Serious handicappers look forward to the myriad of holiday tournaments that take place on the final weekend of the year.
During this week, and last week, for that matter, one of the most important aspects of wagering on all these games is keeping track of the time for the opening tip.
While most top 25 teams that are hosting events bring in the customary Level 2 team to match-up in the other game with a pair of lower-level teams, a couple of ranked teams will find themselves quite tested in the final.
In possibly the best tournament match-up of the weekend, the Arizona State Sun Devils, who opened the season 3-1 versus the number, could face their toughest opposition of the season in the North Carolina-Charlotte 49ers, who improved to a 5-2 spread mark following a similar road win at Texas-El Paso last Wednesday.
These two will face schools from mid-level conferences to get to the championship, as the Niners have the presumable tougher challenge in West Coast Conference-favorite Pepperdine on Friday, while ASU will face less-stiff competition from Ohio. As long as favored Charlotte gets by the Waves, it could stay in the game the next night and knock off the hosts... ARIZONA STATE 75, N.C.-Charlotte 74.
Here are a few other anticipated tourney final match-ups:
INDIANA 77, Colorado State 64 - Hoosiers had covered five straight, including three straight at home, before a home loss to Missouri, while the Rams had only been on the board three times over their first eight outings, going 1-2 and failing badly at Creighton in its biggest (+6) dog role.
OKLAHOMA 88, Southern Methodist 74 - Oklahoma covered two of three tries laying doubles at home, and had covered four of six before blowing out Coppin and Southwest Texas in typical non-board efforts, while the Mustangs covered their first four on the board, including an 11 against money-burner Tennessee.
ARIZONA 84, Mississippi State 67 - Despite 6-2 overall start, the Bulldogs were 0-for-3 against the number, including a season-opening loss to Cal as a 5-point dog, while the Wildcats got the number the first two times laying doubles at home, but failed at -17 against LSU.
PURDUE 81, Ucla 76 Home standing Purdue covered a pair of efforts laying doubles this month and owns the early-season win over Arizona, while the Bruins lost, but covered five, as their only dog role in the season-opener against Kansas, before following up with the win over Kentucky.
WISCONSIN 70, South Florida 60 - Bulls will try the dog role for the first time this season, although they covered as a favorite in their only true road efforts so far against Florida State and Illinois-Chicago, while the Badgers are 1-2 laying doubles at home, but covered as a 6-point favorite against Xavier.
Cincinnati 79, TOLEDO 67 - Bearcats have covered both true road contests so far, including in-state against Dayton as a 3-point dog, while the Rockets opened the season with five straight covers before a pair of failures at home to Bonaventure and Fresno, sandwiched in between close non-board wins Oakland and Samford.
Kansas 83, Southwest Missouri State 67 - At Kansas City, Kansas enters having split four games when laying double-digits, but all victories by at least 19 points, while the Bears failed in their only effort as a dog, losing to Evansville at home by 10 as a 4-point handicap.
Michigan State 80, Bowling Green 52 - At Auburn Hills, the Falcons enter having failed their first three chances on the road against the number, while the Spartans had covered six of their last seven following their impressive showing against Seton Hall last Tuesday.
Purdue 71, AKRON 59 - The Boilers are 2-1 as they chalk all double-digits but they failed in their only true road outing, getting blown out at Virginia as an 8-point dog, while the Zips have been on the far short end of a pair of blowouts as a double-digit dog on the road. However, they covered their only home outing, laying 7.5 to Rhode Island.>
Florida 86, TULANE 71 - The Gators covered as a road favorite in the season-opener against FSU, but theyre 1-2 against the number laying doubles, while Tulane was 1-3 against the number, failing as a dog each time, including twice as a double-digit dog to Oklahoma and SMU.
Tennessee 79, George Washington 71 - The tournament-favorite Volunteers open play in the three-round Rainbow Classic, but they had failed five straight against the number following their loss to Virginia at the Jimmy V, while the Colonials covered two of three efforts as a dog, including a cover against Maryland, getting 10.5 in an 8-point loss.
North Carolina 79, Massachusetts 63 - In the opening-round of the M.V.P. Classic in Charlotte, the Tar Heels enter having covered just two of their first seven board games, but were 2-2 against the number laying double digits, while the Minutemen opened 1-5 against the spread, but 1-1 when getting doubles.
STANFORD 86, Fordham 65 - No guarantee the Cardinals, who split two of their first four as double-digit favorites, could face tournament host Santa Clara on Saturday, but theyll surely make the title game with a blowout of the Rams, who covered three of their first four lined games, all as dogs. Look for doubles against the Broncos.