Viewer's Guide: UConn looks to slow down Cincinnati

Shabazz Napier will have to put up a monster performance from the perimeter to beat Cincinnati. (USATSI)
Shabazz Napier will have to put up a monster performance from the perimeter to beat Cincinnati. (USATSI)

Wednesday saw a couple of long winning streaks continue, as Wichita State and San Diego State both escaped with wins. We also saw a ton of overtimes and tight finishes. Thursday doesn’t have too many marquee games, but there are some intriguing mid-major tilts and some must-wins for bubble teams.

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

Best game: No. 22 Connecticut at No. 7 Cincinnati (7 p.m., ESPN). The lone game on Thursday between two top-25 teams. Connecticut sits in fifth place in the AAC despite winning three in a row – but the Huskies could use another marquee win to help seeding come March. On the other side, Cincinnati continues to roll along. The Bearcats are 10-0 in the league and have won 14 games in a row. This one will come down to how well Shabazz Napier and his backcourt mates are shooting from the perimeter. The Huskies aren’t going to be able to get anything on the interior, but they can stay in the game with the 3-ball. Defensively, they have to find ways to keep Cincinnati off the offensive glass.

Second-best game: Oregon at No. 2 Arizona (9 p.m., ESPN). At the start of conference play, this looked like one of the best conference games nationally. Now, it looks like yet another win for Arizona. The Wildcats suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday night, at California – but they also lost starting power forward Brandon Ashley for the season. It will be interesting to see how they respond. Meanwhile, Oregon badly needs to start racking up wins in the league. The Ducks have lost six of their last eight to drop to 3-6 in the conference – and the next two are on the road. If Oregon can split with the Arizona schools, it could go on a run with five of its final seven games at home. The Ducks will have to get their running game going on Thursday.

Another one to watch: Oregon State at Arizona State (11 p.m., FOX Sports 1). This needs to be the start of a big stretch for Arizona State. The Sun Devils have won three of their last four, with the lone loss coming at Stanford on Saturday. The next three games are at home, meaning Jahii Carson and co. need to take care of business. It starts on Thursday with Oregon State, which has been one the surprises of the Pac-12 so far, sitting at 5-4 after winning four of its last five games. Roberto Nelson leads a team that has enough scorers to hang with Arizona State. The Sun Devils have to protect the paint on Thursday.

Guaranteed win: Nicholls State at Stephen F. Austin (9 p.m.). Nicholls State is only two games behind Stephen F. Austin in the Southland standings, but this one shouldn’t be close. The Lumberjacks have won 28 straight home games, and are currently on a 17-game winning streak. They should move to 10-0 in the conference on Thursday.

Potential upset: Georgia State at Arkansas-Little Rock (8 p.m.). Georgia State is one of the hottest teams in the country, winning 13 in a row and sitting at 9-0 in the Sun Belt. The Panthers are basically running away with the league – but Arkansas-Little Rock could catch them on Thursday. UALR lost the first meeting by 26, but the Trojans are tough at home and could sneak out a win. Also, keep an eye on LSU’s trip to Georgia (7 p.m., ESPN2).

Three things to keep an eye on:

Two of the more consistently good mid-majors go at it for Ohio Valley supremacy, as Murray State travels to Belmont (9 p.m., ESPNU).

Whichever team the Big West produces for the NCAA tournament will be a competitive lower seed – Thursday features Long Beach State at UC Irvine (10:30 p.m.), and UC Santa Barbara at Hawaii (12 a.m.).

Adreian Payne is expected to make his return for Michigan State against Penn State (9 p.m., ESPN2).

Other games to watch:

  • Rhode Island at VCU (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
  • Temple at SMU (8 p.m., ESPNEWS)
  • Tulsa at Louisiana Tech (9 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
  • Washington at Utah (9 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
  • Santa Clara at BYU (11 p.m., ESPNU)
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