College Basketball Handicapping: Predicting the Line on Marquee Matchups
by Aaron Smith - 2/18/2013
For the first time in quite a while, the No. 1 spot in the rankings won’t be changing hands this week. Indiana held serve by beating both Nebraska and Purdue at home. The Hoosiers had the benefit of an easy schedule this past week, but they’ll be tested in a big way in the week ahead. The Duke Blue Devils were the only Top-5 team to avoid an upset last week, but they were tripped up by a scrappy Maryland team on Saturday.
BracketBusters weekend is here, and those games will be taking center stage on Saturday. It’s the final year for BracketBusters, which is sad for fans of the mid-major teams. It’s always fun to see the top teams that could play the role of Cinderella in the NCAA Tournament, and BracketBusters has been their chance to shine in the regular season. 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 Feb. 19
Indiana Hoosiers vs. Michigan State Spartans (-1), (7 p.m. EST on ESPN)
Indiana’s relatively easy schedule from last week will be a distant memory as they head to Michigan State on Tuesday. Ask the Michigan Wolverines how difficult it is to go into Jack Breslin Arena and come out with a win. It’s the loudest arena in the Big Ten, and Tom Izzo’s team is far better than they were earlier this year. This is truly a clash of the titans in the best conference in the nation. If you are a basketball fan, this really is a must watch!
Florida Gators (-5) vs. Missouri Tigers, (9 p.m. EST on ESPN)
Missouri’s loss at Arkansas on Saturday was a real heart breaker, but they don’t have any time to lick their wounds. The Tigers host the Florida Gators in an SEC showdown on Tuesday night. Missouri is 14-0 on their home floor this year. Florida has been beating opponents by more than 20 points per game, but their loss at Arkansas shows they are certainly capable of losing. Florida is the more balanced team, but Missouri’s style of play should make this game closer than some expect.
Wednesday Feb. 20
Kansas Jayhawks vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (-1.5), (9 p.m. EST on ESPN2)
Kansas has bounced back with two big wins after suffering a rare three-game losing streak. The problem for Kansas is this one won’t be on their home court. Bill Self’s team has looked unbeatable at home this year, but they have struggled a lot on the road. Oklahoma State is a very young team, but they have about as much talent as any team in the country. Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, and LeBryan Nash are all capable of taking over the game at any point.
Colorado State Rams vs. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (-1), (10:15 p.m. EST on CBS Sports Network)
Colorado State has jumped into the Top 25, and the Rams definitely deserve their spot in the rankings. Many people ignored this team for quite a while this year, but Larry Eustachy’s team will be a tough out in March. They are the single best rebounding team in the nation. UNLV has underachieved this year, but they played Colorado State tough on the road earlier this season. UNLV may be playing its way onto the bubble, so they really need a win in this one.
Saturday Feb. 23
Georgetown Hoyas vs. Syracuse Orange (-5), (4 p.m. EST on CBS)
Georgetown wasn’t highly-touted in the preseason, but they are tied with Syracuse at the top of the Big East standings. Otto Porter is putting together an amazing season for the Hoyas. The Hoyas are only giving up 55.7 points per game. Syracuse is always tough to score against, and the Orange have the length and athleticism to make their matchup zone very tough to beat this year. There shouldn’t be many points scored in this one. Syracuse has a nice home court advantage, so I’ll give them an edge.
Detroit Titans vs. Wichita State Shockers (-7), (4 p.m. EST on ESPN2)
Detroit just knocked off Valparaiso on the road this past Saturday, but now they’ll take on a top Missouri Valley Conference team as part of the BracketBusters weekend. Ray McCallum Jr. is one of the best point guards in the country, and it’s good to see him getting some national television exposure. I like Detroit’s team, but Wichita State has been playing against much tougher opponents all year. Wichita State’s depth should be the difference.
Creighton Blue Jays vs. St. Mary’s Gaels (-2), (6 p.m. EST on ESPN)
If you were going to designate a game as the biggest of the BracketBuster weekend, this would have to be the one. Creighton has been surprisingly beatable in Missouri Valley Conference play, which makes this game all that much more important for them. St. Mary’s was blasted at home by Gonzaga last week, so this game is another chance for St. Mary’s to make a good impression with a national audience. These are two very good teams that have a lot to prove. Expect a well-played game that goes right down to the buzzer.
Michigan State Spartans vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (-1), (4 p.m. EST on CBS)
Life in the Big Ten isn’t easy, and the Spartans get two very tough matchups this week. Ohio State has been rather inconsistent this year, but the Buckeyes aren’t an easy team to beat on their court. Michigan State won by three in the first meeting of the year between these two, and there’s no reason to expect anything other than a very close contest here. Strong defense and physical play should be on full display in this one.
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