College Basketball Handicapping: Predicting the Line on Marquee Matchups
by Aaron Smith - 12/11/2012
Entering this week, the Indiana Hoosiers are still at the top of the college basketball rankings. There are 10 remaining unbeaten teams in the Top 25. Duke has beaten three teams that were ranked in the Top 4 when they played them. The Illinois Fighting Illini served notice in Maui earlier this year, and then they put a hurting on Gonzaga in Spokane last weekend. It looks like we better keep an eye on the Fighting Illini moving forward.
This week is finals week for most colleges. That means there are far less games during the week. Top teams that do have scheduled games are primarily just playing against cupcake opponents. On Saturday the action heats up in a big way. Please note that all odds listed are my projections for what I believe the line should be in that particular game.
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Thursday Dec. 13
Wichita State Shockers (-1.5) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (7 p.m. EST)
The only game during the week that is really worth mentioning is in Knoxville Thursday night. Wichita State is quietly one of those unbeaten teams left in the country. The Shockers picked up a great road victory at VCU earlier this year. To say that the Tennessee Volunteers have had trouble scoring of late is a major understatement. The Volunteers put up 36 points two games ago against Georgetown, and they scored 38 points last game against Virginia. Wichita State deserves to be a small favorite here.
Saturday Dec. 15
Butler Bulldogs vs. Indiana Hoosiers (-10.5), (2 p.m. EST on CBS)
The Hoosiers haven’t gotten much of a test lately, but that should all change this weekend. Brad Stevens’ Bulldogs are playing some very good basketball right now. Rotnei Clarke might be the best long-range shooter in the nation, and he has made this Butler team much more explosive offensively. Butler has always had a way of playing the very best teams tough, and the fact that this is an in-state rivalry should have both teams fired up. This one will be played on a neutral floor in Indianapolis, Indiana, as part of the 2012 Crossroads Classic.
Louisville Cardinals (-6.5) vs. Memphis Tigers (2:30 p.m. EST on FoxSportsNet)
Josh Pastner’s Memphis Tigers really need to pick up a signature win. Memphis has a lot of talent, but over the past couple years they have never really put it together against top teams. Rick Pitino’s Cardinals have looked amazing in the last couple weeks. Louisville is not a team anyone is going to want to play in March. Memphis doesn’t have the same kind of team chemistry that Louisville has. Look for the Cardinals to pick up a key road win here.
Purdue Boilermakers vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-2.5), (4:30 p.m. EST on ESPN2)
This is the second game of the Crossroads Classic. Notre Dame got on the map with their big win over Kentucky a couple weeks ago. Purdue has had a confusing season thus far. The Boilermakers lost to Bucknell and Xavier at home. They also lost to Eastern Michigan on the road this past weekend. At the same time, Purdue had a big win at Clemson in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Clearly, the Boilermakers are extremely inconsistent right now. It wouldn’t surprise me if they win this game, but I also don’t think they can be favored.
Belmont Bruins vs. Kansas Jayhawks (-11), (7 p.m. EST on ESPNU)
The Kansas Jayhawks put a beating on Colorado this past Saturday. The Jayhawks demolished Colorado, 90-54, in what many expected to be a close game. After a bit of a slow start to the year, Kansas is looking like a dangerous team. Belmont already has a nice road win at Stanford, and the Bruins have been a very good program for several years. I expect Kansas to dominate the boards in this game and coast to a home victory.
West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Michigan Wolverines (-10), (8 p.m. EST on ESPN)
Michigan Coach John Beilein will be up against his old team in this one. This game will be part of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival at the brand new Barclay’s Center. Bob Huggins and the West Virginia Mountaineers have struggled to a mediocre 4-3 start, but the Mountaineers will always be a dangerous team to play against because of their physicality. Michigan’s young players have added a lot to this team, and I see the Wolverines being a major factor in the Big Ten this season. The Wolverines have a big edge in talent in this matchup.
Florida Gators (-1) vs. Arizona Wildcats, (10 p.m. EST on ESPN)
This one should be the game of the week. It’s hard not to notice how dominating the Florida Gators have been so far this year. Florida dismantled Wisconsin, Marquette, and Florida State already this year. Now, the Gators get their toughest test of the season when they travel to Arizona. Both teams enter this game with a perfect 7-0 record. I’ll make the Gators a small favorite here because of how well they have played, but Arizona is always tough at home. Look for this one to be close all the way until the final buzzer.
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