With football season now in the rearview mirror, it’s great to see college hoops stepping up with a great card for Sunday. We have a number of outstanding matchups so let’s take a look at two crucial Big Ten showdowns to get started.
**Indiana at Ohio State**
--Most offshore books opened Ohio State (17-5 straight up, 12-8 against the spread) as a 1.5-point favorite. However, as of early Saturday night, many books had the game as a pick ‘em with a total of 139.5.
--Thad Matta’s squad saw its four-game winning streak snapped in Tuesday’s 76-74 loss at Michigan. Nevertheless, the Buckeyes hooked up their betting supporters as seven-point road underdogs. DeShaun Thomas had a team-high 17 points in the losing effort, while LaQuinton Ross came off the bench to score 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field.
--Ohio St. has been a single-digit home favorite four times this season, compiling a 3-1 spread record. The Buckeyes have won 12 of their 13 home games while going 8-4 ATS. Their only loss in Columbus came against Kansas.
--Indiana (20-3 SU, 11-10 ATS) is in bounce-back mode after getting beat Thursday night on a buzzer shot at Illinois. The Illini captured a 74-72 win as a seven-point home underdog when Tyler Griffey somehow got wide open to make an easy layup before the horn off an inbounds play on the baseline. Cody Zeller had 14 points and nine rebounds in defeat. Jordan Hulls, one of the nation’s premier perimeter shooters, finished with 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting from 3-point land.
--Tom Crean’s team is an underdog for the first time this year in this spot. The Hoosiers have prevailed in four of their five true road assignments, but they are 2-3 ATS.
--These Big Ten rivals split a pair of regular-season meetings last year with the home team winning both times. When they played in Columbus, Ohio St. cruised to an 80-63 victory as a 13-point home ‘chalk.’
--The ‘under’ is 12-7 overall for the Buckeyes, 7-5 in their home games.
--The ‘under’ is 9-8 overall for the Hoosiers, but they have seen the ‘over’ hit at a 3-1 clip in their last four games.
--CBS will have the telecast at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.
**Illinois at Minnesota**
--Most books opened Minnesota (17-6 SU, ATS) as a 9.5-point favorite. The total started at 138.5.
--Tubby Smith’s team has lost five of its last seven games, but there’s no reason for the Gophers to hit the panic button. Each of the defeats came to high-level foes with the exception of the loss at Northwestern. The Gophers have dropped to 5-5 in Big Ten play.
--Minnesota has won 12 of its 14 home games at The Barn, posting an 8-6 spread record. The Gophers are 1-1 both SU and ATS in a pair of single-digit home ‘chalk’ situations.
--Illinois (16-8 SU, 9-12 ATS) is coming off its thrilling victory over Indiana as mentioned above. The Illini hooked up money-line supporters with a payout in the plus-250 range (risk $100 to win $250).
--John Groce’s team has been an underdog 10 times, going 5-5 ATS with four outright victories.
--The ‘under’ is 10-8 overall for the Gophers, 6-5 in their 11 home games with a total. The ‘under’ is 4-1 in Minnesota’s last five games (regardless of venue).
--The ‘under’ is 11-9 overall for Illinois, 7-3 in its last 10 games.
--The ‘over’ has hit in three straight head-to-head meetings.
--When these schools met on Jan. 9 in Champaign-Urbana, Minnesota collected an 84-67 win at Illinois as a 1.5-point road ‘chalk.’ The 151 combined points sailed ‘over’ the 140.5-point total Joe Coleman scored a game-high 29 points for the Gophers, who also got a 22-point effort from guard Andre Hollins. Coleman made 10-of-16 shots from the field and Hollins drained 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Trevor Mbakwe added 19 points and 11 rebounds. Brandon Paul had a team-high 21 points for Illinois, but he was only 6-of-17 from the floor and missed five of his six 3-point attempts.
--Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Eastern on The Big Ten Network (channel 610 on DirecTV).
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--Michigan has now lost 11 consecutive games in Madison against Wisconsin. We saw an incredible finish on Saturday in the Badgers’ 65-62 win over the Wolverines in overtime. Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a deep trey to put Michigan ahead by three with 2.4 seconds remaining. But the game got sent to OT when Ben Brust buried a heave just inside halfcourt that looked eerily similar to the attempt by Butler’s Gordon Hayward that was off the mark in the national-title game against Duke a few years ago. Brust knocked down another crucial 3-pointer in the extra session as Bo Ryan’s team won outright as a short home underdog.
--I have never been hesitant to admit it when I’ve been wrong. And there’s no doubt that I was w-r-o-n-g in my criticism of Miami for not attempting to hire Frank Martin two years ago. The Hurricanes got it right with the hiring of former George Mason coach Jim Larranaga, who led his team to another blowout win on Saturday. The ‘Canes destroyed North Carolina by an 87-61 count to remain unbeaten in ACC action.
--Maryland is a 1.5-point home favorite vs. Virginia on Sunday afternoon. Both teams need this one badly.
--Tennessee is a 1.5-point road ‘chalk’ at South Carolina. After missing the last two games, Vols’ starting point guard Trae Golden is expected to return from a hamstring injury.
--Following its huge upset wins over Florida and Kansas, respectively, Arkansas and TCU both lost Saturday (SU and ATS) to Vandy and West Va. Off its huge win over Indiana, is Illinois in the same situation at Minnesota?
--Syracuse is a 15-point home favorite vs. St. John’s. The Red Storm has been a double-digit ‘dog only once this year, winning outright by a 53-52 score at Cincinnati as a 13.5-point puppy.
--The ‘Cuse owns a 6-4 spread record in 10 games as a double-digit favorite.