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Andy Katz, Correspondent | November 17, 2017

The Daily Word: Friday, Nov. 17

Throwback Thursday: 1967-68 UCLA

What you need to know in college basketball for Friday, Nov. 17:

1. Kansas will need to be on its game against South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits are no joke. Mike Daum, a 6-9 junior forward, is on fire yet again. He’s averaging 21.3 points and 10.7 rebounds a game for South Dakota State. OK, so that’s down a tad from his sophomore year total of 25.1 points a game. Still, he’s caught the attention of Kansas coach Bill Self. Self told Thursday night, “watching him scares me to death. He can give us all kinds of problems. He can light it up.’’

The Jayhawks will likely still be without forward Billy Preston for the game due to an investigation into an on-campus car accident. Self said Thursday night there was no update on the situation. Preston hasn’t played this season. That puts even more pressure on sophomore center Udoka Azubuike. “We didn’t do a good job of getting him the ball. He’s going to have to play a lot of minutes,’’ Self said. “He can’t be as aggressive as we’d like him to be. We can’t afford for him to get three fouls in the first half until our situation is resolved.” Self said the Jayhawks will have to go small for the foreseeable future. He said don’t be surprised to see the Jayhawks go with four guards quite often. Credit Kansas, though, for always looking to play tough-out teams from one-bid conferences like the Jackrabbits out of the Summit.

2. Paul Weir returns to Las Cruces, where he coached New Mexico State, as the head coach of the rival New Mexico Lobos tonight and it should add to the intensity of the affair. Weir is playing the way he wanted to at NMSU, but couldn’t due to the lack of depth. The Lobos have scored over 100 points in the first two games, albeit against weaker competition.

UNM has made 35 3s in the first two games. The Lobos didn’t get their 35th 3-pointer until the ninth game last season. Troy Simons, who was a big-time scorer in JC last season, came off the bench to score 24 and 10 in the win over Omaha. Weir wants to force 20 turnovers a game. They forced 26 against Omaha.

3. The Gavitt Tipoff Games have delivered each and every night this week and so the pressure is on for the final one tonight between DePaul and Illinois in Champaign. Shockingly the two schools haven’t played much as in hardly at all. The last meeting was Dec. 7, 1957! Illinois leads the series 12-6.

This is a huge barometer game for both coaches. Brad Underwood is in his first season at Illinois and wants to establish himself in the state. Dave Leitao needs to show that the Blue Demons can finally make a significant move in the Big East, especially with a new on-campus arena. Neither team is expected to be an NCAA team this season, but that won’t diminish the importance of what this win could do for recruiting in the state. And having the two teams play — even if it’s forced in this series — should be something that occurs much more often.

4. Keep an eye on UT-Arlington at BYU Saturday. The Mavericks will be worthy watching throughout the season out of the Sun Belt. They have one of the best scorers in the country in Kevin Hervey, scoring 28 points in 29 minutes in the season-opening win over Loyola Marymount. BYU is coming off a true road win at Princeton, behind Elijah Bryant’s 22 points and TJ Haws' 10 in a nine-point road win. 

“They spread the floor and move the ball from side-to-side and can attack you in the pick and roll,’’ BYU coach Dave Rose told “They have a really talented two guard in Hervey. We have great balance but we’ve got to get a lot better defensively.’’ The Cougars need to continue to pick up quality non-conference wins so they are not stuck on that bubble again in late February, which has been the case as BYU tries to differentiate itself away from Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s in the WCC. The Cougars can’t always rely on whether or not it beat one of the two perennial favorites.

5. USC at Vanderbilt sneaks up on Sunday in a game that is turning into a significant situation for the Commodores. Vandy should have no shame in losing to Belmont, which just beat Middle Tennessee State.

MORE: Your complete guide for college basketball's early season tournaments and events

But the Commodores have a golden chance with the Trojans coming to Nashville after possibly getting a win tonight over Asheville. USC, ranked No. 10, would be a massive win for the Dores as its schedule grows increasingly difficult (games against Virginia, Kansas State, Middle Tennessee State and at Arizona State await). USC hasn’t disappointed so far at all with Bennie Boatwright scoring 28 points in a win over North Dakota State. USC still remains the biggest challenger to Arizona as the season starts to unfold.

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