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Saddle Up: Trips to Kansas are no fun

Saddle Up is our semi-daily preview of the night's best basketball action. It can't wait to see its Instagram photos used on billboards.

Richmond at No. 9 Kansas, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Trivia time: Did you know the Richmond Spiders are 9-2?

I'm guessing you didn't. After Richmond's 2011 Sweet 16 run, Chris Mooney's program went through a classic rebuilding season, one that should have been much worse than it was -- the Spiders lost four starters and 74 percent of their point production and still managed to go 16-16. Five-foot-eight guard Kendall Anthony became the Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year, and Cedrick Lindsay, Darien Brothers and Derrick Williams flashed the potential to form a really intriguing offensive group.

A season later, that's exactly what has happened. Mooney's team boasts a top-20 effective field goal percentage and a top-40 offensive efficiency ranking; the Spiders hit 38.8 percent of their 3s and 52.1 percent of their 2s. Their top four offensive players -- Williams, Anthony, Brothers and Lindsay -- have thus far all posted offensive ratings above the 115 mark, which in lieu of a detailed explanation is really, really good.

The only problem with all of this? Richmond doesn't defend. Kansas does. And Tuesday night Richmond is going to play at Kansas.

It has taken the Jayhawks a little while to find their offense -- they don't shoot it from outside as well as coach Bill Self's teams usually do, and Ben McLemore has eased into his starring role -- but the Jayhawks, as usual, are one of the nation's top defenses. Plus, they're destroying people at home. In the past two games, Kansas beat Colorado 90-54 and Belmont 89-60; neither of those teams is remotely close to something you'd call bad.

So while it is nice to see Richmond get on the national dial for a night and maybe get to show off that sparkly new offensive efficiency, the Spiders still have to figure out some things on the defensive end, and Kansas is neither a team nor a venue conducive to working out the kinks.

Stanford at No. 25 NC State, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2: To the nonpartisan or uninitiated -- but we are initiated, aren't we Bruce (sorry) -- this might look like a regular old nonconference game in December. One pretty decent team travels across the country to play another pretty decent team, and hey, let me know who won that Stanford-NC State game.

In fact, this is one of the more interesting matchups of the week. Why? Because it is 100 percent strength-on-strength: Stanford's defense versus NC State's offense.

Neither team is particularly adept on the opposite side of the ball. The Wolfpack are still mediocre defensively. The Cardinal struggle to make shots.

But on offense, NC State, for all of its hiccups early in the season, is one of the more dynamic and multifaceted teams in the country. Richard Howell has been excellent on the low block. Freshman swingman T.J. Warren was born to score. Scott Wood is still making 40 percent of his 3s. If Rodney Purvis, Lorenzo Brown and (especially) C.J. Leslie were putting in slightly more efficient offensive performances, this would be one of the best four or five scoring squads in the country. As it is, the Wolfpack are already pretty good.

And Stanford is almost equally as good at stopping. The Cardinal are ranked No. 15 in defensive efficiency thus far this season, and they are at their best when challenging 2-point shots and preventing easy looks for the opponent, which is what NC State relies upon more than anything (as opposed to outside shooting, offensive rebounding or getting to the free throw line). Plus, both teams average just under 70 possessions a game. The best games of the week come later, but it's hard not to find all these similarities and matchup clashes really intriguing.

Elsewhere: UCLA hosts Long Beach State, which should be an easy win for the Bruins (but then again you just never know). … Winthrop will likely get a lashing at Ohio State as the Buckeyes warm up for Kansas this weekend. … Michigan State will play at Bowling Green, which is a quirky little road game at the Stroh Center, and also gives us a chance to hit once more with some Stroh Center rap realness. … And Miami will play at UCF, which still has enough life in it to make this one interesting.