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. 8 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Illinois
The Big Ten is arguably the nation’s toughest conference and Saturday’s Ohio State-Illinois matchup is proof. Deshaun Thomas has been one of the nation’s best forwards (19.9 points per game) and will face off against another elite scorer in the conference, Brandon Paul (18.8 points per game).
Paul, along with D.J. Richardson and Tracy Abrams, comprise a trio that will provide much of the scoring for the Illini. Look for Aaron Craft’s defensive intensity to be key in limiting the impact of these three.
Ohio State will need to be cognizant of what Ohio State can do on the backboards and limit the impact of the Buckeyes’ platoon of rebounders. If the discrepancy on the boards is big, Ohio State will have the advantage.
Who’s Getting Upset?: Marquette against Georgetown
Believe it or not, Marquette is favored by three points against No. 15 Georgetown. That is likely because the Hoyas have to travel to Milwaukee Saturday, but they should have the advantage. Otto Porter does so many different things and Marquette will have to find an answer for him, along with guard Markel Starks and forward Greg Whittington. The Hoyas have been inconsistent offensively this season, and against a tougher Marquette defense, are hoping to have the type of scoring output that we saw when the Hoyas visited Brooklyn in November.
Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Lehigh vs. Virginia Commonwealth (5:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)
C.J. McCollum turned down a chance to enter the NBA draft and returned to Lehigh. He made the right choice. His 25.7 points per game rank him among the nation’s best and he has the Mountain Hawks off to a 9-3 start. Saturday, though, McCollum and Lehigh face one of their toughest challenges of the season against coach Shaka Smart and his patented “Havoc” defense.
“Havoc” seeks to speed the opponent up, force turnovers, and get VCU out in transition. Lehigh will have to limit its turnovers if it wants to keep this one close, though they are accustomed to playing at a quicker pace. Both teams average close to or more than 80 points per game, so expect a lot of points on Saturday.
Lehigh will need to keep tabs on VCU guard Troy Daniels, who is averaging 25 points per game in his last three contests, which includes 27-of-49 shooting from three-point range over that stretch.
Five Things to Watch
1) No. 1 Duke survived a first half push from Santa Clara at home last Saturday to remain undefeated. They now welcome Wake Forest to Cameron Indoor to open ACC play. Seth Curry was key vs. Santa Clara, but struggled in his last time out on Jan. 2 vs. Davidson. He’ll be looking to bounce back.
2) Speaking of Santa Clara, Kevin Foster and the Broncos face No. 10 Gonzaga at home. The Broncos put together a very good first half against Duke on the road at Cameron Indoor before the New Year, but weren’t able to close it out. Can they change their fortunes Saturday?
3) Freshman Marcus Smart has been filling up stat sheets for No. 22 Oklahoma State this season and been one of the most effective all-around point guards in the country. The backcourt matchup between him and Wildcats’ PG Angel Rodriguez will be one to keep an eye on as Big 12 play opens.
4) No. 14 Cincinnati rebounded from its first loss of the season with a win over Pittsburgh to open Big East play. They welcome St. John’s on Saturday, a young team with an elite scorer in D’Angelo Harrison. The Bearcats have a chance to own the backboards, which could be the biggest key to victory.
5) Indiana State opened some eyes with a solid run at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii over the Christmas holiday, but they face their toughest Missouri Valley opponent on Saturday, Creighton. Doug McDermott & Co. look to improve to 3-0 in the conference and 14-1 overall.
Top 25 Games
No. 1 Duke vs. Wake Forest (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
No. 3 Arizona vs. Utah (5:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)
No. 8 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Illinois (2:15 ET, Big Ten Network)
No. 10 Gonzaga vs. Santa Clara (8:00 p.m. ET, ROOT Sports)
No. 12 Missouri vs. Bucknell (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 14 Cincinnati vs. St. John’s (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
No. 15 Georgetown vs. Marquette (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 16 Creighton vs. Indiana State (3:05 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 17 Butler vs. New Orleans (2:00 p.m. ET)
No. 18 Michigan State vs. Purdue (12:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
No. 21 Notre Dame vs. Seton Hall (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 22 Oklahoma State vs. No. 25 Kansas State (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 23 NC State vs. Boston College (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
No. 24 Pittsburgh vs. Rutgers (11:00 a.m. ET, ESPN2)
Other Notable Games
Virginia Tech vs. Maryland (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Texas vs. Baylor (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Miami vs. Georgia Tech (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Stanford vs. UCLA (3:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)
Florida State vs. Clemson (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Washington vs. Washington State (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Cal vs. USC (11:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)