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PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Huge night in college hoops

Virginia Virginia Tech Basketball

Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett watches from the sideline in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia Tech, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) LOCAL STATIONS OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LOCAL PRINT OUT (SALEM TIMES REGISTER; FINCASTLE HERALD; CHRISTIANSBURG NEWS MESSENGER; RADFORD NEWS JOURNAL; ROANOKE STAR SENTINEL; MANDATORY CREDIT


GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 1 Kansas at No. 11 West Virginia, 7:00 p.m.

Kansas has not lost since the second game of the season, when they took on No. 3 Michigan State in the Champions Classic in Chicago, but their winning streak will be put on the line in Morgantown tonight when they take on the Mountaineers. Press Virginia will give the Jayhawks a pretty stiff test, particularly the two-headed point guard attack of Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham. West Virginia is one of the unknowns right now. They’re ranked 11th nationally and they have just one loss on the season, but they don’t have the kind of wins that make us truly believe this is a team that can be a factor in the Final Four conversation. Tonight is a chance to do that.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 8 Miami at No. 13 Virginia, 7:00 p.m.

The Cavaliers have lost two in a row on the road in ACC play, which leaves us in a position where we have to ask whether or not this team is for real this season. I’ll have more on that after this game, but a quick primer on what I’m thinking: Virginia’s allowed 0.88 PPP on spot-up jumpers last season; that number is up to 0.99 PPP this season, which matters given how their defense is designed to force teams to, you know, shoot jumpers.

They’re also allowing 0.866 PPP in ball-screen actions this season, which is the 39th percentile nationally, as compared to 0.757 PPP last season. That is what we call the Darion Atkins effect. Here’s a look at some of their issues guarding ball-screens:

For what it’s worth, Miami is scoring 1.00 PPP in ball screen actions, which is among the best in the country, and they run ball screens on nearly a third of their offensive possessions.

(All these numbers come from Synergy.)


  1. No. 14 Kentucky will host Mississippi State and Ben Howland at 7:00 p.m., which is a game that, in theory, Kentucky should not have an issue taking care of.
  2. No. 12 Providence, who is coming off of a loss to Marquette last week, will visit Creighton, who may be the hottest team in the Big East. This should be a good game in a great environment, as there will likely be 17,000 plus at the game in Omaha.
  3. Michigan does not have Caris LeVert available which makes it less likely they’ll be able to land an upset over No. 3 Maryland in Ann Arbor tonight.
  4. UNLV will play their first game under interim head coach Todd Simon tonight as they host New Mexico.
  5. No. 17 Iowa State will look to bounce back from a loss to Baylor at home by going into Austin and knocking off a Texas team that lost to TCU over the weekend.