Big 12 coming up larger

Jan 22, 2002 7:48 AM

The Big 12 Conference features six teams that figure to wind up among the top 25 schools in the country. That’s not bad.

Kansas is the leader of the pack, followed closely by Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Texas and Texas Tech.

The big surprise is that Texas Tech owns the best record among league members against the spread. That’s especially impressive in a league that boasts eight teams with an above .500 ATS mark.

Bob Knight’s Red Raiders are 11-4 ATS heading into this week’s action. Kansas and Oklahoma follow at 8-4. Then comes Nebraska at 6-3, but the Cornhuskers will be cast in the underdog road more than the others.

The remaining list includes Oklahoma State (9-6), Texas (8-5), Iowa State and Missouri (each at 8-6).

The Big 12 rates as just the fourth best conference, according to the Sagarin ratings. The Pac-10 tops the list, followed in order by the SEC and ACC.

Cincy on fire

The Cincinnati Bearcats might be the hottest team in the country, boasting a 17-1 record for the fifth time in school history.

The Bearcats improved to 5-0 straight-up in Conference USA play following Saturday’s 77-50 blowout win over Louisville. The Cardinals fell to 11-5 under new coach Rick Pitino, who turned down the UNLV job.

Coach Bob Huggins is known for tenacious defensive teams and this could be his best squad. Conference USA doesn’t get the respect of the Big 12, the top teams can play with anyone.

This week’s slate:

We managed a 3-3 ATS mark in the first week of picking games. Not the best, but we’ll try to improve.

The season mark omits our Monday night selection of San Diego State to cover against Wyoming. That result will be reflected in next week’s count.

Tuesday, Jan. 22

Michigan St at Iowa: The Spartans are 4-8-1 ATS and have lost four of their last five road games. Iowa has not covered a spread since Dec. 15, dropping seven straight. But, the Hawkeyes have been winning. The line should be low. Take IOWA.

Wednesday, Jan. 23

Maryland at Wake: This should be a dilly. The visiting Terrapins are 0-3 ATS in their last three games, though winning twice. The Demon Deacons are just 6-11 ATS, but are unbeaten at home. Figuring Maryland as a slight favorite, take WAKE.

Thursday, Jan. 24

Stanford at UCLA: The visiting Cardinals have been hot lately, going 3-1 ATS in the last four games. UCLA is just 5-11-1 ATS, including 2-4 in the past six games. The Bruins are too inconsistent to back in this case. Take STANFORD.

Friday, Jan. 25

Manhattan at Iona: A rematch from a December meeting at Manhattan won by the Jaspers as a six-point home favorite, 69-58. Manhattan is an excellent 8-4-1 ATS, while Iona is 2-5 ATS in its last seven games. Give points, Take MANHATTAN.

Saturday, Jan. 26

Florida at Arkansas: Both teams enter the game on the down side. The Gators are 1-5 ATS in their last six lined contests, including a home loss to Georgia. Hogs have dropped two straight at home, where they hardly lose. Take points and ARKANSAS.

Sunday, Jan. 27

Virginia at Duke: Another late Sunday afternoon FOX special. The Blue Devils are again at Cameron, having whipped both Maryland and Wake Forest by double-digits and covering. Hard to believe Virginia will change things. Give points, take DUKE.

Monday, Jan. 28

BYU at Utah: The visiting Cougars are 8-0 ATS at home, but just 1-4-1 on the road. Utah had won 10 straight games prior to last Monday’s road matchup at New Mexico. We’ll take the home team and give points in a fierce rivalry. Take UTAH.