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Top of the Arc - January 2, 2009

Jan. 2, 1 p.m.: Happy 2009, everyone! Now it’s time to turn all of our attention to basketball. Finally. This is a huge weekend for the local teams. It’s still a little early to talk RPIs, but I am going to talk RPIs because Georgetown gets its crack at the team ranked No. 1 in the RPI (Pittsburgh) tomorrow at Verizon Center. Here is a ranking of the top games involving local teams this weekend in order of most intriguing to the least:

1) Pittsburgh at Georgetown (Saturday, noon)
The Hoyas face a supremely challenging opening three-game stretch to the Big East season. But they have already won perhaps the most difficult game, at Connecticut. Freshman Greg Monroe played great and the Hoyas flustered Hasheem Thabeet. Now comes DeJuan Blair and Co. and another significant test. The Hoyas already have three wins over top 50 teams.

2) Virginia Tech at Duke (Sunday, 7:45 p.m.)
No one needs to remind Seth Greenberg about the missed opportunities in non-conference play. The Hokies are in a tough position because they don’t have a quality win and likely need 10 ACC victories to have a good chance to reach the NCAA tournament. Their RPI of 64 is not too damaging, but a win against Duke would get the conference season off to a great start and point Tech in the right direction. Easier said than done.

3) Xavier at Virginia (Saturday, 2 p.m.)
The Cavaliers already have one ACC win under their belts, having beaten Georgia Tech. Now they look for a signature non-conference victory. Xavier suffered their two losses in the last two weeks, losing to Duke and Butler. They have beaten Memphis and Miami (Ohio), two RPI top 25 wins. The Cavaliers are likely to finish in the bottom half of the ACC, but this game is not a foregone conclusion.

4) Charlotte at Maryland (Saturday, 4 p.m.)
The Terrapins could not have done much better in non-conference play. They have beaten Michigan and Michigan State and have lost to Gonzaga and Georgetown. They don’t have a bad loss. Their RPI has dropped recently because of games against lightweights Bryant and Elon, and Charlotte (192) is not much better in the RPI’s eyes. But the real question is whether Maryland needs eight or nine ACC wins to reach the NCAA tournament. The landscape will remain fluid for about nine weeks, but I’m saying it would probably take nine ACC wins. They also need a couple road victories. They have not played a road game yet, a true road game.

5) North Carolina-Wilmington at George Mason (Saturday, 7 p.m.)
The Patriots don’t have a quality victory after narrowly missing an opportunity to knock off Dayton. The loss to Hampton is a bit of a black eye. Wilmington (3-10) is 313 in the RPI.

6) George Washington at Longwood (Saturday, 7 p.m.)
The Colonials have slid, losing three consecutive games. The most recent loss, against Coppin State, proves most damaging because Coppin was 259 in the RPI. Longwood is 5-8 with an RPI of 261.

By Eric Prisbell  |  January 2, 2009; 1:11 PM ET
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