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Pregame Shootaround 12.9.12: West Coast match-up highlights Sunday’s action

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will be posted at 2 p.m. ET and 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. 21 UNLV vs. California

California has one of the best scoring duos in the nation in Allen Crabbe (22.4 ppg) and Justin Cobbs (18.7 ppg), but no other players average double figures. This lack of balance plays to UNLV’s favor Sunday, as they can try to key in on those two, while limiting production from elsewhere.

The Rebels have won four straight games since losing to Oregon, but had to survive a battle from Portland on the road this week. Anthony Bennett will be the most important piece for Dave Rice’s team Sunday, along with Anthony Marshall, who had 16 points vs. Portland. They’ll be looking to push the tempo, as usual.

Who’s getting upset?: DePaul against Milwaukee

Oliver Purnell is still building his program at DePaul, amidst the Big East turmoil and an injury report that doesn’t help his teams progress. With a relatively light Sunday slate of games, the Blue Demons could be on upset alert against mid-major Milwaukee. Paris Gulley and Jordan Aaron combine for close to 36 points per game for Milwaukee.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Akron vs. No. 16 Creighton

Doug McDermott and the Bluejays will take part in what is the only other game Sunday featuring a Top 25 team. Expect points in bunches, as both teams are ranked in the Top 20 in the country in points per game. The advantage for Creighton, though, is its efficiency in scoring those points. The Bluejays are second in the country in field goal percentage, helped along by McDermott, Ethan Wragge, and Gregory Echenique.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Anthony Bennett leads No. 21 UNLV against California, averaging 18.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. The Rebels are young, which will be the criticism all season, but they are also very talented.

2) California lost its first game of the season to Wisconsin last Sunday, and now comes back a week later to face the first of two straight ranked teams. The Golden Bears have one of the highest-scoring duos in the country with Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs

3) Semaj Christon has been one of the most impressive freshmen in the country so far this season, leading Xavier with 15.4 points and 6.0 assists per game. The Musketeers take on Kent State Sunday afternoon.

4) After the departure of Royce White, Iowa State is still putting up stats. The Cyclones are in the Top 15 in the country in both scoring and rebounding, and in the Top 40 in assists. They take on Nebraska Omaha.

5) Florida State began the season as a fringe Top  25 team. Now, they’re 4-4 and riding a three-game losing streak. They’ll try to break that trend against Maine.

The Rest of the Top 25:

No. 16 Creighton vs. Akron (See above)

No. 21 UNLV vs. California (6:00 p.m., See above)

Other Notable Games 

Fresno State vs. Washington State (3:00 p.m. ET)

Maine vs. Florida State (4:00 p.m. ET)

Kent State vs. Xavier (4:00 p.m. ET)

Nebraska Omaha vs. Iowa State (7:00 p.m. ET)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Boise State loses guard Harwell to torn ACL

Leon Rice
Associated Press
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Expected to be one of the favorites in the Mountain West this season, Boise State’s perimeter ranks have shrunk by one player due to injury. Thursday it was reported by the Idaho Statesman that freshman guard Malek Harwell will redshirt after suffering a torn ACL in practice. Along with fellow freshman Paris Austin, Harwell is expected to be a key part of the Broncos’ future beyond the upcoming season.

Now, instead of competing with an experienced backcourt that includes four redshirt seniors, Harwell will work to get his knee back to full strength for the 2016-17 season.

Among the guards who will play significant minutes this season are Anthony Drmic, who took a medical redshirt last season, Montigo Alford, Mikey Thompson and grad transfer Lonnie Jackson (Boston College). Chandler Hutchison, who started in Boise State’s final 18 games of the 2014-15 season as a freshman, will also compete for playing time.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.