Big 12 becoming the league to watch

Jan 16, 2018 3:07 AM

Everyone is having fun watching Big 12 basketball this season.

The strongest power conference has three teams in this week’s top five, five teams in the top 25 and eight squads among the top 50. Could there be a challenge to Kansas’ 12-year grasp of the throne?

The games in the league on Saturday alone could be enough excitement for any college hoop fan for one day. Coming into this week, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma shared the top spot with the Jayhawks at 4-1.

The Red Raiders’ fans stormed the court after Tech’s 72-71 double-digit comeback win over the Mountaineers on Saturday. Senior guard Keenan Evans would be a Player of the Year in almost any other conference.

West Virginia entered that game with its highest ranking in nearly 60 years, coming in ranked second in the country. Senior guard Jevon Carter, already one of the best defensive guards in the country, got his offensive groove back with 28 points despite the loss to WVU.

The Sooners, meanwhile, continue to draw attention thanks to the incredible exploits of Trae Young, who has been so dominant offensively he leads the country in points and assists.

Oklahoma knocked off Texas Tech earlier in the week, further muddling the picture.

Meanwhile, perennial champ Kansas actually finds itself as a considerable underdog to win or even share the conference regular season championship, considering polls have them sitting at a consensus No. 9, several spots behind the three upstarts.

The Jayhawks, which seemingly always find a way near the end of the conference season, were nearly a 6-point underdog in a blockbuster matchup in Morgantown on Monday.

Auburn (-2.5, 157) at Alabama (Wed., 4, SECN): Bruce Pearl has the 18th-ranked Tigers on a 14-game winning streak, including a 4-0 start in the SEC, and a 10-3 ATS run with underrated stars Mustapha Heron and DeSean Murray. The Tide has won two straight for the first time since opening the season with a five-game winning streak. ‘Bama 2-8 to the UNDER at home.

Tennessee (PK, 145.5) at Missouri (Wed., 6, SECN): Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin goes up against the school where he was run out of town after leading UT to a Sweet 16 appearance. The Vols have covered four-straight on the road and are on the rise with an impressive three-game win streak after starting SEC play with a pair of losses.

Fresno State (+7.5, 144.5) at San Diego State (Wed., 8, ESPNU): The Aztecs are on a four-game cover streak despite a close loss at Boise State on Saturday, while the Bulldogs have failed in seven straight coming in and are just 4-4 SU over their last eight. SDSU lost at home to FSU last season by eight after winning in Fresno a couple of weeks earlier.

Murray State (+2, 141) at Belmont (4, ESPNU): The Bruins come in on an 11-4-1 spread mark as the Ohio Valley leaders meet in Nashville. Both of these teams’ only conference loss so far came against Jacksonville State, although Belmont lost at home and the Racers lost on the road. This one’s big since it is the only meeting of the season.

St. Mary’s (+7, 152) at Gonzaga (Thu., 6, ESPN): Usual big clash in the WCC as both squads come in 6-0 and St. Mary’s currently on a 12-game win streak this season. The 11th-ranked Bulldogs have covered four-straight at home, but Gaels are a true long-term winner getting points on the road, having gone 26-12-1 since mid-Dec. of ‹14.

USC (+3, 154) at Oregon (Thu., 6, ESPN2): Despite a gradual season-long decline in the top 50, the Trojans have a 12-7 spread mark this season and got back in the conference race at 4-2 last week with home wins vs. Colorado and Utah. The Ducks are off three-consecutive conference road games and have an uphill climb, needing a win here after a 2-3 P12 start.

Indiana (+15, 143) at Michigan State (Fri., 4, FS1): Spartans have gone OVER in seven of their last nine, while Hoosiers come in with four-straight road games UNDER. MSU was brought back down to earth with losses at Ohio State and Michigan over its last three games following a 14-game winning streak. IU is 1-3-1 ATS on the road and 1-4 to the UNDER away.

Illinois (+4.5, 136.5) at Wisconsin (Fri., 6, FS1): One of the nation’s most disappointing teams, the Badgers were on a two-game Big Ten losing streak into Tuesday game as a dog at conference 6-0 Purdue. Illinois has gone UNDER in 10 of its last 12 road games and has won just four of its last 12 overall.

Wichita State (-2, 151) at Houston (Sat., 9, ESPNU): Eighth-ranked Shockers came into the week 5-0 in the AAC and have won 11-straight road games, going 1-5 to the UNDER in their last six away contests. Cougars already lost at WSU 81-63 after trailing 53-32 at halftime.

Florida State (PK, 164.5) at Virginia Tech (Sat., 9 ESPN2): The Hokies, have covered five of eight at home, going OVER in six of those contests. Seminoles needed two OTs to outlast Syracuse at home on Saturday. FSU had gone OVER in three of four into Monday game at BC.

Texas (+8.5, 136) at West Virginia (Sat., 11, CBS): Mountaineers had their 15-game win streak snapped last Saturday in a 72-71 loss at Texas Tech, then had to come back and host Kansas in another huge tilt on Monday. Longhorns are coming off home game against B12 co-leader Red Raiders on Wed. Favor the UNDER here.

Oklahoma (-3.5, 172.5) at Oklahoma State (Sat., 11, ESPN2): Seemingly still underrated Sooners on second of back-to-back road games having played at KSU on Tuesday after wild, huge OT home win over TCU on Saturday. Cowboys earned a nice win at home last Saturday against the Longhorns.

Xavier (+3, 159) at Seton Hall (Sat., 11:30, FOX): The Pirates put a 13-game home win streak on the line. XU was 15-1 before losing back-to-back Big East road games at Providence and Villanova and were 13-3 ATS this season.

TCU (+1, 154) at Kansas State (Sat., 1, ESPNU): Frogs are 9-1-1 to the OVER on the road but have fallen on hard times in conference play after raising expectation with 12-0 start. Wildcats are just 4-11 ATS at home dating back almost 13 months, including 2-6 this season in Manhattan.

Notre Dame (+6, 134) at Clemson (Sat., 1, ESPN): Tigers have covered six of their last seven games at home and had gone OVER in four-straight games going into road game on Tuesday at North Carolina. Irish lost a heartbreaker to the Heels last Saturday to fall to 3-2 in ACC heading into Tuesday’s home game with Louisville.

Arizona (-6, 153) at Stanford (Sat., 1, CBS): Cardinal surprisingly tied atop the Pac 12 with the Wildcats heading into home games with the Arizona teams this week. ‘Cats a dismal 5-11-1 ATS this season into Wedneday road game at Cal.

Florida (+4, 151) at Kentucky (Sat., 5:15, ESPN): UK is on a 6-1 run to the OVER at home and is currently on a 16-game home win streak. Gators started 4-0 in the SEC, but lost last Saturday at Ole Miss. UF 4-1 ATS on the road and 4-1 to the OVER.

Boise State (+7.5, 150.5) at Nevada (Sat., 7): Nevada (5-0 MWC) is 26-7-1 ATS at home over the last 24 months. Broncos have gone OVER seven of their last eight.