College Basketball Handicapping: Predicting the Line on Marquee Matchups
by Aaron Smith - 1/21/2013
For the second straight week, the nation’s No. 1 team fell on Saturday afternoon against a conference foe. This week it was Syracuse that pulled off the upset to knock off the Louisville Cardinals on the road. The rest of the top teams held up well in the past week. Michigan bounced back from a tough loss at Ohio State to knock off a very good Minnesota team on the road.
Only the Super Bowl remains for football, so basketball is really taking center stage now. The college basketball schedule will get a lot busier in the coming weeks, and oddsmakers are going to be lining these games very well because of the increased focus on the sport. Be sure you are doing your homework before you place any wagers in the coming weeks!
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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. 22
Kansas Jayhawks (-2) vs. Kansas State Wildcats, (8 p.m. EST)
The Kansas Jayhawks escaped Austin with a win over the Longhorns this past Saturday. It won’t get any easier for Kansas as they travel to take on their intra-state rivals on Tuesday. Kansas State used to not be able to keep up with the Wildcats, but in recent years this has become a rivalry again. The Wildcats haven’t lost at home yet this year, and the team is really buying into Bruce Weber’s defensive philosophies. Kansas should be a small favorite, but an upset here shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
Wednesday Jan. 23
Duke Blue Devils (-1.5) vs. Miami Hurricanes, (7 p.m. EST on ESPN)
The Duke Blue Devils bounced back nicely from their first loss of the year, but losing Ryan Kelly to an injury was a major loss. Seth Curry is dinged up now as well, but he’ll likely be playing in this one. The Hurricanes went into Cameron and beat the Blue Devils in a shocker last year on Super Bowl Sunday. Can the Blue Devils exact some revenge on the Hurricanes here? Miami has a lot of talent, and they haven’t lost at home so far this year. Expect this one to go down to the buzzer.
Thursday Jan. 24
UCLA Bruins vs. Arizona Wildcats (-10), (9 p.m. EST on ESPN2)
UCLA seemed to be on a nice roll of late, but they dropped a big game to Oregon at home on Saturday. Can they recover and be competitive against what looks like the best team in the Pac-12 this Thursday? Mark Lyons has been great for Arizona this year, and Nick Johnson teams up with him to form one of the best backcourts in the country. The Wildcats have covered the spread in only one of their last six games.
Saturday Jan. 26
Louisville Cardinals (-7) vs. Georgetown Hoyas, (noon EST on ESPN)
Louisville was upset by Syracuse last weekend, but I don’t think we should overreact to one loss. The Cardinals shot less than 30 percent from the floor in that one, and they still should have won the game. Rick Pitino’s team is extremely well-balanced on both ends of the floor. Georgetown’s inconsistency has really plagued them this year. This is a team that handled UCLA, but they also were beaten by 28 at home by the Pittsburgh Panthers. I think Louisville bounces back here.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (-1) vs. Wisconsin Badgers, (2 p.m. EST on Big Ten Network)
This may be the toughest game of the week to put a line on because of several factors. Tubby Smith’s team is one of the most improved in the nation, but winning at Wisconsin is always an extremely difficult task. The Badgers pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year so far last week when they won at Indiana, but they followed that up with a disappointing loss at Iowa. The Golden Gophers are much more talented at almost every spot on the floor, so I’ll give them a tiny edge.
Temple Owls vs. Butler Bulldogs (-6), (6 p.m. EST on ESPN2)
The Butler Bulldogs have pulled off some of the most miraculous finishes you’ll ever see this year. Three times they have won in the final seconds of the game, and two of those wins came against legitimate Final Four contenders. Brad Stevens’ team just continues to excel no matter what is thrown at them. Leading scorer Rotnei Clarke is reportedly aiming to return in this game. Temple is a very solid team, but they’ve yet to prove they can beat the best.
Sunday Jan. 27
Michigan State Spartans vs. Indiana Hoosiers (-11), (1 p.m. EST on CBS)
Indiana slipped up against Wisconsin last week, but I still think the Hoosiers have the highest upside of any team in the Big Ten. Cody Zeller is the best big man in the country, and his athleticism makes him an extremely difficult matchup for just about anyone. Michigan State has been up and down this year, and I’m not convinced they belong with the very best in the Big Ten this year.
Michigan Wolverines (-7.5) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (6 p.m. EST on Big Ten Network)
Indiana may have the highest upside in the Big Ten, but Michigan looks like the best team right now. The Wolverines were millimeters away from beating Ohio State last weekend, but they didn’t let that close loss get them down. Their win at Minnesota was a real statement win. Trey Burke has a lot more help this year, and the Wolverines are a dangerous team. Which Illinois team will show up? The Fighting Illini looked like a conference contender when they smashed Ohio State at home. Since then, the Fighting Illini have been beaten badly in three straight contests.
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