College Basketball Handicapping: Predicting the Line on Marquee Matchups
by Aaron Smith - 2/4/2013
Yet another week, and yet another No. 1-ranked team has gone down. To be fair, this one was a little different than the others. You can hardly blame Michigan for losing on the road to the Indiana Hoosiers, who are also ranked in the Top 3 in the country. After all, Indiana was favored by five points in that game. Still, it’s hard to remember another time where the No. 1 spot was so tenuous. Kansas appears to be next in line for the top spot. Can they stay at the top for more than one week?
February is here, and that means the Big Dance is just a little more than a month away! Let’s take a look at some of the biggest games of the week ahead. 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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Tuesday Jan. 29
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan Wolverines (-7), (9 p.m. EST on ESPN)
Ohio State knocked off Michigan in a crazy game in Columbus earlier this year. There is no doubt that the Wolverines will be looking for some serious revenge in this one. Deshaun Thomas will be the best scorer on the floor, but Michigan is a far more balanced team than Ohio State. The Buckeyes don’t really have a consistent second scoring option. Look for the Wolverines to win this one pretty big.
Wednesday Feb. 6
Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Michigan State Spartans (-3.5), (7 p.m. EST on Big Ten Network)
Tubby Smith has the Minnesota Golden Gophers playing some very good basketball this year. Minnesota didn’t even get into the NCAA Tournament last year, but they should be a big factor this year. Winning at Michigan State has been virtually impossible since Tom Izzo has been there. Izzo’s team is improving by leaps and bounds of late as they seem to do each year. This should be a great game, but I have to give the Spartans a small edge.
Creighton Blue Jays (-2) vs. Indiana State Sycamores, (7 p.m. EST)
The Missouri Valley Conference is always really tough on road teams, and this year is no different. Creighton is clearly the best team in the conference, but they have already slipped up twice on the road. Indiana State has an outside shot at making a run toward the NCAA Tournament, but this is the type of game they would have to win to get on the map. The Sycamores have already beaten Miami and Mississippi on neutral courts this year, so they are definitely capable.
Thursday Feb. 7
Indiana Hoosiers (-9.5) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini, (7 p.m. EST on ESPN)
The Illinois Fighting Illini won their first 10 games of the season, including a win at Gonzaga. It looked like John Groce was going to lead this team right back to contention in the Big Ten. Since then, however, the wheels have fallen off at Illinois. The Fighting Illini have lost six of their last seven games, and they are near the bottom of the Big Ten. Indiana may be the most talented team in the conference, and I don’t think Illinois can keep up.
North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. Duke Blue Devils (-8), (9 p.m. EST)
Duke was No. 1 for quite a while earlier this year until NC State knocked them off. The Blue Devils haven’t looked quite as good without Ryan Kelly, but they are still really tough to beat at Cameron Indoor Stadium. NC State may have more talent than Duke right now, but the Blue Devils are playing better team basketball than the Wolfpack. Expect the Blue Devils to exact their revenge in front of a raucous home crowd.
Saturday Feb. 9
Michigan Wolverines (-2) vs. Wisconsin Badgers, (noon EST on ESPN)
Michigan lost a big one at Indiana last Saturday, but they’ll get another chance for a key road victory against Wisconsin this weekend. Bo Ryan’s team is always extremely tough to beat at the Kohl Center, but the Badgers don’t have nearly as much talent as the Wolverines do this season. Trey Burke has arguably been college basketball’s best player so far this year, and I think he puts on a show as Michigan picks up a big road win here.
Mississippi Rebels vs. Missouri Tigers (-3), (1 p.m. EST on CBS)
Marshall Henderson and the Rebels have gotten quite a bit of attention of late, but they lost both big games against Kentucky and Florida last week. The Rebels are going to have to pick up a signature win at some point, and this is a real opportunity for them. Missouri has struggled of late, but now that Bowers is back in the lineup they should be much better. Expect a really quick tempo in this matchup. It should be a lot of fun to watch.
Sunday Feb. 10
Indiana Hoosiers (-1) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes, (1 p.m. EST on CBS)
You could easily go either way on which team will be favored here, but there is no doubt that the line will be very short in either direction. Indiana absolutely has the more talented team, but winning on the road in the Big Ten is always tough. Ohio State will have to have guys like Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross step up if they are going to win this one. I expect Cody Zeller to be the difference as Indiana wins a close one.
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