College Basketball: Top Teams Wade Through Conference Challenges
Now that we have a couple of weeks to get ready for the Super Bowl, many sports bettors are looking towards college basketball to get some action. With the teams now into their conference seasons, there already have been some surprises and without a doubt there will be more. Over the next couple of days, some of the Top 25 teams have difficult opponents that may thwart their plans for regular season glory in college hoops (home team in CAPS, pick in bold).
Indiana vs. #3 MICHIGAN STATE (-12)
These two teams met only 17 days ago on Indiana’s home floor in Bloomington and it wasn’t a pretty sight for the Hoosier fans. The Spartans came into Assembly Hall and laid a 73-56 beating on Indiana and there isn’t any reason to think that the same won’t happen in East Lansing. The Hoosiers, while improving (their victory over then-#3 Wisconsin last week shows that), don’t have quite the roster they did last year, although PG Yogi Ferrell has been trying to keep the pace up. Michigan State is on a 10-game winning streak behind G Gary Harris, who leads the Spartans with 17.9 PPG; expect them to stretch that streak to 11 with a decisive victory.
#22 Kansas State (+5.5) vs. TEXAS
Although they lost to in-state rival Kansas ten days ago, the Wildcats have rebounded well from that defeat. They picked up a win last week against then-#25 Oklahoma and routed West Virginia over the weekend (both home games). Believe it or not, this is only their THIRD road game of the college basketball season!
The Longhorns also have a mini-streak going, winning their last three games with a 10-point defeat of then-#8 Iowa State over the weekend as a highlight. There is a whiff of inconsistency to coach Rick Barnes’ team, however. A November loss to Brigham Young and another loss to rival Oklahoma only 17 days ago are blemishes on their record.
This game is going to be closer than the spread indicates and it could go either way. With this in mind, I’ve got to go with the Wildcats over the Longhorns.
#10 Iowa vs. #21 MICHIGAN
This clash of two of the top three teams in the Big Ten would be a great feather in the cap for either team. Their losses (Iowa has three, Michigan has four) have all come against Top 25 teams and both are coming off excellent wins over Wisconsin. The bottom line for the game will be whether Iowa’s fifth-ranked offense and third ranked rebounding team can impose their will against a frisky Wolverine squad that can have moments of offensive explosiveness behind PG Nik Stauskas. With lines pending on this game (and the others following), I’ve got to take Iowa in a squeaker as they look to chase down Michigan State, whom they will take on next week.
#5 Wichita State vs. ILLINOIS STATE
The Shockers did just that last year in the NCAA Tournament, reaching the Final Four before falling to eventual national champion Louisville. This season, all that Wichita State has done is steamroll through their non-conference season and – since they are in the Missouri Valley Conference that lost Creighton – focus their sights on potentially going undefeated up to the 2014 NCAA Tournament (the last team to do that was St. Joseph’s who went 27-0 before losing in that year’s NCAA Tournament).
Illinois State will present little opposition to Wichita State. The Redbirds lost most of their team from last season through either graduation or suspension (long story) and fell to these same Shockers back on January 8 by 19 points. Although the venue may change (this game is on the Redbirds’ home floor), the outcome won’t.
Colorado vs. #1 ARIZONA
Expect that the Arizona Wildcats will continue on handily in this game. Colorado has lost two of their last three games (including one to UCLA) and is facing an Arizona team that has absolutely been obliterating its opponents. Their last two games have been a 20-point beating of USC and a 23-point thrashing of Arizona State, meaning that the Wildcats are in good form right now. Junior G Nick Johnson and freshman Aaron Gordon provide the inside/outside punch for Arizona and the Buffaloes just don’t have the talent to keep up with them. This one could get ugly quickly in the desert.
Season: This is only our second pick of the college basketball season but, back in November, we were able to go 3-0-1 in some of the big early season matchups. Let’s hope we do a bit better here than in college football!
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