Saturday, February 2
Study group: Saturday’s Top 25 NCB betting notes
Cincinnati Bearcats at Seton Hall Pirates (-4.5, 126.5)
Cincinnati has righted itself after a slow start in the Big East. The Bearcats have won four of their last five as they prepare for a two-game road trip, starting at struggling Seton Hall on Saturday. Cincinnati has not been as good on the offensive end during conference play, but has played solid defense when needed and is among the nation’s leaders in rebounding and blocked shots. The Bearcats have been comfortable on the road, winning seven of eight games away from their home court. Seton Hall looks to put it together with four of its next six contests at home. The Pirates have lost six of the last seven games after winning their Big East opener at DePaul. Seton Hall is averaging 17 turnovers in league play, most in the Big East, and seven more than its opponents.
Syracuse Orange at Pittsburgh Panthers (-4, 124)
No. 6 Syracuse looks to rebound from its first loss in more than a month when it travels to Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Orange had won eight in a row, including their first six in Big East play, before losing to Villanova 75-71 in overtime last Saturday. The Orange were already without senior swingman James Southerland (13.6 ppg) for the last four games after he was suspended indefinitely for academic issues on Jan. 12. Now the Syracuse front line has grown even thinner as freshman DaJaun Coleman underwent left knee surgery and will be sidelined four weeks. The Panthers had a four-game win streak snapped on Monday when No. 13 Louisville edged them 64-61 to avoid a fourth straight conference defeat. Pittsburgh is 0-5 when allowing opponents to score at least 65 points, and will have its hands full with Syracuse, which ranks 23rd in the nation at 77.1 points per game.
Auburn Tigers at Missouri Tigers (-16, 139)
Few teams have been better at home and worse on the road this season than No. 18 Missouri. Fortunately for one of the Southeastern Conference’s newest members, it will square off against Auburn for the first time ever in familiar surroundings. Missouri fell to 0-4 in true road games with Wednesday’s 73-70 setback against LSU, but has been a much different animal at home, going 12-0 and winning by an average of 19.8 points. Auburn hasn’t been doing a lot of winning regardless of the venue recently, dropping five straight after beginning league play with a 2-0 record. The offense has been particularly bad over the last four games and matched a season low in points during Wednesday’s 57-49 loss at Georgia.
Duke Blue Devils at Florida State Seminoles (+7, 140)
Fifth-ranked Duke is the highest rated team among ACC programs but is two games off the conference lead heading into Saturday’s game at Florida State. The Blue Devils are two games behind first-place Miami, with one of Duke’s two defeats coming when the Hurricanes posted a 90-63 victory on Jan. 23. The Blue Devils have little margin for error as they meet a Florida State squad that has won three of the last four meetings and defeated Duke in the semifinals of the ACC tournament last March. The Seminoles are 2-3 in their last five games, with both victories coming on last-second baskets by sharpshooter Michael Snaer. The latest dramatic ending came in Wednesday’s 73-71 victory over Maryland. Duke notched its first road victory of the season in three chances by beating Wake Forest 75-70 on Wednesday.
San Diego State Aztecs at Air Force Falcons (+3, 131)
Air Force is a surprise contender in the Mountain West and can take another pivotal step with an upset of No. 20 San Diego State on Saturday. The host Falcons and Aztecs are part of a four-team tie for second place. Air Force has been surprisingly good in coach Dave Pilipovich’s first full season at the helm. “Who knows if we’ll win another game, but we’re going to fight like heck,” Pilipovich said after the Falcons defeated Fresno State on Wednesday for their fourth straight win. “These guys have done a really good job.” San Diego State has won back-to-back games over Nevada and first-place New Mexico, both by 21 points. Coach Steve Fisher is mighty worried about the rising Falcons. “That will be an extremely difficult game and we need to come out with the same preparation, toughness and togetherness we did (against New Mexico),” Fisher said after the win over the Lobos. Air Force is 9-1 at home, all the victories coming by double digits.
Bradley Braves at Creighton Bluejays (-18, 143)
No. 17 Creighton hosts Bradley in search of its third straight Missouri Valley Conference victory. After consecutive losses to Wichita State and Drake, the Bluejays responded by beating Southern Illinois and Missouri State by a combined 44 points. Led by National Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott (23.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Creighton is the most efficient shooting team in the nation at 52.1 percent. Bradley has bounced back from a 7-25 record last season, winning 10 of 12 games at home this year. On the road, however, the Braves are just 3-7 and winless in their last four tries. Bradley snapped a two-game losing streak Tuesday, beating Illinois State 83-77. Creighton has defeated the Braves 14 straight times at home and in 21 of the last 26 overall meetings. The Bluejays have also won all 25 of the head-to-head contests in which they’ve have tallied at least 70 points.
