Published on Dec. 9 at 4:55 p.m. Eastern.
By Brian Edwards
With just one college football game Saturday, gamblers are turning their attention to college hoops and its intriguing slate that features a bunch of outstanding non-conference matchups. The action starts at noon Eastern and will last until about midnight.
Washington and Duke will get things started at noon Eastern when they collide at Madison Square Garden in New York City on CBS. The Huskies have been on the road since Dec. 2 when they lost 76-73 at Nevada in overtime. Next, they flew to NYC and dropped a 79-77 decision against Marquette. We should note, however, that Lorenzo Romar’s team took the cash as a 7 ½-point underdog vs. the Golden Eagles.
Duke has quality wins over the likes of Belmont, Michigan St., Tennessee, Michigan and Kansas, with its lone loss coming at Ohio St.
Speaking of the Buckeyes, let’s examine their trip to Allen Fieldhouse and break down a few other games…
**Ohio State at Kansas**
–As of early Thursday afternoon, a line for this game had yet to be released. Therefore, I’ll take a shot at it by predicting that most betting shops will install Ohio State (8-0 straight up, 3-1 against the spread) as a 2 ½-point favorite for Saturday’s clash in Lawrence.
–Kansas (6-2 SU, 4-4 ATS) has won three consecutive games since losing to Duke in the final of the Maui Classic. The Jayhawks took the cash in two of those contests, but they failed to do so in their last outing, an 88-80 win over Long Beach St. as 13 ½-point home ‘chalk.’ Thomas Robinson was the catalyst for KU, scoring 26 points and grabbing 11 rebounds while shooting 10-of-14 from the field. Junior center Jeff Withey also produced a double-double with 13 points and 13 boards.
–Bill Self’s squad also has a loss to Kentucky on its resume, falling 75-65 to the Wildcats at MSG on Nov. 15. KU’s best wins came over UCLA and Georgetown in Hawaii.
–Ohio St. sophomore center Jared Sullinger is ‘probable’ but has been experiencing back spasms recently. Sullinger averages 19.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
–Thad Matta’s team appears to have as much talent as any team in the country. In addition to Sullinger, the Buckeyes have another reliable scorer in William Buford, who averages 16.0 PPG and is making 46.2 percent of his attempts from 3-point land. Sophomore point guard Aaron Craft is OSU’s emotional leader and is probably the best perimeter defender in the Big Ten. He’s not a great shooter but plays a sensational floor game. Craft averages 9.8 PPG and has 44 assists compared to 16 turnovers. Also, he has 23 steals and grabs 3.1 rebounds per game.
–Robinson leads KU in scoring (17.4 PPG) and rebounding (12.0) and the junior forward is making 51 percent of his shots from the field. Senior guard Tyshawn Taylor is also scoring in double figures at a 16.8 PPG clip. However, Taylor has more turnovers (32) than assists (29).
–This is Ohio State’s first road assignment of the season. Totals have been an overall wash (2-2) for the Buckeyes to date.
–The ‘under’ is 6-2 overall for KU, 2-2 in its home games.
–ESPN will provide television coverage at 3:15 p.m. Eastern.
**Kentucky at Indiana**
–Kentucky (8-0 SU, 3-4 ATS) has climbed to No. 1 in the national rankings thanks to eight consecutive victories. John Calipari’s team is coming off a 73-72 win over North Carolina as a 6 ½-point home favorite. The non-cover was the fourth straight for the Wildcats, who trailed UNC 43-38 at intermission. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist led four UK players in double figures with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Terrence Jones added 14 points and seven boards.
–Indiana (8-0 SU, 4-0 ATS) hasn’t faced a ton of quality foes but the IU faithful are nonetheless giddy about its unblemished record after three miserable seasons. The Hoosiers have a pair of decent wins over Butler at home and at N.C. St.
–IU freshman forward Cody Zeller has been an impact player from the start. The brother of UNC’s Tyler Zeller, Cody is averaging 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Zeller also has 21 steals and 13 blocked shots through eight games.
–Jones leads UK in scoring with a 15.0 PPG average and is also pulling down 7.5 rebounds per contest. Jones is second on the team in blocked shots with 20. Doron Lamb is averaging 14.4 PPG, while freshman center Anthony Davis is averaging 12.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game while also blocking a team-high 36 shots.
–The ‘under’ is 5-2 overall for UK this year. Going back to last season, the ‘under’ is on a 13-3-1 run in the Wildcats’ last 17 outings. Meanwhile, IU has seen the ‘over’ go 3-1 this year, 1-1 in its two home games with a total.
–The ‘Cats have won three in a row both SU and ATS over IU in this head-to-head rivalry. They won by an 81-62 count as 12 ½-point home favorites last year. UK is 9-2 ATS in the last 11 meetings against the Hoosiers, while the ‘under’ is 7-3 in the last 10 encounters.
–Tip-off is slated for 5:15 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
**Michigan State at Gonzaga**
–Gonzaga (5-1 SU, 3-3 ATS) won its first five games but is in bounce-back mode after suffering an 82-75 loss at Illinois last Saturday as a three-point underdog.
–Since losing to North Carolina and Duke to start the season, Michigan St. (7-2 SU, 4-2 ATS) has won seven in a row and has covered the number in its last three lined games. All seven victories for the Spartans have come by double-digit margins, with the best victory coming against Florida St. Tom Izzo’s team rolled to a 65-49 home win over the Seminoles in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
–Draymond Green is the go-to guy for Izzo’s squad. Green hasn’t shot the ball as effectively (40% from the field) as in years past, but he’s still averaging team-highs in scoring (14.3 PPG) and rebounding (10.4 RPG).
–Mark Few’s team is led by center Robert Sacre, who is averaging 16.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Elias Harris is probably the Bulldogs’ best all-around player, averaging 13.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per contest.
–The ‘under’ is 5-1 overall for the Spartans, 2-1 in three games played outside of Breslin Center.
–Totals have been an overall wash (3-3) for Gonzaga with the ‘over’ hitting at a 2-1 clip in its three home games.
–When these schools squared off in East Lansing two years ago, the Spartans won by a 75-71 count but the Bulldogs took the cash as 11 ½-point underdogs.
–ESPN2 will have the telecast at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
–The ‘over’ is 7-2 overall for Duke, 5-1 for Washington.
–Harvard (8-1 SU, 4-1 ATS) suffered its first loss of the year both SU and ATS Thursday night at UConn. The Huskies pulled away in the second half to capture a 67-53 win as 6 ½-point home favorites. The Crimson, who were ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time in school history this week, will try to bounce back Saturday at Boston U.
–West Va. won an 85-80 decision at Kansas St. in double overtime on Thursday night.
Another mid-major in the AP rankings this week is Creighton with its unbeaten record both SU (7-0) and ATS (4-0). The Bluejays are led by sophomore forward Doug McDermott, who is averaging 23.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game while shooting 62.6 percent from the field. Greg McDermott’s squad has wins over UAB, Iowa, San Diego St. and Nebraska with only one of those victories coming at home (vs. the Cornhuskers). Creighton has three non-conference games of note remaining: at St. Joseph’s, at Tulsa and vs. Northwestern. The Bluejays are at St. Joe’s on Saturday.
Brian Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.
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