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Today's Specials: Can NC State jumpstart season (again) vs. Duke?

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
C.J. Leslie played a key role in the first upset of Duke. He needs to come up big again. (US Presswire)

Wednesday was absolutely nuts. The big story was obviously Kansas somehow losing at TCU -- the first time our “Guaranteed Win” was wrong. There were plenty of surprising results, further solidifying the “parity” narrative of this season. Thursday has a lot of favorites at home; are more upsets on the horizon?

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

Best game: NC State at No. 4 Duke (9 p.m., ESPN3). The last time these two teams played, North Carolina State jumpstarted potential ACC title talks with a win over Duke. Since then, though, the Wolfpack have lost four of six games to drop to 5-4 in the league. Duke is starting to come together after initially struggling without injured forward Ryan Kelly. Mark Gottfried's crew will have to get out and run if it wants to beat Duke -- transition points were key against the Blue Devils and North Carolina. Lorenzo Brown's absence would be huge.

Second-best game: Colorado at No. 19 Oregon (10 p.m., ESPNU). A couple of Pac-12 teams looking to get back on the right track. Colorado had a three-game winning streak snapped with a road loss at Utah over the weekend, a defeat that could really hinder the Buffaloes' at-large hopes. Meanwhile, Oregon has lost two in a row since rising to the top of the league standings. Dominic Artis is questionable for Thursday's game, and Oregon just isn't the same without him. The turnover and free-throw shooting battles will be key.

Another one to watch: No. 1 Indiana at Illinois (7 p.m., ESPN). The No. 1 spot hasn't been kind to many teams this season, so let's see how the Hoosiers fare in their first week (well, second first week). Illinois has lost six of its last seven games and is quickly falling out of the at-large field. With road games still left at Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio State, this is almost a must win for the Fighting Illini. Illinois needs to regain its 3-point shooting prowess and force turnovers.

Guaranteed win: Many of the mid-major conference leaders are playing host on Thursday, meaning several easy wins should be on the docket. Undefeated WAC leader Louisiana Tech is home against Texas-San Antonio (8 p.m.), looking to move to 11-0. No. 6 Gonzaga welcomes Pepperdine (11 p.m., ROOT), while Montana hopes to run its Big Sky winning streak to 26 games againstNorthern Colorado (9 p.m.).

Potential upset: There are a couple of games to look at for upsets on Thursday. No. 21 Missouri still hasn't regained the way it was playing back in nonconference play, despite the return of Laurence Bowers. Now, the Tigers head to Texas A&M (9 p.m., ESPN2). The Aggies have lost five of their last six, although four of those losses were by seven points or fewer. Meanwhile, Saint Mary's can't really afford any more losses if it wants an at-large bid. And the Gaels take a road trip to Santa Clara (11 p.m., ESPN2), which has won five of its last six games.

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. Heading into conference play, Belmont at Murray State (8 p.m., ESPNU) was one of the most anticipated matchups of the stretch run. Now, Murray State is struggling and Belmont has been borderline dominant.
  2. A couple of interesting Pac-12 tilts: Washington at UCLA (9 p.m., ESPN), and California at Arizona State (9:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
  3. Will anyone in the Summit League get some separation? Three teams are tied for first right now. North Dakota State visits Oakland (7 p.m.), South Dakota State trips to IPFW (7 p.m.), and Western Illinois welcomes Nebraska-Omaha (8 p.m.).

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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