Here's everything to know about the college basketball games ahead on Thursday, Feb. 22:
Game of the night
UCLA at Utah, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN: The Utes are my sleeper pick to get into the field. Utah has wins at Arizona State, swept the Oregon schools on the road, and got a sweep last week in the state of Washington. Road wins matter more! The Utes are 2-7 in Quadrant 1 and 3-1 in Quadrant 2, with an RPI of 49. They finish with three home games — UCLA, USC and Colorado. Win out and get a win in Las Vegas at the Pac-12 tournament and the Utes will be in the field -- book it. Utah didn’t show well the first time at either UCLA or USC, but they have turned the narrative on the season. UCLA, though, is also on a bit of a roll behind Aaron Holiday. He’s averaging 19.4 points and 5.7 assists in 27 games. Bill Walton was the last one to average 19 and five in a full season at UCLA — in 1973-74. UCLA has won six of seven, including a stunning win at Arizona. UCLA should be good to go with 5-7 in combined Q1 and Q2 wins.
What’s at stake
Washington at Stanford, 9 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network: Washington can’t afford to fall flat on this trip to the Bay Area. The Huskies lost three in a row after sweeping the Arizona schools at home. The win over Colorado stopped the skid but Huskies must finish strong to earn a bid.
Gonzaga at San Diego, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2: The Zags are rolling. They are playing top 10 well, winning nine in a row. They'll finish on the road at San Diego and then at BYU before the WCC tournament in Las Vegas. These will be games that should test the Zags, which is exactly what they want/need at this time of the season.
Houston at Memphis, 9 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network: The Cougars are still in the hunt for the American title, just one game back, tied with Wichita State behind Cincinnati. Memphis is capable if Houston doesn’t play with the necessary intensity. The Cougars have won five in a row and finish with Memphis and SMU on the road, East Carolina and UConn at home.
Purdue at Illinois, 7 p.m. ET, FS1: The Boilermakers don’t have to use Vincent Edwards to win this game. Purdue is going to be very cautious with Edwards going forward, since the goal is to compete for the national title. Purdue is not going to be the top seed in the Big Ten tournament title -- they are likely the 2 or 3 seed, so it doesn’t really matter. This game is more about playing well and learning how to deal without Edwards in the lineup. Purdue coach Matt Painter has been pleased with the bench play and developing it here in this final week could prove pivotal for next month’s run.
LAF CMI— Purdue Men’s Basketball (@BoilerBall) February 21, 2018
(stop at the Beefhouse in between). pic.twitter.com/kUrobK4yNu