Pregame Shootaround: Two big games between top-15 teams highlight Monday’s action

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source: AP
(AP)

GAME OF THE DAY: No. 11 Iowa State at No. 8 Kansas, 9 p.m.

The Jayhawks will be looking for revenge after falling at Iowa State on Jan. 17. This time Kansas gets the homecourt advantage and Bill Self’s team has recorded 18 consecutive Big 12 home wins. But Iowa State won’t back down very easily as they continue to be one of the most prolific offenses in the country. The Cyclones have struggled a bit on the road, however, as they’ve lost two straight away from Hilton Coliseum. The key for this one could be if Kansas can sustain 40 minutes of good ball. After 20 minutes in a win over Kansas State, the Jayhawks looked like one of the best teams in the country, but their focus slipped in the second half as they allowed the Wildcats to shoot 56 percent from the field in the second half. Perry Ellis was the only frontcourt player to step up against Iowa State in the first meeting and he’ll need more help from guys like Cliff Alexander and Jamari Traylor. The Cyclones had six double-figure scorers in the first meeting and will look for that same kind of scoring balance in this one.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 3 Virginia at No. 12 North Carolina, 7 p.m.

Which ACC team steps up and wins after both of these teams suffered losses over the weekend? Virginia is no longer unbeaten after allowing Duke to go on a 19-5 run to end the game in a home loss to the Blue Devils on Saturday. North Carolina is coming off of their own tough defeat, as they fell to Louisville on the road. Whichever team dictates tempo likely comes out on top in this one. Virginia plays one of the slowest paces in the country and wants to be methodical in finding good shots and limiting mistakes. The Tar Heels want to get out and push in transition and let Marcus Paige make plays for himself or others.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR: 

  • Pitt earned a huge home win over Notre Dame this weekend and they’ll follow that up with a winnable non-conference home game against Bryant.
  • The MEAC’s best team, North Carolina Central, faces the league’s worst team, Florida A&M in a battle of two teams heading in opposite directions. The conference-leading Eagles are unbeaten in MEAC play at 8-0 while the Rattlers are 0-21 on the season.
  • How will Green Bay respond after losing this weekend at Cleveland State? The Phoenix have another road test in the Horizon League against Wright State. The at-large chances for Green Bay are finished, but this is still a talented team that could do damage in March.
  • The top two teams in the MAAC standings each play on Monday night. Conference leader Iona will travel to Fairfield while second-place Rider has a stiffer road test at Siena.
  • The top teams in the SWAC will also take the floor on Monday as co-league leaders Texas Southern and Alabama State both play. The Tigers are heavy favorites at home against Alabama A&M while the Hornets will go on the road to play Prairie View A&M.