The big piece of TV news on this Thursday relates not to the regular season, but the postseason, as CBS and Turner have a press conference on tap to announce their plans for televising the NCAA Tournament both for this season and into the future.
Preliminary reports indicate that tip times will be spaced out, even on the Saturday and Sunday of the new Second Round, so that there will be at least 12 hours of continuous action on each of the four days. That means games won't all end at roughly the same time, meaning viewers should be able to watch the end of every game (at least).
So that's yet another sign the madness of March isn't that far away. It's hard to believe there are only 18 days left in February actually), but that fact just means there are still many regular season games to play. With so many teams still in with a chance for the final few bids, the closing weeks of the campaign are going to particularly fascinating, and frustrating, to watch.
Seven picks from the Thursday night slate after the jump.
Early Evening (ET)
HD TV: Penn St. Nittany Lions at Michigan St. Spartans, Big Ten Network (7 p.m. ET)
The Spartans look to avenge a four-point loss in State College, one that started their current 3-6 skid. That run has them on the bubble (at best) and out of the field (at worst). On the other hand, one of the biggest strikes against the Nittany Lions (besides a mediocre 12-10 mark) is their inability to win on the road, something they've done only once all season, at Indiana before the New Year! The loser of this one will slip even further down the S-curve for Bubble Watch tomorrow.
KenPom.com prediction: Spartans 67-63, 61 poss.
SD TV: Connecticut Huskies at St. John's Red Storm, ESPN/ESPN3 (7 p.m. ET)
With all of the excitement surrounding St. John's wins over Duke and Rutgers (along with Steve Lavin's anticipated, but ultimately underwhelming, return to UCLA on Saturday), it's important to note the Red Storm have only won three times in their last eight games, all at home. Defending their home court is paramount tonight, especially against a UConn team that's been teetering of late.
KenPom.com prediction: Huskies 67-65, 66 poss.
Alt. Ch.: Wright St. Raiders at Butler Bulldogs, ESPNU (7 p.m. ET)
Thanks to Cleveland State's loss at Detroit on Monday night, the Horizon race is again wide open, and the Raiders and Bulldogs are both in contention for one of the two byes to the semifinals that are on offer. Remember, Wright State was able to minimize their errors and control the tempo in the first meeting between these two in Dayton on January 16th, which allowed them to nip Butler at the end. In the other significant Horizon game of the night, Detroit hosts first-place Valparaiso (8 p.m. ET, Horizon League Network/FSN Detroit/FCS Atlantic).
KenPom.com prediction: Bulldogs 69-60, 61 poss.
Laptop: Florida St. Seminoles at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, ESPN2/ESPN3 (7 p.m. ET)
The Seminoles will look to rebound from a 20-point loss in Chapel Hill on Sunday, but the Yellow Jackets have given numerous teams trouble in Atlanta, even with less than capacity crowds now the norm at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum. FSU cannot afford another bad loss.
KenPom.com prediction: Seminoles 66-65, 72 poss.
Late Evening (ET)
HD TV: California Golden Bears Washington Huskies, FSN Northwest/FCS Pacific (9 p.m. ET)
Thanks to a sweep at the hands of the Oregon schools, the Huskies have lost three straight, a run that's cost them control of the Pac-10 race. Meanwhile, have the Golden Bears had enough time to recover from their epic triple-OT loss to Arizona on Saturday night? If they have, they have a shot to reverse Washington's 21-point win in Berkeley and send the Huskies tumbling further down the S-curve.
KenPom.com prediction: Huskies 85-71, 74 poss.
SD TV: Illinois Fighting Illini at Minnesota Golden Gophers, ESPN/ESPN3 (9 p.m. ET)
Like Penn State and Michigan State, these two are both skidding a bit--Illinois has dropped five of seven and the Gophers three in a row. However, thanks to some impressive wins out of the league, the Illini and Gophers are in better shape, win or lose, though Tubby Smith's team has the softer late season schedule. Plus, the Illini aren't the same team away from Assembly Hall, particularly in the Big Ten, as they have lost four in a row on the road.
KenPom.com prediction: Illini 70-69, 66 poss.
Laptop: Alabama Crimson Tide at Vanderbilt Commodores, ESPN2/ESPN3 (9 p.m. ET)
Thanks to Saturday's overtime win at Tennessee, Alabama continues to lead the SEC's overall standings with a 7-1 record. They face another significant test against an East contender tonight, as they visit a place where they haven't had much success, Memorial Gym.
KenPom.com prediction: Commodores 66-62, 66 poss.
Finally, a programming note, since Friday's schedule is light, I won't be posting a TV preview for that night this week; however, I will have a Saturday preview up at some point early Friday evening.
Please share your thoughts about today and tonight's action in the comments, after you sign up for a free SB Nation account, of course.