Pregame Shootaround 1.26.13: Rotnei Clarke returns for Butler to highlight Saturday’s action
Game of the Day: No. 9 Butler vs. Temple (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Rotnei Clarke has been cleared to return to the Butler lineup after spraining his neck vs. Dayton on Jan. 12. With him back in the lineup, it sets the table for a high-level matchup between the Arkansas transfer and Temple guard Khalif Wyatt, who has carried the Owls for much of the season.
Both are capable of taking over a game in different ways. Clarke’s scrappy, free-shooting style contrasts with Wyatt’s persistent, smooth, “old school” repertoire of skills.
On the interior, Andrew Smith carries much of the load for Butler, but the Bulldogs should be aware of Temple forward Anthony Lee. In Temple’s big win over Syracuse at Madison Square Garden earlier this season, Lee fought on the inside and outmuscled Syracuse in the paint for 21 points and nine rebounds.
Who’s Getting Upset?: UCLA (-2.5) vs. Arizona State
I took Arizona State in an upset over Arizona last weekend and that didn’t work out, but the Sun Devils get another shot at a signature win this Saturday. It is already tough for the Bruins to go on the road, but news came down yesterday that they would be without forward Travis Wear due to a concussion.
Wear has been a major spark for UCLA in its recent resurgence and without him in the lineup, it puts more of the scoring burden on Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams.
Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson will be a handful for Larry Drew II, but the biggest advantage for the Sun Devils will be on the interior. With Wear out, it makes an already thin front line even thinner. UCLA will need to find a matchup for Jordan Bachynski, one of the nation’s best shot blockers and a true seven-footer around the rim. That likely means more minutes for freshman Tony Parker and David Wear.
Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: No. 15 New Mexico vs. San Diego State (4:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)
Guard Tony Snell carried New Mexico in its win over Colorado State on Wednesday, due in part because an ill Alex Kirk was neutralized by the strong interior presence of Colton Iverson for the Rams. If Kirk is in the lineup and healthy Saturday, expect him to bounce back against San Diego State. If he can work in concert with Snell and Kendall Williams, the Lobos will be in business.
Defensively, New Mexico will key in, as every team does, on San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin. His versatility and ability to score from different spots on the floor makes him dangerous. If San Diego State shoots as it did in a loss to Wyoming (29 percent), the Aztecs are going to have trouble against the Lobos.
Five Things to Watch For
1) No. 1 Duke is still without Ryan Kelly, but they’ll have something to prove after getting trounced by No. 25 Miami earlier this week. This one features a great matchup on the interior between Duke’s Mason Plumlee and Maryland’s Alex Len.
2) No. 8 Florida has been absolutely dominant in SEC play so far this season Expect that to continue Saturday, as the Gators are a 20.5-point favorite over Mississippi State.
3) After a big win over No. 1 Duke, NC State has lost two of its last three, including a two-point defeat at the hands of Wake Forest after the Wolfpack blew a 12-point halftime lead. They face tough in-state rivals North Carolina on Saturday.
4) Coach Shaka Smart did not foul when his team led by three in the closing seconds of VCU’s OT loss to Richmond on Thursday. They face a team Saturday that is hot off a big upset win, La Salle, on Saturday at home.
5) No. 5 Louisville was sloppy in its loss to Villanova this week. If they continue to miss shots and turn the ball over, Saturday vs. Georgetown will be ugly. Need we mention Georgetown’s history with messy, low-scoring games?
The Top 25
No. 1 Duke vs. Maryland (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)
No. 3 Syracuse vs. Villanova (11:0 a.m. ET, ESPNU)
No. 4 Kansas vs. Oklahoma (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
No. 5 Louisville vs. Georgetown (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
No. 6 Arizona vs. USC (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
No. 8 Florida vs. Mississippi State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
No. 9 Butler vs. Temple (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
No. 10 Gonzaga vs. San Francisco (8:00 p.m. ET, ROOT SPORTS)
No. 11 Kansas State vs. Iowa State (1:45 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 12 Minnesota vs. Wisconsin (2:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)
No. 14 Ohio State vs. Penn State (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
No. 15 New Mexico vs. San Diego State (4:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)
No. 16 Oregon vs. Washington (7:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)
No. 18 North Carolina State vs. North Carolina (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
No. 19 Virginia Commonwealth vs. La Salle (8:00 p.m. ET)
No. 20 Wichita State vs. Bradley (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 22 Missouri vs. Vanderbilt (5:00 p.m. ET, ESPU)
No. 23 Ole Miss vs. Auburn (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 24 Notre Dame vs. South Florida (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Other Notable Games
West Virginia vs. Oklahoma State (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Dartmouth vs. Harvard (2:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)
Providence vs. Marquette (2:00 p.m.ET, ESPN3)
UCLA vs. Arizona State (4:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)
LSU vs. Kentucky (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Xavier vs. St. Joseph’s (6:00 p.m. ET)
Pepperdine vs. St. Mary’s (6:00 p.m. ET)
Colorado State vs. Fresno State (10:00 p.m. ET)
BYU vs. Portland (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)