Today's Specials: Creighton heads to Lincoln for Nebraska showdown

Dylan Talley and Nebraska must slow down Creighton's perimeter shooting in order to beat the Bluejays. (US Presswire)

Wednesday was a jam-packed night of hoops, with several teams proving their hot starts were legitimate -- all capped by a last-second game-winner by Gonzaga. Thursday will be hard-pressed to match that, especially with just 13 Division-I games on the docket.

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

Best game: No. 16 Creighton at Nebraska (8 p.m., ESPN3). Nebraska is already vastly improved under Tim Miles, and the Nebraska Cornhuskers home win over USC served notice that the good start is no fluke. Creighton will be a far stiffer test. The Creighton Bluejays have bounced back since their home loss to Boise State by steamrolling Saint Joseph’s. Nebraska has defended the perimeter poorly this season, which doesn’t bode well against the shooters of Creighton. Offensively, Brandon Ubel has to produce against Doug McDermott and Gregory Echenique .

Second-best game: Long Beach State at No. 4 Syracuse (8 p.m., ESPN2). Long Beach State will be much better in a few weeks, when transfers Keala King, Tony Freeland and Edgar Garibay become eligible. On Thursday night, though, they will rely heavily on James Ennis and Mike Caffey . Meanwhile, Syracuse Orange continues to look very impressive, especially sophomore Michael Carter-Williams , who will sniff a triple-double multiple times this season. The Long Beach State 49ers sure could use Casper Ware and co.

Another one to watch: Vanderbilt at Xavier (7:30 p.m., ESPNU). This one probably won’t be close -- Vanderbilt is absolutely awful this season, as evidenced by its 17-point loss to Marist and a 10-point loss to Villanova last weekend. Sophomore Kedren Johnson has been a bright spot for the Vanderbilt Commodores . Meanwhile, Xavier is getting better and better; if not for a three-point loss to Pacific, the Xavier Musketeers would probably get some top-25 votes. Semaj Christon has been one of the best freshmen in the country.

Guaranteed win: Cincinnati stayed undefeated over the weekend when Cashmere Wright hit a baseline fadeaway at the buzzer to beat Alabama. The Cincinnati Bearcats likely won’t need a buzzer-beater to beat Little Rock Trojans (7 p.m.). With that said, UALR is going to be a threat in the Sun Belt. It’s already 2-0 in the league, and is the only team to beat SMU this season.  

Potential upset: One of the biggest pieces of news to watch Thursday will be the availability of Providence freshman Kris Dunn. He wasn’t expected to return from shoulder surgery until later this month, or perhaps January. However, if he doesn’t play, the Providence Friars are going to war with five scholarship players against Rhode Island (7 p.m.). The Rhode Island Rams are just 2-6, but Dan Hurley has them playing better lately.

Update: Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal said that Dunn will not play against Rhode Island on Thursday night.

He is very close to getting cleared after his shoulder surgery but won't play against the Rams. Look for him to suit up for a Dec. 18 game against Colgate.

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. Colleague Matt Norlander’s boy Alan Williams has been one of the more productive big men in the country so far, and he will get a chance to prove it as UC-Santa Barbara takes on San Diego State (10 p.m.)
  2. Two of the better under-the-radar players will face off when Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Alec Brown goes against Tennessee Tech and Jud Dillard (8:30 p.m.).
  3. South Dakota State star Nate Wolters missed Tuesday’s game at Minnesota with an ankle injury -- will he be back against Dakota State (8 p.m.)?
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