Thankfully the NCAA has come to its senses. Instead of insisting that the four play-in games be called the first round of the NCAA Tournament and the Round of 64 the second round, the organization this week announced it will simply call those first games in Dayton the First Four and the Round of 64 back to the first round and Round of 32 the second round. Not that many people were following the NCAA's "stylebook" anyway.
No. 6 Kansas at No. 3 Oklahoma (-4.5)
It's a 2:30 p.m. ET tipoff for this Big 12 showdown on ESPN. The winner of this game probably takes the Big 12 regular-season title -- especially if Kansas completes the season sweep -- although West Virginia is tied atop the standings with the Jayhawks and Sooners. KU still has tough trips to K-State, Baylor and Texas, while OU has to go to West Virginia and Texas.
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Both these schools are unbeaten at home. Kansas (20-4, 8-3) won its 37th straight game at Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday with a 75-65 win over those Mountaineers, avenging KU's worst loss of the season on Jan. 12 in Morgantown. Oklahoma (20-3, 8-3) was nearly upset at home by a surging Texas team on Monday but National Player of the Year lock Buddy Hield hit a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left for the win. The senior from the Bahamas is truly having one of the best seasons by any player this century. He leads all major conference players in scoring at 25.7 ppg and is tops in the nation in 3-pointers made per game (about 4.2). He's also looking at a rare 50/50/90 season, shooting at least those percentages from the field, 3-point range and charity stripe, respectively. No other player in the country is at those marks currently. These schools played the game of the year on Jan. 4 in Lawrence when No. 1 Kansas beat No. 2 Oklahoma 109-106 in triple overtime. KU actually blew chances to win at the end of regulation and the first two OTs. Hield was a monster with a career-high 46 points but did have a key turnover in triple OT. It was the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 game involving teams from the same conference in nine years.
Key trends: Kansas is 9-2 against the spread in its past 11 following an ATS loss. OU is 1-6 ATS in its past seven Saturday games and 2-6 ATS in its past eight at home. The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.
I'm leaning: Fully expecting another fantastic finish. Last year in Norman, Hield scored on a tip-in off teammate Jordan Woodard's missed layup with under a second left for a 75-73 OU win. I'll take the Sooners at home (despite those above trends). Both these schools would win the national title if the NCAA Tournament was held in its gym.
No. 7 Virginia at Duke (-2)
ACC game at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. I've seen some power rankings on major sites this week that list Virginia as the top team in country currently, and I wouldn't argue that. The Cavs (20-4, 9-3) have won seven straight, the last four by double digits. Malcolm Brogdon is averaging 20.3 points and shooting 54.8 percent from the field in that stretch. To be fair, those seven wins included just one over a ranked team (Louisville), and here Duke isn't currently ranked. On Tuesday, UVA avoided a look-ahead game in beating visiting Virginia Tech 67-49. That's the fourth straight game one of the nation's top defenses held its foe to 50 points or fewer. UVA has trailed for less than two minutes over its past four games.
Duke (18-6, 7-4) appears to have turned things around, as since losing four of five it has won three straight behind one of the nation's best offenses. The most impressive of those victories was Monday's 72-65 home win over No. 13 Louisville. Grayson Allen had 19 points and freshman Brandon Ingram 18 points and 10 boards in Duke's first win over a ranked team this season. It was also the 1,000th game in Cameron Indoor Stadium history. However, I don't think Duke can reach a Final Four without its best post player, Amile Jefferson. The senior hasn't played since early December due to a right foot fracture, and this week Mike Krzyzewski said there's still no timetable and that the pain is still there. Now the word "redshirt" is being bandied about.
Key trends: Virginia is 2-5 ATS in its past seven road games. Duke is 7-0 ATS in its past seven at home vs. teams with a winning road record.
I'm leaning: Only regular-season meeting between the teams. Duke has won 16 straight at home in the series. Cameron is the only ACC arena in which UVA Coach Tony Bennett has not won yet. Make it 17 straight to get the Blue Devils back into Monday's polls.
No. 24 Texas at No. 14 Iowa State (-6.5)
Another Big 12 matchup with an 8:30 p.m. ET tip on ESPN. Texas (16-8, 7-4) might go back on the NCAA Tournament bubble with a loss here. The Longhorns had won four straight before falling 63-60 at No. 3 Oklahoma on Monday in a game UT largely outplayed the Sooners and led a large majority of the game (34:57 to be exact). The Horns just couldn't stop OU's Hield, who scored his team's final 12 points. Texas held Oklahoma to a season-low in points. The Horns also committed just nine turnovers. They are 4-3 this season against ranked teams and 2-3 away from home.
Iowa State (17-7, 6-5) when at full strength might have had the best starting five in the Big 12 but the Cyclones haven't been at full strength in a while (guard Naz Long was lost for season in mid-December). They have lost three of four and could fall out of the Top 25 with another defeat here. On Wednesday, ISU was upset 85-82 in OT at Texas Tech, one of the Big 12's worst teams. Cyclones starting forward Jameel McKay sat for a second game due to suspension. He averages 12.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game and was last season's Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. With ISU now a bit desperate, it appears that Coach Steve Prohm will let McKay play here barring McKay doing something stupid before then. Iowa State lost at Texas 94-91 in overtime on Jan. 12. Isaiah Taylor scored 28 points, including five of his team's seven in overtime, to lead UT. Iowa State had won the past four in the series.
Key trends: ISU is 11-4 ATS in its past 15 Saturday games. The home team is 5-2-1 ATS in the past eight meetings.
I'm leaning: Iowa State, which hasn't lost to Texas at home in six years.
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