It’s time for the weekly look back at what has happened in the world of college basketball, the impact it has had on bettors, and what we might expect going forward in our endless search for college basketball betting value:
Duke - The Blue Devils ascended to the top of the polls this week, and apparently it made them angry. On Wednesday against Cornell, the first half was closer than it should have been and Duke was up just 41-30 at the half. Then the anger kicked in. They opened the second half on a 35-2 tear, and wound up winning the half by a 47-17 mark. It was utter domination. In a strange quirk of scheduling, Duke played again the next night. They won easily against Elon, but they failed to cover the 24-point spread since they “only” won by 22. They only had nine scholarship players available for the game, though, so depth could be an issue down the road if they get unlucky with injuries.
Butler - Some people seemed to think that the Bulldogs got only 15 minutes of fame and it was already over. Butler proved, though, that they are a team that isn’t going anywhere. They don’t have the talent they did in their prime, but they are still clearly dangerous because they beat the Hoosiers to knock them out of the No. 1 position in the polls. It was only a two-point win in overtime, but Butler just wouldn’t quit. They are now ranked, and they could stay that way for quite a while. For the Hoosiers the loss is unsettling, but it is probably not a bad thing in the long-term. Indiana had been a bit lazy a couple of times this year, coasting on their talent without much intensity. This should be a good reminder that they need to play every minute like it is crucial, because, if they don’t, they can lose to lesser teams. In the incredibly tight Big Ten they can‘t afford bad losses.
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Michigan - I’m admittedly biased on this one, but you can’t doubt by this point that Michigan is an extremely good team. They had two easy wins this week, including a thumping of West Virginia in Brooklyn. This squad is a very legitimate contender, and it is far better than even the most enthusiastic backer could have expected. As someone who has watched almost every game they have played for many years, what strikes me most — besides the stunning talent of Trey Burke — is how dramatically improved this team is from last year. They have two returning starters, but virtually nothing about this squad resembles anything about past teams. They are athletic in a way they haven’t been in a long time, and so much more. The fact that John Beilein can flawlessly coach a team so far out of his normal comfort zone — he’s never had talent like this in his whole long career -- is a testament to how good he is and how dangerous this team will be as a result. They are a solid 7-3 ATS and delivering value.
Arizona over Florida - We saw some good showdowns of strong teams this week, and this one was by far the best. Both teams were undefeated when the Gators traveled to Tucson, but the result is one that will haunt Florida. They were up by six points with 56 seconds left, but they couldn’t hang on, and lost, 65-64. For Arizona it was a huge win — especially because they have some youth that will benefit from this kind of experience. You could be somewhat concerned, though, that the Wildcats let themselves get into a late hole at home — you aren’t always going to be able to pull off the late miracle comeback.
Louisville at Memphis - This was another interesting measuring stick for strong teams. There wasn’t nearly as much drama in this one as the Arizona game, though. Louisville faltered early and was down by seven at the half, but Pitino pulled off his halftime magic and the outcome was never in doubt in the second half. Louisville won the second half by 16 and the game by nine. The result proved how good Louisville can be, and it showed that Memphis still has some work to do in order to be a serious factor in March.
Creighton - The Bluejays get a lot of attention — at least for a Missouri Valley team — because of Doug McDermott. On Saturday they proved there is more to this team than just that with a big 10-point win at Cal. They were only favored by 1.5, but their huge, balanced effort was far too much for the Bears. The only blemish on their record is an incomprehensible 13-point loss at home to Boise State. If not for that this team would be even higher up the rankings than they are — and they probably deserve to be. At 8-2 ATS heading into the Christmas break, they have been very kind to bettors as well.
Cincinnati and Xavier - One of the ugliest scenes of the whole season last year was when the tension in the bitter rivalry between these squads boiled over into a terrible brawl. Everyone was understandably nervous heading into this week’s renewal of the rivalry, yet, thankfully, there was no need to worry. The teams were on their best behavior, and 11th-ranked Cincinnati shook off a sluggish first half to pull away in the second half and win by 15. The Bearcats still lack a signature win — or even a particularly impressive one — but they can score like crazy, they lead the country in rebounding, and they are going to be very interesting to watch in what is likely the last recognizable Big East season.
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