The sports-watching populace will
have its attention occupied for the better part of four hours Wednesday night by
USC vs. Texas in the Bowl Championship
Series title game played in the Rose Bowl.
By Thursday, though, it will be all
about college basketball. And that’s a perfect time for those who have paid only
cursory attention toward the sport so far this season to jump squarely on the
college hoops bandwagon.
Four matchups of teams ranked in
the Scout.com Top 25 – Villanova at
Louisville in the latter’s Big East
Conference debut; Big Ten showdowns in Top 10-ranked
Illinois; and a Pac 10 meeting in
Tucson between UCLA and
Arizona – highlight the Thursday
Here’s a look at some of the week’s
best matchups, as well as Scout.com’s updated Top 25 and the Five Scout.com
Players of the Week:
Texas at Memphis: After getting punched
out on consecutive Saturdays (courtesy Duke and Tennessee), this is a an ideal
opportunity for the Longhorns to prove they’re as good as people who were
picking them to go to the Final Four thought they were in November. The only
thing is, Texas could play very well in this one and still suffer
its third loss.
Connecticut at Marquette: Point guard Marcus Williams is set to make his
season’s debut for the second-ranked Huskies in this Big East Conference opener.
Coach Jim Calhoun’s went 3-0 in its only real “tests”
Arizona and Gonzaga in the EA
Sports/Maui Invitational in November) without him. Watch closely the guy he’ll
likely be matched up a great deal in this one. Dominic James is one of the best
freshmen in the country.
Michigan at Indiana: This is just the first of a large
number of enticing matchups in the first week of Big Ten Conference play. Of
course, in that conference, nearly every game is worth national
Notre Dame at Pittsburgh: Those skeptical of how good the
Panthers were should have a much better idea after Coach Jamie Dixon’s team knocked off
South Carolina (on the road) and
Wisconsin (at home) last week to
remain unbeaten going into the Big East opener.
Xavier at Saint Joseph’s: These are two of the teams, along
with newcomer Charlotte, that would seem to have the best opportunities of
keeping favored George Washington from winning the Atlantic 10 Conference
New Mexico at Utah: The two best teams in the Mountain
West Conference last season lost players (Danny Granger and Andrew Bogut) to the NBA. The visiting
Lobos seem to have returned more firepower, most notably in the former of
seniors Mark Walters and David Chiotti.
Villanova at Louisville: It’s a Big
East game between an unbeaten team that has aced every major test (a home game
with then-Top 10-ranked Oklahoma and road games at Bucknell and Temple) it has
faced so far, vs. a Cardinals’ club that failed, miserably, in its only major
challenge (a lopsided loss at Kentucky for its only defeat on an otherwise
yawner of a schedule).
Michigan State at Illinois: If this is the game that most excites
you this week, we’re in agreement. The Big Ten powers bagged two of the Final
Four slots last spring. It could happen again in
Indianapolis on April 1. And that’s
Iowa at Wisconsin: The Hawkeyes, with senior guard Jeff Horner healthy and back on the
floor, shouldn’t be discounted as a Big Ten title challenger. But the Badgers
are good enough to sweep their conference competition at
UCLA at Arizona: The Wildcats re-established
themselves as the favorites to win another Pac 10 title with their sweep in
Washington last week – most
notably, the double-overtime victory in
Seattle Saturday to hand the UW
Huskies their first loss.
Nevada at Hawaii: Is Mark Fox’s team clearly the class of
the WAC this season? Its game in
Honolulu will give us a better
LSU at Connecticut: This is another opportunity – against
a potential NCAA Tournament team – for Marcus Williams to re-integrate himself
with the Huskies.
West Virginia at Villanova: Prediction – This will
be one of the highest scoring affairs in the Big East Conference this
The Big Ten Game of Your Choice: Wow,
is this conference tough or what? Three showdowns of teams ranked in the Top 25
take place – Illinois (No. 5) at
State (10) at
Wisconsin (14) and
State (4) at
Indiana (13). Each could be a top
four seed when the NCAA Tournament pairings are unveiled.
Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s: Just when
everyone thought the Bulldogs were going to chew up their West Coast Conference
competition, Santa Clara knocks off
Bucknell and Saint Mary’s beats
North Carolina State at North Carolina:
The Wolfpack’s wins over Notre Dame (in
Alabama (on the road) and
then-unbeaten George Washington (in
Raleigh) didn’t get the national
attention they were worthy of. An ACC victory in Chapel
Hill would do the trick, though.
