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Pregame Shootaround 12.16.12: No. 10 Illinois faces undefeated Eastern Kentucky

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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: No. 10 Illinois vs. Eastern Kentucky

Illinois showed that it had some legitimate staying power with last week’s 85-74 win on the road over Gonzaga. Guard Brandon Paul launched himself into the early conversation for Player of the Year and John Groce proved that he can make his inherited group of players a threat in the Big Ten.

They now face a 9-0 Eastern Kentucky team that makes for an unlikely match-up of undefeated teams. The Colonels have yet to meet a BCS team this season, but bring a high-scoring and highly efficient team to Champaign on Sunday.

The Illini aren’t a particularly dominant rebounding team, but should have the advantage against a team ranked 342nd in the country in that department. Guard Glenn Cosey (17.7 points per game) is Eastern Kentucky’s biggest asset in the backcourt. He matches up with Illinois’ biggest offering, the backcourt of Paul, D.J. Richardson, and Tracy Abrams.

Who’s Getting Upset? Villanova against Delaware

Delaware has had one of the toughest schedules in the country for a mid-major so far this year, having lost to Kansas State, Pittsburgh, Temple, and Duke. Against young Ryan Arcidiacono and Villanova, the scoring of Delaware guard Devon Saddler (20.7 points per game) and rebounding of forward Jamelle Hagins (12.5 rebounds per game) might be too much for the Wildcats. Look for the Blue Hens to give ‘Nova a game Sunday.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Western Kentucky vs. Murray State (3:00 p.m. ET)

With Isaiah Canaan in the national spotlight, the Racers (7-1) welcome Western Kentucky (8-2). WKU might be overmatched against Canaan (21.7 points per game) and Ed Daniel (17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds per game), but it should be a quality mid-major match-up.

The Hilltoppers are a Top 30 team in the country on the backboards, helping to make up for their deficiencies from the floor (43.7 percent). T.J. Price and Jamal Cook will be the focal points Sunday, together averaging over 32 points per game.

Five Things to Watch

1. Marcus Smart is coming off a slow 2-of-8 game against Missouri State, including 0-of-4 from three-point range last week. With time off for finals to regroup, we’ll see if the impact freshman can bounce back vs. Central Arkansas.

2. Drexel has been one of the mid-major underachievers so far this season, but a match-up with Fairfield could help get them back on track.

3. Illinois State’s high-powered offense meets Morgan State Sunday. Jackie Carmichael has momentum after a 24-point, 6-block performance against Western Michigan least week.

4. Villanova got a key confidence-boosting win over St. Joe’s this week, but runs into a battle-hardened Delaware team. Maurice Sutton had nine rebounds against the Hawks and he will have his hands full with Jamelle Hagins down low.

5. Quinnipiac ran Connecticut to the wire earlier in the season and takes on Boston University today in Massachusetts. They scored just 46 points in a loss to Vermont in their last time out and hope to reach closer to their average of 67 points per game.

Rest of the Top 25

No. 10 Illinois vs. Eastern Kentucky

No. 24 Oklahoma State vs. Central Arkansas

Other Notable Games

UAB vs. Rutgers

Delaware vs. Villanova

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

BUBBLE BANTER: All of the action on the fringe of the NCAA tournament

Fred VanVleet
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Tonight’s bubble action. This post will be updated as the games are completed.

Cincinnati at UCF, 7:00 p.m.
Pitt at No. 12 Miami, 7:00 p.m.
No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.
Ole Miss at Florida, 9:00 p.m.
Georgia at No. 22 Kentucky, 9:00 p.m.
Arkansas at Mississippi State, 9:00 p.m.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: A Big 12 and a Big Ten showdown

Denzel Valentine
(AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.

The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.

We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
  2. Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
  3. Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
  4. Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
  5. No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
  • No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.