College Basketball Handicapping: Predicting the Line on Marquee Matchups
by Aaron Smith - 1/28/2013
Does anyone want to be No. 1? Duke was drilled by 27 points in Miami after taking back over the top spot in the polls last week. This is the third straight week that the No. 1-ranked team in college basketball has been knocked off. It looks like the Michigan Wolverines will take over the top spot this week, since they have held serve since their hard-fought loss to Ohio State.
Conference play has been going on for almost a month. It’s too early to be looking at any games as must-win games for teams, but each game becomes a little important since March is only a little over a month away. For those teams who are underachieving, it’s time to make a move!
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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.
Tuesday Jan. 29
Wisconsin Badgers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (-3.5), (7 p.m. EST on ESPN)
Both Wisconsin and Ohio State sit one game back in the Big Ten Conference standings. The Badgers win with their defense and ball control, while the Buckeyes have the leading scorer in the conference in Deshaun Thomas. Can the Badgers slow down Thomas? Can the Buckeyes find a second or third scoring option to take some pressure off Thomas? Both of these teams have flaws, but when these two teams meet it is always a very hard-fought game.
Texas Longhorns vs. Kansas State Wildcats (-7), (8 p.m. EST on ESPN2)
The Texas Longhorns still haven’t found “it” yet this year. Texas has a lot of young talent, and many experts keep waiting on them to start playing good basketball. However, it just isn’t happening. Texas is 1-5 in the Big 12, and they really need a win. Myck Kabongo won’t be back until the middle of February, and that might be too late for this team to make a real push. Kansas State locks opponents down on the defensive end, and they should take care of business here.
Oregon Ducks (-1) vs. Stanford Cardinal, (11 p.m. EST on ESPNU)
The Oregon Ducks have earned a lot of respect by going on the road and beating some big names. UCLA has been playing good basketball lately, but the Ducks beat them on the road a little over a week ago. Oregon sits alone atop the Pac-12 with a perfect 7-0 record, but this team will be tested several teams in the next week. Stanford hasn’t been playing as well as expected, but they are plenty talented to beat the Ducks. This one could go either way.
Thursday Jan. 31
Arizona Wildcats (-6.5) vs. Washington Huskies, (9 p.m. EST on ESPN)
The Arizona Wildcats stubbed their toe with a home loss to UCLA last week. Now, they must take care of business and not let Oregon get too big of a lead on them in the Pac-12 standings. Washington has been up and down this year, but the Huskies are always difficult to beat at home. Watch the point guard matchup between Mark Lyons and Abdul Gaddy, because that one should be a lot of fun.
Saturday Feb. 2
Syracuse Orange vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (-1), (Noon EST on ESPN)
Syracuse lost a really tough one to Villanova last Saturday, and they’ll have a week to think about it before they play Pittsburgh. The Panthers go to Louisville on Monday, so to say that this is a really difficult week for the Panthers is an understatement. Pittsburgh has been up and down, but I’m not sure they are quite on the same talent level as Syracuse right now. Pittsburgh’s home court advantage will help them, but I still like Syracuse’s chances in this one.
Miami Hurricanes vs. NC State Wolfpack (-1.5), (4 p.m. EST on CBS)
Last week’s blowout of the Duke Blue Devils was one of the biggest wins in program history for the Miami Hurricanes. This has historically been a football school, but this basketball team has a lot of athletes. Miami is working really hard on the defensive end, and they’ll need to excel on that end to slow down one of the most efficient offenses in the country. North Carolina State still hasn’t played its best game of the year, but to say this team is dangerous is putting it lightly.
Mississippi Rebels vs. Florida Gators (-12), (7 p.m. EST on ESPNU)
Are the Mississippi Rebels for real? They’ll get a major chance to show that they are when they travel to take on the Gators. But coming out with a win won’t be easy. Mississippi has been one of the biggest surprises in college basketball this year. The Rebels have a high-octane offense that pushes the tempo and averages 80.3 points per game. Mississippi and Florida enter the week tied at the top of the SEC standings. The Gators have been one of the most consistent teams in the nation.
Michigan Wolverines vs. Indiana Hoosiers (-2), (9 p.m. EST on ESPN)
There isn’t any doubt that this is the game of the week. Michigan has looked like the best team in college basketball for the majority of the year, but Indiana probably has the most talent in the Big Ten. Both teams are 6-1 in the conference heading into the week. Trey Burke is playing like a Player of the Year candidate, but Cody Zeller is a leading candidate for those honors as well. This game should have a little bit of everything. Expect a raucous crowd to help Indiana squeak out a very difficult win here.
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