Dec 18, 2012, 1:35 PM EDT
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. 25 NC State vs. Stanford
The Wolfpack were chosen to win the ACC in the conference’s preseason media poll, but are standing in the shadow of Duke’s dominance so far. Despite that, there is still a core of players that make NC State a Top 25 team and a threat in March. Freshman TJ Warren has been impressive so far as the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14.6 points per game. C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell have been the anchors in the frontcourt, combining to average close to 27 points and 17 rebounds per game.
Stanford has been plagued by poor shooting this season, ranking 292nd in the country with a team shooting percentage of 39.8 percent. Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle cannot carry the entire load offensively, so the Cardinal will look to Josh Huestis as a third option.
Who’s Getting Upset?: South Florida vs. Youngstown State
The Penguins have already upset Georgia early this season and are in the nation’s Top 75 in scoring and rebounding. South Florida, by contrast, does not shoot well from the field, does not score a lot of points, and does not rebound particularly well. This game will depend on which style of play prevails. If Youngstown State can speed Florida up and contain PG Anthony Collins, they have a chance to pull the upset. If the game settles to USF’s pace, Stan Heath and the Bulls know what to do from there.
Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Western Kentucky vs. Virginia Commonwealth (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)
Western Kentucky is coming off a close loss to Murray State and has another tough mid-major test against Virginia Commonwealth Tuesday night. Leading scorer TJ Price has missed the last two games due to injury and it is unclear when he will return. Jamal Crook, the team’s second-leading scorer, played sparingly against Murray State and it is unclear, too, if he will play vs. VCU.
If those two are out, the Hilltoppers must account for over 30 points of production per game, which they did against Murray State with a big performance from guard Brandon Harris, who had 23 points.
For Virginia Commonwealth, it’s business as usual. Push the tempo, create “Havoc” on defense, and flip turnovers into points. The Rams forced 16 turnovers in a blowout win over BCS opponent Alabama on Saturday to spoil Anthony Grant’s VCU homecoming. In that game, four players scored in double figures, include a solid 12 points in just 16 minutes from freshman back-up Melvin Johnson.
Five Things to Watch
1. Arizona was impressive down the stretch to defeat Florida last week and move up to No. 4 in the national polls. They face Oral Roberts Tuesday, which should give them an opportunity to remain undefeated and improve to 9-0 on the year.
2. Kansas’ Ben McLemore has been one of the nation’s most impressive freshmen, averaging 16.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Tuesday’s game against Richmond (9-2) will give him a mid-major test.
3. Having Gary Harris back is important for No. 20 Michigan State, as the Spartans move closer to Big Ten play. They meet Bowling Green on Tuesday.
4. Providence welcomes Kris Dunn and Sidiki Johnson to the rotation, as Dunn debuts after surgery and Johnson is eligible after transferring from Arizona last season. The Friars haven’t had the benefit of depth yet this year, but now add two pieces to the lineup vs. Colgate.
5. UCLA was the most talked-about team in the early part of the season after some letdowns with Shabazz Muhammad in the lineup. The Bruins have won two in a row since losing to a ranked San Diego State team. They take on Long Beach State Tuesday.
Rest of the Top 25
No. 4 Arizona vs. Oral Roberts (9:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)
No. 7 Ohio State vs. Winthrop (7:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Networks)
No. 9 Kansas vs. Richmond (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
No. 18 San Diego State vs. Point Loma (10:00 p.m.)
N0. 20 Michigan State vs. Bowling Green (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
No. 25 NC State vs. Stanford (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2) (See above)
Other Notable Games
Tennessee vs. Presbyterian (7:00 p.m. ET)
Miami (FL) vs. UCF (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)
UC Santa Barbara vs. California (11:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)
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