Oklahoma State Cowboys at Kansas Jayhawks (-11, 126)
No. 1 Kansas puts its 18-game winning streak, which is the nation's longest, on the line against an Oklahoma State squad that has won three of its last four games. The 18-game win streak is the third longest in the 10-year Bill Self era. The Jayhawks, who held on for a sloppy 61-56 win at West Virginia on Monday, also have won 33 straight games at Allen Fieldhouse which ranks second nationally and is tied for fourth best in school history. Oklahoma State is 0-4 on the road this season including Big 12 losses at Baylor (64-54), Oklahoma (77-68) and Kansas State (73-67). The Cowboys have lost five of the last six meetings with the Jayhawks and have lost 16 straight times to Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse dating back to 1990. Oklahoma State was picked to finish third behind Kansas and Baylor in the 2013 Big 12 Coaches Preseason Poll.
Miami Hurricanes at North Carolina State Wolfpack (-1.5, 134)
The Hurricanes, playing their second straight road game, will have their hands full with North Carolina State's high-scoring offense. Miami's tough defense, though, has helped it jump into the national rankings. A pair of freshmen will likely split time at point guard while North Carolina State junior Lorenzo Brown is sidelined with an injury. Miami will try to continue its run through the ACC with a trip to North Carolina State. The No. 15 Hurricanes have the league's best start since Duke went 10-0 in 2007-08. Both teams have wins against then-No. 1 Duke but the No. 19 Wolfpack has dropped three of five since their win.
Rhode Island Rams at Butler Bulldogs (-14, 123)
Butler figures to be one angry team when it hosts Rhode Island in Atlantic 10 play on Saturday. The No. 10 Bulldogs were routed 75-58 by Saint Louis on Thursday in an extremely one-sided contest. “We pretty much got punked,” senior guard Rotnei Clarke said afterwards. “End of story. There’s not really much to say about it. We got outclassed and we got punked.” Butler is in its first season in the A-10 and still learning the terrain. “We’ve got to bounce back from this,” Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens said afterward. The Bulldogs should have an easy time with the beleaguered Rams, who are in 15th-place in the 16-team conference. Rhode Island lost to Virginia Commonwealth 70-64 on Wednesday for its third straight loss. The Rams are just 2-5 on the road.
Wichita State Shockers at Northern Iowa Panthers (Pick, 119)
It's been since November of 2011 that No. 14 Wichita State lost consecutive regular-season games, and that's what the Shockers will try to avoid doing when they travel to Cedar Falls to take on Northern Iowa on Saturday. Wichita State climbed to its season high in the polls this week, but a loss to Indiana State on Tuesday will likely prevent the Shockers from moving higher next week. Northern Iowa, picked to finish third in the Missouri Valley this season, has been one of the conference's biggest disappointments. Playing away from the McLeod Center has been an absolute disaster for the Panthers with their 2-9 record in games outside Cedar Falls. Close games, like the most recent two Northern Iowa played, have been trouble as well. The Panthers lost to the Indiana State and Evansville by a combined four points.
Oregon Ducks at California Golden Bears (Pick, 137)
Oregon looks to bounce back from its stunning loss at Stanford when the Ducks complete their Bay Area swing against California, which is aiming to win back-to-back games for the first time in over a month. Oregon had its nine-game winning streak snapped Wednesday when the Ducks were crushed by Stanford 76-52 in a game that was never close. The Ducks entered the game as the last unbeaten team in conference play, but they came out flat and were dominated inside the paint. They’ve lost nine straight games to California, which leads the all-time series 80-55. The Bears are 48-13 against the Ducks at home and 10-1 in the last 11 meetings at Haas Pavilion.
Kansas State Wildcats at Oklahoma Sooners (-3.5, 130)
Kansas State looks for a season sweep of Oklahoma when the 21st-ranked Wildcats travel to Norman for a key Big 12 matchup. Kansas State and Oklahoma entered the weekend tied with Baylor for second place in the conference, with Kansas the last remaining unbeaten team at 7-0. The Wildcats forced 16 turnovers and hit 10 3-pointers to beat the Sooners 69-60 when the teams met in Manhattan on Jan. 19. Oklahoma senior forward Romero Osby and Kansas State senior guard Rodney McGruder are averaging 17 points apiece in conference play, and Osby continues to lead the Sooners in scoring and rebounding. McGruder had a game-high 20 points when the teams met two weeks ago.
