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Two sets of Pac-10 road warriors

1/4/2006

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: HASSAN ADAMS

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height=272 width=195 alt="Hassan Adams" hspace="0" border="0" vspace="0">
Elsa/Getty ImagesAdams was an unstoppable force for Arizona this weekend.
By Andy Katz, ESPN.com

Adams looked like a first-team All-American on the swing through Washington last week. He scored 25 points in the win over Washington State in Spokane and then scored 32 in the double-overtime win at Washington.

Adams came up with key buckets when the Wildcats needed them most and was quicker to the ball, the bucket and the boards than most anyone else guarding him. He converted 24 of 46 shots (4 of 8 3s) in the two games and also had 13 boards, five assists and seven steals.

Adams came back to lead the Wildcats to a Final Four berth after they were a possession away last season. That didn't seem realistic earlier this year, but if he continues to play like this the rest of the Pac-10 season, the Wildcats can certainly be in the discussion in March.


TEAMS OF THE WEEK: ARIZONA/CAL

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height=262 width=195 alt="Ayinde Ubaka" hspace="0" border="0" vspace="0">
AP PhotoUbaka's 18 were key at UCLA.
By Andy Katz, ESPN.com

The West Coast has produced the best games of the season so far with Gonzaga-Washington, the Gonzaga-Michigan State and Gonzaga-Connecticut games in Maui, and now Arizona's double-overtime win at Washington. But both teams deserved the honor this week with impressive Pac-10 road sweeps.

The Wildcats are clicking at the right time, just as conference play begins. Their athleticism and versatility was on display in Seattle and Spokane last week. This team has a little bit of everything with Adams, Shakur, Chris Rodgers, Marcus Williams and J.P. Prince rotating on the perimeter (and inside, in Adams' case) and the versatile Ivan Radenovic and long Kirk Walters in the frontcourt. They also get Jawann McClellan back in another week from being academically ineligible.

Meanwhile, Cal had been searching for a big-time win this season after losing to Kansas in Kansas City and DePaul in Oakland. Sweeping USC and UCLA on the road serves notice that the Bears are staying in the Pac-10 title race. The frontcourt has always had the talent to compete with anyone in the league and now the guards are starting to step up, with Ayinde Ubaka scoring 18 points, including a critical loose ball layup, to beat the Bruins.

3-POINT SHOTS

Jay Bilas

Jay Bilas
I have never seen a team limited to a single offensive rebound in a game before Saturday's Alabama-Oklahoma matchup. The Sooners are an outstanding rebounding team that had just been outrebounded by Oral Roberts, and Kelvin Sampson stressed to his team that, above anything else in the game, they needed to rebound the ball.

Clearly, the message got through against Alabama, which is a good rebounding team with Jamareo Davidson, Chuck Davis and Richard Hendrix across the front line.

Crimson Tide coach Mark Gottfried has decided to go with a bigger lineup, playing Hendrix and Alonzo Gee in the starting lineup, and I really like that move. Gottfried was disappointed in being outrebounded in the Oklahoma game, but he likes his team. The Crimson Tide are finding an identity right now, and will be very good -- and not many teams have played tougher competition heading into conference play than they have.

Doug Gottlieb

Doug Gottlieb
Something has me very worried about Gonzaga. Sure the Zags have Adam Morrison, J.P. Batista and a healthy backcourt for the first time all year, but as someone who picked the Zags to go to the Final Four, I have to ask: Where is the defense?

Saint Joseph's had not scored more than 82 points all year, yet they netted 94 in a loss in Spokane. While it is easy to dismiss their lack of defensive prowess as playing down to their competition (see their Idaho, Portland State, Eastern Washington and St. Louis scores), I would say that the two things limiting the Zags this year are their inability to consistently get defensive stops (i.e., at Washington) and their lack of dribble penetration (i.e., at Memphis).

This is supposed to be the Gonzaga team that can challenge for the whole thing. If that's the case, the Zags' efforts must steadily improve, starting on the road in the WCC at St. Mary's.

Fran Fraschilla

Fran Fraschilla
Congrats to James Augustine for becoming Illinois' all-time leading rebounder with 854, surpassing Efrem Winters. Although Augustine has gained a lot of recognition for his unselfish contributions to an amazing 51-2 Illini run over the last two seasons, he still remains, in my mind, underrated as an excellent college player. He's currently averaging 14 points and nine rebounds a game. Can you believe he has averaged only six shots a game in his career and is likely to be a first-round pick in June?

For more of our experts' 3-point shots, click here.Insider

FIVE GAMES TO WATCH

By Andy Katz, ESPN.com

Texas at Memphis, Monday, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN: This is the first gut check for the Longhorns since losing to Tennessee and Duke. Texas is likely going with a new lineup, using Daniel Gibson more at shooting guard and freshman A.J. Abrams at the point. The Tigers continue their national-best preconference schedule by playing yet another big-name program, one that was ranked No. 2 earlier this season.

