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Pregame Shootaround 12.17.12: Boeheim’s 900th, Birch/Brown back

Dec 17, 2012, 2:30 PM EDT

Jim Boeheim

Game of the Day: 8:00 p.m.: No. 21 UNLV at UTEP (CBS College Sports)

The big news of this game isn’t necessarily the game itself; it’s about the changeover in the UNLV roster. This marks the Rebels’ first game against a Division I opponent that will come with Mike Moser laid up with his dislocated elbow and with Khem Birch back in the lineup. When Moser suffered the injury, one of the things that we speculated about was whether this could end up being a blessing in disguise for UNLV. Anthony Bennett has proven that not only does he play a similar position to Moser, but he may actually be better at the role than Moser is. If Birch ends up living up to his potential, that would mean Moser would be forced to play the three. He’s not a natural three. He’s only going to be out a month, so it will be quite interesting to see where UNLV goes from here.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Northwestern (8:00 p.m., Big Ten)

The Wildcats announced over the weekend that Drew Crawford, their leading scorer, would miss the rest of the season after he elected to undergo surgery on his shoulder. Crawford was the team’s second-leading scorer, but saw his production drop from last season as he’s been battling the torn labrum. How will the Wildcats respond? Texas State has a couple of good front court players and should matchup well inside.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: 10:00 p.m.: Cal Poly at Santa Clara

Cal Poly has just two Division I wins this season, but one of those wins happens to be against UCLA. They’ve also been competitive in road games against TCU, St. Mary’s and Nevada. Santa Clara is sneaky good this year, as they have one of the most underrated 1-2-3 punches this season in Kevin Foster, Marc Trasolini and Evan Roquemore.

Five Things to Watch

1. UConn will be playing their first game (UMES at 7:00 p.m., ESPN3) since the massacre in Newtown on Friday. Newtown is an hour and change from Storrs.

2. Detroit takes on Syracuse at 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU), which should make for an exciting game as the Titans are one of the favorites in the Horizon League this year. If Syracuse does win, it will be Jim Boeheim’s 900th victory.

3. UNLV isn’t the only team getting a player eligible tonight. No. 12 Missouri will have Jabari Brown eligible for the first time this season as they take on South Carolina State tonight at 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3).

4. Georgia Tech has been better than some people expected this season, and they’ll be getting a perimeter boost tonight as Solomon Poole will be eligible to play for the first time tonight against Alabama State at 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3).

5. Torrey Craig of USC-Upstate is one of the best mid-major players in the country, averaging 19.5 points this season. He’ll get a chance to showcase his skills against one of the best frontlines in the country tonight as USCU will take on Baylor at 8:00 p.m.

Rest of the Top 25

7:00 p.m.: IPFW at No. 22 Notre Dame (ESPN3)

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.