Thursday’s slate and what to watch


All times ET. Television guide via here.

Game of the Night: Wisconsin @ Michigan State, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

After going into Columbus and knocking off Ohio State on Saturday afternoon, Michigan State drew themselves even with Ohio State in the loss column of the Big Ten race. (OSU won on Tuesday, meaning they are currently a half-game up in the standings.) Wisconsin, on the other hand, is sitting just a game back. They also play at Ohio State later this month, meaning that the Badgers will have a golden opportunity to play their way into a share of the Big Ten regular season title. As the poet DJ Khaled once said, all they need to do is win.

That’s easier said than done, however. Michigan State hasn’t lost in the Breslin Center this season, and after losing three out of five at the end of January, Tom Izzo’s team looks like they have right the ship. Wisconsin is going to have to find a way to get scoring outside of Jordan Taylor and keep the Spartans off of the back boards if they want a chance.

Who’s getting upset?: NC State @ Duke, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

There’s not really a good-looking upset pick tonight, so I’ll go with NC State. Why not? After North Carolina knocked off Miami in Coral Gables last night, the Tar Heels moved into sole possession of first place in the ACC. Duke is sitting just a half game back, tied with Florida State. Right behind them, however, is the Wolfpack, a team that no one seems to be talking about that just keeps on winning. Mark Gottfried has done an excellent job with this team in his first season in Raleigh, but for how pretty their record is — 18-7 overall, 7-3 in the league — NC State really hasn’t beaten anyone. We’ll find out if this team is for real over the next week. After tonight, their next two games are against Florida State and North Carolina.

Mid-major matchup of the night: Lehigh @ Bucknell, 7 p.m.

Bucknell is up three games in the Patriot League standings, but they still have to play the two teams directly behind them — Lehigh and American — in their final four games. This will also feature the two best players in the conference in Mike Muscala of Bucknell and CJ McCollum of Lehigh. A win would clinch at least a share of the regular season title for Bucknell.

Be sure to keep an eye on

Virginia Tech @ Florida State, 7 p.m. (ESPN2): If Florida State truly wants to be in contention for the ACC title at the end of the season, this is the kind of game they have to win.

Vanderbilt @ Ole Miss, 9 p.m. (ESPN2): I have Vandy as the second best team in the SEC right now, which, of course, means they are going to lose to Ole Miss tonight.

West Virginia @ Pitt, 9 p.m. (ESPN): The recent struggles for both programs has put a bit of a damper on this game, but the Backyard Brawl is as intense as any rivalry in the country.

Oregon @ Cal, 10:30 p.m.: Cal needs to get this win if they want to start to open up some separation in the Pac-12 standings and give themselves a better shot at earning an at-large bid should they fail to win the league’s automatic bid.

Gonzaga @ Santa Clara, 11 p.m. (ESPN2): Over the last two games (wins over St. Mary’s and LMU), Gary Bell and Kevin Pangos, Mark Few’s freshmen back court, have combined for 126 minutes, 14 assists and just a single turnover. They have their issues defensively, but Gonzaga is actually flying a bit under-the-radar right now.

Other notable games

– Boston College @ Maryland, 9 p.m. (ESPN3)
– BYU @ San Francisco, 9 p.m.
– Arizona @ Washington State, 9 p.m.
– Arizona State @ Washington, 11 p.m.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.