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Pregame Shootaround 12.13.12: Shockers’ trip to Knoxville headlines slate

Dec 13, 2012, 12:30 PM EDT

N Colorado Wichita St Basketball AP

Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will lay out a preview for the slate of games that night. We’ll take a look at some key match-ups and important games, as well as make some predictions and point out what you need to watch for. Take a look below at today’s edition:

Note: The weekend editions of Pregame Shootaround will be published half an hour prior to tip-off of the day’s first game.

Game of the Day: No. 23 Wichita State at Tennessee (7 PM) 

Just two Top 25 teams are in action tonight and the Shockers have the far tougher matchup of the two as they visit Tennessee. Gregg Marshall’s squad, while expected to contend in the Missouri Valley when the season began, has been a pleasant surprise to this point in the season. Forwards Cleanthony Early (13.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Carl Hall (13.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg) have led the way offensively and three other Shocker players are averaging between 7.4 and 7.9 points per game.

As for the Volunteers it’s been a struggle offensively, as they’ve failed to reach 40 points in either of their last two games (losses to Georgetown and Virginia) and on the season Tennessee is shooting just 42% from the field. Jarnell Stokes will need to lead the way for Tennessee, and their guards need to hit shots consistently if they’re to beat Wichita State.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Washington (at Seattle; 10 PM) 

This is a game the Huskies should win, even though the Redhawks are the home team at Key Arena. But the season hasn’t been a smooth one for Lorenzo Romar’s squad, as they’ve already lost to Albany and Nevada while also getting soundly whipped by Colorado State at home. Will Washington have enough scoring to supplement C.J. Wilcox’s 19.9 points per game? That’s the big question for Washington as they approach the start of Pac-12 play, and if the answer is “no” tonight Seattle has a shot at the upset. Forwards Clarence Trent (who began his college career at Washington) and Deshaun Sunderhaus need to play well if the Redhawks are to pull it off.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Middle Tennessee at Belmont (7 PM)

This would be an excellent matchup of mid-majors even if it didn’t fall in the middle of finals. The Blue Raiders are coming off of a win over Ole Miss and have been solid defensively for much of the season, but they’ll have their hands full with Rick Byrd’s Bruins. Belmont is shooting 48.4% from the field and 43.6% from three, with senior guards Ian Clark (19.4 ppg) and Kerron Johnson (13.9 ppg, 4.8 apg) leading the way. For the winner this will be a good game to have on their resume when March rolls around, even if it’s simply to improve their NCAA tournament seeding.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 20 UNLV will be without Mike Moser (dislocated elbow) tonight when they take on La Verne, but the weak opponent gives Dave Rice the opportunity to ease freshman point guard Daquan Cook into the rotation. Cook was originally expected to redshirt, but not only is that no longer the case but he will get minutes too. If Cook performs well in these weeks leading into Mountain West play, that would allow Anthony Marshall to play more off the ball.

2) Florida Gulf Coast looks to move to 6-0 at home when they host FIU in Fort Meyers. Andy Enfield’s Eagles are led by guards Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson, who average a combined 30.0 points per game.

3) How many will Brock Motum score tonight? Motum’s averaging 19.7 points per game for Washington State, and with 0-6 Jackson State in town the senior could be poised to go off. He’s scored at least 23 points in each of the last four games, which includes a season-high 29 in a 72-60 win over Portland.

4) Speaking of Jackson State, they’re one of two winless SWAC teams in action tonight. The other is 0-7 Alabama State, which hosts Troy. The Hornets are playing just their second home game of the season, but getting off the schneid will be tough when considering the fact that they’re giving up 77 points per game.

5) Cal State Fullerton looks to end a three-game losing streak when they host Idaho State. The Titans have lost those three games, including a loss at Washington, by a total of eight points.

The Rest of the Top 25:

La Verne at No. 20 UNLV (10 PM)

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.