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Western-Dominated Thursday Preview - 29 January

Well, I've made my decision. I'm flying down to Florida tomorrow to spend a week. It looks like I'll be able to check out at least one game in person, hopefully two. The definite is Houston at UCF on Wednesday, February 4. The night before, I hope to be able to get in the O'Dome to see the Gators play South Carolina.

Now that we've made it through another unbelievable Wednesday, and believe me the Super Bowl Sunday bracket will reflect this, it's time to look at what Thursday has to offer. The Mountain and Pacific time zones feature the bulk of tonight's games of interest. That means it's their turn to get into the mayhem.

Clemson @ Virginia Tech (ESPN, 7 EST) - Now that Duke has dropped its first ACC game, the Blue Devils are tied in the loss column with Wake and, um...Virginia Tech? Don't look now, but the Hokies have a fairly favorable schedule between their two meetings with the Tigers (at BC, NC State and Georgia Tech in Blacksburg, at Maryland and Virginia, and Florida State at home). They won't win all of those games, but they'll have a great chance in each of them. Clemson, meanwhile, plays a similar slate, with the exception of a home date with Duke next Wednesday. It's possible, especially with the way Georgetown, Notre Dame, and Syracuse have slipped over the past couple of weeks, that the ACC could surge past the Big East in the terms of protected seeds if Clemson and Va. Tech keep it up.

Washington @ Arizona (FSN/Selected Comcast Sports Network stations, 8:30 EST) - The Huskies are rising, thanks to Jon Brockman and Isaiah Thomas. They look to stay perfect on the road in the Pac-10, while the Wildcats need a big win to prove that they're even bubble worthy at the moment.

Illinois @ Minnesota (Big Ten 9 EST) - The Illini picked up two big wins at Assembly Hall last week. (OK, maybe Wisconsin isn't THAT big of a win at the moment.) The Gophers are on a bit of a slide right now, losing two straight before barely winning at Bloomington's Assembly Hall on Sunday. Minnesota needs this with road games against Michigan State and Ohio State next on the schedule.

Nevada @ Utah State (CSN California/Full Court, 9 EST) - The Aggies lead the Wolf Pack by a game in the loss column in the WAC. Nevada's problem is that their overall profile isn't quite worthy of at-large consideration. They'll need to win the conference tournament, which they'll host to get in the Dance. Stealing a win in Logan would help them immensely in that department, but with Utah State having won 14 straight, it will be a difficult task.

California @ UCLA (FSN/Selected Comcast Sports Network stations, 10:30 EST) - Before last week's action started, people were talking about this being for the Pac-1o lead. Then, the Sturdy Golden Bears lost to a suddenly competitive Oregon State team and the Bruins lost to Washington to give the Huskies pole position. This one will be a good test of the resiliency of these two teams. Tonight's winner could be alone in second in the league, depending on what happens between Washington State and Arizona State (also 5-2) in Tempe.

Stanford @ USC (Prime Ticket/FCS Pacific, 10:30 EST) - Two teams firmly entrenched on the bubble meet at the Galen Center. The Cardinal really wasn't supposed to be here, and the Trojans should be better. Stanford, like their cross-Bay rivals, are coming off a loss to Oregon State. USC can be proud of the way they eeked one out in Pullman Saturday and played tough in Seattle on Saturday. Both teams don't catch a break when they switch partners on Saturday.

St. Mary's @ Gonzaga (ESPN2, 11 EST) - This matchup takes on extra importance this season, as the WCC moves its tournament to a neutral site (Las Vegas). Seeding will be more important than it usually is, especially when you consider how home teams have been sneakily good in recent on-campus editions. The Zag's big non-conference wins are losing their pop, while St. Mary's biggest win out of the league (Providence in the Anaheim Classic) is looking better and better.