College Basketball Games to Watch for Thursday, Jan. 29

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Two of the nation’s premiere freshmen headline the slate of college basketball games to watch for Thursday, Jan. 29.

GAME OF THE NIGHT

NO. 16 MARYLAND at OHIO STATE

WHEN: 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT

TV: ESPN

D’Angelo Russell is on a tear. The Ohio State freshman phenom scored 27 points in a loss at Iowa, dropped 33 in a win against Northwestern and dished 10 assists to go with 22 points in the Buckeyes’ resume win over Indiana.

But for as well as Russell is playing, it’s important to not take too much of the freshman spotlight in the Big Ten away from Maryland’s Melo Trimble. Trimble is averaging a team-high 16.3 points per game for the resurgent Terps and is fresh off a 27-point effort in Maryland’s comeback win over Northwestern on Sunday.

Ohio State is a difficult team to get a beat on, which is ironic given the experience surrounding Russell. Still, the Buckeyes have sky-high potential and Thad Matta a proven knack for unlocking potential.

If the Buckeyes are to be contenders in March, it will start tonight against Maryland.

BEST OF THE REST

DEPAUL at PROVIDENCE

WHEN: 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT

TV: Fox Sports 1

This is the most exciting game involving an 11-10 team anyone could ask for on Jan. 29. Consider that the surprising Blue Demons can move back into a (three-way) tie atop the Big East with a win over the Friars, one of the three teams currently deadlocked in first place.

Or maybe you’re interested in seeing LaDontae Henton, Providence’s 21 ppg scorer.

But most importantly, this is a nationally televised game in the middle of the day. Time to fire up the Fox Sports Go app on your phone or tablet, stream the game online, or take a long lunch if you’re on the West Coast.

Who knows? If the viewership is high enough, maybe it will mark the beginning of matinee college basketball as a regular thing.

WESTERN KENTUCKY at LOUISIANA TECH

WHEN: 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT

TV: CBS Sports Network

First place in Conference USA is on the line when Western Kentucky puts its unblemished Conference USA record up against Louisiana Tech’s perfect home record.

The Bulldogs are unbeaten at Thomas Assembly Center dating back to Dec. 4, 2013, when current Orlando Magic rookie Elfrid Payton led UL-Lafayette to an 89-80 win. Every contest there since, however, has resulted in Louisiana Tech victory.

Louisiana Tech is in need of a quality win, and Western Kentucky’s No. 68 RPI fits the bill.

If C-USA implications are not enough to pique your interest, the offensive anemia epidemic so frequently lamented in college basketball media is of no concern for these teams. Both average in the mid-70s per game, with La. Tech’s duo of Alex Hamilton and Raheem Appleby each notching a hair below 17 apiece and Western Kentucky’s T.J. Price shooting a torrid 44.9 percent from 3-point range.

Coincidentally, these teams were intertwined in my Twitter timeline Wednesday, the result of University Avenue’s Tyler Waddell’s piece on Western Kentucky football star Brandon Doughty.

We’ll have to wait awhile for the rematch on the gridiron. In the meantime, hardwood bragging rights will have to do.

UCONN at CINCINNATI

WHEN: 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT

TV: ESPN2

The defending national champions are approaching desperation mode. In their last two road contests against fellow bubble teams, Tulsa and Stanford, the Huskies lost both.

They’ll need one of those head-to-heads to claim their worthiness for the Field of 68, and do in fact already have a victory against this Cincinnati bunch. A sweep hardly punches UConn’s ticket back to the Big Dance, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

But Cincinnati is much better at Fifth Third Arena than away from it. The Bearcats are 11-1 at home, with wins over San Diego State and SMU. Adding UConn to that list is contingent on the Bearcats containing Ryan Boatright, who went off for 18 points and eight assists in the Huskies’ win.

NO. 11 UTAH at UCLA

WHEN: 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT

TV: ESPN2

UCLA bottomed out from a weeks-long tailspin with a 32-point loss Jan. 11 at Utah, but seemed to have the ship righted with a three-game win streak that included a double-OT defeat of Stanford.

However, a disastrous road swing at the Oregon schools last weekend means UCLA absolutely must find a way to be at least 33 points better than it was against the Utes three weeks ago.

One way to make that happen is for guard Bryce Alford to shoot better than 0-of-10 from the floor.

Controlling the glass is another. Utah dominated the boards in their previous meeting, 42-28. Since then, talented Bruins freshman Kevon Looney has been a monster. A meeting of Looney and Utah’s Jakob Poeltl on the low block has exciting potential.

But the bigger matchup question is who from UCLA can defend Delon Wright?