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Thursday’s Pregame Shootaround: A major AAC battle takes place

Jan 30, 2014, 10:27 AM EDT

Mangok Mathiang

GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 13 Cincinnati at No. 12 Louisville, 7:00 p.m.

The biggest game of the season in the American will be taking place at the Yum! Center tonight. Cincinnati has been the best team in the conference all year long, jumping out to a 19-2 record and an 8-0 start in league play. But Louisville has long been considered the favorite to win the league in their only season as a member, and it looks like they have finally turned a corner this season.

Cincinnati is big and physical, surviving on their defense and rebounding to win games. The good news for Mick Cronin? Justin Jackson, the anchor for this group defensively, will play after rolling his ankle on Sunday. Louisville is getting healthy as well, as Chris Jones will be back in the lineup, although his presence may not be quite as beneficial as Jackson’s is to Cincinnati.

Whatever the case, this is not only for first place in the conference, but for a chance to mark down the best win of the season on either side. Is Cincy for real? Has Louisville really turned things around? We’ll see tonight.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT: Chattanooga at Davidson, 7:00 p.m.

Davidson has been the power in the SoCon over the course of the last few years, but Chattanooga looks dangerous this season. Will Wade’s team has reeled off 10 straight wins, including an 8-0 start to league play. Win at Davidson, and the Mocs will have firm control of the SoCon race.

MUST-WIN OF THE NIGHT: Providence at Marquette, 7:00 p.m.

The Friars didn’t do enough in non-conference play to truly solidify their standing as an NCAA tournament team. They also haven’t done enough on the road to be considered more than a home-cooking expert at this point in the season. Marquette? Well, they just can’t afford to lose too many more games before their name cache stops getting them the benefit of the doubt.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) They may not have Chris Walker yet, but No. 3 Florida plays at Mississippi State at 7:00 p.m.

2) Purdue will pay a visit to streaking No. 10 Michigan, who recently took over firm control of the Big Ten race by winning at Michigan State.

3) Houston heads to UConn where the Huskies will look to get revenge for the loss they suffered on New Year’s Eve.

4) It’s UCLA’s turn to stake a claim to being the second-best team in the Pac-12, but Oregon, for all their troubles this season, is one of the most talented teams in the league. Expect a lot of scoring.

5) A pair of key smaller conference league games: Louisiana Tech will play at UTEP with first place on the line, and Bryant visits Robert Morris, who is undefeated but without four rotation players.

Postponed games:

  • Mercer at East Tennessee State
  • Kennesaw State at USC-Upstate
  • South Alabama at Georgia State
  • Samford at Furman

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