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Sunday’s Pregame Shootaround: Connecticut goes on the road for first time vs. Washington

Dec 22, 2013, 11:40 AM EDT

Kevin Ollie

GAME OF THE DAY: No. 10 Connecticut at Washington (3:30 p.m., ESPNU) — all times eastern

The Huskies are coming off their first loss of the season as they lost to Stanford at home this past Wednesday, 53-51. Now, in their first true road game of the season, Connecticut will face another Pac-12 team in Washington. Against Stanford, the Huskies’ ability to win close games in the final minute came to an end; they were 4-0 in games decided by one possession. Washington has really struggled this season, limping out to a 6-4 start with their best win against Montana, but a cross-country trip for UConn and playing against an ostensibly hungry team makes this a tough game.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: California at Creighton (7:00 p.m., FOX Sports 1)

If you’re looking for something to watch in between the 4:00 p.m. NFL games and Sunday night football, check this one out. While both California and Creighton have one non-conference game remaining on their respective slates following this one (California vs. Furman, Creighton vs. Chicago State), the game today is the final opportunity to pick up a quality non-conference win. The Blue Jay offense is clicking again, following a season-low 53 point output against George Washington where Doug McDermott was held to just seven points. Meanwhile, Cal has rebounded after losing at UC Santa Barbara by winning their following two games against Nevada and Fresno State.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? Brown at Northwestern (2:00 p.m.)

Chris Collins and Northwestern need to approach today’s game against Brown very seriously. If not, the Bears are good enough to upset them in Evanston, IL. Not a whole lot was expected of Northwestern in Collins’ first season at the helm, but the Wildcats have struggled perhaps more than some expected. Their best win has come against Western Michigan, and currently stand at 6-5 on the year. Brown senior guard Sean McGonagill shoots the ball as well as anyone in the country (32-76 3PT), and if JerShonn Cobb is unable to play due to an ankle injury that will make slowing McGonagill that much more difficult.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Boise State at Hawaii (1:00 a.m., ESPNU)

After beginning the season 8-0, Boise State has lost two straight against Kentucky and St. Mary’s. The Broncos look to rebound against Hawaii, but winning against the Warriors in Hawaii is never an easy task. This is the final game of Boise State’s non-conference schedule before Mountain West play begins. While they have a nice win against Utah, winning on the road at Hawaii would boost their resume, even if only marginally.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) Connecticut probably isn’t as good as their No. 10 ranking suggests, and Shabazz Napier wasn’t going to continually hit game-winning shots in the final minute to propel the Huskies to close victories — to that end, UConn’s flaws were exposed by Stanford. UConn scored a mere 13 points in the second half against the Cardinal. Heading out west to play Washington, I will go as far to say that UConn needs to win this game.

2) A big opportunity at the end of the non-conference for Purdue and West Virginia today. Each team doesn’t figure to seriously factor into their respective conference races — Purdue in the Big Ten and West Virginia in the Big 12 — as neither has performed well to date. The team who walks away from today’s game with a win today, however, will at least have some good feelings and something to build upon moving into 2014.

3) I think Northwestern should be on upset alert more than Mississippi, but don’t be surprised if Mercer gives the Rebels everything they can handle. Mercer is a solid team. They nearly beat Texas in their season-opener, and own solid overtime victories against Seton Hall and Denver. At this point, Mercer has to be considered the team to beat in the Atlantic Sun. If Mississippi leaves this game victorious, it may be against a Top 100 RPI team come March — critical, considering that Mississippi may find themselves sitting on the bubble.

4) Akron has a good opportunity to pick up a victory over a BCS team for the MAC as they travel to Hawaii to face Oregon State. The Zips have won four straight with three of the wins coming against solid teams in Cleveland State, Oral Roberts, and Detroit. While Oregon State is 6-2, don’t let that record fool you. Sure, the Beavers have a road win against Maryland, but they have played one of the weakest schedules in the country. On a neutral court, Akron has a good shot at winning this game.

5) There are ten undefeated teams remaining, and three are in action today: Iowa State, St. Mary’s, and Wichita State. The team most in danger of losing today is Iowa State as they play George Mason in Hawaii.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

No 11 Wichita State vs. North Carolina Central, 8:00 p.m.

No. 12 Baylor vs. Southern University, 5:00 p.m.

No. 17 Iowa State vs. George Mason, 5:30 p.m., ESPNU at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic

No. 25 Iowa vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff , 2:00 p.m., ESPN3

NOTABLES:

Indiana vs. Kennesaw State, 12:00 p.m., Big Ten Network

Richmond vs. Ohio, 1:00 p.m.

Auburn vs. Boston College, 2:00 p.m., ESPN3

Dayton vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.

Central Florida vs. Valparaiso, 2:30 p.m., ESPN3

Miami (FL) vs. La Salle, 3:00 p.m., ESPN3

Illinois State vs. DePaul, 4:35 p.m., ESPN3

UCLA vs. Weber State, 7:00 p.m., Pac-12 Network

South Florida vs. Mississippi State, 8:00 p.m.

St. Mary’s vs. South Carolina, 11:00 p.m., ESPNU