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Andy Katz | Correspondent | December 20, 2017

Michael Porter Jr.'s health, Providence's need for marquee win

  Providence has the opportunity for a marquee non-conference win on Wednesday against Houston.

Here is what you need to know for Wednesday, Dec. 20:

1. Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin was a guest on the podcast March Madness 365. He discussed the status of injured freshman Michael Porter Jr., who had surgery on his back last month: “Right now he’s starting his rehab. He’s walking around. He’s never been in a situation where he couldn’t walk. He looks good. Not playing. Nothing with the team. No one on one. Maybe he’s getting shots up on his own. But nothing in terms of activity with the team right now.’’

The full podcast will be available Thursday.

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2. Houston vs. Providence at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, comes at a time when the Friars desperately need something positive. They're yearning for a resume win after a road loss at UMass. This is the last chance for a marquee non-conference win before the start of Big East play. Providence whiffed on games against Minnesota at home and at Rhode Island.

This should be a home-away-from-home game for the Friars. Houston is a week off from losing at LSU, a missed opportunity for a true non-conference road win. The Cougars are averaging 82.2 points a game and shooting nearly 50 percent. Both teams play very, very hard. Expect this to be a physical game.

3. St. John’s vs. Saint Joseph’s at the Mohegan Sun is the undercard but shouldn’t be dismissed. Sure, the Hawks are beat up, but they can still cause issues. But they haven’t been defending the way Phil Martelli teams usually lock down. The Red Storm are looking the best they have under Chris Mullin in his short tenure. Big East play starts in a week and the Red Storm are no longer a countable win for opponents. St. John’s will be a tough out and a factor for a postseason bid. This will be good national pop for St. John’s Shamorie Ponds, who is nearly averaging 20 points a game.

4. Kansas State at Washington State could be another huge win for the Big 12. The Wildcats won at Vanderbilt, but the Commodores may not be a factor in the SEC. Still, it’s a road win. Take down Wazzu in Spokane and it will be another pop for the Big 12's power rating. Washington State, which won the Wooden Legacy over San Diego State, lost the ensuing three games after winning that tournament. A victory over IUPUI stopped the bleeding. So there is a sense of urgency for the Cougars to build some momentum heading into the Pac-12.

5. Central Arkansas at Oregon will be interesting to watch: The Bears won at Cal 96-69 and lost to UCLA 106-101. They can score and would pull off a rare double if they can beat two Pac-12 teams on the road. And even then that wouldn’t guarantee anything for a bid out of the Southland. They still have to win the automatic qualification. Oregon has won four in a row since the buzzer-beating loss to Boise State.

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