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Two UConn Battles Headline Week's Top College Basketball Games

Jan 3, 2011 – 3:20 PM
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Evan Hilbert

Evan Hilbert %BloggerTitle%

Ah, conference play. Where familiarity breeds upsets and teams are no longer allowed to skirt playing actual teams.

I'm talking about you, Cincinnati. I hope you enjoy your week in the top 25.

10. No. 3 Kansas (13-0) at Michigan (11-3), Sunday, 4:30 p.m., CBS

Michigan doesn't pack much punch, but the Jayhawks at home do. That probably won't really matter. Kansas hasn't been challenged since UCLA nearly stole one in Lawrence, and Josh Selby provides a welcomed scoring threat on the perimeter.

9. No. 13 Georgetown (12-2) at St. John's (9-3), Monday, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Steve Lavin's Red Storm are an interesting case. They've not yet played a ranked team, their losses came to St. Bonaventure, Saint Mary's, and Fordham and they are 2-0 in Big East play -- winning over West Virginia and Providence on the road. St. John's is in for a rude awakening, methinks. Its next nine come against Georgetown, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Notre Dame (again), Louisville, Cincinnati, Georgetown (again), and, finally, as a respite from the unforgiving Big East, Duke. Good luck with that.

8. Arkansas (10-2) at No. 12 Texas (11-2), Tuesday, 9 p.m., ESPNU

In the opening game of last season, Razorback guard Rotnei Clarke dropped 51 on Alcorn State. He could never come close to recreating that performance, and his streaky scoring really hindered Arkansas. This year, he's leading the team in scoring but has been shut down a few times. In order for the Hogs to pull of an upset on the road, he will need his points. They've lost only twice this year -- Texas A&M and UAB -- both in overtime.

Texas has been inconsistent itself, but the Longhorns have won five straight after being blasted by Southern Cal. They shouldn't struggle much with the Hogs, but if they get caught looking ahead to Saturday's showdown with UConn they might get bit.

7. No. 21 Memphis (11-2) at Tennessee (9-4), Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN2

You can throw out the records when these two meet, an act that would certainly be appreciated by the Vols. Tennessee has been a mess since opening the season 7-0, including wins over Pitt and Villanova. Still, it has plenty of time to right the ship, even if Bruce Pearl will be absent for (at least) eight conference games.

Memphis has had struggles of its own, including a wild 5-point win over Tennessee State in which the wife of a Memphis booster was ejected.

6. Minnesota (11-3) at No. 2 Ohio State (14-0), Sunday, 2 p.m.

Minnesota really needs to bounce back after a tough week. Two losses -- both on to road to Michigan State and Wisconsin -- have pushed the Gophers from the top 25. Leading scorer Blake Hoffarber has struggled somewhat of late, as well. Also: Ohio State looks almost unbeatable. When Jon Diebler and William Buford are on -- with Jared Sullinger in the post -- there's really no stopping the Bucks.

5. Maryland (9-4) at No. 1 Duke (13-0), Sunday, 8 p.m.

Before this gets dismissed as a throwaway based simply on name recognition, remember: The Terps have snagged the Dukies before. Like last year! And some other times! But, yes, this year is different. Maryland hasn't been particularly bad or particularly good -- just particularly decent, which won't get you a win over Duke this year.

4. No. 10 Kentucky (11-2) at Georgia (11-2), Saturday, 4 p.m.

If Georgia is to make a statement in the SEC this year, this is a game that Mark Fox's team needs to steal. It has all the trappings of an upset: Kentucky is off a huge win over rival Louisville; it's at UGA; and the Bulldogs have had over a week off. If they can overcome any early rust that would lead to a big deficit, they will be in position for the win. They played the Wildcats close in both meetings a year ago, losing by only eight at Rupp Arena.

3. No. 24 Cincinnati (14-0) at No. 7 Villanova (12-1), Sunday, noon

Somehow, somehow, Cincinnati -- a Big East team -- was undefeated and on the outside of the top 25 until this week. The only explanation would be that the Bearcats scheduledpoorly. And they did. They haven't played a ranked team and will not until their matchup Sunday with Villanova. They have only left the state of Ohio to play once, a game in Oklahoma City against the Sooners.

2. No. 8 Connecticut (11-1) at No. 14 Notre Dame (12-2), Tuesday, 7 p.m.

The Irish have split the first two of their traipse through three of the Big East's best, beating Georgetown before losing at Syracuse. Perhaps they can give UConn some pointers with how to handle consecutive powers. The Huskies are a week off their first loss of the season to Pitt, and will face Texas later in the week. They narrowly escaped a damaging loss to South Florida over the weekend, winning in overtime. It's starting to look like -- especially in conference play -- that the Huskies will need 30 from Kemba Walker to stay competitive.

1. No. 8 Connecticut (11-1) at No. 12 Texas (11-2), Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ESPN

When these teams met a year ago, UConn -- in the midst of a down year -- knocked off then-top ranked Longhorns in Storrs. Now, both teams are having surprising years and find themselves near the top of the polls. Jordan Hamilton has been huge for Texas -- as has Walker for UConn -- and these two could have a fascinating shootout, unless someone goes and ruins it by playing defense.
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