Solomon Hill, Chase Tapley

Pregame Shootaround 1.24.13: West Coast action heats up Thursday night

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Game of the Day: UCLA vs. No. 6 Arizona (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

In the night’s biggest game, the Bruins head down to Tucson to take on an Arizona team in a game that is crucial to UCLA’s hopes of winning the Pac-12 regular season title. Both the Bruins and the Wildcats have lost their only game against Oregon this season, and a loss on Thursday would drop them two games behind the Ducks in the league standings.

The good news for Arizona, however, is that the Wildcats match up very well with UCLA. They have the size on the wings — with Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom — to negate the advantages that Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad have grown accustomed to. Specifically, Hill should be able to take away Muhammad’s post-up game. Arizona also has the kind of size up front that can overwhelm the Bruins. What cost UCLA against Oregon was the Wears’ inability to deal with Tony Woods and Oregon’s big front line.

That said, trusting Arizona at this point in the season is not the easiest thing to do. Hopefully, we’ll be able to watc this game while listening to Bill Walton rant about whatever is it that Bill Walton rants about.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 19 VCU at Richmond (7:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)

Richmond does not matchup all that well with VCU. They turn the ball over too much, and no one in the country is as good at forcing turnovers as VCU is. They don’t rebound the ball all that well defensively, and VCU can crash the offensive glass really well. One thing that Richmond does well, however, is chase their opponents off the three-point line. The Rams love to shoot threes. If the Spiders can keep Treveon Graham and Troy Daniels from getting hot, this is a rivalry game. The kind of game where you can throw the records out the window. We’ll see what happens.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Belmont at Morehead State (7:00 p.m. ET)

Morehead State likes to press and press and press some more. They are coached by Sean Woods, who makes Frank Martin look docile and calm. Rick Byrd, on the other hand, isn’t afraid of getting up and down the floor and like to use a press as well. Bruins’ guard Ian Clark has been as hot as anyone in the country over the last two weeks, and Belmont enters this game undefeated in the OVC. Can it last?

Five Things to Watch For

1) UNLV hosts Wyoming at 9:15 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Net) tonight, after the Cowboys knocked off San Diego State on Saturday and UNLV lost to Colorado State on the road. The Pokes are trying to figure out how to play without Luke Martinez — they previously lost to Boise State and Fresno State — but the Rebels are not an easy team to beat in Vegas.

2) The WCC will provide some quality hoops on Thursday night, with a pair of games tipping off at 11:00 p.m. ET tonight. BYU visits No. 10 Gonzaga, a team that the Cougars actually matchup pretty well with. They have some size inside to matchup with with the Zags’ massive front line. St. Mary’s will also be taking on San Diego, two teams that are currently sitting at 4-1 in WCC play.

3) Colorado and Stanford are probably the two most disappointing teams in the Pac-12. Both were expected to compete for the league title; neither of them are above .500 in league play.

4) Bryant has been the nation’s biggest surprise this season, as they currently sit at 6-0 in the NEC this year. They will take on Sacred Heart tonight on the road.

5) Belmont-Morehead State isn’t the only good game tonight in the OVC. Tennessee State will be taking on Eastern Kentucky in a battle for second place in the Eastern Division.

The Top 25

  • Purdue at No. 2 Michigan (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • UCLA at No. 6 Arizona (9:00 p.m. ESPN2)
  • BYU at No. 10 Gonzaga (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • No. 19 VCU at Richmond (7:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)
  • Tennessee at No. 23 Ole Miss (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.