- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2007

FORTUNES RISING

GEORGETOWN

The Hoyas are cresting after some early inconsistency, winning eight straight to angle themselves for a shot at the Big East title. It goes without saying Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert can dominate games, but when both are clicking — as they were Saturday against Marquette — Georgetown is nearly unstoppable.

FORTUNES FALLING

OKLAHOMA STATE

The Cowboys really love playing in Stillwater. Really love it. Problem is, they can’t win in a true road environment, and it will prove costly in seeding by Selection Sunday. The neutral court victories over Pittsburgh and Missouri State help, but a couple of victories away from Gallagher-Iba Arena would be helpful before March.

MID-MAJOR SPOTLIGHT

XAVIER

Suddenly, the Atlantic 10 has an at-large possibility in the Musketeers, who were a chic bottom-of-the-top-25 pick early in the season but struggled in December. Xavier won its last three by an average of 27.3 points and owns victories over Illinois, Villanova and Virginia Commonwealth — a resume as good or better than some power conference bubble teams.

TiVo WEEKEND

TOMORROW

No. 5 UCLA (21-3, 10-2 Pac-10) at No. 19 ARIZONA (17-7, 8-5)

1 p.m., McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.

Arizona apparently has rediscovered itself after losing five of seven in the middle of conference play. The Bruins can maintain their tenuous hold on first in the Pac-10 with a win, as well as move past Saturday’s loss at West Virginia.

WASHINGTON (16-9) at No. 7 PITTSBURGH (22-4)

2 p.m., Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, ESPN

Left for dead a few weeks back, the Huskies caught a break when they faced Oregon minus Aaron Brooks and proceeded to rip off five victories in seven games. They still need to beat a real team on the road (Arizona State does not count), and visits to Pittsburgh and Oregon within eight days could reassert Lorenzo Romar’s bunch as a NCAA possibility.

No. 16 SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (22-5) at No. 13 BUTLER (24-3)

4 p.m., Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, ESPN2

On paper, this is the best game of the weekend — and it isn’t close. The Bulldogs lost their second Horizon League game last weekend, and star A.J. Graves could struggle with Southern Illinois’ constant harassment. The Salukis have won eight straight and have yielded 65 or more points just five times.

No. 4 NORTH CAROLINA (22-4, 8-3 ACC) at No. 21 BOSTON COLLEGE (18-7, 9-3)

9 p.m., Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, Mass., ESPN

Against all odds, Al Skinner’s plucky Eagles have remained atop the ACC thanks to Jared Dudley’s sublime play and Tyrese Rice’s emergence as a dynamite scorer. They will face an irked North Carolina team that fumbled away Tuesday’s game to Virginia Tech at the Dean Dome.

WEEK IN REWIND

1. Zags’ blooming mushrooms — In the season’s most unintentionally funny moment, Gonzaga star Josh Heytvelt was suspended indefinitely for his arrest on felony charges of possessing psychedelic mushrooms. Here’s some new college hoops math: Funky fungi Zags’ NCAA hopes

2. Duke’s new poll position — Mike Krzyzewski’s team is unranked for the first time since the 1996-97 preseason poll. Amazingly, Earth is still spinning on its axis and life has continued after the Blue Devils tumbled out of the top 25 after their four-game losing skid.

3. The frosh is boss — It can’t hurt to issue a reminder of the transcendence of Texas freshman Kevin Durant. The forward entered the week ranked in the top five nationally in both scoring and rebounding, and his fine effort at both ends of the floor helped the Longhorns hook Oklahoma State in Austin on Monday.

4. A ‘Ville thrill — Just when it looks like Louisville is done, it gets pulled back into the postseason picture with a solid performance. This time, the Cardinals ripped Pittsburgh to improve to 18-8 overall and 8-4 in the Big East. With St. John’s, Connecticut and Seton Hall remaining, Rick Pitino’s team could solidify an NCAA berth before the conference tournament.

5. Kent gets cuffed — again — Poor Ernie Kent. First he undergoes rotator cuff surgery before the season and has his arm in a sling as Oregon bolts to a quick start. Then in Saturday’s loss to Arizona, he collided with one of his assistants and tore his other rotator cuff. Fortunately, the Ducks’ fine season has calmed preseason talk of Kent’s tenuous job security.

Patrick Stevens

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