The basketball rivalry in Los Angeles hasn't been much of one over the years considering UCLA's storied history against the not-so-storied of Southern Cal's. The Trojans haven't even made the NCAA Tournament since 2011 or won a game in the Big Dance since 2009. But they will come a step closer to locking down at least an at-large berth with a win over UCLA on Thursday night. The Bruins are very much on the NCAA Tournament bubble. They haven't missed it since 2012.
No. 8 Texas A&M at Vanderbilt (TBA)
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This SEC game tips off at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Bit of a weak schedule on Thursday with only two ranked teams in action, and the Aggies are the highest-ranked. They look to keep sole possession of first place in the SEC. I keep thinking A&M is overrated, but it got an impressive 72-62 home win over No. 14 Iowa State on Saturday in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. ISU led by two with four minutes left. There were 15 lead changes in the game. The Aggies have now beaten three ranked teams this season. Senior Danuel House led A&M with 20 points, while Jalen Jones had his third double-double of the season with 13 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. He's the team's best player.
Vanderbilt (12-9, 4-4) appears ticketed for the NIT at best. The Commodores lost 72-58 at Texas on Saturday in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Damian Jones led the Commodores with a career-high 26 points on a career-best 12 field goals made (most for a Vandy player since December 2011). But then playing on the road has been a problem all year. Vandy has just one true road win. This is Vanderbilt's sixth game vs. a ranked team this season but first at home. The Commodores lead the SEC in field-goal defense as foes shoot just .381 against them. They are 3-0 all-time at home vs. Texas A&M.
Key trends: Texas A&M is 3-8 against the spread in its past 11 Thursday games. Vandy is 1-8 ATS in its past nine vs. teams with a winning record.
I'm leaning: This is TBA because of Vandy sophomore Wade Baldwin IV, who is questionable with a knee injury suffered Saturday. He averages 14.3 points and 4.2 assists. Vanderbilt's last win over a ranked opponent came on March 11, 2012, against top-ranked Kentucky in the SEC Tournament. I say the Commodores win this one and that Baldwin plays.
Minnesota at Northwestern (-12)
This Big Ten game is at 9 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network. I'm not sure that Minnesota coach Richard Pitino survives this season despite his last name with the Gophers at 6-16 overall and 0-10 in the Big Ten. I'm not saying an NCAA Tournament was expected this year, but Minnesota is battling horrible Rutgers for the Big Ten cellar. Minnesota has been losing close of late, and that was the case on Saturday, a 74-68 loss at No. 19 Indiana. The Hoosiers didn't take the lead for good until just under two minutes left. The Gophers would take a late lead despite trailing by 16 with 16:33 left. Kevin Dorsey had a career-high 21 to lead Minnesota. It was the Gophers' fourth single-digit loss to a ranked Big Ten foe this year. The Gophers played Indiana without Carlos Morris, who was attending a funeral. He'll be back here. The senior guard averages 10.4 points and 4.0 rebounds.
Northwestern (15-8, 3-7) will remain the only Power 5 Conference team to never reach the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats lost a fifth straight on Sunday, the fourth in a row to a ranked team, 85-71 at No. 3 Iowa. Senior Tre Demps scored a career-high 30 points in the loss. NU's Bryant McIntosh is now two assists from setting the school's single-season record held by Tim Doyle (157). The Iowa game marked the first time since the 1989-90 season that Northwestern played four straight Top 25 teams. The Wildcats won in Minnesota 77-52 on Jan. 9. It was NU's biggest victory ever at Minnesota's Williams Arena.
Key trends: Minnesota is 3-11 ATS in its past 14 following an ATS win. Northwestern is 4-1 ATS in its past five vs. teams with a losing record. The Cats are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.
I'm leaning: Minnesota won't win but should stay within 10.
UCLA at USC (-6.5)
It's a 10:30 pm. ET tipoff on the Pac-12 Network. UCLA (13-9, 4-5) ended a two-game losing streak with an 83-50 win over Washington State last time out. It was UCLA's largest Pac-12 win in seven years. Coach Steve Alford made a lineup change to shake things up, moving sophomore Jonah Bolden into a starting forward role for Tony Parker, even though Parker is one of UCLA's best players. Bolden had seven rebounds and three points in 26 minutes. Parker had 11 points and three boards (he's third in the Pac-12 in rebounding). Isaac Hamilton had 22 points to lead all players, his 18th straight in double figures. What will help UCLA's at-large resume are wins over then-No. 1 Kentucky, Gonzaga and Arizona.
USC (17-5, 6-3) is still very much in the running for the Pac-12 regular season title. The Trojans won a second in a row Saturday, 98-88 over visiting Washington. Nikola Jovanovic led USC with a season-best 28 points and Jordan McLaughlin added 21 with seven rebounds and five assists. USC's 10-game improvement from last season to this is the best among teams in the Power 5 conferences. The Trojans are off to their best start since 1991-92. The school will retire the No. 10 jersey of school legend Gus Williams during a halftime ceremony. The Trojans are looking for the first series sweep of UCLA since 2010 as USC beat the Bruins 89-75 at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 13. The Trojans led by 18 at halftime. McLaughlin scored 23 points. Parker had 27 points and 12 rebounds for UCLA, which had won six straight in the series.
Key trends: UCLA is 1-5 ATS in its past six after a win. USC has covered 13 of its past 17 at home.
I'm leaning: USC ends a four-game home skid vs. its rival.
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