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Friday, January 25, 2008

USA Today - Weekend tip-off: Gonzaga to test Memphis

Weekend tip-off: Gonzaga to test Memphis
USA Today
By Eddie Timanus, USA TODAY

Starting five

1. Looking out for No. 1: Gonzaga's philosophy of playing anybody anywhere is on display again Saturday as the Bulldogs take their shot at top-ranked Memphis. But the fact the Tigers were pushed Wednesday at Tulsa and still won by 15 indicates just how tall an order the Zags face. Gonzaga's backcourt of Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin might be able to match big shots with the Tigers' Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose, but the Zags might not have an answer for Memphis' veteran posts, Joey Dorsey and Robert Dozier.

2. Encore? Maryland returns to action Sunday for the first time since knocking North Carolina from the pinnacle of the polls. The Terrapins look to notch another high-profile Atlantic Coast Conference upset as No. 3 Duke visits the Comcast Center. Maryland's team defense again will be tested, but this time the priority will be on the perimeter, where G Greivis Vasquez must not let Duke's DeMarcus Nelson hit from long range.

3. On the road again: Winning away from home has been difficult in the young Big East campaign. No. 9 Georgetown, which lost its most recent road game to then-No. 16 Pittsburgh, will give it another try Saturday night at West Virginia. The Mountaineers' list of victims on its home floor already includes Marquette and Syracuse, but the Hoyas have a couple of things working in their favor. Georgetown leads the nation in field-goal defense, helped by 7-2 C Roy Hibbert, and West Virginia had to go to the wire Wednesday night, needing a late bucket from F Da'Sean Butler to escape a determined challenge from in-state foe Marshall in a game played at Charleston, W.Va.

4. Close quarters: The East Division of the Southeastern Conference is starting to resemble a NASCAR race with restrictor plates. Five teams are bunched within a game, and all of the contenders have at least one conference loss. No. 13 Vanderbilt got a midweek respite but jumps back into the fray Sunday at Florida. The young Gators, rebuilding around C Marreese Speights and G Walter Hodge, got out of South Carolina with a two-point win Wednesday. The deep and experienced Commodores, paced by sharpshooting F Shan Foster, must still show they can handle a pressing defense in hostile territory.

5. Cardinal virtues: No. 21 Stanford put itself in good position in the top-heavy Pacific-10 with last week's sweep of Arizona and then-No. 25 Arizona State. Saturday, the Cardinal make the short trip to Berkeley, where California will be eager to atone for back-to-back heartbreakers. The Golden Bears' success could hinge on how well C DeVon Hardin holds up against Stanford 7-footer Brook Lopez.

Long-time followers of March Madness might remember Cleveland State's brief appearance on the national scene when the 14th-seeded Vikings upset Indiana in 1986. CSU hasn't returned to the Big Dance or beaten a ranked team since — until last week when, under second-year coach Gary Waters, the Vikings toppled then-No. 12 Butler. They have reason to hope the NCAA dry spell will end as well. Alone atop the Horizon League, the Vikings play the second of four consecutive conference road games Saturday at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Number of the week

12.6: Kansas State freshman phenom Michael Beasley wasted no time showing why his name topped many recruiting lists. The 24 rebounds he snared in his first collegiate game Nov. 9 against Sacramento State still is the top individual total in Division I this season. His average has leveled to a more earthly 12.6 a game, still good enough to lead the most recent NCAA stats. Beasley is also the Big 12 scoring leader at 24.6 points a game and occasionally flashes three-point range. His Wildcats host Iowa State on Saturday before next Wednesday's date with archrival Kansas.

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