Pregame Shootaround: Some enticing tournaments and non-conference match-ups headline the day

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 14 VCU at Old Dominion (2:00 p.m.)

This will be the first true road game of the season for Shaka Smart’s group and they’ll face a tough test in former CAA rival Old Dominion. VCU rebounded after the loss to Villanova with a strong win over Oregon while the Monarchs are coming off of a third-place finish in the Paradise Jam. The Rams will obviously be the favorites here, but keep an eye on Old Dominion junior guard Trey Freeman. The Campbell transfer is having a great year, averaging 19.8 points per game, and he bumped that number up to 21 per game in the three games at Paradise Jam.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: Mississippi State vs. TCU (7:00 p.m.)

While not the most outwardly appealing Saturday matchup, this is actually a game of two power conference programs off to a combined 11-0 start. The Bulldogs have a strong trio in juniors Gavin Ware and Fred Thomas and senior Roquez Thomas while TCU has senior guard Kyan Anderson, one of the more underrated performers in the Big 12. These two teams probably aren’t making major waves on the way to a NCAA Tournament berth this season, but a strong win here could build more confidence heading into conference play. Who knows: maybe one of these teams surprises us and goes on to have a great season?

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR: 

  • The Barclays Center Classic will be broadcast on NBCSN on Saturday night. No. 8 Virginia and Rutgers lock horns in the battle of winners from Friday night at 9:30 p.m. while Vanderbilt and La Salle will meet before that matchup at 7:00 p.m. The Cavaliers will be the heavy favorite against a Rutgers team with a bad home loss to Saint Peter’s and the Scarlet Knights could use a strong performance here to boost their confidence going forward.
  • After losing its opening game of the season to Charleston Southern at home, Ole Miss has won four straight games, including a win on Friday night over No. 23 Creighton. Saturday should be another stiff test for the Rebels as head coach Andy Kennedy faces his former team in Cincinnati, who is off to a 5-0 start. This should also work as a measuring stick for the Bearcats, since they haven’t faced any kind of major threat so far this season.
  • UMass and Harvard is a fun regional rivalry of non-conference foes and it will be intriguing to see how the other team reacts to each other’s star players. Wesley Saunders is off to a tremendous start and he’s one of the favorites for Player of the Year honors in the Ivy League, while Harvard won’t face many big men as talented as Minutemen center Cady Lalanne.
  • Wichita State hosts a team with some talent as Tulsa comes into town. While the No. 9 Shockers will be the heavy favorite in this one, senior guard Tekele Cotton missed Wichita State’s most recent victory with a finger injury and it will be worth monitoring to see how he does against a legitimate team here.
  • Seton Hall and George Washington has a chance to be a close non-conference clash. Pirate guard Sterling Gibbs is off to a blistering start, as he already owns one 40-point performance on the year while the Colonials feature a steady balance of double-figure scorers.

THE TOP 25:

  • Nicholls State at No. 19 Michigan, 4:00 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • College of Charleston at No. 21 West Virginia, 7:30 p.m.
  • Middle Tennessee vs. No. 23 Creighton, 6:00 p.m.