Game of the Day: 11:00 p.m.: St. Mary’s at No. 10 Gonzaga (ESPN2)
The WCC will consistently be one of the nation’s best mid-major conferences, and it’s not just because Mark Few has turned Gonzaga into a national power. While the addition of BYU made this perennially a three-bid league, it’s the growth of the St. Mary’s program that has really turned the WCC into a two-horse race.
This season, unfortunately, that doesn’t look to be the case, as Gonzaga is slowly but surely making the statement that this is the best team Spokane has seen since — Adam Morrison? Matt Santangelo? John Stockton? Tighten up their defense, get those threes to start falling, and teach Kelly Olynyk how not to turn the ball over in the post, and we’re looking at a legitimate Final Four contender. The Gaels? As good as Matthew Dellavedova is, they simply do not have enough offensive firepower around him this year.
But with Stephen Holt healthy? In a rivalry game on national TV? Don’t count anyone out.
Who’s Getting Upset?: 7:00 p.m.: No. 4 Arizona at Oregon (ESPN2)
Arizona is one of three remaining unbeaten teams, but they’ve been a long way from dominating in those performances. And they have yet to truly be tested on the road, which should happen against an underrated Oregon team. Winning close games is a skill; Arizona isn’t simply lucky.* They’ll need that skill to be on display in Eugee tonight to beat an Oregon team that matches up with them fairly well.
* – Yes, the win over Colorado was lucky. Mark Lyons hitting his last 23 free throws in crunch time is skill.
Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: 9:00 p.m.: Weber State at Southern Utah
Southern Utah is 3-1 in the Big Sky right now. Weber State and Montana are both undefeated in league play. Will SUU truly be a contender this season, or is their record simply a by-product of the schedule they’ve played? If it’s the former, they need to beat the Wildcats at home.
Five Things to Watch For
1) No. 22 Michigan State heads to Iowa to take on the 0-2 Hawkeyes, who had the misfortune of playing Michigan and Indiana in their first two league games. Iowa has some talent on their roster. Can they pull an upset at home? (7:00 p.m., ESPN2)
2) North Carolina is coming off of a loss at Virginia, who went out last night and lost at Wake Forest. The Heels really need to get a win to get their season back on the right track. They host Miami, who is without Reggie Johnson, tonight. (7:00 p.m., ESPN)
3) The Atlantic 10 is going to be one of those leagues that provides us with action every night, and Thursday is no different. Temple takes a trip to Cincinnati to play Xavier (7:00 p.m.) while UMass and St. Louis do battle later on (9:00 p.m., CBS Sports Net). The Billikens haven’t lost since Rick Majerus passed away, but they’ll have their hands full with Chaz Williams and company.
4) Northwestern State and Oral Roberts are two of the three undefeated teams left in the Southland. They’ll face off at 8:30 p.m. tonight.
5) The best thing about Thursday nights? Late-night Pac-12 and WCC games. Beyond what’s listed above: UCLA heads to an improved Utah team. Arizona State tests their 2-0 Pac-12 mark on the road against Oregon State. USC-Colorado. Pepperdine-BYU. Santa Clara-Anthony Ireland, I mean Loyola Marymount. I’m ready.
Other Notable Games
9:00 p.m.: Kentucky at Vanderbilt (ESPN)
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.