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Today's Specials: Plenty of intrigue west of the Rockies

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
Solomon Hill (left) will have the task of slowing down UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad on Thursday night. (US Presswire)

The college basketball season continues to have strange twists and turns. Wednesday was another wacky day, as multiple ranked teams lost; we saw No. 1 go down yet again; and, of course, The Shot of the Year. Can Thursday come close to matching it? There are plenty of intriguing contests west of the Rockies in the later hours.

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

Best game: UCLA at No. 6 Arizona (9 p.m., ESPN2). It feels like only a week ago that we were talking about UCLA perhaps being the Pac-12 team with the most momentum heading into the final eight weeks of the season. Then the Bruins lost at home to Oregon, and the buzz subsided for a bit. Can they send a message on the road against the Wildcats? There are a couple of keys in this one. First, Arizona needs to limit turnovers -- letting UCLA get its transition game going would be troublesome. Secondly, can the Bruins keep Arizona off the glass? The Wildcats could dominate on the backboards. Lastly, the head-to-head matchup between Shabazz Muhammad and Solomon Hill could be decisive.

Second-best game: BYU at No. 10 Gonzaga (11 p.m., ESPN2). Any late-night Thursday game from the WCC gets special attention, and it's only a matter of time before someone takes down Gonzaga. The Bulldogs will win the regular-season title, but they have shown signs of being vulnerable in league play. However, they are looking to bounce back from a heartbreaking loss at Butler last weekend. Meanwhile, BYU has won seven of its last eight games, with the lone loss coming to Saint Mary's on a Matthew Dellavedova buzzer-beater. Brandon Davies vs. Kelly Olynyk down low could be the key.

Another one to watch: Wyoming at UNLV (9 p.m., CBS Sports). It's not a must-win for either team, but both need a win to stay in the regular-season Mountain West title hunt. New Mexico is 4-0, and both Wyoming and UNLV have two league losses. Moreover, a couple of teams need to begin separating from the top tier of the league. Wyoming, despite being without Luke Martinez, beat San Diego State by 13 over the weekend, while UNLV lost at Colorado State. Anthony Bennett needs to get back on the right track for the Runnin' Rebels, who are still too inconsistent at both ends.

Guaranteed win: This one is going out on a limb a little bit, as Saint Mary's isn't the team it was last year and San Diego is 4-1 in the West Coast Conference. However, I'm confident the Gaels will come out with an easy win over the Toreros (11 p.m., Comcast California). Saint Mary's will be able to hurt San Diego both inside and outside, and the Toreros simply don't have an answer for all the Gaels' offensive weapons.

Potential upset: California has completely fallen off the map since starting the season 6-0. The Golden Bears have lost seven of their last 11 games, including three of five in the Pac-12. On Thursday, they will play at Utah (8:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network) -- which isn't the guaranteed win that it was last year. The Utes are only 1-5 in the league, but they're playing better and just beat Washington on the road. Could they get two in a row?

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. Saturday could feature one of the better small-conference games of the season: Weber State at Montana. But both teams need to win on Thursday first, with Montana hosting Idaho State (9 p.m.) and Weber visiting Montana State (9:05 p.m.).
  2. With Duke losing on Wednesday, Michigan can move to the No. 1 spot with a couple of wins. It starts Thursday against Purdue (7 p.m., ESPN).
  3. Bryant would move to 7-0 in the Northeast Conference with a win at Sacred Heart on Thursday (7 p.m.). Simply awesome.

Other games to watch:

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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