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December 8, 2009

Viewer's guide: Neutral not so bad this week

Because we're getting into exam time, there really aren't that many games this week -- though there definitely are some interesting matchups.

The three best contests this week are neutral-court games.

Here is a look at games you need to keep an eye during the week. We will do this again Friday to spotlight the weekend games.

This week's five to watch

Georgetown vs. Butler in New York, 7 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN: Butler struggled a bit in the 76 Classic over Thanksgiving weekend, and this is the first game in a key three-game stretch for the Bulldogs, who play host to Ohio State and Xavier in their next two games. Forward Matt Howard needs to stay out of foul trouble -- which has been a problem for him -- against the Hoyas. Georgetown is unbeaten, but we will know more about the Hoyas after their next two games -- this neutral-court game against Butler, then a neutral-court contest against Washington.

Xavier at Kansas State, 9 p.m. Tuesday, ESPNU: K-State already has a win over Dayton and now looks for its second victory against a Atlantic 10 contender. K-State is coming off a 17-point win over Washington State and plays at UNLV in its next game. The Wildcats want to run, which is just fine with Xavier. The question: Can the Musketeers' guards handle K-State's backcourt? Xavier already has one loss to a Big 12 team, a five-point setback against Baylor.

Arizona State at BYU, 10 p.m. Tuesday, The mtn.: This will be the first true road game of the season for the Sun Devils, who won't play another road game until New Year's Eve against UCLA. Arizona State has played solid defense thus far, but will be tested by the Cougars, who, unlike the Sun Devils, prefer a fast pace. BYU was the preseason favorite to win the Mountain West, and a win by the Sun Devils would boost the Pac-10's profile a bit. Frankly, that profile could use all the boosting it can get.

Connecticut vs. Kentucky in New York, 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN: This should be one of the best pre-Jan. 1 games this season. The matchup between jet-quick guards Kemba Walker of UConn and John Wall of Kentucky should be fantastic. Can UConn handle UK's Patrick Patterson? The Huskies have some athletic big men, so the frontcourt battles should be a treat.

Florida vs. Syracuse in Tampa, 9 p.m. Thursday, ESPN: This game looked as if it would be a shoulder-shrugger before the season, but it has turned into quite the nice matchup. Florida has impressive wins over Florida State and Michigan State, while Syracuse blasted California and North Carolina. Neither has that much depth, and it likely will come down to how well the Gators can defend Syracuse forward Wesley Johnson. Florida has a couple of players who can hit 3-pointers against Syracuse's match-up zone.

Others to keep an eye on

Iowa at Northern Iowa, 8 p.m. Tuesday: UNI was the preseason favorite in the Missouri Valley, and the Panthers already have a victory over Iowa State. If they can pull the double and also beat the Hawkeyes, it will be a huge feather in coach Ben Jacobson's cap. UNI also has beaten Boston College. Iowa was expected to struggle, and it has. Bad news for the Hawkeyes is that a road game against Iowa State follows on Friday.

Vanderbilt at Illinois, 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Big Ten Network: Both teams have good talent, but both also have been a bit inconsistent. There should be a good big-man battle between Illinois' Mike Tisdale and Vandy's A.J. Ogilvy.

Indiana vs. Pittsburgh in New York, 9 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN: Pitt is off to a 7-1 start, but there really isn't a notable victory in there. This will be a good "gauge game" for Indiana in coach Tom Crean's second season.

Duquesne at West Virginia, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Big East syndication/Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh/Mid-Atlantic Sports Network/Altitude/ESPN FullCourt: Duquesne took Pitt to overtime last week, but WVU is a different story. Still, if the Dukes can hang tough against another Big East opponent, they could be a surprise contender in the Atlantic 10.

Michigan at Utah, 9 p.m. Wednesday, CBS College Sports: Michigan has been an early season disappointment, though the Wolverines do have a victory over Creighton. A team expected to contend for the Big Ten title should be able to beat a team expected to finish in the middle of the pack in the Mountain West.

Villanova at Saint Joseph's, 9 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN2: A good, old-fashioned intra-city rivalry between "Big Five" foes. St. Joe's has lost four in a row, with all four losses coming away from home. St. Joe's relies on its backcourt, but so does Villanova -- and Villanova's is better.

California at Pacific, 10 p.m. Wednesday: Pacific is off to a 6-1 start that includes wins over San Diego State and Nevada. Cal has struggled out of the gate, and a loss by the Golden Bears in this one would be another blow to the Pac-10.

Louisiana Tech at Arizona, 11 p.m. Wednesday, Fox Sports Arizona: Louisiana Tech is off to a 7-1 start, but the one loss was an evisceration by New Mexico. To no one's surprise, Arizona still is trying to find itself under new coach Sean Miller. Louisiana Tech is athletic and has some height, but surely the Wildcats win this, right?

Idaho at Washington State, 11 p.m. Wednesday, Fox Sports Net Northwest/Fox College Sports Pacific: Idaho went into the season as a sleeper contender in the WAC. Wins over Utah and Portland would seem to lend credence to that thought, but the Vandals also have lost to Texas Southern and Cal State Northridge. The Cougars started 6-0, but they have lost their past two -- coincidentally the only games they've played against legit opponents. Again, this is an important game for the Pac-10.

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

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