Predictions for NCAA basketball conference contenders
December 26, 2017 5:07 PM
by Ramon Scott
With the more-or-less official start of conference play this week, let’s predict the contenders.
Big 12: Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas Tech, TCU – Until someone comes along, Lawrence is still Title Town.
ACC: Duke, Virginia, North Carolina, Clemson, Miami, Florida State – Contenders really end at first three, but winner may have a handful of losses.
Big East: Villanova, Seton Hall, Xavier, Creighton, Butler – It’s the Wildcats, of course, but still should be some thrilling matchups.
Big Ten: Michigan State, Purdue, Michigan, Maryland, Ohio State – Sparty, Boilers and Bucks only 2-and-0s to start the season so far.
Pac 12: Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon, USC – Top two, then the next three interchangeable, but want to see ASU prove it on the conference road.
Mountain West: San Diego State, UNLV, Boise State, Nevada, Fresno State – Not sold on the Wolf Pack, should be some good times come March.
American: Wichita State, SMU, Cincinnati, Houston – Like the Mustangs to get past the Bearcats, but Shockers still too strong.
West Coast: Gonzaga, St. Mary’s San Diego, BYU – There’s something special brewing at Alcala Park for the Toreros, but ‘Zags, Gaels still the class.
Western Athletic: New Mexico State, Grand Canyon, Utah Valley – Are the ‘Lopes ready to challenge the Aggies?
Now for this week’s best action.
Xavier (-1.5, 163.5) at Marquette (Wed., 5:30, FS1): Musketeers continue to be a bettor’s best friend this season with a 10-3 ATS start after last season’s winning close, though they have failed two of their last three. Golden Eagles won both meetings last year.
UCF (+11.5, 122.5) at SMU (Wed., 6 p.m., CBSSN): Mustangs a winner at home and a strong cover, going 16-2-1 ATS dating back the end of Feb. 2016. Contrasting styles as SMU is on 10-3 OVER run dating back to the start of last Jan., while Knights in a 1-9 UNDER stretch going back to the middle of last March.
Creighton (+5, 162) at Seton Hall (Thur., 3:30, FS1): Pirates have won 10 straight at home and own wins so far over Louisville and Texas Tech to go along with losses to Rhode Island and Rutgers. The Hall has failed three-straight after five-straight covers.
LSU (PK, 149) at Memphis (Thur., 6, CBSSN): LSU has lost nine straight on the road, while Memphis has won 10 straight at home, yet most of the power rankings have LSU as a slight favorite here. Memphis is 9-3, including losses to Alabama and Louisville, with weaker schedule hence the close handicap, but this is also LSU’s first true road game of the season. LSU went OVER in 10 of its last 12 road games last season.
Louisville (+5.5, 144.5) at Kentucky (Fri., 1, CBS): Kentucky has a 13-game home winning streak to host its rival, though storyline has a new feel with Cards’ admin woes. UL won last year, 73-70, behind unselfish Quentin Snyder.
West Virginia (-2, 153) at Oklahoma State (Fri., 4, ESPN2): Mountaineers have now won 11 straight since season-opening, 12-point loss to Texas A&M, but have just a 3-5 ATS record in lined games. Teams won on each other’s home floor last season.
Kansas (-2.5, 133.5) at Texas (Fri., 6, ESPN2): Longhorns already to their UNDER ways at home with first three below the number, as UT has been a long-standing winner to the UNDER dating back before Shaka Smart’s arrival. KU has gone UNDER in 5 of its last 7.
Kansas State (PK, 141) at Iowa State (Fri., 6, ESPNU): Iowa State has won 9 straight and 16 in a row at home off a win. Cyclones have pre-conference wins over Boise State, Iowa and Northern Iowa after losing its first two games of the season to Missouri and Milwaukee. ISU won both meetings last year, including 70-65 here though Cyclones had all-senior starting lineup.
Utah (+6.5, 147.5) at Oregon (Fri., 7, FS1): Oregon super-strong at home, especially off wins and in back-to-back here, but Ducks have covered just two of their last seven lined games this season despite a five-game win streak overall. Utes, who have gone UNDER in three straight, are 8-3 with losses to UNLV, Butler and BYU.
Tennessee (+4, 152) at Arkansas (Sat., 10 a.m., SECN): Arkansas already 5-1 ATS at home this season as part of a strong home court advantage of late at Walton Arena. Vols present a bit of a different challenge with four straight to the UNDER currently.
Oklahoma (+2, 172.5) at TCU (Sat., 11 a.m., ESPNU): Talk about must see. Frogs come in with 17-game winning streak dating back to last season’s NIT championship to face leading Player of the Year candidate Trae Young and the Sooners. TCU stuffed OU in the conference tournament last March and won the regular season meeting at home, 60-57, to take two of three on the year. OU has gone OVER in nine of 10 line contests this season, while Frogs have gone over in five of last six coming in.
Florida State (+9, 165) at Duke (Sat., 11 a.m., CBS): Duke is 10-1 to the OVER so far this season and rolled up on Evansville, 104-40 last out. The Seminoles come in 11-1 overall with a one-point mid-December tourney loss to Oklahoma State. FSU has covered 7 of its last 9, but Devils a pretty strong overall cover, as well, 13-4 ATS, back to last March.
Villanova (-8, 143) at Butler (Sat.,1, CBS): Top-ranked ‘Cats are 7-2-1 ATS over their last 10 heading into the week, but Bulldogs are 6-1 ATS at home over last seven at Hinkle. Butler handed Villanova two of its three regular-season losses last season, including 66-58 here.
Texas A&M (-5, 138) at Alabama (Sat., 3, ESPN2): The Tide continues to be a strong UNDER current at home dating back over three seasons with a 14-30 look to the low side and A&M could cooperate here with a 4-to-1 run to the UNDER over its last five games.
Arizona State (+4, 165) at Arizona (Sat., 6, P12N): The Wildcats will get a fun chance here to earn more respect as a likely dog despite being considerably higher-ranked with ASU in top five or higher and U of A outside of top 15 or so.
Boise State (+3, 155) at UNLV (Sat., 8, ATTSN): The Rebels have racked up an 11-1 run currently to the OVER during this resurgence that has brought electricity back to both arenas where UNLV has been appearing to rave reviews. This game, however, is no simple matchup to open conference play.
Virginia Tech (+2, 146) at Syracuse (Sun., 3, ESPNU): Hokies continue to be one of the best money-makers for gamblers over the last year with a 42-18 spread mark dating back to last mid-December, while Syracuse has failed four-straight in the short term heading into last Wednesday’s conference tuneup with West Michigan at home.
South Carolina (PK, 150) at Mississippi State (Sun., 3, ESPN2): Certainly a toss-up here as Ole Miss comes in 7-5 overall, but have covered just 2 of last 10. Teams split last year with Bulldogs winning regular-season finale at home, 75-70.
Washington (+10.5, 163.5) at UCLA (Sun., 5, P12N): Huskies opened eyes with win over KU but are just 2-7 ATS over last nine coming into week, and 2-11 ATS on road dating back to last March. UCLA’s losses were to Creighton early and then Michigan and Cincy more recently.