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Andy Katz | Correspondent | December 14, 2017

Temple may prove to be a challenge for No. 1 Villanova, Wisconsin to navigate after losing Kobe King

Nova vs. Temple has the potential to be the toughest game the Wildcats will have had in non-conference play.

Here is what to know in college basketball for Wednesday, Dec. 13:

1. Villanova at Temple: OK, so now the Big Five gets real. Forget the fact that both teams are in Philadelphia for a moment. This is a great game, regardless of location. The Owls are a sleeper pick in the AAC to move up and finish in the top three. They have been able to win low-scoring affairs (59-55 over Wisconsin) and then a high-scoring one (81-78 over rival Saint Joseph’s) in the past week.

Shizz Alston Jr., averaged 21 points, three boards and 2.5 assists last week. This has the potential to be the toughest game Nova will have had in the non-conference and it will feel like a Big East game against Xavier or Seton Hall later this season. Add in that Nova is No. 1 in the AP poll and it will raise the roof even more at Temple. Game on.

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2. Longwood at Illinois: The Illini should win. We get that. But Illinois now limps into this game without leading scorer Leron Black (hyperextended left elbow) and their fourth-leading scorer Kipper Nichols (left foot injury). That means the Illini will have to start Aaron Jordan, who has been super off the bench, and get more production out of Mark Alstork, who hasn’t produced of late.

This game will also be a must-win, considering the Illini will be tested against New Mexico State in Chicago, Missouri in St. Louis and again against Grand Canyon before New Year’s. The restart of the Big Ten is brutal with the Illini going on the road for four of their first five games in January. Illinois has lost four of its last five heading into tonight’s game.

3. Western Kentucky at Wisconsin: Well, this is hardly the game the Badgers need after getting the news top freshman guard Kobe King is done for the year with a knee injury and starting point guard D’Mitrik Trice is out indefinitely after foot surgery. That means the Badgers are without two of their top guards and two of their top six scorers.

The Badgers, who have lost four of five, thought things had turned after winning at Penn State, but then dropped games at Temple and at home to Marquette. The Hilltoppers knocked off Purdue and SMU in the Bahamas, two wins that will age well by March. Western Kentucky scores nearly 80 points game. Wisconsin allows around 65 points a game. Yes, Western lost at Ohio, but the Hilltoppers will be a factor in the Conference USA race.

MORE: DeAndre Ayton vs. Marvin Bagley -- the great debate

4. Houston at LSU: This game probably wasn’t on the radar in the preseason, but the Cougars could end up being one of the top stories in the sport this season. Houston is off to an 8-1 start, with a convincing win over Arkansas at home. This will be a barometer for the Cougars, needing to show it can play and win on the road.

The Cougars are defending well, holding teams to 65 points a game and have multiple scorers led by Rob Gray. The Tigers, under new coach Will Wade, looked like they were on the rise after beating Michigan in Maui. But then lost badly to Notre Dame and couldn’t hang with Marquette late. Freshman guard Tremont Waters is a prolific scorer. And if the matchup occurs between Waters and Gray then it should be a good watch.

5. Grand Canyon at Boise State: The Broncos were one of the last teams left off the Power 36 earlier in the week. Boise State’s win at Oregon wasn’t a fluke: This team also beat Loyola-Chicago by 34, the same team that won at Florida.

Grand Canyon hasn’t played a strong schedule, but its two losses were to two rising teams in San Diego and St. John’s. Boise State finishes the week at SMU, which will be another barometer for where this team stands heading into the Mountain West.

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