Another week in the wild and wonderful world of college hoops has arrived. We’ve got a ton of games to consider this week, as everybody is in the throes of conference play and will be for the next 5-6 weeks before the conference tournaments start and the NCAA Tournament picture takes shape.
Like I’ve been talking about in the NBA and right here in this CBB article, a lot of situational spots pop up over the course of the week as a result of what happened in previous games. Teams will be in bounceback or letdown spots. Teams will be fatigued from an overtime game or an emotional ending. You want to be vigilant and stay on top of things so you can pick out some opportunities.
Lastly, I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Cal State Bakersfield and Chicago State got postponed from Saturday to Sunday because of weather this past weekend. That turned a horrible spot for Bakersfield with two games in 36 hours into a much better situation. That doesn’t always happen with weather. Think of all the travel these teams have. Think of all the bus travel for teams with smaller athletic departments. We don’t think of weather impacting indoor sports, but it can very much impact the schedule in getting home or getting to the next destination. Keep that in mind and scour social media to see what the beat writers are reporting. You may find some spots that way.
Here are the CBB situational spots to consider for the week ending January 26:
Monday January 20
Yale at Howard – So, this spot is strange in many ways. First, Yale beat Brown on January 17 to open 1-0 in Ivy League play. Second, this is a 12 p.m. ET game on a Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Third, Yale plays at Brown on Friday, which is when Ivy League play really starts in earnest. Howard is simply terrible, but so is this spot for Yale in a lot of ways. Some food for thought if you want an action play for the Monday workday.
Texas at West Virginia – What a tough stretch for the Texas Longhorns. They hosted Kansas on Saturday afternoon and now go up to Morgantown to take on West Virginia. Of course, it’s not as weird as Saturday’s spot, which we’ll talk about later, but this is a challenging back-to-back in about 53 hours. WVU played at Kansas State on Saturday. It is a tricky scenario both ways here for a couple of spotlight teams in what is really the only true spotlight game on Monday.
Winthrop at Radford – The Winthrop Eagles are in a pretty good spot here, even though the game is at Radford. Radford just came off of a second-place game in the conference against Presbyterian on the road. Winthrop, meanwhile, got to smooth out the rough edges before this game against their chief competition in the Big South Conference. On the other hand, Radford has played a far tougher schedule than Winthrop, even with the Eagles’ early-season frequent flyer miles. I’m not entirely sure what happens here, but I’d fade both teams the next time out.
Bucknell at Colgate – This is one of those spots where casual CBB fans could get in trouble. Bucknell isn’t on the level that they used to be, at least not this season. Colgate is and the Raiders are viewed as a top-125 team in some circles. This is going to be one of those spots when action junkies are looking for something on the Monday card and see Bucknell, a fairly household name as far as low-majors go, getting what they believe to be too many points. Colgate is just better, so buyer beware on the Bison.
Tuesday January 21
Butler at Villanova – Well, let’s just go ahead and hit the ground running for Tuesday. Butler has been exceptional this season, but most of Butler’s biggest scalps have been at home or in neutral settings. This is a really tough game here against Villanova. Butler goes from Chicago and some travel concerns getting in and out of town to Philadelphia to take on the Wildcats. As great of a story as Butler has been this season, I really think this spot sets up nicely for Villanova and would look to lay it with Jay Wright’s bunch as they play a fourth straight home game.
Georgia at Kentucky – Well this one should be fun. Georgia danced its way off the floor at home for the halftime intermission back on January 7. Kentucky outscored the Bulldogs 47-32 in the second half and ran away with a nine-point win. Georgia hasn’t beaten Kentucky in almost seven years and won’t do so here either. You can bet that Kentucky remembers how slow they started and how they pummeled UGA in the second half.
Miami at Duke – Maybe last week’s loss to Clemson has given Duke some perspective, but the game after a big top-15 matchup is always a tough one. That is the situation here for Duke after Saturday’s game against Louisville. Teams always put so much into those marquee games that sometimes they just don’t show up the same way against lesser foes. Duke’s wake-up call may have come last week in a look-ahead context, but I wouldn’t be eager to lay a big price here.
