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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Weekend Look Ahead: Hamilton ready to enter POY debate

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Jordan Hamilton is getting better and Kemba Walker is not. Meantime, Jimmer is still Jimmer. Can Sidney Lowe get a win in what is likely his final trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium? Can Tony Jones finish his run as Tennessee's coach on a six-game winning streak? Can UCLA fans show the same class Steve Lavin showed their program even after being removed from their program?

Let's do the Weekend Look Ahead.

Best game of the weekend: One of only two games this weekend between two teams ranked in the AP poll is Sunday's tilt between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 18 Minnesota, and one of those teams (Minnesota) is on a two-game losing streak and without a natural point guard. So I can't honestly tell you that we've got an incredible weekend of college basketball on tap. But don't blame me. I didn't make the stupid schedule. (Or hurt the point guard.)

Steve Lavin showed nothing but class and UCLA fans should return the favor. (AP)  
Steve Lavin showed nothing but class and UCLA fans should return the favor. (AP)  
Another interesting matchup: There is no such thing as a must-win game in early February, but Kentucky has a really-needs-to-win game Saturday at Florida if the goal is to earn a regular-season SEC East title. A defeat would leave the 10th-ranked Wildcats two games behind the Gators in the loss column. Beyond that, a loss would represent the first losing streak of the John Calipari era, and UK fans don't deal so well with losing streaks. Don't believe me, ask Billy Gillispie.

Yet another interesting matchup: Michigan State at Wisconsin would be the weekend's most intriguing game if not for the fact that the 19th-ranked Badgers are 11-0 in home games and are winning those contests by an average of 21.1 points, and if not for the fact that the unranked Spartans are 1-5 in true road games and are coming off a 20-point loss at Iowa. Sunday's showdown at the Kohl Center isn't quite as big as it would otherwise be because of those minor details. But the game tips at 1 ET on CBS. So you'll watch because you have nothing else to do before the Super Bowl.

Guaranteed to be a blowout: The bad news for North Carolina State's Sidney Lowe is that Saturday will probably be his final trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium because, barring a miraculous turnaround, he seems destined to be fired at some point over the next six weeks. The good news? After Saturday's loss to No. 5 Duke, Lowe will never again have to get his brains beat out at Cameron Indoor Stadium because, like I said, barring a miraculous turnaround he seems destined to be fired at some point over the next six weeks.

Guaranteed to be an upset: I'll go with unranked California over 21st-ranked Arizona for no other reason than that every time I start to believe in a Pac-10 team I end up disappointed. Right now, I believe in Arizona because Sean Miller has the Wildcats on a four-game winning streak and all alone atop the Pac-10 standings. That means they're due for a letdown because that's just the way things go in this league.

Player trying to keep rolling: Jordan Hamilton hasn't quite entered the mainstream National Player of the Year conversation, but I imagine he's about to. The 6-foot-7 wing is averaging 19.0 points and 7.5 rebounds, has scored at least 16 points in 12 consecutive games, and he has Texas in first place in the Big 12 standings and ranked third nationally. All Hamilton needs now is a few more big performances -- starting with Saturday against Texas Tech -- and for another POY candidate to drop off. For instance, somebody like ...

Player trying to get rolling: Kemba Walker was the leading candidate for National Player of the Year two weeks ago, but then Jimmer went Jimmer and Kemba stopped making shots and started losing games. The junior guard has gone 10 of 37 from the field and 3 of 16 from 3-point range in Connecticut's past two games, both losses. Similar percentages might result in a similar result when the No. 6 Huskies play Saturday at Seton Hall, and missing shots and losing games is no way to catch a Jimmer (or stay ahead of Jordan).

Three things you need to know

1. You know you want to know, so here you go: Jimmer Fredette will be on display again Saturday when No. 8 BYU hosts UNLV, i.e., the team he dropped 39 on early last month. The game tips at 4 p.m. ET. You can watch it live on Versus. (You're welcome.)

2. Memphis and Gonzaga have played every season since the 2005-06 season, but never under these circumstances. The two programs that have grown accustom to dominating their financially inferior conference brethren are both struggling. Memphis is 5-3 in C-USA and tied for third in the standings; Gonzaga is 5-3 in the WCC and tied for fourth. The Tigers and Zags play Saturday in Spokane. This is the first time they've met without at least one school being ranked in the top 15.

3. Tennessee associate head coach Tony Jones will handle head coaching duties Saturday for the final time this season when the Vols host Alabama. A win would push Jones' record to 6-2 while filling in during Bruce Pearl's eight-game suspension. If Pearl could then back it with his own 6-2 record, the Vols would almost certainly win the SEC East in most unusual fashion.

Final thought: Steve Lavin makes his return to Pauley Pavilion on Saturday when St. John's plays UCLA, and there's some debate about how he'll be received. Will the crowd boo him? Heckle him? Politely applaud him? Or just ignore him altogether?

My advice: Politely applaud.

Lavin coached the Bruins to six NCAA tournaments in seven seasons before being fired in 2003. He then joined ESPN as an analyst, and I was always impressed with how he took the high road anytime UCLA was mentioned, how he always publicly praised Ben Howland despite the awkwardness of being asked to comment on his own successor. Imagine your wife leaving you after seven years and then you being asked to comment on her and her new husband three times a week, and every time you said nothing but kind things. That's the position Lavin was put in, and he handled it better than most could've, certainly better than I would've.

For that, he deserves the respect of UCLA fans.

I hope he gets it Saturday.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com 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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