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 at 12 p.m. ET.
Game of the Day: Baylor vs. No. 8 Kentucky (12:30 p.m. ET)
In his tenure at Kentucky, John Calipari had never lost two games in the month of November. That changed this season. The Wildcats come into their match-up with Baylor after a double-digit loss to Notre Dame on the road. They now return home to face another team that was upset in its last game, Baylor, who lost to College of Charleston last week.
This game will feature a full ensemble of talented freshman to keep an eye on. For Kentucky, Archie Goodwin needs to bounce back from a cold 1-of-7 shooting performance vs. the Fighting Irish and Alex Poythress needs more shots after just one in 23 minutes in his last outing. Baylor looks to Isaiah Austin, who has been one of the country’s best freshmen so far, averaging 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
Who’s getting upset?: No. 11 Creighton against St. Joseph’s (3:00 p.m. ET)
Creighton was upset by Boise State on Wednesday and the road gets no easier for them against St. Joe’s. I picked Phil Martelli’s squad as a mid-major that could shake things up in March, and they feature one of the most underrated backcourts in the country. Carl Jones and Langston Galloway combine to average over 30 points per game and forward Ronald Roberts is averaging a double-double so far this season.
The biggest key for the Hawks, as it is with every team that faces Creighton, is to limit the impact of Doug McDermott. If St. Joe’s center C.J. Aiken is up for the task, we might have an upset brewing in Omaha Saturday afternoon.
Mid-Major Match-Up of the Day: Virginia Commonwealth vs. Belmont (7:00 p.m. ET)
Virginia Commonwealth showed in the Battle 4 Atlantis that Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” defense allows them to hang with anyone, but they’ll have their hands full Saturday night against a tough Belmont team. Belmont already has a win over a BCS-conference school, Stanford, and will look to the combination of Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson for scoring against the Rams.
If you haven’t already acquainted yourself with VCU forward Juvonte Reddic, perhaps a 16-point, 13-rebound stat line against Duke will force an introduction. He’s averaging 15.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Don’t expect VCU to deviate from its typical gameplan: turn the opponent over and score points off their mistakes.
Five Things to Watch For:
1) Aaron Craft was just 3-of-15 from the floor in Ohio State’s loss to Duke on Wednesday. He’ll have an easier match-up Saturday against Northern Kentucky, so can he get back on track?
2) In the battle of high-level freshman between Baylor and Kentucky, who will win out? Archie Goodwin struggled against Notre Dame and how will Alex Poythress respond after getting just one shot in that game? Kentucky runs into a tough match-up with Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson in the frontcourt, plus Pierre Jackson running the show.
3) Freshman Marcus Smart has been the engine behind Oklahoma State’s early-season success. He’s averaging 13.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game for the Cowboys. They take on an undefeated Virginia Tech team Saturday.
4) Now that Michael Dixon’s career at Missouri is officially over, how will Frank Haith and the Tigers reshape their team? They’ve been able to play without him and get to 5-1 so far, but does knowing that he is definitively out actually end up bringing some stability to the rotation?
5) UCLA has been one of the most heavily criticized teams in the country so far this season. Center Josh Smith left the program this week and the team responded with a blowout win over Cal State Northridge. They face a stiffer challenge Saturday against No. 23 San Diego State.
The Rest of the Top 25:
No. 1 Indiana vs. Coppin State (7:30 p.m. ET)
No. 2 Duke vs. Delaware (2:00 p.m. ET)
No. 3 Michigan vs. Bradley (4:00 p.m. ET)
No. 4 Ohio State vs. Northern Kentucky (4:30 p.m. ET)
No. 5 Louisville vs. Illinois State (1:00 p.m. ET)
No. 8 Kentucky vs. Baylor (12:30 p.m. ET) (See Above)
No. 9 Arizona vs. Texas Tech (8:00 p.m. ET)
No. 11 Creighton vs. St. Joseph’s (3:00 p.m. ET) (See Above)
No. 12 Gonzaga vs. Pacific (8:00 p.m. ET)
No. 13 Michigan State vs. Nicholls State (12:00 p.m. ET)
No. 14 North Carolina vs. UAB (6:00 p.m. ET)
No. 15 Oklahoma State vs. Virginia Tech (2:00 p.m. ET)
No. 16 Missouri vs. Appalachian State (3:00 p.m. ET)
No. 17 Cincinnati vs. Alabama (3:00 p.m. ET)
No. 19 Colorado vs. Wyoming (10:00 p.m. ET)
No. 21 Minnesota vs. North Florida (2:00 p.m. ET)
No. 23 San Diego State vs. UCLA (10:00 p.m. ET)
No. 24 UNLV vs. Hawaii (7:00 p.m. ET)
No. 25 New Mexico vs. Indiana State (2:05 p.m. ET)
Other Notable Games:
Xavier vs. Purdue (2:15 p.m. ET)
Southern Methodist vs. Hofstra (4:00 p.m. ET)
Detroit vs. Pittsburgh (7:00 p.m. ET)