With a few days off for the Christmas Holiday, this Thursday marks the start of the final few days of non-conference matchups in men’s college basketball before conference play begins with the arrival of the New Year. It also provides a chance for a few teams to notch that one final quality victory that may actually help punch their ticket to the Big Dance come this March.
The following is a brief look at the top matchups from this Thursday through the Holiday weekend along with a few facts and figures to help handicap the games.
New Mexico Lobos vs. No. 8 Cincinnati Bearcats
After reeling off 12 straight victories to start the season, the Lobos fell from the rankings with a stunning 70-65 loss to South Dakota State this past Saturday as 15-point home favorites. They are now just 5-6-1 against the spread overall, but still 3-0 ATS on the road. New Mexico is averaging 71.5 points a game while shooting a less than stellar 42.1 percent from the field.
Cincinnati moved-up to No. 8 in the latest rankings after posting a 68-58 victory over Wright State as an 18-point home favorite last Saturday. The Bearcats are now a perfect 12-0 SU on the year and 5-3 ATS. The total has stayed UNDER in its last four games with a posted line. Cincinnati comes into this matchup ranked second in the nation in rebounds with 46.4 a game.
Baylor Bears vs. No. 13 Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last Friday’s 79-64 romp over BYU as a seven-point home favorite raised Baylor’s overall record on the year to 8-3 SU and 3-4 ATS. It was its third victory in a row after a 2-3 SU stretch in its previous five games. The Bears have been one of the better shooting teams in the country; hitting on 47.9 percent of their shots from the field. Pierre Jackson leads the team with 19 points a game.
The Bulldogs have just one SU loss against 11 victories this season behind one of the top shooting percentages in the nation (52.0). Elias Harris is shooting 56.2 percent from the floor while leading the team in scoring with 15.5 points a game. Gonzaga is 6-4 ATS this season but just 1-3 ATS in its last four games.
No. 7 Missouri Tigers vs. UCLA Bruins
The Tigers extended their current winning streak to six games with an impressive 82-73 victory over then-No. 10 Illinois last Saturday as two-point favorites. They are now 10-1 SU overall and 4-4 ATS. Missouri is averaging 78.2 points while leading the nation in rebounds with an average of 47.2 a game. Laurence Bowers is scoring team-high 16.9 points while pulling down 6.7 rebounds a game.
UCLA stumbled out of the gate with a few bad losses, but is starting to get things in gear with four-straight wins that have the Bruins 9-3 SU this season. They are just 4-7 ATS and the total has gone OVER in three of five games with a posted line. As a team, UCLA is averaging 79.6 points while shooting a respectable 48.4 percent from the floor.
No. 20 UNLV Rebels vs. North Carolina Tar Heels
The Rebels are off to a strong start with a nine-game winning streak that has them at 11-1 SU on the year. Anthony Bennett has led the way with 19.5 points a game and the team, as a whole, is averaging 79.3 points while shooting 45.3 percent from the field. UNLV is 3-1 ATS in its last four games and 6-5 ATS overall.
North Carolina fell out of the rankings as a result of last week’s 85-67 loss to Texas as a 4 ½-point road favorite. The Tar Heels are now a disappointing 9-3 SU overall but still undefeated at home at 6-0 SU. They are 2-3 ATS in their last five games and 5-4 ATS overall. North Carolina remains one of the highest scoring teams in the country with an average of 84 points a game.
Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 4 Louisville Cardinals
Kentucky continues to battle to turn its season around with four-straight victories including an 82-54 romp over Marshall as a 20-point home favorite its last time out. The Wildcats are now 8-3 SU on the year but a costly 3-5 ATS. The total has stayed UNDER in four of their last five games. Archie Goodwin leads the team in scoring (16.0) and assists (4.2) while Nerlens Noel is the leading rebounder with 9.1 a game.
The Cardinals only setback this season was a five-point loss to No.1 Duke on Nov.24 as one-point favorites. They are 11-1 SU and 7-5 ATS with the total going OVER in four of six games with a posted line. Louisville is averaging 78.1 points a game behind Russ Smith’s team-high 19.7 point average. As a team, it is shooting 45.5 percent from the floor.
No. 18 Butler Bulldogs vs. Vanderbilt Commodores
Butler continued its climb up the rankings with last Saturday’s 75-67 victory over Evansville as a 10 ½-point home favorite. This followed the Bulldogs stunning overtime upset of then-No.1 Indiana as 10 ½-point underdogs on Dec.15. They are now 9-2 SU on the season and 6-4 ATS. Butler is averaging 74.9 points a game but has scored 82 or more in four of its last eight games.
Coming off last Friday’s 56-52 loss to Middle Tennessee as 5 ½-point underdogs that snapped a three-game winning streak, the Commodores have sunk to 5-5 SU and 4-4 ATS this season. However, they have covered the spread in four of their last five games. Vanderbilt is averaging just 60.3 points a game while shooting 42.5 percent from the field.