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Posted: Wednesday December 31, 2008 2:19PM; Updated: Wednesday December 31, 2008 2:24PM

Hoopla: Early games to remember

Story Highlights

Come Selection Sunday, these games will play a role in weeding out the weak

Can Trent Johnson get LSU back to the NCAA Tournament in his first season?

By Jacob E. Osterhout

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Arizona big man Jordan Hill has been a force for the Wildcats in the post-Lute era.
Liam Foley/Icon SMI

With 2008 quickly nearing an end, it's about time we take a look back at some of the early season college basketball match-ups that will become increasingly important come Selection Sunday.

1. Arizona 84 - Kansas 67

Three days after losing to UNLV, Arizona came from behind in the second half to knock off the reigning champions and earn its second high-profile win of the season. (A week and a half earlier, the Wildcats had squeaked by a talented Gonzaga team.) For the first time since Lute Olson's sudden retirement, the Wildcats are playing up to their potential. Jordan Hill scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Nic Wise dished out eight assists. Most impressively, forward Jamelle Horne came off the bench to pour in 19 points and snag 13 rebounds. A few more games like this and Arizona should be in the hunt for the Pac-10 title, or at the very least, in the hunt for an NCAA berth.

2. LSU 64 - Washington St. 52

Can Trent Johnson get the Tigers back to the NCAA Tournament in his first season in Baton Rouge? After the Tigers impressive victory over Washington State, it sure seems like it. LSU took over in the last quarter of the game, erasing a seven-point Cougars lead and finishing on a 24-5 run. The Tiger guards dominated their WSU counterparts. LSU stole the ball 13 times, forced 18 turnovers and posted six-more assists than Washington State. Both should make the Tournament.

3. Florida State 57 - Florida 55

The Seminoles lost to Northwestern and Pitt, but beat Cal, Cincinnati and, most importantly for their fans, Florida. It wasn't pretty -- FSU shot a paltry 31.4 percent -- but the Seminoles scored seven points in the last 1:20. Their size and strength finally wore down the Gators, who could only muster three points over the last three and a half minutes of play. Florida took a big hit this season when Jai Lucas announced his transfer and the team has only one respectable win so far. The Gators will have to prove themselves in a weak SEC. Florida State has a tougher road ahead in the ACC but if the Seminoles have a respectable conference record (need a win over Duke, Wake Forest or North Carolina) then this victory should put them in good shape.

4. Cal 73 - UNLV 55

The Golden Bears sauntered into Thomas & Mack Center and calmly eviscerated UNLV on their home court. Cal made eight of its first 13 shots and built a 20-point lead that was never really in jeopardy. Due in no small part to Cal's stingy defense, UNLV appeared anemic on offense, shooting just 29.7 percent from the field. Wink Adams and Oscar Bellfield each scored 10 points and were the only Rebels who scored in double digits. This is a signature out-of-conference win for Cal, a team that will have its ups and downs in a tough Pac-10 schedule. UNLV, on the other hand, should compete with BYU for the Mountain West title, but if the Rebels lose out, their loss to Cal could come back to hurt them.

5. Creighton 77 - Dayton 59

Creighton handed Dayton its only loss of the season by shooting the lights out from behind the arc. The Bluejays made 13 3-pointers as compared to seven for the Flyers, who couldn't stop Booker Woodfox. The Creighton guard scored 21 points and nailed five threes. Most impressively for the Bluejays, they outrebounded Dayton, 42-31. If neither team wins its conference, it's very possible that Dayton and Creighton could be competing for one of final spots in the NCAA tournament and the selection committee will no doubt look back on this game.

New Year's resolution No. 1: Shoot hoops, not guns.

 
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