Air Force at Utah State – The most disappointing team in college basketball this season is Utah State. The Aggies were thought to be the best team in the Mountain West and quite possibly a team capable of an at-large bid. That won’t happen. Let’s see what this team is made of when Air Force comes to town. The Falcons beat Utah State by 19 points in Colorado Springs earlier this month. They won the second half 48-26 in the process. Does Utah State exact revenge here? They should want to off of that huge blowout performance.
Wednesday January 22
Penn State at Michigan – Road wins are hard to come by in the Big Ten this season, but you have to think Penn State is in a decent spot to get one, right? Michigan is in shambles right now. After that impressive run in the Bahamas, Michigan is just 4-6 and first-year head coach Juwan Howard seems to have no idea how to fix it. On the other hand, Penn State is reeling a little bit, too. Is this a “get right” game for Michigan? That’s the way I’d have to look in this spot.
Duquesne at Rhode Island – A lot of people have been waiting for the other shoe to drop for Duquesne basketball. You can see why. The Dukes have put together a very nice record against a really weak schedule. Surprisingly, Duquesne has played well to open A-10 play, but I think this is a slap in the face game for them. One of those when reality hits. This Rhode Island team is rounding into form, as evidenced by a road win at VCU and then no letdown on the road against St. Joseph’s. The Rams are my pick here in this one at any reasonable price.
UMBC at Hartford – We all remember UMBC as the first #16 seed to beat a #1 seed. What we don’t think of UMBC as is one of the worst teams in the America East Conference. That is the case so far this season, though. The Retrievers draw the Hartford Hawks in Wednesday’s game, but they may have a good chance to cover as road pups. Hartford is in a terrible spot here, with Vermont the game prior and then Albany the game after. Those are two of the best teams in this conference. UMBC is not. It will be a tough spot for the Hawks to cover a number. This is actually one of my favorite spots of the week.
Memphis at Tulsa – When you think AAC basketball, you think Memphis. You think Wichita State. You think Houston. You think UConn. You think SMU. You know what you don’t think? Tulsa. But the Golden Hurricane are pretty good this season and they have had their moments in past seasons as well. In this spot, Memphis has a bulls-eye on its back going into Tulsa, where the home team has played really well this season. With a lot of new public money in the market looking to bet on whatever feels comfortable, don’t be surprised if Tulsa is the sharp side and the winner here.
UNLV at Nevada – This rivalry has lost some of its luster with the Martin twins and head coach Eric Musselman gone, but these two teams should be very much up for this one in Reno. UNLV has some decent scalps so far this season, but their two road wins in conference are against bottom feeders. This is a nice step up in class for the Rebels. I think we get a max effort both ways here and those things can be situational spots in and of themselves because you get to simply pick the better team based on the spread.
Thursday January 23
Radford at UNC Asheville – Faaaaaaaaaaaaade the Highlanders here. This is a long bus ride from Radford to UNC Asheville and a really tough spot for the visitors. Those two big games over Presbyterian and Winthrop followed by this one against the Bulldogs, who aren’t great, but also aren’t terrible either. The Bulldogs have played a ton of close games so far this season. A close game will push Radford even more and UNCA can both cover and win outright if that’s the case.
Belmont at Murray State – It is always must-see TV in the OVC when Belmont and Murray State get together. The perennial top two teams in the Ohio Valley Conference square off for the first time on Thursday night and ESPN2 will be on hand. We’ll actually see Belmont again on Saturday, but this is a big one both ways and the first home game back for Murray State after four straight road games, all of which went in the win column. You can turn this one into a pure handicap and consider both teams and the odds. There really aren’t any spot considerations here. Just a good game.
Liberty at North Florida – Last season, it was Liberty and Lipscomb. This season it is Liberty and Liberty. The Flames could be their own worst enemy in the Atlantic Sun Conference and not make the NCAA Tournament, but that seems unlikely. Still, the Flames need to be ready for such tests and this is about as close as they can get with a game on the road at North Florida. I have to think this game is circled for the Flames because huge conference tests are few and far between. They’re simply waxing opponents in conference play. Let’s see if the Ospreys can give them a game. If not, it will be hard to fade Liberty in A-Sun play.
