Maybe I'm just paying more attention this season, but I can't remember a college basketball year where there have been so many key injuries to potential Final Four teams. The latest has struck Xavier, which has never made a Final Four in 26 previous NCAA Tournament appearances and probably won't this spring now. Point guard Edmond Sumner has been lost for the season to a torn ACL suffered late in a win at St. John's on Sunday when he landed awkwardly on a drive to the basket. Sumner was projected as borderline first-round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft had he declared; now I'd think he would return to school.
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No. 25 Northwestern at No. 23 Purdue ( -7 )
Big Ten Network game at 8:30 p.m. ET. Yep, that's a number next to Northwestern as the Wildcats are ranked in the AP poll for the first time since 2009 when a 10-1 start to the season also earned the Wildcats the No. 25 spot. When the AP first posted the poll on its website, it didn't even have NU' s logo next to the school name unlike the other 24 teams. So the school of course had to give a funny Tweet about it. Northwestern has won six in a row following a 68-55 home victory over Indiana on Sunday. However, the Cats have played just one ranked team all season and that was Texas way back on Nov. 21 -- the Horns are now way below .500 and arguably the worst team in the Big 12. Now we'll see if this team is for real.
Purdue had a three-game winning streak end in an 83-80 loss at Nebraska on Sunday -- no one in the Big Ten appears to want to separate itself. Michael Jacobson's putback with 42 seconds left gave Nebraska the lead, and the Cornhuskers made 4 of 6 free throws the rest of the way to hold the Boilermakers. Potential Big Ten Player of the Year Caleb Swanigan had 14 points and 14 rebounds for his nation-leading 18th double-double for Purdue but one of his worst shooting games of the season, going 5-for-15 and committing four turnovers.
Key trends: The Wildcats have covered six straight vs. the Big Ten. The Boilers are 8-1 against the spread in their past nine at home. They are 2-6-1 ATS in their past nine after a loss.
Early lean: Purdue.
No. 2 Baylor at No. 3 Kansas (-6.5)
Big 12 game at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Is it possible to have a letdown game against the No. 2 team in the nation? Might be considering Kansas is coming off that very impressive 79-73 win at then-No. 4 Kentucky on Saturday. Josh Jackson showed why he was one of the most touted freshmen in his class with 20 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals. KU had gone 0-for-8 from 3-point range in the first half, and Jackson opened the second half with two 3-pointers to give the Jayhawks the lead and momentum en route to the victory. Jackson was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week on Monday for the fifth time this season. The conference record is eight by K-State's Michael Beasley in 2008. In addition, senior Frank Mason III has been named one of 10 watch list finalists for the 2017 Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award. Carlton Bragg was suspended for that game and won't play here.
Baylor has won five in a row since its lone loss at West Virginia. I thought the Bears were in for a potential trap game ahead of this on Saturday at Ole Miss, but they escaped with a 78-75 victory. The Rebs led by as many as 15. Baylor has come back to win 42 percent of its games when trailing at the half since 2011-12. It has a +10.8 scoring margin in the second halves of the eight games it has trailed at halftime this season. Manu Lecomte hit the decisive 3-pointer with 23 seconds left, making it 78-72. Baylor's 20-1 record is the best 21-game start in program history (previous best was 19-2 in 2011-12). The Bears were 0-3 vs. Kansas last year.
Key trends: The Bears are 2-6 ATS in their past eight games. The Jayhawks are 1-4 ATS in their past five vs. the Big 12.
Early lean: Kansas.
Seton Hall at Xavier (-6.5)
Big East game at 9 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. Sumner was averaging 15.0 points, 5.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game this season. He had also has been playing with a shoulder injury he suffered in a loss to Villanova on Jan. 10. Freshman Quentin Goodin will take over as the starting point guard. Goodin scored a season-high 16 points in 25 minutes against St. John's. It was a tough week for the Musketeers as they lost at blood-rival Cincinnati last Thursday before holding off the Johnnies 82-77 on Sunday. They killed St. John's on the boards 45-26. On the offensive glass, the margin was 17-6 in Xavier's favor. Alas, it wasn't enough to keep Xavier in the Top 25.
Seton Hall is the defending Big East Tournament champion but likely won't be in the Big Dance this season at 13-7 overall and 3-5 in the conference. It lost for the fourth time in five games last Wednesday, 61-54 to Butler. Pirates junior Angel Delgado had 12 points and a career-high 22 rebounds. He became the first player in Big East history to pull down 20 or more rebounds in back-to-back conference regular-season games. That stat shocks me when you think of some of the players in the Big East back in its heyday. The 22 boards are the most for a Seton Hall player since it joined the Big East in 1979. Delgado leads the nation in rebounding at 12.9 per game, just ahead of Purdue's Swanigan (12.7).
Key trends: The Pirates are 1-4 ATS in their past five road games. The Musketeers are 1-5 ATS in their past six overall. Seton Hall is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings.
Early lean: Seton Hall.
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