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December 31, 2007

Kansas-BC game among the best this week

FIVE TO WATCH
Here's a look at the five best games this week:
KANSAS AT BOSTON COLLEGE
WHEN: Saturday, noon, ESPN
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: Kansas won at Georgia Tech on Dec. 18, and now looks to make it 2-0 on ACC home courts.
THE BUZZ: This is the last tough nonconference opponent for Kansas, which is incredibly balanced and efficient on offense. BC could use a marquee nonconference victory, and if the Eagles are going to get that, guard Tyrese Rice likely will be the reason. He has become BC's go-to guy, but he'll be going against an excellent Kansas backcourt.
SPOTLIGHT PLAYER: BC sophomore forward Shamari Spears has elevated his game this season. He is the Eagles' second-leading scorer and leading rebounder. His battle with Kansas' Darrell Arthur should be a good one.

OREGON AT ARIZONA
WHEN: Saturday, 2 p.m., Fox Sports Net
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: A big early season contest in the Pac-10. This should help determine a pecking order behind UCLA in the league race.
THE BUZZ: Oregon has been a bit of a disappointment thus far. The Ducks haven't played all that well away from home, and their defense has been lax. All five starters are scoring in double figures, but depth is lacking. This will be the final home game before a four-game road trip for Arizona, which is playing better defense this season. Freshman Jerryd Bayless is living up to the hype and leads the Wildcats in scoring.
SPOTLIGHT PLAYER: Oregon's Maarty Leunen is averaging in double figures in rebounds and his assist-to-turnover ratio is almost 4-1. But he fouls too often. If he sits, Arizona is going to have an easy time in the low post.

PITTSBURGH AT VILLANOVA
WHEN: Sunday, noon, ESPN Full court
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: A huge early season game in the Big East. If Pitt wins this, a 6-1 or 7-0 start in the Big East looks extremely likely.
THE BUZZ: As usual, Pitt is playing tough, physical defense. But the Panthers are running more often and also bludgeoning foes on the boards. Junior Sam Young and freshman DeJuan Blair have become a dynamic frontcourt duo. Villanova's schedule hasn't been all that taxing, and Pitt will be a big step up in competition.
SPOTLIGHT PLAYER: Junior F Dante Cunningham is Villanova's most experienced frontcourt player, and he needs to produce in the paint on both ends for the Wildcats if they're to beat Pitt. Cunningham has been sloppy with the ball (he's second on the team in turnovers). Cunningham also needs to watch out for Blair, who has great defensive hands for a big man.

MARQUETTE AT WEST VIRGINIA
WHEN: Sunday, 2 p.m., ESPN Full Court
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: This is another big one in the Big East
THE BUZZ: This is Marquette's lone road contest in an eight-game stretch from Dec. 9-Jan. 16. The Golden Eagles' three-guard attack has been efficient offensively, and point guard Dominic James is playing well. West Virginia has gotten off to a surprisingly good start; then again, the schedule hasn't been all that tough. WVU's defense has been stout, and junior F Alex Ruoff has shot very well.
SPOTLIGHT PLAYER: West Virginia junior F Joe Alexander has continued his growth and has become a key component for the Mountaineers. He is their best rebounder, a good defender and an important offensive force. A big game from its big men likely means a big win for WVU.

NORTH CAROLINA AT CLEMSON
WHEN: Sunday, 4:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: Clemson again is off to a hot start. A win in this one means the Tigers may have to be taken seriously this season.
THE BUZZ: Clemson got off to an 18-0 start last season, but still missed the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers have three good outside shooters, but UNC's big guys are tough for anyone to handle. The Heels are blowing people out, and big man Tyler Hansbrough is living up to his billing as one of the nation's top 10 players.
SPOTLIGHT PLAYER: A hip sprain has caused Clemson F James Mays to miss five games. He is the Tigers' best frontcourt player and one of the best big men in the ACC. If Clemson is going to win this, he must produce.

FIVE MORE
Kansas State at Xavier, Monday, 7 p.m., ESPNU: Kansas State uber-freshman Michael Beasley is worth watching every time out. Xavier has struggled a bit, and needs its guards to play well in this one.
West Virginia at Notre Dame, Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN2: Bob Huggins' Mountaineers have been a pleasant early season surprise, but this is the second game in a murderous stretch (Oklahoma, then the Irish, then a trip to Marquette).
UCLA at Stanford, Thursday, 10:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net: A big early season game in the Pac-10. UCLA gets a break in that school isn't in session at Stanford, which means the crowd likely will be less raucous than usual.
Louisville at Kentucky, Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS: Both have been disappointments thus far, and we sure as heck wouldn't want to be the coach of the team that loses this game.
Minnesota at Michigan State, Saturday, 8 p.m., Big Ten Network: Tubby Smith's Golden Gophers can legitimize themselves with a victory or even a close loss in East Lansing.
UNDER-THE-RADAR GAMES
These games don't necessarily jump out at you as must-see contests, but upon further review, they're worth keeping an eye on.
Southern Illinois at Drake, Wednesday, 8 p.m., no TV: The Salukis have been a disappointment, the Bulldogs a big surprise. A win by Drake in this one means it has to be taken seriously as a Missouri Valley contender.
Western Kentucky at South Alabama, Saturday, 8 p.m., no TV: The two best teams in the Sun Belt meet in Mobile, Ala.
Saint Mary's at Texas, Saturday, 6 p.m., no TV: The Gaels have a big-time RPI, but the Longhorns will be their first real opponent. How good is Saint Mary's?

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



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