Pregame Shootaround: Two big ranked games between Utah and Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky top the Saturday schedule

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source: AP
Utah’s Delon Wright (AP Photo)

GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 13 Utah vs.. No. 10 Kansas, Sat. 3:15 p.m.

I’ll let CBT’s Rob Dauster take control for these next two games. From our weekend preview:

Kansas, as we noted Thursday, is trending in the right direction these days after an embarrassing start to their 2014-2015 season. Their last two games have been an 18-point comeback against Florida at home and a win on the road against a Georgetown team that might be the second best team in the Big East.

Next on their list? A visit from Utah — the game is in Kansas City — who is clearly the second-best team in the Pac-12 right now. The Utes are not sneaking up on anyone anymore, not after beating Wichita State at home or going into the Marriott Center and knocking off BYU. Utah starts a pair of future pros — Delon Wright and Jakob Poeltl — and has depth along its front line. It looks like the Jayhawks are finally starting to hit their stride, but they will certainly be tested by Larry Krystkowiak’s club.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 21 North Carolina at No. 1 Kentucky, Sat. 12:00 p.m.

This was a lot more intriguing before we realized that North Carolina simply does not know how to score. That said, I’m certainly not ready to write off the Tar Heels just yet. In fact, I think this is actually a fairly decent matchup for them, particularly if Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker don’t play. Roy Williams has the big bodies along his front line that can hold their own against UK’s towering platoons. The key for UNC is whether or not they actually get any kind of support for Marcus Paige from their perimeter. Good teams can take away Paige because they don’t have to be worried about Justin Jackson, Nate Britt or J.P. Tokoto.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 23 Northern Iowa at VCU, Sat. 7:00 p.m.

I’ve been trumpeting the Panthers since the preseason as a NCAA Tournament team and they’re balanced and deep enough to to give Wichita State a run for their money in the Missouri Valley. It will be interesting to see how the VCU pressure is able to get to the Panthers. Watch this one on NBCSN and online via Live Extra.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR: 

  • No. 9 Gonzaga will continue to test itself with a difficult non-conference schedule as the Zags travel to play at UCLA. We’ve already seen what Gonzaga can do against elite competition, but this is really a test to see how UCLA handles a top-ten team. A lot of talent on the floor for both teams and this could come down to how Bryce Alford is able to play against Kevin Pangos.
  • How will Michigan fare after dropping two consecutive games at home against N.J.I.T. and Eastern Michigan? The Wolverines traveling to Tuscon to face the No. 3 Arizona Wildcats will be a steep test and Michigan’s guards will need to step up and make shots for them to have a chance.
  • Nebraska has dropped two straight games and needs to regroup with a home game against Cincinnati on Saturday night. Pinnacle Bank Arena was arguably one of the toughest new home arenas in America until the Huskers lost to Creighton and Incarnate Word this week at home.
  • Two unbeatens besides Arizona and Northern Iowa join the party on Saturday as TCU and Colorado State both have home games. McNeese State is actually over .500 as they travel to play the Horned Frogs while the Rams host Arkansas Fort Smith.
  • One of the intriguing night games offers Purdue traveling to Vanderbilt. The Boilermakers have yet to play on the road this season, so this should be another interesting test for them. The Commodores could use a win over a power conference opponent.

THE TOP 25:

  • Nicholls State at No. 5 Wisconsin, 3:00 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • Texas State at No. 8 Texas, 8:00 p.m., Longhorn Network
  • No. 11 Wichita State at Detroit, 12:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Morehead State at No. 12 Ohio State, 1:00 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • No. 16 Oklahoma at Tulsa, 2:30 p.m., CBSSN
  • USC Upstate at No. 19 Maryland, 11:00 a.m., Big Ten Network
  • Florida State at No. 25 Notre Dame, 8:00 p.m., ESPN2

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES:

  • St. Bonaventure at Pittsburgh, 2:00 p.m.
  • Dayton at Arkansas, 2:00 p.m.
  • Pepperdine at Arizona State, 2:00 p.m.
  • St. Mary’s at Creighton, 2:15 p.m.
  • Xavier at Missouri, 4:00 p.m.
  • Mississippi State at Oregon State, 4:00 p.m.
  • Youngstown State at Texas A&M, 5:00 p.m.
  • Oklahoma State at Memphis, 6:00 p.m.
  • Oregon vs. Illinois, 7:00 p.m.
  • Army at USC, 10:30 p.m.