College Basketball Handicapping: Predicting the Line on Marquee Matchups
by Aaron Smith - 2/11/2013
Who deserves to be No. 1 after a whirlwind last few weeks in college basketball? The AP Top 25 puts Indiana at the top spot for a second straight week, while the USA Today Coaches Poll has Duke at No. 1. Indiana was upset by Illinois in the middle of the week, but their big win at Ohio State helped them stay on top of the pack. Duke nearly lost to Boston College on Sunday, but the Blue Devils righted the ship just in time to pull out a one-point win. It’s hard to remember another year where the top of the standings were so volatile from one week to the next.
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The Miami Hurricanes have really taken the college basketball world by storm this year! Miami is 10-0 in the ACC, and the Hurricanes are in the Top 4 in both major polls now. It’s another big week of action in college basketball as the conference season is now about halfway completed for most teams. 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 Feb. 12
Kentucky Wildcats vs. Florida Gators (-11.5), (7 p.m. EST on ESPN)
Kentucky re-entered the rankings at No. 25 this week. The Wildcats have shown a little more promise in the last couple weeks. Coach Calipari’s team will get a chance to pick up a signature win Tuesday night, but it won’t be easy. The Gators were steamrolled last week at Arkansas, blowing a chance to be at the top of the college basketball rankings right now. How good has Florida been at home this year? Their smallest margin of victory at home was a 13-point win over Central Florida.
Michigan Wolverines vs. Michigan State Spartans (-1.5), (9 p.m. EST on ESPN)
The Michigan Wolverines had two overtime games this past week, and they came out on the winning end of one of them. Their loss at Wisconsin is one that will likely sting for quite a while. Ben Brust’s three-pointer from half court at the buzzer tied it for Wisconsin, and then the Badgers overtook the Wolverines in overtime. It doesn’t get any easier for Michigan as they go to Michigan State on Tuesday night. The Spartans might have the best home court advantage of any team in the Big Ten Conference. Tom Izzo’s team has won 10 of their last 11 games.
Wednesday Feb. 13
North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Duke Blue Devils (-10), (9 p.m. EST on ESPN)
This one might not be quite the matchup it is some years since North Carolina is down this season, but anything can happen in this rivalry. The Tar Heels would love nothing better than to take down the top-ranked Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke is a totally different team at home, so I have to make them a significant favorite. Look for a fast-paced game here!
Thursday Feb. 14
Arizona Wildcats vs. Colorado Buffaloes (-1), (10 p.m. EST on Pac 12 Networks)
Arizona is in a three-way tie at the top of the Pac-12 after an upset loss at home against California on Sunday night. Colorado is still very much in the running at 6-5 in the conference. The Buffaloes have lost only one game at home all year. Arizona doesn’t have a real point guard on their team, and Colorado’s defense should give them trouble. Arizona will likely be a small favorite, but I don’t think they should be. I like Colorado’s chances to pull off the upset at home.
Gonzaga Bulldogs (-1) vs. St. Mary’s Gaels, (11 p.m. EST on ESPN2)
If you haven’t watched these two teams battle it out recently, I suggest you tune in for this one. Gonzaga and St. Mary’s don’t like each other a bit, and this game will be a very hard-fought battle. The Gaels nearly came from behind to beat Gonzaga on the road earlier this year, but the Bulldogs ended up holding on to win by five. I make Gonzaga a tiny favorite because they have lost only twice all year, and they have such a deep team. This game could go either way.
Friday Feb. 15
Georgetown Hoyas vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (-2), (9 p.m. EST on ESPN)
A rare matchup between two Top-25 teams on a Friday night here in the Big East. Cincinnati started the season 12-0, but they are just 6-6 since then. They actually have a better record on the road than they do at home. Georgetown has won seven of their last eight games overall. Both defenses are excellent, and easy shots will be hard to come by in this matchup. Cincinnati needs to stop settling for long-range shots and attack the basket.
Saturday Feb. 16
Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Marquette Golden Eagles (-1), (1 p.m. EST on CBS)
Buzz Williams has done a great job with this year’s Marquette team. They lost their two biggest stars from a year ago, but they already have 17 wins this year. Marquette lost in overtime on the road against Pittsburgh. The Golden Eagles haven’t lost at home all year, so I think they should be a very small favorite here. Pittsburgh has been dominating the boards and winning with their physicality of late. This game should go down to the final shot.
Duke Blue Devils (-4) vs. Maryland Terrapins, (6 p.m. EST on ESPN)
Duke won by only five at Wake Forest and by a single point at Boston College, so the Blue Devils haven’t been great on the road of late. Maryland started the season 13-1, but they are just 4-6 in their last 10 games. The young Terrapins have been turning the ball over at an alarmingly high rate. Maryland always gives Duke its best shot, so I made this number a little smaller than the oddsmakers likely will.
Sunday Feb. 17
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers (-2), (1 p.m. EST on CBS)
Both of these teams still have hopes of winning the Big Ten Conference, but they really can’t afford to lose another game. This game is especially important for the Buckeyes, who sit two games behind Michigan State and Indiana in the Big Ten race. Bo Ryan’s team is nearly impossible to beat at home, and the Buckeyes don’t have enough offensive weapons. I give the Badgers a small edge.
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