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Top 25 Matchups

   by Matt Fargo - 02/26/2010

Kentucky has pretty much cruised in the eight games since suffering its first and only loss of the season at South Carolina. The two exceptions however were against Mississippi St. and Vanderbilt and like this one, both of those were on the road. The Wildcats were fortunate to win both of those games and they came home and laid some payback on the Gamecocks by 21 points on Thursday.

Tennessee is 5-5 over its last 10 games but to their credit, six of those games were played on the road including back-to-back games at Vanderbilt and Kentucky as well as at Florida last time out. They have fallen back in the standings but are still in fine shape for an NCAA Tournament bid. Another quality win will certainly not hurt and this is the last shot before the upcoming SEC Tournament.

The first 34 minutes of the first meeting went exactly the way Tennessee had hoped as it kept the pace slow thus taking Kentucky out of its game. The Wildcats were able to open it up over the last six minutes to pull away but the Volunteers will go in with the same gameplan and that is so keep it a half-court game while playing strong perimeter defense. Kentucky will be looking to push the pace as usual.

Texas Longhorns (21) at Texas A&M Aggies (23) 2:00 PM ET

Texas picked up a much needed win on Monday against Oklahoma St. to move to 8-5 in the conference and into a tie for fourth place with Baylor and Texas A&M. That win over the Cowboys made it two straight wins for the first time in five weeks and that is hard to believe from a team that was 17-0 and ranked number one at one point. The Longhorns are 5-6 in their last 11 and need to get something going before the tournament.

Texas A&M will be coming into this game with motivation everywhere. The Aggies need to win to remain in fourth place and stay in the hunt for a bye in the upcoming Big XII Tournament. They are also going to be out for some payback following an overtime loss in Austin last month as well as recovering from their first home loss of the season against Kansas in their most recent home game.

That first meeting against Texas is still a stinger for the Aggies. The Longhorns never led in regulation and didn’t get their first lead until there was a minute left in overtime. Texas A&M squandered a 13-point lead and looking back, it would have added another quality road win to the résumé, joining an upset win at Missouri. The teams have split the regular-season series the last five years with the home team prevailing each year.

New Mexico Lobos (12) at Brigham Young Cougars (11) 4:00 PM ET

The season began 14-1 for the Lobos with that lone loss coming at Oral Roberts of all places, but then they dropped their first two conference games at San Diego St. and at home against UNLV, both by double-digits. New Mexico has not lost since. It has reeled off 12 straight wins including six on the road so winning away from home is not an issue. The problem is that this is the toughest road test it has seen.

BYU is 15-0 at home this season and it has won 21 straight games at the Marriott Center which is the fifth-best current home winning streak in the nation. Overall the Cougars have won four straight games and trail the Lobos by a half-game for first place in the MVC. Both BYU and New Mexico have separated themselves from the rest of the pack so this game will go a long way in deciding the regular season champion.

The Cougars had their 15-game winning streak snapped in the loss at New Mexico earlier this season so they would like nothing more than to do the same to the Lobos. Along with that, a win will push them into first place, a half-game ahead of New Mexico with just two games left. However both of those games are on the road so the Cougars need to close out the home schedule with a victory.

Villanova Wildcats (8) at Syracuse Orange (4) 8:00 PM ET

This is being billed as one of the biggest games in Syracuse basketball history and rightfully so. The crowd will be in excess of 34,000 which will break the all-time on campus record and the winner of the game has the inside short to the Big East regular season championship. Syracuse has a one-game lead over the Wildcats so a win here likely sews up the championship as a visit from lowly St. John’s is on deck.

Just two weeks ago, there was talk of this being a possible #1 vs. #2 matchup but the Orange fell at home to Louisville while Villanova has dropped two of its last three games since then as well. Two of the Wildcats three conference losses have come on the road while the other loss this season also came on the road at Temple. Surprisingly, both of Syracuse’s losses have been at home as it remains undefeated on the road.

There is one factor that Villanova had a huge edge in and that was free throw shooting but Syracuse has closed that gap as it is shooting a solid 74.3 percent over its last five games and it is very possible that the game will be decided at the charity stripe. The Orange are the only team in the country shooting better than 50 percent from the floor and they will need that efficiency to break this series skid as Villanova has won five of the last six and seven of the last nine meetings.

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