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Friday Look Ahead: Weekend filled with debuts, returns


Two former McDonald's All-Americans are making their collegiate debuts this weekend.

Oddly, a former Fordham player could have a bigger immediate impact than both.

Let's do the Friday Look Ahead.

Best game of the weekend: What do Kansas State's Frank Martin and Florida's Billy Donovan have in common? Udonis Haslem, of course. Martin coached Haslem in high school, then sent the bruising forward to Donovan, who coached Haslem in college. That's a neat note heading into Saturday's game between the No. 6 Wildcats and just-barely-unranked Gators, because it means Martin has gone from sending players to Florida to coaching against Florida in Florida in a span of a decade. Like I said, neat.

Another interesting matchup: Texas and North Carolina were each ranked in the top 10 when they met last season in what I later called a pre-collapse game for Rick Barnes and Roy Williams. Now neither is in the top 10 (or top 20, even). Texas is ranked 23rd. North Carolina is unranked. And yet it's possible, if not likely, that both teams are better now than they were when they met last season, unless Saturday's game between the Longhorns and Tar Heels turns out to be a pre-collapse game, too.

Yet another interesting matchup: Baylor is the only school ranked in the top 10 of the Coaches poll without a win over a school that's also been ranked in the Coaches poll at some point this season. That's something that can change Saturday when the No. 9 Bears play previously ranked Gonzaga. And considering Gonzaga has already lost five times, it's something that ought to change and will change if LaceDarius Dunn makes at least three 3-pointers and scores at least 20 points for the fifth time in five games.

Guaranteed to be a blowout: No. 8 Pittsburgh has had a week to get over that stunning loss to Tennessee, and Maryland-Eastern Shore has lost its past two games (to Old Dominion and Evansville) by an average of 38 points. The Panthers and Hawks play Saturday. If you're expecting a close game, you're going to be disappointed.

Guaranteed to be an upset: There is no sensible reason to think UCLA will beat No. 16 BYU Saturday in the John Wooden Classic given how the Bruins and Cougars have been playing. But I haven't picked upsets in this spot for three consecutive weeks by predicting things that make sense. So, what the hell, give me UCLA over BYU (provided the Bruins can keep Jimmer Fredette out of the lane).

Former McDonald's All-American Renardo Sidney will play his first collegiate game on Saturday. (US Presswire)  
Former McDonald's All-American Renardo Sidney will play his first collegiate game on Saturday. (US Presswire)  
Player trying to keep rolling: Ohio State looks like a serious national title contender, Jared Sullinger being the most obvious reason why. But Jon Diebler's contribution to the No. 2 Buckeyes should not be discounted, because his shooting ability puts the opposition in a pick-your-poison scenario almost every game, especially the past three. Diebler is a combined 14-for-22 (63.6 percent) from 3-point range in OSU's recent wins over IUPUI, Western Carolina and Florida Gulf Coast. If he shoots it similarly Saturday, the Buckeyes should have no problem getting past a South Carolina team whose only loss has come to Michigan State.

Player trying to get rolling: Chace Stanback was shooting 59.3 percent from the field through UNLV's first nine games, and UNLV won all nine of them. He's shooting 29.2 percent from the field in UNLV's past two games, and UNLV has lost both of them. There's a connection there somewhere, I'm certain. It needs to get fixed in time for Saturday's game against Southern Utah, or at least before the 22nd-ranked Rebels play Kansas State next week.

Three things you need to know

1. Former McDonald's All-American Renardo Sidney will make his collegiate debut Saturday when Mississippi State plays Virginia Tech in the Bahamas. The NCAA suspended Sidney all of last season and for the first nine games this season. The Bulldogs are 7-2 without him this season.

2. Former McDonald's All-American Josh Selby will make his collegiate debut Saturday when the No. 3 Jayhawks host Southern California at Allen Fieldhouse. The NCAA suspended Selby for the Jayhawks' first nine games this season. KU is 9-0 without him. (It's also worth noting that USC will be debuting an electric guard of its own, namely Jio Fontan. He isn't as heralded as Sidney or Selby, but he could have an immediate impact bigger than both. Fontan was averaging 15.3 points and 4.7 assists for Fordham when he decided to transfer last year. He's expected to be among the Trojans' best players from the moment he steps on the court.)

3. The nation still has four undefeated-yet-unranked teams. They are UCF (9-0), Northwestern (7-0), Cincinnati (9-0) and Cleveland State (12-0). Northwestern is the only one that doesn't play this weekend. On Saturday, UCF gets Miami, Cincinnati plays Oklahoma and Cleveland State visits West Virginia.

Final thought: I published an at-this-minute All-American team earlier in the week, and I'm pretty sure everybody in Syracuse e-mailed to ask why I omitted Rick Jackson, as if going with Jared Sullinger and Jon Leuer or Derrick Williams was some great travesty. It's debatable, sure; all of it is debatable. But it's not obviously wrong, and it doesn't mean I hate Rick Jackson because, well, I love Rick Jackson! (Didn't you read my column from the Jimmy V Classic?) His story is terrific, he's having a terrific year, and I suspect he'll have a terrific game Saturday when the Orange play Iona.

I'm predicting another double-double.

I'll be expecting your e-mails when it happens.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.

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