Herewith, our second installment of an every-Thursday look at the best games of the week ahead (primarily for TV viewing), plus some notes from around the country.
– St. Mary’s, which has fought the good fight against Gonzaga in the WCC, has announced a plan to add 500 seats to McKeon Pavilion with private suites in a $13-million renovation to start in the spring of 2015. St. Mary’s is the place where ex-Washington assistant Jim Shaw landed after he was let go by UW coach Lorenzo Romar, and of course, the head coach at SMC is former Romar lieutenant Randy Bennett.
– Wisconsin finally took a loss this week at Indiana. But the Badgers are more versatile than in the past; they’ve won games scoring in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 100s.
– The Big Ten trumpets the fact that seven schools in its league have won or shared the conference title in this millennium. Sounds impressive on the parity front. But six Pac-12 schools have done it as well — Arizona, UCLA, Stanford, Cal, Oregon and Washington.
– One reason it’s a big year in the Big Ten: Ten of its 12 members are shooting better than .700 from the foul line.
– Have to believe the Big East is pleased with the addition of Creighton. Not only are the Blue Jays so far unbeaten in the new league, they’re averaging 17,514 fans at home to lead it. That’s about 10,000 more than four schools — Seton Hall, Villanova, Butler and Providence.
– Wichita State, the team that eliminated Gonzaga from the NCAA tournament a year ago, is tracking the same way the Zags did toward a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. It’s not an overwhelming resume, but the Shockers have won at St. Louis and Alabama and beaten BYU and Tennessee.
– Texas could be looking at making a clean sweep this academic year of its two primary men’s sports’ coaches. Rick Barnes, who got the job over Washington’s Bob Bender back in 1998, has had periodic success there (a Final Four in 2003), but his team is an also-ran in the Big 12 this year and has won only two NCAA-tournament games the past four seasons. And he won only a game in the NCAAs the only year he had Kevin Durant.
– When Kansas lost recently to San Diego State, it marked the first time since 1987 the Jayhawks had turned the page to a new calendar year and dropped their first game.
– Went scurrying to the record books to find the last time Oregon was swept in Eugene by the Bay Area schools, thinking it was probably 20 years ago. Not so. It happened as recently as 2011, Dana Altman’s first year. And Cal’s dominance in Eugene has been downright jaw-dropping. The Bears have won six straight there, five by double digits.
UCLA at Colorado, 5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks. Buffs begin life without Spencer Dinwiddie.
Arizona State at Arizona, 6 p.m., Fox Sports 1. ‘Cats’ unbeaten streak (17-0) getting into serious territory.
Gonzaga at Pepperdine, 7 p.m., Root. Win by Waves would nudge them past Zags into first in WCC.
Oklahoma at Baylor, 11 a.m., ESPN2. Pair of ranked teams in rugged Big 12.
Pitt at Syracuse, 1 p.m., ESPN. Quietly, Pitt has put together a one-loss season.
Indiana State at Wichita State, 1 p.m., ESPN2. Ex-Zag Manny Arop leads Sycamores, co-MVC leaders with Shockers.
Gonzaga at Loyola Marymount, 1 p.m., Root. LMU guard Anthony Ireland always a handful.
Oklahoma State at Kansas, 1 p.m., CBS. Cowboys a threat to Jayhawks’ long Big 12 dominance.
UCLA at Utah, 1 p.m., Fox Sports 1. Utes can be tricky at home, especially if Bruin focus was on Colorado.
Washington State at Cal, 1 p.m., Pac-12 Networks. Not much reason to think this won’t get ugly.
Michigan at Wisconsin, 3 p.m., ESPN. We’ll see how third-ranked Badgers respond to first defeat at Indiana.
Washington at Stanford 8 p.m., ESPNU. Has the look of a make-or-break game for Huskies.
Minnesota at Iowa, 10 a.m., Big Ten Network. Hawkeyes got huge road win at Ohio State.
Oregon at Oregon State, 5 p.m., ESPNU. Ducks have allowed three straight teams to shoot over 50 percent.
Creighton at Villanova, 4 p.m., Fox Sports 1. So far, Blue Jays unbeaten in new conference.
North Carolina at Virginia, 4 p.m., ESPN. Check in on Carolina’s woes and UVa’s improvement.
Baylor at Kansas, 6 p.m., ESPN. Lots of talent on the floor in this one.
Indiana at Michigan State, 4 p.m., ESPN. Sparty definitely one of those teams that could win it all.
Wisconsin at Minnesota, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network. Pitino’s son has Gophers (13-4) pesky in his first year.
Oregon State at Washington State, 7 p.m, Pac-12 Networks. Cougars need to start putting up wins, and this is a possibility.
Cal at USC, 8 p.m., ESPNU. Surprise: Montgomery doing a superlative job with Bears.