win this home game. Tulsa is 14-0 at home this season.
Virginia at Virginia Tech, 8 p.m. Saturday, ACC syndication regional/ESPN FullCourt: Virginia Tech is 12-0 at home and has won six of its past seven overall to move into the NCAA discussion - and into the ACC title race. The Hokies beat Virginia by five in Charlottesville on Jan. 28.
USF at Marquette, 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Big East syndication/MSG network/Mid-Atlantic Sports Network/Fox Sports Ohio/ESPN FullCourt: Both teams are in the NCAA at-large discussion. Marquette has won four in a row and USF has won four of its past five. This could come down to whether Marquette can keep Bulls guard Dominique Jones somewhat under wraps.
Tennessee at Kentucky, 9 p.m. Saturday, ESPN: The Vols are 3-3 since opening SEC play 3-0, and a loss in this one would effectively eliminate them from the SEC East title discussion. UK has won four in a row -- by an average margin of 15 points -- since suffering its lone SEC setback, to South Carolina. These teams meet again Feb. 27 in Knoxville.
Louisville at Syracuse, 1 p.m. Sunday, ESPN: Louisville has just one RPI top-50 win, and it's over USF; the Bulls may not be in the top 50 much longer. Thus, the Cardinals -- who are just 1-5 on the road -- have some work to do to become an NCAA at-large team. Syracuse, meanwhile, has a great shot at the Big East regular-season title and a No. 1 seed.
Connecticut at Villanova, 7 p.m. Monday, ESPN: This is the second important game in three days for UConn, which plays host to Cincinnati on Saturday. Villanova is in the hunt for the Big East regular-season title and a No. 1 seed.
Virginia at Maryland, 8 p.m. Monday: This game was postponed from Wednesday because of the excessive snow in the Northeast. Maryland will be coming off a game at Duke, UVa. coming off a game at Virginia Tech. Regardless, the Terps need this to stay in the ACC title hunt.
Kansas at Texas A&M, 9 p.m. Monday, ESPN: This culminates a huge weekend for A&M, which is at Texas Tech on Saturday. The Aggies are 13-0 at home this season, but do they have enough firepower to upset the Jayhawks? This is the only home game in a four-game stretch for the Aggies, who play at Iowa State and Baylor next.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.