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Pregame Shootaround 12.11.12: Big 5 match-up in Philadelphia highlights Tuesday’s action

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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: St. Joseph’s vs. Villanova

There are more high-profile games, including three Top 25 teams in action, but if you’re looking for a rivalry game, this Philadelphia match-up is the best on the docket Tuesday evening.

Both members of the Big 5, St. Joe’s and Villanova had different sets of expectations for the 2012-13 season, with the Hawks loaded with talented veterans and the Wildcats rebuilding after key losses.

St. Joe’s is led by one of the most underrated backcourts in the nation, Carl Jones and Langston Galloway, as well as frontcourt pieces C.J. Aiken and Ronald Roberts, Jr. We highlighted Phil Martelli’s team a few weeks back when they traveled to take on Doug McDermott and Creighton, which ended with a surprising 29-point loss. Expect a better outing Tuesday.

Villanova relies on freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who has the raw talent, but is working to limit his turnovers. The biggest problem for coach Jay Wright and his Wildcats is offensive flow. They ranked 238th in the nation in field goal percentage, plagued by long stretches without scoring.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Boston University vs. Harvard

With a Finals Week-shortened slate of games, this one looks to be the best on the Tuesday schedule.

After losing its first five games of the season, Boston comes into this intrastate match-up against Harvard on a three-game winning streak. The Terriers have a balanced scoring attack, with four different players averaging in double figures, led by junior D.J. Irving. Keep an eye on freshman point guard Maurice Watson, Jr., who leads the team in assists with 4.9 per game.

Harvard comes into Tuesday’s game after losing to Connecticut on the road, though the Crimson hung tough in the first half. Wesley Saunders was the team’s leading scorer in that game with 14 points and continues to be the go-to guy for Tommy Amaker’s team.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 3 Michigan showed its depth and versatility in Saturday’s win over a fast-paced Arkansas team. The trio of Tim Hardaway, Jr., Glenn Robinson III, and Trey Burke should shine Tuesday night vs. Binghamton. Also, keep an eye on Mitch McGary. He has been a solid contributor off the bench all season and this is the sort of game he could put up big numbers.

2) No. 10 Illinois proved that it was a legitimate early-season threat by beating Gonzaga on Saturday and the Illini try to keep their undefeated record intact tonight vs. Norfolk State.

3) Andre Hollins leads No. 13 Minnesota against North Dakota State. It’s the teams second opponent from the Dakotas in a week, after the Gophers took care of a Nate Wolters-less South Dakota State team last Tuesday.

4) West Virginia began its season with a blowout loss to Gonzaga, then went on to lose to both Davidson and Oklahoma. Fear not, though, Mountaineer fans, because Bob Huggins has his team on a three-game winning streak. They take on Duquesne Tuesday.

5) Just because I like the backcourt combo of Malik Story and Deonte Burton, check out Nevada vs. Cal Poly Tuesday. You’ll remember, Cal Poly  beat UCLA earlier this season.

The Rest of the Top 25:

No. 3 Michigan vs. Binghamton

No. 10 Illinois vs. Norfolk State

No. 13 Minnesota vs. North Dakota State

Other Notable Games 

West Virginia vs. Duquesne

Rutgers vs. George Washington

Jackson State vs. St. Mary’s

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

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.