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Today's Specials: Top-10 showdown in the Big Ten

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
If Trey Burke doesn't bounce back vs. Minnesota, Michigan could be headed for its second loss in a row. (US Presswire)

Wednesday brought another buzzer-beating 3-pointer, as well as another court-rushing (although it was a questionable decision, at best). What about Thursday? There's a top-10 matchup on the docket, and a couple of teams will also look to send messages against higher-rated foes. Moreover, several undefeated mid-major teams will be tested.

Note: All times are Eastern, and the rankings are according to the AP Poll.

Best game: No. 5 Michigan at No. 9 Minnesota (7 p.m., ESPN). A top-10 battle in the loaded Big Ten. Doesn't get much better than this. Both teams are coming off losses. Michigan dropped its first game, to Ohio State, and Minnesota's second-half comeback fell short at Indiana. The battle on the glass could be a huge key; Minnesota is the best offensive rebounding team in the country, but Michigan doesn't allow many second-chance opportunities. Expect Trey Burke to bounce back against Andre Hollins after struggling against Aaron Craft.

Second-best game: Saint Joseph's at VCU (9 p.m., CBS Sports). Two of the A-10 favorites heading into the season. VCU has established itself as a legitimate title contender while Saint Joseph's has been far too inconsistent for the amount of talent on the roster. With that said, the Hawks do have the pieces to make it a game. They need to take care of the ball, as VCU could blow them out of the water quickly. Big men C.J. Aiken and Ronald Roberts also need to be factors. They can't get into a running game with VCU.

Another one to watch: No. 10 Florida at Texas A&M (7 p.m., ESPN2). A couple of weeks ago, there was no chance this game would have been in this category. Despite a gaudy record, nobody really took Texas A&M seriously. But now the Aggies are 12-3 after a win at Kentucky, and the resume doesn't look so bad anymore. Can they pull off another upset against the Gators? Don't expect Elston Turner to score 40 points again, but A&M will have to knock down perimeter shots and also get second-chance buckets. Defensively, guard the arc.

Guaranteed win: Not surprisingly, the Big Sky has been a two-team race and will likely continue to be all season. Both Montana and Weber State sit at 6-0 in the league, and the head-to-head battle doesn't come until next weekend. On Thursday, both should easily move to 7-0, as Montana hosts Southern Utah (9:05 p.m.) and Weber State welcomes Northern Arizona (9:05 p.m.). Would love to see these two at 9-0 come Jan. 26.

Potential upset: USC fired coach Kevin O'Neill this week after a 7-10 start and surprising losses all over the schedule. However, the Trojans did win their last game by 17 points and might have a renewed sense of motivation with O'Neill gone. On Thursday, they host No. 21 Oregon (11 p.m., ESPNU), which is coming off a couple of wins over Arizona and Arizona State. USC will have to take care of the ball and limit Oregon's chances to get transition points.

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. Guess who is 14-1 and hasn't lost since Nov. 15? Utah State, which has reeled off 13 wins in a row since losing to Saint Mary's. The Bulldogs could lose at New Mexico State, though (9 p.m., ESPN3).
  2. Louisiana Tech continues to fly under the radar, but the Bulldogs are 14-3 overall and 5-0 in the WAC. They host Idaho on Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN3).
  3. Belmont expected to have some serious competition in the Ohio Valley, but not from Eastern Kentucky. As it stands, both teams are undefeated (8 p.m.).

Other games to watch:

  • North Dakota State at IUPUI (7 p.m.)
  • Duquesne at Massachusetts (7 p.m., CBS Sports)
  • Valparaiso at Detroit (7 p.m., ESPNU)
  • South Dakota State at Western Illinois (8 p.m.)
  • Northwestern at No. 23 Illinois (8:15 p.m., Big Ten Network)
  • Georgia Tech at No. 3 Duke (9 p.m., ESPN)
  • Oregon State at No. 24 UCLA (9 p.m., ESPNU)
  • SE Louisiana at Stephen F. Austin (9 p.m.)
  • No. 8 Gonzaga at Portland (10 p.m., ROOT)

For more college basketball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCBB on Twitter, subscribe to our RSS Feed and subscribe to our College Basketball Newsletter. You can follow Jeff Borzello on Twitter here: @jeffborzello

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