Can Budinger and Bayless knock off UCLA in Pac-10 showdown?
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By Jay Bilas
Outlook: Arizona played four games without hotshot freshman guard Jerryd Bayless, and the Wildcats struggled to score without him. With Bayless back at full speed, Kevin O'Neill has another big-time threat to balance super sophomore Chase Budinger. Arizona runs a lot of staggers and ballscreens to free up Budinger and Bayless for jump shots, and both move well without the ball to hunt for their shots. Budinger is an excellent jump-shooter who absolutely drills it when he gets his feet set for a catch-and-shoot opportunity. He can put it down to drive and pull up, but Budinger is not yet proficient at attacking the rim to score or get fouled. Bayless has great range, a really quick first step and he is an excellent jump-shooter.
Join Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Hubert Davis and Digger Phelps in Los Angeles on Saturday as they break down the day in college basketball. (ESPN, 11 a.m. & 8 p.m. ET)
By Dana O'Neil
AP Photo/Deborah Cannon
It's pretty simple for Texas. When D.J. Augustin struggles, the Longhorns struggle.
Key games this weekend• Pittsburgh at Connecticut, Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
The Huskies used balanced scoring and rock-solid defense to shock Indiana in Bloomington without starting guard Jerome Dyson and their leading scorer off the bench, Doug Wiggins. After beating Louisville for their second consecutive short-handed win, the Huskies are playing their best ball of the season. Connecticut has one of the most explosive groups of athletes -- led by guard A.J. Price and forward Stanley Robinson. Craig Austrie stepped up in the absence of Dyson and Wiggins and scored 15 points against Indiana. Center Hasheem Thabeet has steadily improved his offense to go along with his shot-blocking ability and overall defensive presence in the lane. Jeff Adrien is a dependable power forward who competes and provides consistent production in the lane as a scorer and rebounder. Despite losing to Rutgers at home this past Saturday, the Panthers beat Villanova on Wednesday. Pitt is short-handed with Levance Fields still out with a foot injury, but coach Jamie Dixon has shown he can rally the troops. The Iron Five of Gilbert Brown, Sam Young, DeJuan Blair, Keith Benjamin and Ronald Ramon should not be taken lightly, even on the road against a confident Connecticut team. • Baylor at Texas, Saturday, 1:45 p.m. ET, ESPN Full Court
After beating A&M in five overtimes on the road, the Bears had a major hangover against Oklahoma on Saturday, going down 77-71 in Waco. Baylor will now have to head to Austin and try to contain D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams, who broke out of a slight shooting slump going 6-for-12 and scoring 17 points in a win against Texas Tech. The Horns, who lost to Texas A&M on Wednesday, will face a rested Bears team that didn't have a midweek game. Curtis Jerrells, Kevin Rogers and Aaron Bruce should be back fully charged and ready to make a run at the perimeter-oriented Longhorns. • Stanford at Washington State, Saturday, 3 p.m. ET
The second-place Cardinal has won four Pac-10 games in a row, with the last two of those wins coming on the road. Leading scorer and rebounder Brook Lopez is fresh off a career-high 31 points and 13 rebounds in the win at Washington on Thursday. Twin brother Robin Lopez is a force on the offensive glass, and forward Lawrence Hill is active on the glass as well. With Hill and sharpshooter Anthony Goods able to step out on the perimeter, Stanford can score inside and out. Meanwhile, Washington State is coming off its first home loss -- to Cal on Thursday -- of the season. To avoid another home loss, leading scorer Derrick Low can't go 0-for-9 from behind the arc like he did against Cal. Washington State's interior defense of Aron Baynes and Robbie Cowgill will be tested trying to defend the Lopez twins. Wazzu's Kyle Weaver must keep Goods in check. This game will feature two excellent defensive teams with size and shooters, but the Cougars' sense of urgency should be at a season-high after Thursday night. • Oklahoma at Texas A&M, Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN Full Court
Blake Griffin was a pleasant surprise against Baylor, returning early from a sprained MCL in his left knee to register a double-double (17 points and 14 rebounds) and lead the Sooners to a big road win. OU is in position to win its fourth Big 12 game in a row after beating Oklahoma State on Monday. A much improved Longar Longar and sophomore jump-shooter Tony Crocker will have to provide quality minutes for OU to have success. For the Aggies, Josh Carter will have to do the lion's share of the scoring, while Joseph Jones and DeAndre Jordan will keep tabs on Big Blake as A&M attempts to stay alive in the conference race. • Tennessee at Mississippi State, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN Full Court
Tennessee responded from the loss to Kentucky by blitzing Georgia. With a win at Alabama on Tuesday, the Vols must deal with the scoring and playmaking ability of swingman Jamont Gordon, the inside presence of Charles Rhodes and the consistent shot-blocking of Jarvis Varnado. Vols coach Bruce Pearl says the Vols go as guard JaJuan Smith goes, and Smith and the SEC's career 3-point leader, Chris Lofton, will have to be going full throttle along to knock off the Bulldogs. After Mississippi State made a huge statement by beating in-state rival Ole Miss by 20 on Saturday, the Bulldogs lost by 20 to Arkansas on Wednesday to suffer their first SEC defeat. Saturday's matchup includes two midseason Wooden Award candidates, Gordon and Lofton, and is overflowing with skill and athletic ability. • Arizona State at USC, Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET
The Trojans's four-game winning streak was snapped by Arizona on Thursday, but USC is playing much better now than earlier in the season. Daniel Hackett, O.J. Mayo and Dwight Lewis combined for 75 points in this past Saturday's overtime win at Oregon. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils have struggled of late losing four in a row, including a 33-point blowout at UCLA on Thursday. Arizona State freshman James Harden has been sensational all season long, and Jeff Pendergraph has helped with the scoring and controlled the glass for coach Herb Sendek. Washington State had success double-teaming Pendergraph, and USC might try to limit the Sun Devils' only post threat from getting into his offensive comfort zone, as well. Ty Abbott and Jerren Shipp must step up and make plays to help get ASU back on track. • North Carolina at Florida State, Sunday, 2 p.m. ET
The Tar Heels' pressure man-to-man defense will be in for a major test; the Seminoles' perimeter players will try to break them down off the dribble. Toney Douglas, Isaiah Swann and Jason Rich are all triple-threats on offense. When teams play North Carolina, they know what's coming: pressure half-court man defense, run-and-jump trapping, rebounding and quick attacking in transition and pounding the ball inside to an All-American (Tyler Hansbrough). The problem is stopping it. The perimeter play in this game will be a treat to watch; Carolina will counter Florida State's trio with Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. A win for Carolina means facing Duke on Wednesday with momentum at home. -- Reggie Rankin, Scouts Inc.