College Basketball Handicapping: Predicting the Line on Marquee Matchups
by Aaron Smith - 12/3/2012
Last week was a great week of early-season college basketball. The Big Ten/ACC Challenge ended in a 6-6 tie, and there was some terrific action in those 12 games. Duke found a way to beat another highly-ranked opponent and stay unbeaten. Maryland is starting to make some real noise with some impressive performances early in the season as well. Indiana continues to show they are worthy of their No. 1 spot in the rankings. Madison Square Garden will host the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday of this week, and Saturday’s schedule will be full of exciting games as usual. 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 Dec. 4
Texas Longhorns vs. Georgetown Hoyas (-2), (7 p.m. EST on ESPN)
This is the opener for Tuesday’s Jimmy V Classic. Texas had an awful trip to Maui earlier this year. The Longhorns were the favorites to win the tournament, but they were beaten by Chaminade and USC. This young Longhorns team has plenty of potential, but they haven’t put it together yet. Georgetown beat UCLA and nearly knocked off Indiana earlier this year, but they looked terrible in a 37-36 (yes you read that right) win over Tennessee last time out. I give the Hoyas a slight edge thanks to their better early-season performance, but this game has a lot of unknowns.
North Carolina State Wolfpack (-3.5) vs. UConn Huskies, (9 p.m. EST on ESPN)
The nightcap of the Jimmy V Classic, and this one is probably the more anticipated matchup. North Carolina State was deemed the team to beat in the ACC by many experts in the preseason, but they already have two losses this year. Don’t let that fool into thinking NC State doesn’t have a good team. The Wolfpack are capable of very big things with stars like C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown. UConn surprised Michigan State in the season opener, but they haven’t beaten anybody of significance since. This will be another chance for them to prove they are better than expected. I expect the Wolfpack to take care of business in this contest.
Wednesday Dec. 5
Florida Gators (-4.5) vs. Florida State Seminoles, (7 p.m. EST on ESPN2)
Florida has played some really good basketball so far this year. The Gators blasted both Wisconsin and Marquette in games that most people thought would be close. The one knock on Florida is that they haven’t even played a road game yet this season. Their first road game happens to be against rival Florida State this Wednesday night. The Seminoles have been disappointing so far this year, but some very strange things have happened in this series in the past few years. Florida is definitely the better team, but I expect the Seminoles defense to make this a close game all the way.
Saturday Dec. 8
Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Michigan Wolverines (-14.5), (noon EST on CBS)
Mike Anderson’s Arkansas Razorbacks have a way of making a game very entertaining. The Razorbacks will certainly be outclassed talent-wise in this one, but it will be interesting to see how their full-court pressure fares against Trey Burke and the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan has already beaten three solid teams in Pittsburgh, Kansas State, and NC State this year. The Wolverines have a tremendous group of freshmen, and they are making noise already. Michigan should handle the pressure better than most teams, and I think the Wolverines win big in this matchup.
Colorado Buffaloes vs. Kansas Jayhawks (-8.5), (2 p.m. EST on ESPN2)
Tad Boyle is doing a tremendous job putting Colorado basketball on the map. The Buffaloes beat Murray State and Baylor earlier this year. Kansas has been taking care of business ever since they were upset by Michigan State in early November. There is no huge talent gap in this contest like there would have been in the past. Still, Kansas has one of the best home court advantages in college basketball, and that should make them a pretty heavy favorite in this one.
Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs (-9.5), (10 p.m. EST on ESPN2)
If Gonzaga can pick up a win at Washington State in the middle of the week, this should be a meeting of two unbeaten teams on Saturday night. Illinois surprised a lot of people by winning the Maui Invitational. Brandon Paul is one of the most explosive players in the nation, and the Fighting Illini seem to really be buying into new coach John Groce’s system. Mark Few always does a terrific job with his team, and the Bulldogs are highly-ranked again this year. Gonzaga hasn’t been pushed very much all year. The Bulldogs have blasted West Virginia, Davidson, and Oklahoma early in the season. Spokane will be rocking in this one, and home court advantage is worth several points here.
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