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Pregame Shootaround 12.15.12: Two top-10 teams square off

Dec 15, 2012, 11:48 AM EST

Kenny Boynton 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. 5 Florida vs. No. 8 Arizona (10 PM)

Finals ended this week in the classroom. On the basketball court…Florida and Arizona each have their biggest test of the year in tonight’s late game.

Both the Gators and Wildcats enter tonight with identical 7-0 records. Two of the top teams in the country go head-to-head with talented guards on the perimeter and big bodies down low. Arizona is led by the guard play of Nick Johnson and Mark Lyons. The Arizona backcourt is going up against one of the toughest perimeter defenses in the country. Florida has forced teams to struggle from behind the arc, while the Gators have held four opponents to under 50 points this season.

Florida will be looking to it’s all-around efforts from guards Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, and Scottie Wilbekin. On the frontline, the Gators are facing a very versatile group of Arizona bigs. Kaleb Tarczewski, at 7-feet, is a load inside to go along with fellow-freshman, Grant Jerrett’s ability to step out and hit from behind the arc and Brandon Ashley’s athleticism. The Gator will counter with Patric Young and Erik Murphy inside. Murphy will be also be a tough matchup for the Arizona freshmen trio, as well as Solomon Hill, with his ability to play the pick-and-pop so well.

Two storied programs, two great coaches, and one exciting environment makes for a good game tonight

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: La Salle vs. Bucknell (7 PM)

Both teams are to its best start since the 2005-2006 season when La Salle started 7-0 and Bucknell began the year 9-1. The Explorers (6-1) have won five straight including a pair of wins over in-state foes, Villanova and Penn State. The Bison (8-1) have won three consecutive after a three-point loss to Penn State back on Nov. 23. Less than a month before conference play begins, Bucknell’s record is up there with Lehigh’s (8-2).

For La Salle, it’s going to be difficult to hold down Bucknell’s Mike Muscala. The 6-foot-11 senior center is averaging 18.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. The Explorers don’t have great size inside, so Steve Zack, La Salle’s 6-foot-11 big, will need to avoid foul troube. La Salle does add Tyrone Garland to today’s game. Garland makes his debut for the Explorers after spending a year and a half at Virginia Tech.

Four Things to Watch

1. Following one of the more odd suspensions in college basketball, the nation’s No. 1 team, Indiana, goes full strength. Freshmen Peter Jurkin and  Hanner Mosquera-Perea are eligible today against Butler, following a nine-game suspension. The two freshmen impermissible benefits, according to the NCAA, from an IU booster. The booster was the two players’ AAU coach, who donated $185 over a six-year period. Regardless of the ridiculous suspension, the Hoosiers add more size to a frontcourt that features, Cody Zeller. The nation’s best team has gotten considerably better today against Butler.

3. Kentucky can continue to get back on track. The Wildcats have won two straight, after dropping two straight and falling out of the rankings. Kentucky takes on Lipscomb – only two games before a Dec. 29 meeting with rival, Louisville.

2. Jim Boeheim can inch closer to that milestone 900th victory today against Canisius. The Orange are 8-0 and if they win today, set up Boeheim for his 900th victory on Monday night against Detroit. Today’s game won’t be as easy as it looks. Canisius is one of the early surprises this season under first-year head coach Jim Baron. The Golden Griffins are 6-1, led by 17.7 points per game by Baron’s son, Billy, who transferred from Rhode Island last season.

4. Creighton has another chance to knock off a big-conference opponent, when the Bluejays meet California today. Creighton has bounced back from a loss to Boise State on Nov. 28 with three convincing victories. The Bears on the other hand, were blown out by Wisconsin and lost by one to UNLV. It’s another talk order for Cal, having to stop preseason All-American, Doug McDermott, who is averaging 26.7 points per game during the three-game winning streak.

Other Notable Games 

West Virginia vs. No. 3 Michigan (8 PM)

No. 6 Louisville vs. Memphis (2:30 PM)

Belmont vs. No. 9 Kansas (7 PM)

Kansas State vs. No. 14 Gonzaga (9 PM)

Purdue vs. No. 22 Notre Dame (4:30)

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne