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Pregame Shootaround: Conference play hits full swing

Jan 4, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

Marcus Smart AP

GAME OF THE DAY: No. 6 Oklahoma State at Kansas State (4 p.m., ESPNU)

This game is much bigger for the No. 6 Cowboys than might appear at face value. Following the loss of starting center Michael Cobbins for the season with an Achilles’ tendon injury, and freshman point guard Stevie Clark was arrested — but not charged — for possession of marijuana during a traffic stop earlier in the week. Will the Cowboys be prepared for a Kansas State team playing really good basketball after the week filled with distractions? The Wildcats have won eight straight and will be hungry to beat a ranked conference opponent in their home building. One thing worth watching: How will Kansas State freshman guard Marcus Foster handle the pressure of facing Marcus Smart?

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 7 Duke at Notre Dame (4 p.m., CBS)

Is this a new and budding ACC basketball rivalry? There were some interesting remarks made in the summer between the programs and this is Notre Dame’s inaugural game as a member of the ACC. Although the Irish have struggled to find themselves since the loss of Jerian Grant, they should be fired up at a chance to face Duke and one of the best players in the country in Jabari Parker. Under Mike Brey, Notre Dame is a fantastic 12-6 against top-10 programs at home and Duke has yet to play a true road game this season.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 17 Connecticut at SMU (2 p.m., ESPNU)

This wouldn’t be an Earth-shattering upset by any means, but Connecticut is still the ranked team with the major name recognition while SMU is still looking for signature wins under Larry Brown. Both teams enter the day 0-1 in the brand-new American Athletic Conference following UConn’s disappointing loss at Houston and SMU’s loss to Cincinnati, so each team will be hungry to right the ship going forward. It should also be a lot of fun to see SMU point guard Nic Moore — one of the underrated floor generals in all of college basketball — take on UConn’s backcourt.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Denver at St. Joseph’s, (2 p.m.)

Denver has struggled to a 7-7 start and was one of the favorites in the Summit League, but they’re still trying to figure things out as they travel to visit a good Atlantic 10 opponent in St. Joseph’s. Although the Pioneers have played a difficult schedule, they still have some bad losses on their resume and Chris Udofia needs to find his perimeter shot, as he’s struggled from that area this season. St. Joseph’s, meanwhile, is winners of four straight games and would love to keep that momentum going heading into the grind of the A-10

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) Saturday’s contest between North Carolina Central and Wagner has been canceled due to the storm that meteorologists are calling “Hercules”. This is the third game this week to be canceled or postponed after Iona’s MAAC contest with Quinnipiac was postponed from Thursday to Monday and no makeup has been announced for Friday’s postponed South Dakota State and Buffalo contest. This could be something to watch the next few days with the winter weather getting very bad in some parts of the country.

2) Syracuse also makes its ACC debut on Saturday, as the No. 2 Orange look to become the first power conference team to win its league in the first year of play since Arkansas in 1992. The Orange open ACC play with a home game against Miami.

3) Is an interesting Pac-12 clash in the making when Washington visits No. 1 Arizona? The Huskies are only 9-5, but they were impressive in a road win at Arizona State on Thursday to open the conference season and they would love to pick up the sweep in their trip through Arizona.

4) A couple of interesting Big East games to monitor on Saturday include St. John’s visiting former Big East foe Georgetown while Big East newbies Butler and Xavier collide when the Bulldogs travel to Cincinnati. In each game, the road team is 0-1 and the home team is 1-0 and St. John’s and Butler will look to jumpstart their Big East season with a road win.

5) Pittsburgh travels to North Carolina State in a game that should help dictate how good both teams really are. The Panthers are new in the ACC but travel to Raleigh as a 12-1 team thanks to their light non-conference schedule and they’ll be tested by a Wolfpack team that has won eight of its last nine games against mostly inferior competition.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • Nebraska at No. 3 Ohio State, 12:00 p.m., BTN
  • No. 5 Michigan State at Indiana, 2:00 p.m., CBS
  • Richmond at No. 12 Florida, 3:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 13 Iowa State at Texas Tech, 1:30 p.m., ESPN3
  • No. 14 Louisville at Rutgers, 6:00 p.m., CBSSN
  • Cincinnati at No. 18 Memphis, 12:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • Miami of Ohio at No. 23 UMass, 7:00 p.m.
  • Pacific at No. 24 Gonzaga, 8:00 p.m., ROOT
  • Long Beach State at No. 25 Missouri, 5:00 p.m.

NOTABLES:

  • Georgia Tech at Maryland, 2:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Cornell at St. Bonaventure, 2:00 p.m., NBCSN
  • Penn State at Illinois, 2:15 p.m., BTN
  • Creighton at Seton Hall, 3:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • Virginia at Florida State, 5:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • Yale at Saint Louis, 5:30 p.m., NBCSN
  • Oklahoma at Texas, 8:00 p.m., Longhorn Network
  • Dayton at Ole Miss, 8:00 p.m., ESPN3