What to know in college basketball for Thursday, Feb. 8:
Game of the night
Duke at North Carolina, 8 p.m., ET, ESPN: The Blue Devils have to play well — and that means defend on the ball — after getting shredded by Shamorie Ponds and St. John’s last week. North Carolina will need to be offensively sharp, but the opportunities will be there. Joel Berry II has thrived in big games. Duke has the inside edge, but the Blue Devils haven’t been able to simply outscore teams or outpower them. Neither team is playing to win the ACC regular-season title anymore; this is more about getting ready for March and a run to San Antonio. But this game never disappoints.
Lock in on these four
UCLA at Arizona, 10 p.m., ESPN: This is the only meeting between these two teams and that’s a shame for the Bruins. UCLA needed more quality games in the Pac-12 that could help the resume. Not getting the Wildcats at Pauley hurts UCLA. Expect Arizona to be fired up after losing at the buzzer to Washington last weekend. McKale should be rocking for this one.
USC at Arizona State, 11 p.m., ET, ESPN2: The Sun Devils desperately need to sweep a home series. Enough of this win one, lose one, lose one, win one. They need to get back to being who they were in the non-conference. The Trojans are trying to fight off Washington for second in the Pac-12. There are big-time players in this game when they’re on: Bennie Boatwright for USC and Tra Holder for ASU.
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SMU at Houston, 9 p.m., ET, ESPN2: The Cougars have an all-AAC stud in Rob Gray and the Mustangs are beat up. Houston is trying to keep pace with Wichita State for second place in the AAC. Catching Cincinnati is probably out of the question. SMU needs a few more quality wins to help its cause. Winning at Houston would suffice.