With less than a week until Christmas and most schools on break, there's not much happening around college basketball on Thursday. But on the first Thursday in months without an NFL game, there is one game that steals the spotlight.
No. 8 Duke vs. UCLA (Carquest Auto Parts Classic, Madison Square Garden, ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET)
Two of the most storied teams in college basketball meet in the game's most storied arena in a non-conference clash that both teams would love to win. UCLA is unranked but has lost just once, on the road against No. 23 Missouri. Without any more marquee out-of-conference games on their schedule, the Bruins could use a resume booster in Manhattan on Thursday. As a team, UCLA boasts one of the more potent offenses in the country. The Bruins average nearly 90 points per game, with 21.2 coming from Jordan Adams. Kyle Anderson, the sophomore out of St. Anthony, can do just about everything and leads the team in assists and rebounding. Throw in his 13.8 points per game and he nearly averages a double-double.
But Adams, Anderson and the rest of the Bruins will have their work cut out for them if they want to leave Madison Square Garden with a win. The eighth-ranked Blue Devils are coming off seven wins in their last eight tries, including a victory over last year's national runner-up, Michigan. Their most recent loss also came at MSG when they fell to No. 1 Arizona in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-off. Duke is led by player of the year candidate Jabari Parker (22.0 points, 7.6 rebounds), but the Blue Devils are much more than a one-man show. Sophomore Rodney Hood joins Parker to create one of the best frontcourts in the nation, while Quinn Cook's 14.7 points and 6.6 assists per night makes him an elite guard.
No. 1 Arizona vs. Southern (Pac-12 Network, 9 p.m. ET)
The only other Top 25 game on Thursday certainly won't top the showdown at the Garden, unless of course we get an unfathomable upset. In the nightcap, the top-ranked Wildcats look to make it a perfect 12-0 start to their season when they face Southern (3-7), which holds just one win against Division I competition this year. The Jaguars have hung in there against two national powers already, however. They lost by just seven to Marquette to start the season, then 10 days later fell to Florida by 14.
But Southern gets a red-hot Arizona team at the McKale Center that is coming off a two-point win at Michigan. The Wildcats rose to the No. 1 ranking behind a balanced attack that sees four players averaging double figures in scoring. Brandon Ashley poured on 18 points to lead the Arizona comeback against Michigan over the weekend.