Pregame Shootaround: A tremendous day of hoops filled with intriguing top-25 battles

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 15 Oklahoma vs. No. 16 Washington, 9:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s weekend preview:

Oklahoma looks like they’re going to be one of the top four teams in the Big 12, a sleeper to win the league. And Washington? They look like they are the third-best team in the Pac-12 right now, sliding in right behind Utah as Arizona’s main challenger in the conference.

But here’s the thing: I’m not anyone really knows just how good these two teams are. The Huskies are the bigger question mark at this point. Nigel Williams-Goss is the real deal, and the nation’s best shot-blocker Robert Upshaw is one of the five most valuable players in the country, but if the Huskies are a borderline NIT team without a guy that plays 18 minutes a game and struggles to hit free throws, just how good are they? And Oklahoma? Their starting five can matchup with anyone, particularly with the way that TaShawn Thomas has played of late and how well Ryan Spangler is shooting. But they don’t have much depth at all.

By 11:00 p.m. on Saturday night, we should have a much better idea about both of these teams.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 12 Ohio State vs. No. 24 North Carolina, 1:00 p.m.

So what’s going on with North Carolina this season? What about Marcus Paige? Why is he struggling so much, and what is going to happen when he is forced to deal with a defender as good as Shannon Scott is? That should be a major concern for Tar Heels fans heading into Saturday. The good news? North Carolina should be downright abusive to the Buckeye front line.

UPSET WATCH: No. 4 Louisville at Western Kentucky, 12:00 p.m.

It’s not that Western Kentucky is off to a roaring start, but they have some talent and Louisville is coming off of a very sluggish game against UNC-Wilmington. When Montrezl Harrell is calling other players selfish, it’s never a good sign. Will the Cardinals be on the same page on the road against an in-state opponent that would love nothing more than to upset them?

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR: 

  • Kentucky will face a talented UCLA team at a neutral site as the two storied programs clash in Chicago in the second game of a doubleheader. This game is definitely bigger for the Bruins, as they have to prove they can hang with major competition.
  • Syracuse travels to Philly to face No. 7 Villanova in a battle of former Big East foes. This was an intriguing game of unbeatens last season as the Wildcats jumped out to a 25-7 lead before quickly faltering and ultimately falling 78-62. Villanova is undefeated again entering this contest this season and they’d love some revenge while the Orange could use a quality road win.
  • A fun late game on the West Coast as No. 14 Utah trips to Vegas to face UNLV. The Utes will rely on the deadly pick-and-roll combination of Delon Wright and Jakob Poeltl while the Runnin’ Rebels will counter with a talented team that includes freshmen Rashad Vaughn and Goodluck Okonoboh.
  • Two fun in-state doubleheaders will take place in the Midwest on Saturday. Indiana has the four-team Crossroads Classic, which features Indiana vs. No. 23 Butler and Purdue vs. No. 21 Notre Dame while Iowa has a four-team event of its own as No. 13 Iowa State faces Drake and Iowa faces a very tough Northern Iowa team.
  • The Gotham Classic in New York has a good headlining battle as N.C. State battles No. 22 West Virginia. The Wolfpack could use a win over a ranked opponent while the Mountaineers will look to continue their strong start with their relentless defensive pressure.

THE TOP 25:

  • Cal Poly at No. 8 Gonzaga, 10:00 p.m.
  • Long Beach State at No. 9 Texas, 8:00 p.m.
  • Lafayette at No. 10 Kansas, 3:00 p.m.
  • Ball State at No. 19 San Diego State, 10:00 p.m.
  • Texas Southern at No. 25 Michigan State, 5:00 p.m.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES:

  • VCU at Cincinnati, 12:00 p.m.
  • SMU at Michigan, 12:00 p.m.
  • Charlotte at Georgetown, 12:00 p.m.
  • UMass at Providence, 1:00 p.m.
  • South Florida at Florida State, 2:00 p.m.
  • Vanderbilt at Georgia Tech, 2:00 p.m.
  • Missouri vs. Illinois, 2:00 p.m.
  • Illinois State at Murray State, 4:00 p.m.
  • Wake Forest at Florida, 5:00 p.m.
  • Xavier at Auburn, 6:00 p.m.
  • Texas A&M at Kansas State, 7:00 p.m.
  • Stanford at BYU, 11:00 p.m.