Kentucky at Kansas: How much progress has Bill Self’s merry band of freshmen and
sophomores made since the team’s last loss (to Saint
Joseph’s on Dec. 6 in
Garden)? The Wildcats will provide a
nice litmus test.
Players of the
(Games played Dec.
Hassan Adams (6-4, Sr.,
Arizona): He – and the Wildcats – had a
marvelous stay in Washington. In
Pac 10 victories over Washington State (70-52) and Washington (96-95, double
overtime), he averaged 28.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.5 steals per
game with just one turnover in a cumulative 82 minutes of playing time. For the season: 20.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.3
apg and 2.9 spg.
Engin Atsur (6-4, Jr., North Carolina State): The point guard from Istanbul, Turkey, is one of the many reasons
Herb Sendek’s team is 11-1 with an ACC opener at North Carolina on tap for
Saturday. He had 15 points (hitting five of seven 3-pointers) with five assists,
two steals and only one turnover in an 81-62 decision over
New Hampshire. Then he chipped in
with 11 points, five rebounds, nine assists and a single turnover as the
Wolfpack handed George Washington its first loss, 79-58. For the season: 11.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.8
apg and .450 on 3’s.
Terence Dials (6-9, Sr.,
Ohio State): The Buckeyes remained unbeaten after
games with Gardner Webb and LSU, in large part because of their 255-pound
center. Dials had 23 points and nine rebounds in the first game, and 24 points,
eight rebounds and three steals in the second (when they rallied from 15 points
down late to win in Columbus
Saturday, 78-66). For the season:
14.7 ppg and 7.1 rpg.
Brandon Roy (6-5, Sr., Washington): We
try to avoid selecting two players from the same conference but
Roy was too good to stick to that
rule of thumb. In a Pac 10-opening, 91-67 victory over visiting Arizona State,
he hit all five of his 3-point attempts and scored 35 points with five rebounds,
four assists, a steal and two blocked shots. Two days later, he scored 35 more
with 11 rebounds and four assists and twice put the game into overtime periods
with 3-point shots. But he fouled out in the second OT and the Wildcats snapped
the Huskies’ 32-game home-court winning streak. For the season: 19.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.0
apg and 1.5 spg.
Sam Young (6-6, Fr., Pittsburgh): The
Panthers had their toughest games of the non-conference and survived both
tussles, against South Carolina and Wisconsin, with one of the nation’s most
underrated freshmen coming through both times. He had 16 points, seven rebounds
and two assists in 22 minutes off the bench in the win in Columbia, S.C., then
added another 16 points with five rebounds and two assists in 28 minutes at home
against the Badgers. For the season:
8.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg and 1.1 apg.
Scout.com’s updated Top
(with previous ratings; records
include games through Jan. 1)
1. (1) Duke (12-0) Next game: vs.
2. (2) Connecticut (11-0) Next game: at
3. (3) Villanova (9-0) Next game: at
4. (4) Ohio State (10-0) Next game: vs. Penn State
5. (5) Illinois (14-0) Next game: vs.
6. (8) Memphis (11-1) Next game: vs.
7. (9) Florida (12-0) Next game: vs. Morgan State
8. (11) North Carolina State (11-1) Next game: vs. UNC-Greensboro
9. (7) Gonzaga (10-3) Next game: at
Saint Mary’s (Saturday)
10. (12) Michigan State (12-2) Next game: at
11. (6) Washington (11-1) Next game: vs. Cornell
12. (13) Boston College (10-2) Next game: vs.
13. (14) Indiana (8-2) Next game: vs.
14. (10) Wisconsin (10-2) Next game: vs.
15. (18) Maryland (10-2) Next game: vs. Texas
A&M-Corpus Christi (Wednesday)
16. (19) Arizona (9-3) Next game: vs. UCLA
17. (20) Kentucky (9-3) Next game: vs. South Florida (Tuesday)
18. (21) Louisville (11-1) Next game: vs. Villanova
19. (22) Texas (10-2) Next game: at
20. (16) UCLA (11-2) Next game: at
21. (23) North
(7-2) Next game: vs. Davidson (Tuesday)
22. (24) Cincinnati (11-2) Next game: vs. DePaul
23. (UR) Pittsburgh (11-0) Next game: vs. Notre Dame
24. (15) George Washington (8-1) Next game:
25. (UR) Iowa (11-3) Next game: at
Dropped out: Nevada (17) and Oklahoma State (25)
Inducted into the USBWA Hall of
Fame last April, Frank Burlison is Scout.com’s national basketball expert and is
also a columnist for the Long Beach
(Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Burlison’s pieces at