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Top of the Arc - December 15, 2008

Dec. 15, 10:05 a.m.: The best matchup of the weekend took place at Verizon Center, but a handful of other surprising results also grabbed the headlines. Here are three things we learned this weekend:

1) The Atlantic 10 is stronger than we think. Massachusetts and Temple, two teams that were off to surprisingly slow starts, earned what could prove to be season-changing victories. The Minutemen held on for a one-point victory at Kansas. And Temple earned one of the more surprising victories of the season by blasting Tennessee at home. Dionte Christmas had 35 points for the Owls. Xavier remains the team to beat in the Atlantic-10, but both UMass and Temple could be formidable once conference season starts.

2) Gonzaga is not unbeatable. Mark Few plays such a challenging non-conference schedule this season, the Zags were bound to slip up. Arizona beat the Bulldogs by five in Tucson. Gonzaga already has beaten Oklahoma State, Maryland, Tennessee and Washington State. But the Zags still play Connecticut, Tennessee and Memphis. No team is in better position to earn the No. 1 seed in the West than Gonzaga. But the Zags are not even a lock to win the WCC because of St. Mary’s, so the Bulldogs will remain one of the most intriguing teams to watch throughout the season.

3) Memphis has little margin for error. Both Georgetown and Memphis show little resemblance to the teams that won more than 25 games last season. But the Hoyas are off to a strong start and are much further along in the makeover process than the Tigers. Perhaps it was just John Calipari being Calipari, but he seemed concerned about his team’s growth after a 79-70 overtime loss to the Hoyas on Saturday. Last season, Memphis used a difficult non-conference schedule to compensate for the Conference USA schedule. The Tigers are playing a tough non-conference slate once again, but they may have a difficult time earning quality victories --- they don’t have one yet --- if they don’t improve. That would make winning Conference USA all the more critical.

By Eric Prisbell  |  December 15, 2008; 10:01 AM ET
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