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Posted: Friday February 8, 2008 11:34AM; Updated: Friday February 8, 2008 1:22PM
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The First Five
The Hoyas have looked a little shaky for a team that is 9-1 in the Big East and ranked No. 6. Among those nine wins, the Hoyas needed a Roy Hibbert three-pointer to edge UConn at home, they were pushed to by Syracuse overtime at home, they needed a Patrick Ewing, Jr. near-goaltend to escape at West Virginia and they trailed lowly South Florida by 10 in the first half before winning 63-53. Georgetown's biggest problem is on offense. It is ranked 12th in the Big East in scoring (71.1 ppg), 15th in free throw percentage (.645) and Jonathan Wallace's scoring average has gone from 11.4 as a junior to 9.4 this year. Louisville, meanwhile, has been maddeningly inconsistent, but it is coming off its best win of the season at Marquette on Monday. As long as the Cardinals don't get too three-happy -- and as long as they make a healthy percentage of the threes they do take -- the Cards should be able to put enough points on the board to emerge the victor.
Louisville 74, Georgetown 70
Clemson (17-5) at No. 3 UNC (21-2)
One unfortunate side effect from the ACC's dropping its double round-robin format is that Clemson now only plays at North Carolina every other year. This is noteworthy because the Tigers have never won in Chapel Hill in 52 tries, which ties an NCAA record for the longest road losing streak to a team. But all streaks were meant to be broken, right? So get ready for a shocker. Clemson should feel confident after coming so close to knocking off the Tar Heels at home on Jan. 6 before losing in overtime. The difference here is Tywon Lawson, who had 16 points and eight assists in 36 minutes in that game, might not play this time because of a sprained ankle. You saw in the Heels' loss to Duke how much of a difference that makes. What's more, in James Mays and Trevor Booker, Clemson, unlike Duke, has some genuine inside muscle to throw at Tyler Hansbrough. The Tigers need to do a better job defending Wayne Ellington, who scored a career-high 36 points in the first meeting, but Ellington shot the ball very poorly in the loss to Duke. The Tar Heels could still win the national title, but they're hurting right now and it's possible -- finally -- for them to lose to Clemson at home.
Clemson 78, North Carolina 77
In relatively quiet fashion, Notre Dame has become virtually unbeatable at home. Last Saturday, the Fighting Irish ran their winning streak at the Joyce Center to 33 games with a victory over DePaul, and they followed that up with an impressive 26-point road win over a previously surging Seton Hall. I'm not sure how many casual fans realize it, but Luke Harangody is the runaway favorite for Big East Player of the Year. He leads the conference in scoring (20.4 ppg), is second in rebounds (10.1 rpg) and 10th in foul shooting (79.5 percent). Marquette spanked the Irish by 26 on Jan. 12, but that was in Milwaukee, and the Golden Eagles have since suffered three losses by 14 or more points, including Monday's 71-57 defeat at Louisville. Dominic James has been playing with a sprained right wrist the last two weeks, and to be fair he had a bad case of the flu on Monday. But it's not a good sign when the maladies of a single player can throw a team off its game so badly.
Notre Dame 82, Marquette 70
No. 14 Indiana (19-3) at Ohio State (16-7)
I'm sure Buckeyes fans would gladly trade a victory here for a commitment from Terrelle Pryor, but who says they can't have both? Ohio State is playing as well as any team in the Big Ten right now. For all the attention heaped on the freshmen, it's the seniors who are driving this bus. Othella Hunter, a 6-8 forward, rescued the Buckeyes against Michigan on Tuesday with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while 6-1 senior point guard Jamar Butler has been fabulous. Butler leads the Big Ten in assists (6.3 apg) and free throw shooting (93.4 percent), he's sixth in scoring (14.8) and seventh in steals (1.57). If the Jigsaw Man were feeling really generous, he would give Butler to the Hoosiers, because what they're missing most is a player who can relieve Eric Gordon of some of his scoring and ballhandling responsibilities. While the Hoosiers are a better team than Ohio State over the long haul, they are hitting the road coming off an emotional double-overtime win over Illinois to face an opponent who has had two more days to rest and prepare.
Ohio State 76, Indiana 73
This is the most anticipated game in what is turning out to be a fascinating season in the Atlantic 10. Saint Joseph's started the season 4-4, but the only bad loss among those came at home to Holy Cross. The Hawks have since won 11 of their last 13. Their six-game winning streak was snapped at Duquesne on Wednesday night, but their big lug in the middle, Ahmad Nivins, missed that game because of a sprained ankle. The Hawks are hoping he will be available against Xavier. Saint Joseph's might have the second-best player (to Dayton's Brian Roberts) in the A-10 in Pat Calathes, the 6-10 senior who is sixth in the league in scoring (18.3 ppg) and third in rebounding (8.1 rpg) and is second on his team in assists (2.5 apg). Still, it's hard to imagine St. Joe's going into Cincinnati and surviving the Musketeers' tenacious D. Xavier leads the conference in field goal defense, three-point defense and rebound margin, and in 6-3 senior Stanley Burrell they have one of the best on-ball defenders in the nation. If Xavier keeps steamrolling its way through this conference, it could wind up with a No. 2 seed on Selection Sunday.
Xavier 74, Saint Joseph's 64
The Second Five
Baylor (17-4) at No. 4 Kansas (22-1)
Jayhawks have the athletes to run with Baylor, but Baylor does not have the bigs to bang with KU. Then again, who does?
Kansas 84, Baylor 70
No. 24 Purdue (18-5) at No. 8 Wisconsin (19-3)
Badgers are near-impossible to beat at home. Plus, they've got revenge on their minds after losing at Purdue last month.
Wisconsin 74, Purdue 66
USC (15-7) at Washington (12-11)
O.J. Mayo has averaged 24.3 points in his last four games, but the Cougars, losers of four of their last five, are desperate for a W.
Washington State 69, USC 64
Arkansas (16-5) at Ole Miss (16-4)
The Razorbacks' thrashing of Florida showed they are a team on the move. They have size and experience, and when their guards aren't committing so many turnovers, their fast break is lethal.
Arkansas 82, Ole Miss 69
No. 5 UCLA (21-2) at Washington (12-11)
The Bruins are finally healthy, in a groove and looking like a potential national champ. The Huskies, uh, aren't.
UCLA 84, Washington 69
LAST WEEK: 8-2 | SEASON RECORD: 56-24

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