On Wednesday's Opening Line Report, I mentioned that No. 7 Creighton was awaiting news on a potential serious ligament injury to excellent point guard Maurice Watson Jr. There was one report from the school that his ligaments were "sound," but that was wishful thinking as Watson has been diagnosed with a torn ACL that will end his collegiate career. The Bluejays are one of the nation's best offensive teams and Watson was the guy who made that unit go in averaging 12.9 points and 8.5 assists (No. 1 in the nation in that category). Too bad as this appeared to be one of the best Creighton teams in years and its 18-1 start is the best in school history.
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No. 25 Maryland at Iowa ( -1 )
Big Ten matchup at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Go look at the Big Ten and it's rather a mess. Bunch of solid teams but definitely no great ones. Maybe the Terps are the best of the bunch as they have just two overall losses and a half-game lead over second-place Wisconsin. But Maryland also lost at home to average teams Pittsburgh and Nebraska, so who knows? The Terps are off a 62-56 win at Illinois on Saturday to complete the season sweep. This is a good defensive team in allowing just 65.1 ppg. Incidentally, both Fran McCaffery of Iowa and Maryland's Mark Turgeon enter Thursday's game with 380 career victories as a head coach.
Iowa isn't going to the Big Dance this season and comes off an 89-54 blowout loss at Northwestern on Sunday. The Hawkeyes' best player is senior guard Peter Jok. He leads the team or ranks second in points (21.9, first in Big Ten), rebounds (6.2), assists (2.4) and steals (1.1) per game. However, Jok was held to a season-low four points on 2-for-9 shooting against the Wildcats and played just six minutes in the second half because of a back problem. I don't expect Jok to miss this game, but if he's less than 100 percent I don't give Iowa a great shot. In the teams' lone matchup last season, Jok had a team-high 14 points in a 74-68 loss at Maryland.
Key trends: The Terps are 6-1 against the spread in their past seven vs. the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes are 3-11 ATS in their past 14 in the conference. The favorite is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings.
I'm leaning: Maryland.
Clemson at No. 12 Louisville (-8)
ACC game at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. Another day, another injury issue for a Final Four contender. This time, it's to Louisville guard Quentin Snider, although it's relatively good news for the Cardinals. Snider will only miss 2-3 weeks with an injured hip and thus, barring a setback, will return in plenty of time for the stretch run to the regular season as well as the postseason tournaments. Snider is averaging 12.1 points and 4.0 assists per game. Louisville has a potential trap game here ahead of visiting No. 10 Florida State on Saturday. U of L has won three straight and handled visiting Duke on Saturday, 78-69. Snider was hurt in that game but still went 35 minutes and had 13 points, six assists and five rebounds.
Clemson brings a four-game losing streak into this one, and three of those were to ranked teams. The Tigers played well against North Carolina, Notre Dame and then Virginia on Saturday in losing by just a combined 12 points. It was 77-73 at home against the Wahoos. "We've got to find ways to win these games," Coach Brad Brownell said following that one. "It's the fourth league game that has come down to the last minute and we've only won one." Jaron Blossomgame had 22 for Clemson vs. UVA and he could start for anyone. Alas, the senior (18.4 ppg) rarely gets a ton of help. Clemson upset No. 16 Louisville 66-62 in the lone meeting last year. Blossomgame had 17 points.
Key trends: The Tigers are 0-4 ATS in their past four games. The Cards are 2-6 ATS in their past eight vs. the ACC.
Early lean: Clemson.
Stanford at Oregon State (TBA)
An 11 p.m.ET start on the Pac-12 Network. These are two of the worst teams in the conference, and Oregon State sits at the bottom of the Pac-12 with a 0-5 mark (Colorado had same entering Wednesday). The Cardinal might be without their best player here in Reid Travis -- if there's a key injury like this, I will still preview a game even if there's no immediate line as at least you can jump when it does post. Travis injured his shoulder in his team's 76-69 home win over Washington on Saturday and is being called day-to-day. He also missed two games earlier with a right shoulder injury. Travis averages 16.6 points and 8.9 rebounds.
Oregon State has just four wins all season: Prairie View A&M, UT San Antonio, Southern Oregon and Kent State. So, yeah, this isn't a good team. To be fair, it has been gutted by injuries. The Beavers were blown out at rival Oregon on Saturday, 85-43. It was OSU's most lopsided loss in 347 Civil War games. Oregon scored the first 21 points before Drew Eubanks finally scored for Oregon State more than nine minutes in. OSU was 4-for-24 from the field during the first half, including 1-for-10 on 3-pointers. Tres Tinkle, who leads Oregon State with 20.2 points per game, missed his 12th straight game due to a broken wrist. OSU and Stanford split last year, each winning on the road.
Key trends: The Cardinal are 1-4 ATS in their past five vs. teams with a losing record. OSU is 4-1 ATS in its past five at home. Stanford is 14-4 ATS in its past 18 trips to Corvallis.
Early lean: Stanford if Travis plays, Oregon State if not.
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