Mississippi Rebels at Florida Gators (-14.5, 134)
It will be strength against strength when the SEC leaders meet at Florida on Saturday. No. 16 Mississippi is one of the country's top scoring teams, powered by junior guard Marshall Henderson. The league's best defense has led the No. 4 Gators to nine straight double-digit wins. The Gators haven't allowed a league opponent to score more than 52 points. Florida junior gaurd Scottie Wilbekin, who has already shut down some of the SEC's top guards, will likely get the tough task of guarding Henderson. The Rebels could be without two key backups - forward Aaron Jones (ACL) and guard Nick Williams (foot) - on Saturday.
Ohio State Buckeyes at Nebraska Cornhuskers (+12, 118)
No. 11 Ohio State has looked impressive in three straight victories, and star Deshaun Thomas is coming off one of his best games of the season. The Buckeyes will be looking to secure their fourth straight victory when they visit Nebraska on Saturday. The Cornhuskers suffered a 26-point loss at Ohio State in their Big Ten opener and have struggled mightily against the top tier of the conference. Thomas broke out of a one-game slump with 25 points in an impressive win over Wisconsin on Tuesday as the Buckeyes kept the pressure on Michigan, Indiana and Michigan State ahead of them in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes will need to be careful not to overlook Nebraska with dates against the top-ranked Wolverines and No. 3 Hoosiers coming up next week. The Cornhuskers are trying to stay above .500 overall but have yet to reach 70 points in conference play.
Nevada Wolf Pack at New Mexico Lobos (-14,127)
No. 22 New Mexico, which holds a one-game lead in the highly competitive Mountain West Conference, returns home to The Pit to host league newcomer Nevada in the first meeting between the two schools. The Lobos are 10-1 at home this season with the lone loss coming to South Dakota State, 70-65, on Dec. 22. Since then Steve Alford's defending Mountain West champs have won three in a row at The Pit, including impressive wins over league heavyweights UNLV (65-60) and Colorado State (66-61). Nevada, picked fifth in the Mountain West preseason poll, have dropped five of their last seven games, including a 66-54 loss at UNLV on Tuesday. The Wolf Pack are just 2-6 on the road but did score an impressive non-conference win at Washington, 76-73, on Dec. 8 and trailed by just seven points with four minutes to go at UNLV. Nevada is competing in the Mountain West for the first time this season after spending 12 years in the WAC where the Wolf Pack finished 13-1 last season while winning their sixth league title.
Michigan Wolverines at Indiana Hoosiers (-4.5, 138)
After weeks of hype, it’s finally here. Sure, the Super Bowl is nice, but college basketball's marquee matchup of Michigan and Indiana should be one of the games of the year. The 2nd-ranked Wolverines feature the nation’s top offense and a player of the year candidate in point guard Trey Burke, who averages 17 points and seven assists. No. 3 Indiana, which held the top ranking for the first six weeks of the season, might be one of the few teams capable of keeping pace with the Wolverines. Sophomore big man Cody Zeller was shaky early, but he leads the Hoosiers in scoring and rebounding and is coming off a strong performance against Purdue. Michigan has struggled to win in Bloomington, having lost 14 of the last 15 meetings at Indiana.
Arizona Wildcats at Washington State Cougars (+7.5, 125)
Arizona will try to stay in the Pac-12 race when the No. 8 Wildcats travel to Washington State on Saturday night. Arizona moved within a game of first-place Oregon with its narrow win Thursday night at Washington, a day after the Ducks were blown out at Stanford for their first conference loss. Washington State hasn’t put up much resistance lately, losing six of eight in conference play. Brock Motum could be a tough guard for Arizona. The 6-10 senior center is averaging a team-leading 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds, and the Wildcats rely on a trio of freshman big men, Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski, who are still finding their way. The good news for the Wildcats is Motum isn’t shooting the nearly ball as well as earlier in the season. He shot 50 percent from the field or better in nine of the first 11 games, but has reached that mark once in the last 10.
Gonzaga Bulldogs at San Diego Toreros (+14, 132)
No. 7 Gonzaga looks to wrap up a perfect first half of the West Coast Conference campaign when it visits San Diego on Saturday. The Bulldogs have won three straight games including a blowout at Loyola-Marymount last time out. Gonzaga, which has won the last eight meetings against San Diego, is already making a strong case for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Zags are ninth in the nation in scoring averaging nearly 80 points a game. After an impressive five-game winning streak, San Diego enters Saturday's game having lost three straight. The Toreros are 8-3 at home on the season but saw their 6-game winning streak on their homecourt snapped last Saturday by Santa Clara (64-50). Gonzaga will pose a difficult challenge. The Bulldogs are the highest ranked team to play at San Diego but the Toreros have beaten them twice while they were ranked, the last time coming in 2008.