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Pregame Shootaround: A trio of great ACC/Big Ten matchups highlight the night

D'Angelo Russell, Davonte Beard

AP Photo


Game of the Night: No. 14 Ohio State at No. 5 Louisville, 9:30 p.m. ET

There are two reasons why this matchup is so intriguing. For starters, Louisville and Ohio State are two of the best basketball programs in the country. Thad Matta and Rick Pitino are two of the best basketball coaches in the country. Anytime these teams square off, particularly when they’re both in the top 15, it’s must-see TV.

But the other part is that neither team is really a known quantity at this point. Ohio State beat up Marquette, but ... meh. Louisville pushed around Minnesota, but ... whatever. This will be a chance for us to really get a feel for how good these two teams -- and the two star guards, Terry Rozier and D’angelo Russell -- really are.

The Other Game of the Night: Syracuse at No. 17 Michigan, 7:30 p.m. ET

So Syracuse has hit five of their last 41 threes, according to this story, and relies on the strength of Chris McCullough and Rakeem Christmas inside. Michigan has a ton of guards with a shot at getting to the NBA, but their interior play is and will be a question mark for the rest of the season. What gives out tonight?

Who’s Getting Upset?: Stephen F. Austin at Memphis, 7:00 p.m. ET

Stephen F. Austin plays tough, half court defense. Memphis has so many issues in their back court -- including the incredible disappearance of Kedren Johnson’s basketball ability -- that it’s hard to see them putting together an NCAA tournament run. The Lumberjacks should be able to give the Tigers a fight tonight if they can handle Austin Nichols and Shaq Goodwin inside.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Denver at Wyoming, 9:00 p.m. ET

Wyoming isn’t exactly a mid-major, but this should be a good game nonetheless. Denver is always one of the best mid-major programs in the country, but Wyoming, led by Larry Nance Jr., already owns a 23-point win over Colorado in that building.

Five things to watch for

1. No. 24 Illinois at No. 15 Miami, 9:00 p.m. ET: Are either of these teams “for real”? Miami’s big win is over a depleted Florida team, while Illinois impressed us with a win over rebuilding Baylor.

2. Pitt at Indiana, 7:00 p.m. ET: What’s that, you say? Pitt is playing a non-conference road game? At a power conference school? Welcome to the ACC, fellas.

3. VCU at Illinois State, 8:00 p.m. ET: VCU just lost at Old Dominion, and while the Monarchs are probably better than Illinois State, this will still be a tough road environment against a good mid-major team.

4. UMass at LSU, 7:00 p.m. ET: LSU has really, really struggled early on this season, and UMass really needs a nice win to put on their non-conference resume. I’m not sure this will qualify as “nice” come March, however. Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin vs. Cady Lalanne will be fun, however.

5. BYU at Utah State, 9:00 p.m. ET: The hatred between the Big Three in Utah -- Utah, BYU and Utah State -- is underrated on the national rivalry scale. Will Wild Bill ever make a return trip to the Spectrum?

The Rest of the Top 25

  • Gardner Webb at No. 3 Arizona, 9:00 p.m. ET
  • UT-Arlington at No. 6 Texas, 8:00 p.m. ET
  • SE Louisiana at No. 9 Gonzaga, 9:00 p.m. ET
  • Lamar at No. 20 Iowa State, 8:00 p.m. ET


  • Niagara at St. John’s, 7:00 p.m. ET
  • Stony Brook at Cincinnati, 7:00 p.m. ET
  • Minnesota at Wake Forest, 7:00 p.m. ET
  • N.C. State at Purdue, 9:00 p.m. ET
  • Omaha at Kansas State, 9:00 p.m. ET