The top spot in the polls is back up for grabs in college basketball. I n the Jan. 19 Opening Line report , I wrote that I expected No. 1 Oklahoma to lose at Iowa State on Monday night. The Sooners did, 82-77, so their first week at No. 1 since 1990 will last just the one week. Those top teams really need to avoid the state of Iowa as three No. 1s have gone down there, with North Carolina losing at Northern Iowa and Michigan State falling at the University of Iowa. Those Tar Heels, the preseason No. 1 in both polls, now are first in line to return to the top spot.
Nebraska at No. 11 Michigan State (-13.5)
Tips off at 6:30 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network. The Cornhuskers (11-8, 3-3) have followed a three-game losing streak with a three-game winning run. But those wins were also against three of the Big Ten's worst teams in Rutgers, Minnesota and Illinois. Still, all three were by double digits. In the 78-67 win over the Illini, Andrew White III had 21 points and 13 rebounds. Freshman Glynn Watson Jr., whom Nebraska was able to lure out of the state of Illinois even though he's the younger brother of former Illini star Demetri McCamey, who is No. 6 on Illinois' all-time scoring list, added a career-high 17 points. Illinois never offered Watson a scholarship. Nebraska shot 53.6 percent, outrebounded Illinois 42-24 and owned a 34-20 edge in points in the paint. It was the Huskers' first win in Champaign since 1921.
Michigan State (16-3, 3-3) is on a two-game losing streak. The Spartans were smacked around at home by No. 16 Iowa last Thursday and then lost 77-76 at unranked Wisconsin on Sunday on an Ethan Happ basket with 10 seconds left. The Spartans had a chance to win, but star Denzel Valentine missed a 3-pointer and Matt Costello's follow-up jumper bounced off the rim. The Spartans shot a higher percentage than Wisconsin from the field, 3-point range and easily won the rebounding battle yet lost. Why? UW was 29-for-36 from the line and MSU 12-for-16. That's some home cooking from the refs. Michigan State played at Nebraska last year in the only meeting and lost 79-77.
Key trends: The Huskers are 4-0 against the spread in their past four. They are 4-1 ATS in their past five road games. MSU is 2-6 ATS in its past eight Big Ten games.
I'm leaning: Sparty could be caught looking ahead to Saturday's big home game vs. No. 7 Maryland. Take the points.
Wake Forest at No. 2 North Carolina (-19)
A 7 p.m. ET tip on ESPN2 for this ACC game. Wake Forest (10-7, 1-4) is probably the second-worst team in the ACC after Boston College, although NC State actually sits in the conference basement at 0-5 (entering Tuesday). The Demon Deacons come off their worst loss of the season, 83-55 at home on Saturday to Syracuse. Wake had just one player in double-figure points: freshman Doral Moore with a career-high 10. The Deacons were limited to a season-low 32.6 shooting percentage from the field, including 10 percent (2-for-20) from behind the arc. They also turned it over 18 times. On the bright side, Wake now has had 11 different players score in double figures this season, the highest number in the ACC.
North Carolina (16-2, 5-0) does look like the nation's best team now that big man Kennedy Meeks has returned from missing seven games with a knee injury. He was the Heels' best player in Saturday's 67-55 home win over NC State. In Meeks' second game back, he had 23 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Otherwise, UNC didn't play all that well, shooting a season-low 37.9 percent from the field. The Tar Heels' top three scorers -- Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson -- combined for 15 points on 6-for-24 shooting. Carolina had scored at least 80 points in 13 straight games. UNC is 5-0 in the ACC for the first time since starting 11-0 in 2000-01 under Coach Matt Doherty. The Heels have won 10 of the past 13 vs. Wake and three straight in Chapel Hill. This game is almost 30 years to the date of the opening of the Smith Center. That was Jan. 18, 1986, when No. 1 UNC beat No. 3 Duke.
Key trends: Wake is 3-7 ATS in its past 10. The Deacons are 2-6 ATS in their past eight ACC games. The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.
I'm leaning: UNC.
UCLA at Oregon State (-4)
The latest tipoff of the night at 11 p.m. ET and on ESPNU. UCLA (11-7, 2-3) is maddening because just when you think the talented Bruins have figured things out, they go and play a lousy game. That's just what happened last Wednesday when UCLA was beaten by 14 at home to USC after the Bruins had impressively swept the two Arizona schools in their previous two games. The Bruins were totally flat against the Trojans, who took an 18-point first-half lead and didn't look back. Senior Tony Parker led UCLA, which had won six straight in the series, with 27 points and 12 rebounds.
Oregon State (11-5, 2-3) is in the news this week for all the wrong reasons as the school has suspended senior forward Jarmal Reid at least four games after he blatantly and clearly intentionally tripped a referee in Sunday's 59-53 loss at Utah after not getting what he thought should have been a foul call. Guy should have gotten more games if not the season. Not a huge loss on the court as Reid averages 4.2 points and 2.2 rebounds in 15.7 minutes per game. That play, on which Red was called for a technical and ejected, spurred Utah's rally. The Utes outscored OSU 7-1 after that to pull away from a 52-52 tie. OSU outscored the Utes 48-41 from the field, but Utah was 18-for-24 from the free-throw line while the Beavers had just 10 attempts. OSU and UCLA have split the past six meetings. They each won at home last year.
Key trends: OSU is 5-13 ATS in its past 18 vs. the Pac-12. Beavers are 0-7 ATS in their past seven on Wednesday. The underdog is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.
I'm leaning: UCLA.
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