Bill Trocchi
Friday January 22nd, 2010

Giving you a rundown on the top three games on tonight's college basketball slate:

1. Louisville (12-6, 3-2 Big East) at Seton Hall (10-6, 1-4), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

This is the first in what may be a series of critical games for Louisville in terms of making the NCAA tournament. The Cardinals are on the outside looking in right now, according to SI.com's Andy Glockner, so every opportunity for a road win needs to be taken advantage of. Louisville nearly had its first big road win on Saturday at Pittsburgh, but blew a five-point lead with 34 seconds left and lost in overtime. Rick Pitino called it "the worst loss I've experienced" in his career outside of Christian Laettner's buzzer-beater that lifted Duke past Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. Seton Hall is better than its record indicates and features the Big East's second-leading scorer in Jeremy Hazell (22.9). The Pirates have two losses in overtime and five of their six losses have come against teams ranked in the RPI top 25.

2. Oregon (10-7, 2-3 Pac-10) at California (11-6, 3-2), 10:30 p.m. ET

In the muddled Pac-10, these are two of the top teams. Right? Hard to tell what is what on the Left Coast this year, but Cal remains the favorite in most corners, and Oregon is still a talented team that should win its share of games. But why have the Ducks lost three straight -- all at home? Tajuan Porter, the Ducks' leading scorer, lost his starting job against Arizona, then came off the bench and scored just five points in 33 minutes. The funny thing is, coach Ernie Kent says he'll get his starting job back at Cal. The Bears are not quite in as much disarray, but they are coming off a 15-point loss to Washington. Cal's 1-2 punch of Jerome Randle (20.4) and Patrick Christopher (15.8) figure to extend the Ducks' misery.

3. Pepperdine (7-10, 3-0 West Coast) at No. 15 Gonzaga (14-3, 3-0), 9 p.m. ET

This one is a bit of a reach, but technically it is for first place in the West Coast Conference. In reality, St. Mary's and Gonzaga are the league's top two teams, with Portland checking in as a solid third, but the Waves have cobbled together a 3-0 league record by beating three of the weaker teams in the league. That unbeaten run may have Pepperdine feeling like it is carrying some momentum into Spokane, but that momentum shouldn't last much past the opening tip. The Zags have won six straight since a sobering 35-point loss to Duke and have already piled up three road wins in the league. The WCC home opener for Matt Bouldin and Co. should not be overly taxing.

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