Pregame Shootaround: No. 10 Utah, No. 21 Washington in action

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 21 Washington at California, 10:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

Pac-12 play begins on Friday, and in Berkeley two of the best point guards in the country will be on display with Nigel Williams-Goss leading the Huskies and the versatile Tyrone Wallace at the point for Cuonzo Martin’s Golden Bears. Williams-Goss and Andrew Andrews have led the way for the 11-1 Huskies on the perimeter, but the most notable difference from last season to this for Washington has been their front court. Washington’s deeper, with the addition of Fresno State transfer Robert Upshaw giving them the rim protector they didn’t have last year, and both Upshaw and Shawn Kemp Jr. are averaging double figures offensively. Cal doesn’t have as much size or depth in the post, with senior David Kravish being their primary option, so the play in the post could determine the outcome.

WHO’S ON UPSET ALERT?: UTEP (at North Texas, 8:00 p.m.)

The Mines have played some solid opponents this season, taking both No. 8 Arizona and No. 21 Washington down to the wire before dropping both games. That being said, tonight’s game at North Texas could be more dangerous than the nine-point spread would indicate. Tony Benford’s team is 6-2 at home this season, UTEP has lost both of its true road games this season, and North Texas has limited teams to 38.5% shooting from the field. The key for North Texas: slow down Vince Hunter. The sophomore forward’s averaging 16.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game for the Miners, who are one of the early favorites in Conference USA.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

1. No. 10 Utah opens conference play at home, with a young USC team visiting Salt Lake City. Jordan Loveridge is back in the rotation for the Utes after missing seven games with a knee injury, and he gives Larry Krystkowiak another talented piece to utilize.

2. Also in the Pac-12, UCLA visits Colorado in a pivotal game for two teams that are in need of a quality win. Consistency’s been an issue for both teams, and that’s something that clearly needs addressing if either team is to factor into the conference race.

3. Conference play resumes in the MAAC, and a pair of 2-0 teams face off in Buffalo as Monmouth takes on Canisius. The Golden Griffins are shooting just 38.5% from the field this season, but Jim Baron’s team has forced nearly 16 turnovers per game and they’re off to a 7-5 start.

4. Four Horizon League games are on the schedule, with 13-2 Valparaiso visiting an Oakland team that’s played a tough non-conference schedule to prepare for league play. Valpo’s Alec Peters (19.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg) may be Green Bay guard Keifer Sykes’ biggest threat for Horizon League Player of the Year.

5. Florida State’s won four straight games since being blown out at Notre Dame in their ACC opener, and they’ll look to make it five straight with a win at Mississippi State. Montay Brandon, who scored 17 points in the Seminoles’ wild win over Florida, has scored 17 points in each of the last two games.

OTHER GAMES OF NOTE

  • Washington State at Stanford, 3:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
  • Siena at Fairfield, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • North Florida at Alabama, 7:00 p.m. (SEC Network+)
  • Oral Roberts at North Dakota State, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Vermont at UCSB, 10:00 p.m. (Big West TV)