December 19, 2006

Don't stray too far from the tube this week

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College hoops junkies might want to postpone their Christmas shopping a little longer.

This week features five games pitting top 25 teams against one another, including a top five showdown between No. 3 Ohio State (9-1) and No. 5 Florida (9-2).

There are at least three other nationally televised games that provide plenty of intrigue, too.Bob Knight inches closer to the record for all-time wins for a Division I men's coach, top-ranked UCLA faces a Big Ten team with just one loss and Texas travels to Tennessee in a matchup of young teams trying to claw their way back into the top 25.

Here is an in-depth look at all those matchups and what you should be looking for in this week's College Basketball Viewer's Guide.

(All times Eastern)

Wednesday, Dec. 20
No. 18 Memphis (8-2) vs. No. 9 Arizona (8-1)
Site: Tucson, Ariz.
Time: 8:30 p.m.
Network: FSN
Why to watch: This is almost a guaranteed offensive shootout. Both teams love to play at a high pace and take quick shots. It wouldn't be a surprise to see both go over the century mark.
Who to watch, Memphis: Guard Chris Douglas-Roberts
The well-balanced Tigers lack a go-to scorer, but this 6-foot-6, 190-pound sophomore is the closest thing. He has scored in double figures in five consecutive games for the first time in his career, including a career-high 28-point performance against Austin Peay last week.
Who to watch, Arizona: Small forward Chase Budinger
A strong start landed Budinger - who is averaging 17.3 points and 5.9 rebounds a game - in the hunt for National Freshman of the Year honors. Extremely athletic and also polished offensively, the 6-foot-7, 190-pound wing is well suited for this matchup.
No. 12 LSU (6-2) vs. No. 17 Washington (8-1)
Site: Seattle
Time: 10:30 p.m.
Network: FSN
Why to watch: This should provide the first real glimpse as to just how good LSU can be. For the first time all season, they'll be at full strength and they're playing a quality opponent on the road. Forward Darnell Lazare has returned from an ankle injury and Texas Tech transfer Terry Martin will play his first game for the Tigers.
Who to watch, LSU: Guard Garrett Temple
Glen Davis is the Tigers' star, but this little-known sophomore has given the Tigers a new dimension. A good shooter with deep range, Temple has scored in double figures in the last five games. He's also averaging a team-high 3.4 assists a game.
Who to watch, Washington: Small forward Quincy Pondexter
The Huskies miss Brandon Roy, the 2005-06 Pac-10 Player of the Year, but not nearly as much as many expected thanks to the arrival of this versatile freshman. The 6-7, 220-pound Pondexter can score from all over the court and his size makes him a big asset on defense and as a rebounder.
Thursday, Dec. 21
No. 7 Pittsburgh (10-1) vs. No. 15 Oklahoma State (11-1)
Site: Oklahoma City, Okla.
Time: 7 p.m.
Network: ESPN2
Why to watch: This should reveal a lot about the Panthers and whether they are a legit Final Four team. They struggled in their first big test last week, falling 89-75 at Wisconsin. Now, they get a second chance in another hostile environment against the type of athleticism and talent they'll have to get past to go deep in the NCAA Tournament.
Who to watch, Pittsburgh: Center Aaron Gray
Gray could go from the Big East's most improved player to the league's player of the year. Nobody in the conference is off to a better start than the massive 7-foot, 270-pounder, who's averaging 16.8 ppg and 10.5 rpg.
Who to watch, Oklahoma State: Guard JamesOn Curry
Remember that promising freshman that helped get the Cowboys to the 2005 Final Four? Well, Curry's back on the national scene, but this time he's more mature and much more dangerous offensively. He's averaging 17.7 ppg and a team-high 5.0 assists.
No. 22 Gonzaga (9-3) vs. No. 6 Duke (9-1)
Site: New York City (Madison Square Garden)
Time: 9 p.m.
Network: ESPN
Why to watch: Gonzaga has a chance to do something few teams outside the ACC have done in the same season: Beat North Carolina and Duke. The Bulldogs got past the then-No. 2 Tar Heels 82-74 in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off in Madison Square Garden last month.
Who to watch, Gonzaga: Center Josh Heytvelt
You won't see too many big men like Heytvelt, who is starting to grab the attention of NBA scouts. At 6-foot-11 and 235-pounds, the sophomore creates a big interior presence on both sides of the basketball. He can also step behind the arc and hit 3-pointers with regularity. The last time Heytvelt played in the Garden, he held UNC star Tyler Hansbrough to just nine points.
Who to watch, Duke: Center Josh McRoberts
How many big man do you know that are averaging more than four assists a game or have a near 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio? McRoberts might be the only one, and it's his superb passing and vision that make him such a rare talent.
Saturday, Dec. 23
Texas (7-2) at Tennessee (9-2)
Site: Knoxville, Tenn.
Time: 12 p.m.
Network: ESPN
