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Pregame Shootaround 12.27.12: New Mexico’s trip to Cincinnati headlines schedule

Dec 27, 2012, 2:00 PM EST

Alex Kirk 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: New Mexico at No. 8 Cincinnati (9 PM) 

This was destined to be a matchup of ranked (and undefeated) teams…until the Lobos ran into a South Dakota State team that released those travel-related frustrations in a 70-65 win at The Pit on Saturday. The task for Steve Alford’s team is to rebound from that defeat, and in order to do so the Lobos have to keep Cincinnati off the offensive glass. The Bearcats are averaging 17.0 offensive rebounds per game, managing to grab 43% of their own misses (ranking 8th nationally). A good amount of the responsibility in that regard will fall upon the shoulders of Alex Kirk (7.5 rpg) and Cameron Bairstow (5.0 rpg), and UNM has done a solid job in this department as they’re allowing opponents to rebound just 26.5% of their missed shots.

The matchups on the perimeter should be outstanding, with UNM boasting Hugh Greenwood, Kendall Williams and Tony Snell while the Bearcats will counter with Cashmere Wright, JaQuon Parker and Sean Kilpatrick. Keep an eye on Cincinnati forward Titus Rubles (7.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg), who bounced back from a four-game slump to provide 11 points and nine rebounds in Saturday’s 68-58 win over Wright State. The better he performs as Cincinnati’s “fourth” scoring option the better the chances are of the Bearcats contending in the Big East.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Oakland at Western Illinois (8 PM) 

Western Illinois is off to a 2-0 start in Summit League play, as they picked up road victories at Kansas City and Eastern Illinois at the beginning of the month. But the return to league play brings about a significant challenge, as Greg Kampe’s Golden Grizzlies visit Macomb. Oakland may be 5-8 on the season but ten of those games have been played on the road (2-8 record) and they haven’t ducked many challenges from a scheduling standpoint either. WIU will need to slow down junior guard Travis Bader, who is averaging 20.2 points per game, but they can’t ignore Corey Petros or Duke Mondy either. Offensively the Leathernecks will counter with guard Ceola Clark III and forward Terrell Parks, and tempo will be a factor in the outcome as well (Oakland averages nine more possessions per game).

Five Things to Watch 

1) Busy night in the Sun Belt as there are three conference games on the slate. Two teams in need of a win tonight are Troy and Arkansas State, with both sitting at 0-2 in Sun Belt play. Both teams are at home tonight, with Troy hosting FAU and Arkansas State hosting Louisiana-Lafayette.

2) Texas Southern (1-11) looks to end a nine-game losing streak but the task will be a difficult one, as they visit Akron at the JAR. Omar Strong and Raymond Penn lead the way for Mike Davis’ team, but the Tigers will need to have an answer for Akron’s Zeke Marshall in the paint if they’re to win.

3) Fellow SWAC member Alcorn State plays the first of two tough games in New York tonight when they visit 8-3 Canisius. If the Braves are the end their seven-game skid one thinks they better handle it tonight, as a trip to No. 7 Syracuse on Saturday is next.

4) Saint Mary’s looks to get back on the right track (and remain undefeated at home) with Rhode Island visiting McKeon Pavilion. Matthew Dellavedova struggled in Sunday’s loss at Northern Iowa, and this week is an opportunity not only for him to get going but for the Gaels to have other offensive options step up (Jorden Page scored 26 points on Sunday) in advance of WCC play.

5) Interestingly enough the Gaels aren’t the only WCC team looking to rebound from losses last weekend, as both BYU (Northern Arizona) and Loyola Marymount (Morgan State) return to action. The Cougars would be wise to keep NAU freshman point guard DeWayne Russell under wraps, but it remains to be seen if the Lumberjacks have an answer for BYU’s Brandon Davies inside.

The Rest of the Top 25 

No games scheduled.

Other Notable Games 

Fort Wayne at IUPUI (7 PM)

Florida International at Western Kentucky (8 PM)

Northern Arizona at BYU (9 PM)

Rhode Island at Saint Mary’s (10 PM)

Stats courtesy of statsheet.com

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