San Francisco at Saint Mary’s – I highlighted this huge matchup when USF was favored a few weeks back. The Dons failed to take advantage and lost by 11. After playing so well in the non-conference, USF has struggled in West Coast Conference play. Ironically, so has Saint Mary’s. Gonzaga looks unbeatable given how this conference is playing so far, but this may be a second-place game for USF and SMC and the opportunity to maybe avoid Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament until the finals down the line. I think this is a huge game for both teams and I would expect USF to stack up better than they did the first time as they look for road revenge.
Friday January 24
Yale at Brown – These two teams played a week ago in the Ivy League opener for both sides. Now they reconvene in Providence for Round 2. Really, outside of the Rapid Revenge Theory, which Brown has, there isn’t much here. Friday’s CBB schedule is pretty weak all around.
Northern Kentucky at Wright State – This looks like a decent game, though. Wright State and Northern Kentucky appear to be the unquestioned two best teams in the Horizon League this season. Wright State hosts this one and the two teams will play in the regular season finale the last week of February. Wright State has played one of the weakest schedules in the country to this point, so this one will tell us a lot about the Raiders.
Saturday January 25
Army at Navy – There isn’t as much fanfare for the basketball rivalry, as we all know, but these rivalry games still mean a lot to the kids and the programs. Army and Navy actually share an affiliation in the Patriot League and do play twice a year. Navy seems to be a fair bit better than Army this season, but you know that both teams will be laser-focused in this one. Sometimes it is nice to see a handicap without any additional considerations.
SEC/Big 12 Challenge – So, this is quite a break from conference play. The SEC/Big 12 Challenge is this weekend. LSU and Texas, Missouri and WVU, Iowa State and Auburn, Tennessee vs. Kansas, Kentucky vs. Texas Tech, and Baylor vs. Florida highlight the day. Keep an eye on how things set up this week. While these games can mean a lot for seeding, some teams may not take them as seriously as others depending on where they are. For example, do we expect Missouri to do a lot of film study for WVU? I doubt it. Is Kansas State going to care about beating Alabama? Probably not. Marquee matchups, a chance to knock off Kansas or Baylor, those things will be factors.
Belmont at Austin Peay – Belmont has a really tough week in OVC play. The spotlight game against longtime rival Murray State is only the beginning. This game against Austin Peay is huge as well. Clarksville is under an hour from Belmont, but it is a second straight road game. The Governors are a quality program themselves and with this turnaround from Thursday to 3:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, it is a really challenging spot.
Dayton at Richmond – Dayton survived on the road at Saint Louis in a huge game last week. Can they do the same here against Richmond? The spot is better without a VCU game prior, but Dayton is going to get caught in one of these conference games and it will likely be on the road. I feel like I’m going to be fading Dayton on the road a lot here.
Washington at Colorado – The Washington Huskies draw the altitude double this week and the second game is the decidedly tougher one against Colorado. The Utah/Colorado trip is such a tricky one for Pac-12 teams any way you slice it and it is even tougher this season with Colorado being a whole lot better than past years. It’s an obvious spot and it is typically priced into the line, but you certainly want to be aware of it.
Portland State at Northern Arizona – Speaking of altitude, Portland State is in a really bad spot on Saturday. They’ll take on Northern Arizona, which is very high in elevation in Flagstaff. The Vikings are playing a quick two-game trip with stops in Sacramento and then Flagstaff, so we’ve got some travel here, we’ve got some altitude on the back end, and we have a quick turnaround, as this game tips about 42 hours after the previous game ends. The Lumberjacks are a strong look here.
Sunday January 26
Maryland at Indiana – Oh, look. It’s Maryland trying to win another road game. The Terrapins haven’t had too much luck with these this season or really in any recent season under Mark Turgeon. The home/road dichotomy in the Big Ten is really started to be priced into the lines. We’ll see if this one is, but just keep in mind that Maryland is a terrible bet on the road.
San Diego State at UNLV – Is this the last remaining landmine for San Diego State in conference play? Bart Torvik’s look-ahead lines still project SDSU to be a double-digit favorite, but the Aztecs are plenty capable of running the Mountain West table. There are three key road tests left. This one, New Mexico on Wednesday, and then Nevada in the regular season finale. Let’s see if they get past step one.
Keep an eye out for these college basketball situational betting spots every week at BangTheBook.com!