Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday's Pregame Beat: UCSB at Cal highlights the night, Creighton on upset watch?

Game of the night: 10:30 pm: UC-Santa Barbara @ Cal

The Gauchos are one of the best mid-major teams in the country and led by one of the best 1-2 punches in the country regardless of conference affiliation. Orlando Johnson is a potential all-american and Joe Nunnally will be a first-team all-Big West player this season. The Gauchos lost by seven at Washington and took UNLV to double over time. They are an experienced group that does not get intimidated by anyone.

That said, Cal is a team that has a lot to prove. The Pac-12 has been abysmal early in the season, so much so that arguing it isn't a top ten league nationally isn't as it sounds. Cal has contributed to that line of thinking, as they are probably the favorite to win the conference despite having lost to San Diego State and Missouri (by 39) already this season. UCSB isn't exactly a pushover, but the conference can't handle anymore questionable losses, and while that might be offensive to the Gauchos, Cal losing to them at home would be questionable.

The matchup here that is going to be the most intriguing will be Jorge Gutierrez and Orlando Johnson. Johnson is a big-time scorer, but Gutierrez is easily one of the best defenders in the country. He just held Damian Lillard of Weber State -- the nation's leading scorer -- to 4-17 shooting. I'm sure there will be quite a few NBA scouts interested in that battle.

Who's getting upset?: No. 21 Creighton

The Bluejays travel to Tulsa tonight to take on the Golden Hurricane in what should have been an intriguing battle between two mid-major powerhouses. But Tulsa has struggled thus far in the season. They don't have a point guard with Donte Medder still less than 100%, and that can be seen by their 0.7:1 assist-to-turnover ration. As a result, despite having some quality wings and a talented front court, Tulsa is just 5-6 on the season. Creighton doesn't exactly play much defense, however (164th in the country in adjusted efficiency), and they have struggled a bit on the road, losing to St. Joe's and having to come back from 17 down against SDSU. But the Bluejays can score with any team in the country, and when they are hot they don't miss. Are their shots going down tonight?

Mid-major matchup of the night: 7:00 pm: Belmont @ Marshall

This may be the last chance for the Bruins, the mid-major darlings for the 2012 season, to land a much-needed marquee win. Belmont is clearly the class of the Atlantic Sun, but anything can happen in a tournament. If Belmont wants some insurance against getting upset in the country tournament, they need to start stockpiling some wins. This will be their last chance at a big road win. With the struggles that Memphis has had this season, Marshall may actually be the best team in Conference USA. Can Belmont hang?

The rest of the top 25:

7:00 pm: UNC-Greensboro @ No. 5 Duke: UNCG just lost their head coach and hired Wes Miller on an interim basis. What a way to start a tenure.

7:00 pm: Nicholls State @ No. 6 UNC: Nicholls State is coming off of a 53 point loss to Texas. Now they get UNC. Can the Heels hit 120?

8:00 pm: Paul Quinn @ No. 7 Baylor: Paul Quinn?

9:00 pm: No. 10 Marquette @ LSU: LSU has won four in a row and six of their last seven games, knocking off Rutgers, Georgia Tech and Boise State in the process. Marquette is on a different level, however. This will be a good test for us to see where Trent Johnson has this Tiger program.

9:00 pm: Davidson @ No. 11 Kansas: Davidson doesn't have Stephen Curry this year, but they are still a solid basketball team. Kansas will be getting Tyshawn Taylor back in this one.

7:00 pm: Mississippi Valley State @ No. 12 Florida: Will the Gators ever become a team that knows how to get their big man the ball consistently?

6:30 pm: Howard @ No. 18 Indiana: The Hoosiers are still undefeated. Who saw that coming?

8:30 pm: UMKC @ No. 20 Michigan State: The Spartans are starting to hit their stride. With every game, this looks more and more like a typical Tom Izzo team.

10:00 pm: Louisiana-Monroe @ No. 23 UNLV: The Rebels finally get a cupcake (ULM is 1-10) after playing a very, very tough schedule.

8:00 pm: Cornell @ No. 24 Illinois: The Illini suffered their first loss of the season over the weekend to UNLV. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back.

Be sure to keep an eye on:

7:00 pm: Lipscomb @ Memphis: The Tigers are not the team that we expected coming into the season. They appear apathetic at times, struggling to exert a consistent effort level. When they do, they are a tough team to beat because of the amount of talent on their roster. What happens when they play a team they are supposed to beat?

8:00 pm: Wyoming @ Denver: Wyoming and Denver are both semi-unknowns at this point in the season. Gaudy records, less-than-gaudy schedules.

Other notable games:

- 7:00 pm: La Salle @ Delaware
- 7:00 pm: Cleveland State @ South Florida
- 7:00 pm: Coastal Carolina @ East Carolina
- 7:00 pm: Tennessee Tech @ West Virginia
- 7:00 pm: North Florida @ Virginia Tech
- 8:00 pm: Longwood @ Vanderbilt
- 9:00 pm: Temple @ Rice
- 10:00 pm: Southern Miss @ Arizona State
- 10:00 pm: Bethune-Cookman @ Stanford

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