Viewer's Guide: Minnesota, Wisconsin look to keep winning

Xavier Johnson has been a go=to-guy for Colorado without Spencer Dinwiddie. (USATSI)
Xavier Johnson has been a go=to-guy for Colorado without Spencer Dinwiddie. (USATSI)

Weather was the story of Wednesday – until Tyler Ennis made sure the story shifted back to basketball. His 35-foot buzzer 3-pointer allowed Syracuse to remain unbeaten, although the postponement of Duke-North Carolina will still get attention. There are several games postponed on Thursday, but a couple of key conference tilts are worth watching.

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

Best game: Minnesota at No. 21 Wisconsin (9 p.m., ESPN). The pecking order in the Big Ten seemingly changes on a daily basis, and these two teams are looking to continue their weekend momentum and get some consistency in the standings. Minnesota snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over Indiana, while Wisconsin has won two in a row since losing five of six. The Gophers won the first meeting last month, when Andre Hollins was injured in the opening minute and ended up missing two games. Minnesota has to try and speed Wisconsin up, forcing turnovers and getting points when the Badgers aren’t set defensively. Moreover, the Gophers were able to use dribble penetration effectively in the first meeting; can they do it again?

Second-best game: Colorado at UCLA (9 p.m., ESPN2). It looks like the Buffaloes are back on the right track after a 1-4 stretch in the wake of Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury. They have won three in a row, although all three games were at home. Getting a win in Westwood would be huge for the profile. UCLA has lost its three Pac-12 games by a total of 13 points, but the Bruins could drop in the standings with another defeat. UCLA didn’t play all that well in the first meeting, but Colorado struggled mightily on the offensive end without Dinwiddie. Since then, Xavier Johnson has emerged as a legitimate weapon, averaging 18.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in his last five games.

Another one to watch: Arkansas at Missouri (7 p.m., ESPN). With the SEC bubble teams dropping games left and right, could one of these teams be the SEC’s third bid to the NCAA tournament? Arkansas was left for dead at 2-6 in the league, but the Razorbacks have won two in a row (including a road game!). Missouri has lost three in a row, missing big opportunities to solidify its at-large profile. The Tigers won the first meeting in Fayetteville, but they’ll need to take better care of the ball this time around. Jabari Brown will also look to get back to his hot-shooting ways of January.

Guaranteed win: Stephen F. Austin at Lamar (8:30 p.m.). Just another chance to discuss Stephen F. Austin and the job new head coach Brad Underwood has done in his first year with the Lumberjacks. Outside of the two undefeated teams, Wichita State and Syracuse, Stephen F. Austin has the nation’s next longest winning streak – at 19 games. I expect it to move to an even 20 games after taking down Lamar on the road.

Potential upset: Southern Miss at UAB (9 p.m.). UAB had its moments in the non-conference. The Blazers beat North Carolina, Nebraska and Rutgers, proving themselves as one of the more dominant rebounding teams in the country. However, they are just 3-6 in Conference USA – but don’t be surprised to see them hang with 21-3 Southern Miss on Thursday. They need to keep USM off the free-throw line and offensive glass, and I think they can.

Three things to keep an eye on:

  1. Georgia State looks to remain unbeaten in conference play as the Panthers host Texas State (7 p.m.)
  2. St. John’s has put itself on the bubble radar with six wins in seven games, including Sunday’s victory over Creighton. The Red Storm can’t slip up at Seton Hall (9 p.m., FOX Sports 1).
  3. BYU is another bubble team that needs to keep racking up wins. A road trip to Pacific is next (11 p.m., ROOT).
  4. Games postponed on Thursday:
  • Louisville at Temple
  • SMU at Rutgers
  • Charleston Southern at High Point
  • Central Connecticut State at St. Francis (N.Y.)
  • Wagner at Fairleigh Dickinson
  • LIU Brooklyn at Sacred Heart
  • Northern Kentucky at Kennesaw State
  • Lipscomb at Mercer
  • Stetson at USC Upstate
  • Western Carolina at Chattanooga 

Other games to watch:

  • Northwestern at No. 9 Michigan State (7 p.m., Big Ten Network)
  • No. 18 Creighton at Butler (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
  • Pepperdine at Gonzaga (9 p.m., ROOT)
  • Florida Atlantic at UTEP (9:05 p.m.)
  • UC Santa Barbara at Long Beach State (10 p.m., ESPN3)
  • Utah at USC (10:30 p.m., PAC-12 Network)
  • San Diego at Saint Mary’s (11 p.m., ESPNU)
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