Why to watch: There's a giant revenge factor here. The Vols went down to Texas and cruised to a 95-78 upset last year, leading by double digits nearly the entire game. Most of the Longhorns who played in that game are gone, but coach Rick Barnes certainly hasn't forgotten and he'll let his team know that something extra is on the line.
Who to watch, Texas: Guard D.J. Augustin
Kevin Durant has received perhaps more praise than any freshman, but Augustin has been carrying the Longhorns as of late. The savvy point guard scored 25 points and hit a flurry of clutch shots down the stretch in 76-75 overtime win over LSU. Augustin finished with 24 points in a 96-70 rout over Texas State.
Who to watch, Tennessee: Guard Chris Lofton
Nobody may be playing better and nobody is certainly shooting the ball better than Lofton right now. During the Vols' current five-game winning streak, Lofton has hit a remarkable 61 percent (45-of-74) of his shots from the field and 54 percent (25-of-46) of his 3-point attempts.
Boston College (7-2) at No. 11 Kansas (8-2)
Site: Lawrence, Kan.
Time: 2 p.m.
Network: CBS
Why to watch: There are at least four players in this game who are worth watching - regardless of whom they are playing. Boston College's Jared Dudley might top the list with his tremendous versatility. Kansas' Darrell Arthur is one of the nation's top freshman in a season that is loaded with great rookies. Like teammates Brandon Rush and Julian Wright, Arthur is loaded with NBA potential.
Who to watch, Boston College: Center Sean Williams
Meet the key to the Eagles' turnaround. This 6-11, 235-pound junior provides a low post presence and a tremendous shot blocking threat. He swatted a school-record 12 shots in a loss to Providence earlier this year.
Who to watch, Kansas: Forward Julian Wright
Wright put together a breakout performance in the Jayhawks' 82-80 win over then-No. 1 Florida last month, scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. But the athletic sophomore has made just 37 percent (9-of-22) of his field-goal attempts since. Will playing on a big stage help break him out of the funk?
Michigan (11-1) vs. No. 1 UCLA (9-0)
Site: Los Angeles
Time: 2 p.m.
Network: CBS
Why to watch: Since losing to N.C. State earlier this month, the Wolverines have looked possessed, winning their next four games by an average of 20.5 points. But have they really improved? Does coach Tommy Amaker finally have the talented team playing up to its potential? Facing the Bruins in their back yard will certainly provide concrete answers.
Who to watch, Michigan: Center Courtney Sims
The Wolverines tend to go as Sims goes. The much-improved 6-11, 245-pounder was held to just seven points and eight boards versus N.C. State. But he's averaging 15.6 points and 7.6 rebounds a game - both team highs.
Who to watch, UCLA: Small forward Josh Shipp
The old adage about a player being good at everything and great at nothing applies directly to Shipp. The versatile sophomore makes an impact in several phases of the game, but doesn't really excel at any one.
No. 3 Ohio State (9-1) at No. 5 Florida (9-2)
Site: Gainesville, Fla.
Time: 4 p.m.
Network: CBS
Why to watch: This will be Greg Oden's first real test. The 7-foot freshman played Valparaiso, Cleveland State and a subpar Cincinnati team in his first three games. Now, Oden gets to battle Florida's Joakim Noah, who might have been the No. 1 pick in the 2006 NBA draft if he hadn't stayed in school. Outplaying Noah would go a long way to fulfilling the hype that followed Oden to college.
Who to watch, Ohio State: Guard Ron Lewis
The only senior on the OSU roster tends to get lost behind the large shadow that is freshman teammates cast. But it was Lewis who poured in a game-high 30 points in a 98-89 loss at North Carolina, and the Buckeyes need his offense once again.
Who to watch, Florida: Small forward Corey Brewer
Brewer played just 11 minutes and scored three points against Florida A&M in his first game back since being diagnosed with mononucleosis. The Gators need the versatile wing to play at least twice as much and to be much more effective against the Buckeyes.
Bucknell (4-5) at Texas Tech (9-3)
Site: Lubbock, Tex.
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Network: ESPN2
Why to watch: History is in the making here. Bob Knight needs just one more win to tie Dean Smith for the all-time men's Division I record of 879 coaching victories.
Who to watch, Bucknell: Power forward Donald Brown
The Bison are remarkably balanced with five players averaging between eight and nine points a game, but Brown is the most valuable of the bunch. The senior, who averages 9.9 ppg and pulls down a team-high 6.2 rpg, allows them to match up with bigger teams.
Who to watch, Texas Tech: Guard Jarrius Jackson
Jackson is the only Red Raider who Knight allows to create his own shots. More often than not, the veteran rewards his coach. Jackson has already broken the 20-point barrier nine times this season and is averaging a Big 12-high 12.8 ppg.

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