George Washington at Temple, Wednesday, 6 ET: The Colonials couldn't hang with NC State's system in Raleigh. OK, so that game could end up hurting the seeding process, but this one means more with the chance to get off to a good start in the A-10 title chase. The Colonials will have to dictate tempo if they want to get out of Philly with a win.

Villanova at Louisville, Thursday, 7 ET, ESPN2: Wow, what a Big East opener! This is how it should be for a conference. The Cards and Wildcats are perfect for each other, both teams heavy with guards who have a propensity to drive to the hoop. This should be one of the best Big East games of the season, and it's not even the first full week of January.

Michigan State at Illinois, Thursday, 9 ET, ESPN2: Once again, a conference that gets it and is opening with a bang. This has turned into one of the best rivalries in the country. Illinois is up to the challenge of taking on the Spartans for the Big Ten title. Anyone who just handed it to MSU in the preseason (like ... me!) didn't give the Illini enough credit.

UCLA at Arizona, Thursday, 10:30 ET: The Wildcats are on a tear and the Bruins are coming off a disappointing home loss. Arizona can take what would appear to be a commanding lead over UCLA in the Pac-10 title race with a win here and a two-game lead over the Bruins and a head-to-head win over Washington in Seattle.


INSIDE THE NUMBERS
By Mark Simon, Special to ESPN.com

Opening Tip
Give Ohio State credit for winning the close games so far this season, none more amazing than the second-half comeback that stunned LSU Saturday. In their four tight contests this season (Butler, Saint Joseph's, Iowa State and LSU), the Buckeyes have done two things very well: shoot the 3 and make free throws. A lot of little things have fallen into place just right for Thad Matta's team so far this season (of course, it helps to play eight of your first 10 at home), but that might lead to plenty of good things in the Big Ten.

Rocking The Rim
It's hard to divine much about Louisville from its early schedule, but we can tell you that the Cardinals are one of only two Big East teams (along with Syracuse) with three players averaging six or more rebounds per game. This is interesting because they open Big East play against Villanova, which doesn't have anyone averaging that many boards.

On Thursday, the Wildcats will have to match up with 6-foot-8 Juan Palacios and 6-11 David Padgett, as well as deal with hustling leading scorer Taquan Dean, the Big East's leading rebounder from the guard position (6.3 rpg). Dean, in particular, has established himself as someone who, despite being only 6-foot-3, has a nose for the ball. We'll see if he can outplay Randy Foye, who is second in the conference in guard rebounding (5.8 rpg) and who nearly had a triple-double Saturday in what was considered an off day for him.

Matchup of the week
The rivalry between Michigan State and Illinois began in 1951 with four straight Illinois wins, but since then only twice have the Illini been able to put together a streak that long against the Spartans. They'll try to make it three straight wins against MSU on Thursday night on ESPN2 and try to keep their 29-game home-court win streak alive as well. The 97 meetings between these two teams have been fairly even, with Illinois winning 50 times. The last three games haven't been close, so we'll leave those out as we relive some of the more memorable contests between these squads since the early '90s.

In the bonus
Two seasons ago, Division III Carnegie Mellon came reasonably close to beating D-I Robert Morris, losing by 13 points in a game that was single digits for the majority of the contest.

The Tartans might have had a better chance were they not without one key player, who was out with what head coach Tony Wingen termed "an academic injury." No, that wasn't a clever term for failing tests or cutting class. Turns out the kid cut his hand up working on a project for his mechanical engineering class. That's not the type of thing you'll see too often in college basketball at any level.

Carnegie Mellon defeated Princeton last week, the highest-profile win for a Division III program over a Division I in a long time. The Tartans (10-0 entering Monday's action, by the way) are one of a few teams at that level that try to take a shot at knocking off one of the big boys every year, figuring "Why not?" The Division I schools may look at it as an easy win, but the Division III squads take these games quite seriously. A loss doesn't hurt them too much. Win and you wind up like forward Nate Maurer, sitting at your first-ever postgame press conference, with national media in attendance, asking your coach, "What are we supposed to say?"

Carnegie Mellon is not a basketball power by any stretch of the imagination -- this start is the best in team history (not bad for a squad that was picked fourth in the University Athletic Association). Wingen says his graduation rate for four-year players (the measurement used by most Division I schools) is 100 percent, and that dates back to his first year, 1990. Among last year's eight graduated seniors, four are in grad school or law school, three are professional engineers and one is even playing basketball professionally in England. They'll all hear a lot about this win -- one that started a seven-game road trip on the right foot.

"If this wasn't the biggest win in school history, it's right up there with any of them," Wingen said. "It was fantastic. To prepare to win, carry out the game plan to perfection, and actually win the game, it was like winning a championship."