Viewer's Guide: Look west of the Rockies for best games

Freshman forward Aaron Gordon is averaging 13.5 points and 10.0 boards so far for Arizona. (USATSI)
Freshman forward Aaron Gordon is averaging 13.5 points and 10 boards so far for Arizona. (USATSI)

After a quiet Wednesday, things pick up a little more on Thursday. There are a few ranked teams in action, plus several interesting head-to-head battles. Moreover, some teams that have struggled to open the season are looking to bounce back and get some momentum.  

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

Best game: No. 6 Arizona at San Diego State (10:05 p.m., CBS Sports Network). This should be a good one (and would be even better next season, when San Diego State brings in a big-time recruiting class). The Aztecs lose a lot from last season, but Steve Fisher has plenty of depth and a legitimate go-to-guy inside in Tulane transfer Josh Davis. Arizona looked much better against Long Beach State than it did against Cal Poly, and the frontcourt trio of Brandon Ashley, Aaron Gordon and Kaleb Tarczewski has worked out fine.

Second-best game: North Dakota State at Saint Mary’s (11:30 p.m.). Two non-power conference teams looking to get a quality win early in the season. North Dakota State is the Summit League favorites, with Taylor Braun and a host of other players returning from last season. Saint Mary’s has been impressive so far, beating Akron and Louisiana Tech by a combined 35 points. Brad Waldow has been great inside, and Stephen Holt has done his best Matthew Dellavedova impression.

Another one to watch: Northwestern at Stanford (11 p.m., ESPNU). Stanford hasn’t looked like an NCAA tournament team through two games, escaping against Bucknell and then losing at home to BYU. Can the Cardinal get on the right track against Northwestern? Chris Collins won his first game as head coach against Eastern Illinois, with Drew Crawford going for 25 points and 11 boards. The Wildcats have to knock down outside shots.

Guaranteed win: There are a couple of no-brainers out there on Thursday night. No. 13 Memphis opens it season against Austin Peay at home (8 p.m., ESPN3), but it will be interesting to see how Josh Pastner uses his rotation. There are four perimeter players worth starting, and a slew of freshman frontcourt players working for minutes. Meanwhile, Iowa should cruise by Maryland Eastern Shore (7 p.m., Big Ten Network). Aaron White is averaging a double-double through two games.

Potential upset: Boston College was expected to make a jump in the ACC this season, but the Eagles have dropped their opening two games to Providence and Massachusetts. Getting their first win of the season won’t be a cakewalk, either, as Toledo (7 p.m., ESPN3) could be the favorites in the Mid-American Conference this season. J.D. Weatherspoon and Justin Drummond are impact transfers, and Rian Pearson and Julius Brown are back.

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. No. 19 Connecticut looks to move to 3-0 when it hosts Detroit (7 p.m., ESPN3). The Huskies struggled against Yale on Monday.
  2. Towson is one of the best mid-majors in the country this season, and the Tigers can get a decent win against Temple (7:30 p.m., NBC Sports).
  3. Is UC Irvine the Big West favorite? The Anteaters can make a statement at Washington (11 p.m., Pac-12 Network).

Other games to watch:

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