Here’s what you need to know for Thursday, Jan. 18:

Game of the night

Saint Mary’s at Gonzaga, 9 p.m., ET, ESPN

The Zags and Gaels are once again the two remaining unbeaten teams in the WCC. Gonzaga has the NCAA tournament resume now, but Saint Mary’s does not. The Gaels simply cannot be taken seriously for a bid unless they beat Gonzaga, at least once, for a bid. They will have one, possibly two more chances if these teams meet in the WCC tournament in Las Vegas. But Saint Mary’s cannot wait for that to occur and hope a win over Gonzaga in March is enough.

The Zags have more balance and options than the Gaels, who were a trendy preseason pick. Jock Landale is having an all-American season, averaging 21 points and 10 boards a game. He must have a stellar night against the Zags for the Gaels to have a chance. The beauty of this game for Gonzaga is that it gives them an elite-type feel amid conference games that won’t move the power-rating needle. Saint Mary’s and BYU provide that feel for the Zags, a necessity to keep them sharp.

No room for error

Minnesota at Maryland, 7:30 p.m., ET, FS1

The Gophers have the talent to make a run — assuming Amir Coffey comes back healthy. Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy are enough of a 1-2 punch to deliver knockouts to teams when they are hot. But the depleted Terps have their own version of a double threat with Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter. The Terps have played so many games in the final possession and have come up short, outside of the road win at Illinois. This is yet another opportunity that they cannot let slip. The Gophers aren’t going to return to the way they played in November — they are not that same team. They must be smaller, quicker and even more aggressive to win.

Resume builder

Michigan at Nebraska, 9 p.m, ET, BTN

The Huskers are on the edge of being an NCAA tournament team. They desperately needed that non-conference win against Kansas, but lost it in the final possession. They were essentially beat by Illinois at home, before James Palmer saved them with a game-winning 3-pointer. Nebraska coach Tim Miles said the Huskers must rebound well to find consistency.

Michigan continues to reinvent itself under John Beilein. The win over Michigan State on the road and the home squeaker over Maryland shows that this team is growing into a confident lot like a year ago. A similar run by this team isn’t out of the question, since Michigan has the high-profile wins that Nebraska does not. If the Huskers want to create some separation among the middling group in the Big Ten, they must get this win.

Spoiler alert

Virginia at Georgia Tech, 8 p.m., ET, ACC Network

The Yellow Jackets don’t have the NCAA tournament resume, but they are playing well and could disrupt the ACC regular-season title. Georgia Tech has won four in a row, including beating Notre Dame and Miami. Virginia is playing some of the best basketball of any team in the country and Tony Bennett is in the thick of the national coach of the year race. Virginia’s defense is locked in and Georgia Tech has had its drought moments. Virginia should win, but the past few weeks have shown that conference road games are no joke, regardless of the standings. Georgia Tech, now with just one conference loss, is playing with confidence again.

Hidden gem of the night

East Tennessee State at Furman, 7 p.m., ET, ESPN3

First place is on the line in the Southern Conference. The Buccaneers came in at No. 36 in the Power 36 this week and have won eight in a row since losing the 22-point lead at Xavier in a two-point loss. ETSU is an incredibly balanced team with only two double-digit scorers.

Furman lost at Wofford, giving it the first loss of the conference season. Wofford, one game back of ETSU, gets its shot at the Buccaneers next Saturday.

Andy Katz is an correspondent. Katz worked at ESPN for 18 years as a college basketball reporter, host and anchor. Katz has covered every Final Four since 1992, and the sport since 1986 as a freshman at Wisconsin. He is a former president of the United States Basketball Writers Association. Follow him on Twitter at @theandykatz.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NCAA or its member institutions.


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