The weekly unveiling of the College Football Playoff Top 25 -- weekly starting around midseason -- has been a pretty big success both from a ratings perspective for ESPN and in terms of generating buzz for the sport. So in no surprise, the NCAA men's basketball committee will unveil its Top 16 overall seeds next month as they stand at the time. The Top 4 in each region will be shown on the March Madness Bracket Preview Show on CBS on Feb. 11 at 12:30 p.m. ET. I think that's a good thing, although I believe it's just a one-time deal. Only three times since 1985 has a team without a Top 4 seed won it all. That said, a lot is going to change between Feb. 11 and Selection Sunday.
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No. 24 Xavier at No. 19 Cincinnati ( -3.5 )
The Crosstown Classic, maybe the most-heated rivalry in all of college basketball (I didn't say best, just most heated), tips off at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Cincinnati leads the public school vs. private school rivalry 49-34. However, the Musketeers have taken the past three and seven of the last nine in the series. Last season at home, they won 65-55 when both were ranked. UC never led and didn't get closer than five points in the second half. It was the first time the game was played at Xavier's Cintas Center since four years prior when a brawl between the schools prompted the officials to call the game with 9.4 seconds left and the Musketeers up 76-53.
Xavier has dropped three of its past four games this season and has lost one of its best players, Myles Davis. On Friday, Davis announced he was leaving the program not long after being reinstated from a 15-game suspension following a pair of incidents involving an ex-girlfriend over the summer. Last year, Davis averaged 10.8 points, 4.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds. Cincinnati has won 10 in a row but none were against ranked teams. The winning streak is UC's longest since a 15-game run during the 2013-14 season and the fourth-longest of the Mick Cronin coaching era. UC has won its last 19 home games. That's tied for the longest of the Cronin era.
Key trends: The Musketeers are 1-4 against the spread in their past five nonconference games. The Bearcats are 2-5 ATS in their past seven at home. The home team is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings.
I'm leaning: Cincinnati.
Nebraska at Northwestern (-10.5)
An 8 p.m. ET tipoff on the Big Ten Network. I believe this is the year that Northwestern finally makes the NCAA Tournament -- it's the only Power 5 school not to. In fact, Chris Collins has done such a nice job there that it wouldn't surprise me if he's Mike Krzyzewski's successor at Duke whenever Coach K retires. Of course, Collins is a former player and assistant in Durham. The Wildcats need to win these types of games against middling opponents to get an at-large bid, however. The Cats have won four in a row, a streak that began with a 74-66 victory at Nebraska on Jan. 8. Scottie Lindsey scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half of that one for NU, which made its first five 3s of the second half to lead 56-50. The Huskers got no closer than five points in the last six minutes.
Nebraska won't be Dancing as it's on a four-game losing streak to fall under .500 overall. The past two losses were by just a point, but you can't be losing at Rutgers as the Huskers did on Saturday. Corey Sanders stole a ball that bounced off Nebraska's Tai Webster's foot with 12 seconds to play. Following a timeout, Sanders drove to the basket, corralled his own rebound and scored the winner with one second left. Jack McVeigh hit three 3-pointers in the span of 1:14 to give Nebraska a 64-59 lead with 1:31 to go. All seven of NU's Big Ten games have been decided by eight points or fewer, including five by four points or fewer.
Key trends: The Huskers are 5-1 ATS in their past six road games. The Wildcats are 4-0 ATS in their past four Big Ten games. Nebraska is 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings.
I'm leaning: Nebraska to cover but not win.
BYU at Santa Clara (TBA)
It seems like BYU will miss the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year despite a solid 15-6 overall record and 6-2 mark in the WCC -- the Cougars are going to have to win the conference tournament to get in because they simply don't have any quality victories. BYU still does have two regular-season games vs. No. 3 Gonzaga. The Cougars are off a 62-47 win at Pacific on Saturday. Eric Mika, one of the WCC's best players, scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his 13th double-double this season. The team's second-best player, Nick Emery, had to leave the game with what looked like a potentially serious injury but it was just a quad. He is questionable here. The sophomore guard averages 14.5 points. 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
Santa Clara starts the toughest stretch of its schedule with this one, a game vs. ranked Saint Mary's on Saturday and then four in a row on the road. The Broncos are off a 64-63 win over Loyola Marymount on Saturday. Star Jared Brownridge scored a game-high 25 points, including the winning 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left. He scored 17 of the team's 28 second-half points. Brownridge had five of the team's nine second-half field goals and assisted on three of the other four. He now has the game-winning or go-ahead points in three of Santa Clara's last five victories. The Broncos were routed 89-59 at BYU on Dec. 29. The Cougars, who got 19 points and nine rebounds from Mika, never trailed.
Key trends: The Cougars are 1-5 ATS in their past six road games. The Broncos are 5-11 ATS in their past 16 at home. BYU has covered five straight in Santa Clara.
I'm leaning: Have to wait on Emery. I like BYU if he plays and Santa Clara to win if not.
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