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Preview: Gonzaga faces another big test with weekend matchup against Tennessee

Rui Hachimura might emerge Sunday as a National Player of the Year favorite.

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Two top-10 teams will clash in the Valley of the Sun on Sunday to headline the biggest matchup of the college basketball slate this weekend. The Jerry Colangelo Classic will feature No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 7 Tennessee in the biggest non-conference test for both teams since Feast Week. Gonzaga comes into the game after a last-second victory over their in-state rival Washington, while Tennessee comes off two blowout wins to inferior teams after dropping an overtime contest against Kansas two weeks back.

This is a game that will be filled with college basketball’s most experienced stars in Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke, Josh Perkins, Grant Williams, Kyle Alexander, and Admiral Schofield.

Here’s what to watch for:

Can Rui Hachimura cement himself as the favorite for National Player of the Year?

Gonzaga’s Japanese-born star has been remarkable for the Bulldogs. Hachimura has dominated on both sides of the floor, averaging 22.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Oh, and he hit the game-winner against Washington. Hachimura will face a tough test as he goes against one of the best defensive front courts in the country. He will get all the attention from Tennessee big man Kyle Alexander. If Hachimura can lead the Zags to their second consecutive top-10 win, he will cement himself as the front-runner for National Player of the Year.

Grant Williams has a chance to show the country what he is all about:

Hachimura might be the guy we have our eyes on, but Williams is someone who shouldn’t be overlooked. Last year’s SEC Player of the Year is arguably the most underrated player in college basketball. The 6’7 power forward is averaging 20.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game this season. The young Williams looks like he is Charles Barkley’s understudy and Tennessee will need a big game from him to upset the Zags.

Mark Few vs. Rick Barnes:

This is a matchup that features two of the best coaches in the game. Rick Barnes is hoping to will his team to a huge statement victory and he got some of the blueprints to do it when Washington nearly knocked off the Bulldogs. It will be interesting to see if he implements a game plan to take advantage of the Zags’ lack of size and depth. Meanwhile Few will try to prove that Gonzaga deserves to be ranked No. 1 as his team bounces back from a scary victory (not a loss, Gonzaga doesn’t really do that). Without a doubt, he will have the Zags ready for this one. The coach that makes the best and most timely in-game adjustments will lead his team to a victory.

The ratings:

Sunday’s game will tip on Sunday at noon Pacific Time right in the middle of NFL football’s Sunday morning slate. ESPN definitely doesn’t expect its rating to match CBS or FOX, but it should be interesting to follow how well this game performs. College basketball weekend ratings before January are typically notoriously low, so we will see if a big-time matchup like this can help change that.

How to watch:

Time: 3 p.m. ET/Noon PST
TV: ESPN
Stream: WatchESPN