College basketball preview: Dec. 28, 2012

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Top five games

5 Virginia Tech at Brigham Young » After a humiliating 88-52 loss to Colorado State in the Las Vegas Classic title game in which it had four assists, Virginia Tech (9-3) tries to bounce back at BYU. Brandon Davies (19.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg), a 6-foot-9 senior, will be a tough assignment inside for the Hokies, who depend on Erick Green (25.4 ppg). (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPNU)

4 Baylor at No. 13 Gonzaga » One of the most gifted freshmen in the nation is 7-1 Isaiah Austin (13.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg) of Baylor, who will be tested inside by 7-foot junior Kelly Olynyk (14.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and 6-8 senior Elias Harris (15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg). Baylor (8-3) has lost three games by a combined 10 points. Gonzaga (11-1) is shooting to match its best start in 46 years. (Friday, 8 p.m., ESPN2)

3 No. 7 Missouri at UCLA » Last year, Missouri coach Frank Haith won with a small lineup of cohesive holdovers. This year the challenge has been blending transfers Earnest Ross (Auburn), Alex Oriakhi (Connecticut) and Jabari Brown (Oregon) with guard Phil Pressey and redshirt Laurence Bowers, out last year with an injury. Somehow it's working. (Friday, 10 p.m., ESPN2)

2 No. 20 UNLV at North Carolina » This is a big opportunity on a big stage for UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett (19.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg). With his unique combination of power, grace and midrange touch, the 6-8, 240-pound forward has inserted himself into national player of the year consideration. Struggling UNC (9-3) is out of the rankings for the first time since 2011. (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN2)

1 Kentucky at No. 4 Louisville » Is there a state where basketball passion runs deeper? The Wildcats (8-3) have won the last four meetings but all as the higher-ranked team. Now it's time for the Cardinals (11-1) to play the favorite role in the Battle for the Bluegrass. Kentucky won last year in the Final Four 69-61, but Louisville has more of its principals back. (Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS)

LOCAL GAMES

Albany at Navy

When » Friday, 7 p.m.

Where » Alumni Hall, Annapolis

The Midshipmen (6-7) get perhaps their toughest test of the season against Albany (9-3) of the America East Conference. The Great Danes are led by senior guards Mike Black (17.2 ppg) and Jacob Iati (15.3 ppg), who have hit a combined 64 shots from beyond the arc. Navy freshman point guard Tilman Dunbar has twice been named Patriot League rookie of the week and leads the conference in assists (5.5 pg) and assist-turnover ratio (1.8-to-1).

Delaware State at Maryland

When » Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

Where » Comcast Center

Radio » ESPN 980

Maryland (10-1) concludes December the way it started with a game against an overmatched foe from the MEAC. Delaware State (5-7) has never beaten a BCS conference team, but the Hornets got a big win earlier this month, upending in-state rival Delaware 73-67, and then took Penn State to overtime. Tajh Tate, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, leads Delaware State in scoring (15.3 ppg) and assists (2.4 pg). The Terps have beaten the Hornets five times, none by fewer than 24 points.

American at No. 6 Kansas

When » Saturday, 8 p.m.

Where » Allen Fieldhouse,

Lawrence, Kan.

Kansas (10-1) is the third team currently ranked in the top 15 that American (4-6) will play. The Jayhawks have won 28 straight games at home, the second-longest streak in the nation after Syracuse (29). The only other time the teams met was in Kansas' 1987-88 NCAA championship season. AU's strength lies inside with 6-8 Stephen Lumpkins (15.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg), who will battle the nation's second-leading shot blocker, 7-foot Jeff Withey (14.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 5.0 bpg).

George Mason at South Florida

When » Saturday, 7 p.m.

Where » USF Sun Dome,

Tampa, Fla.

TV » MASN

The Patriots (7-4) have quality wins over Virginia and Richmond and are shooting for another. South Florida (7-3) of the Big East has returned four of its top five scorers from an NCAA Sweet 16 team. The Bulls' strength is in the frontcourt with 6-8 senior Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (12.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and 6-9 junior Victor Rudd (11.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg). Over his last three games, CAA player of the week Sherrod Wright of George Mason has hit 23 of 32 shots overall and nine of 12 from beyond the arc.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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Author:

Kevin Dunleavy

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner