Games to Watch
February 18, 2013
By David Schwab
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As the men’s college basketball regular season enters its final few weeks, victories at this time of the year are often worth their weight in gold for the top teams in the nation in terms of jockeying for position for the upcoming madness of March. This is especially true this season as everything from the top four seeds to the last four in remains completely up for grabs.
The following is a brief preview of a key matchup on each day’s slate this week along with a few facts and figures to help handicap the game.
No. 25 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. No. 20 Pittsburgh Panthers (ESPN, 7:00 p.m.)
The Fighting Irish are sure to tumble in the new rankings after a stunning 71-54 loss to Providence as two-point road underdogs this past Saturday. They are now 20-6 straight up on the year but just 11-12 against the spread after going just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games. The total has gone OVER in three of their last five games. Notre Dame is shooting 48 percent from the field behind Jack Cooley, who is scoring a team-high 14.6 points while hitting an incredible 58.4 percent of his shots from the floor.
Pittsburgh’s recent move back up the rankings hit a snag last Saturday with a 79-69 loss to Marquette as a 2 ½-point road favorite. The loss dropped the Panthers to 8-5 in Big East play and to 20-6 SU overall. They have failed to cover in two of their last three games to fall to 9-10 ATS. The total went OVER the 125-point line against the Golden Eagles after staying UNDER in their previous four games. This is another team that can light it up from the field; shooting 48 percent while scoring an average of 71 points a game.
Tuesday, Feb. 19
No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers vs. No. 4 Michigan State Spartans (ESPN, 7:00 p.m.)
Indiana should hold onto the No.1 spot in the nation after posting routine victories over Nebraska and Purdue last week while covering a double-digit spread each time. It is now 23-3 SU and 14-10 ATS this season with the total staying UNDER in three of its last four games. The Hoosiers remain the second-highest scoring team in the country with an average of 82.9 points a game and are shooting an impressive 50.2 percent from the field, which is ranked fourth overall. Cody Zeller has led the way all season long with 16.6 points and 8.2 rebounds a game.
The Spartans are tied with Indiana atop the Big Ten standings at 11-2 but they lost the first meeting this season in late January 75-70 as 9 ½-point road underdogs. They are 22-4 SU overall and 10-11-2 ATS. The total has gone OVER in four of their last six games. Michigan State brings a five-game winning streak into this showdown that includes double-digit victories over Minnesota and Michigan. It has averaged 73.4 points a game during this run while holding its opponents to just 61.2 points a game.
Wednesday, Feb. 20
No. 9 Kansas Jayhawks vs. No. 14 Oklahoma State Cowboys (ESPN, 9:00 p.m.)
Kansas bounced back from a rare three-game losing streak with back-to-back wins over Kansas State and Texas. It routed the then-No.10 Wildcats by 21 points as a 7 ½-point home favorite. The Jayhawks improved to 21-4 SU on the year and into a three-way tie atop the Big 12 standings with Kansas State and Oklahoma State at 9-3. They are just 2-4 ATS in their last six games (11-13 ATS overall) and the total has gone OVER in three of their last five games. Kansas has three players scoring in double figures led by Ben McLemore’s 16.7 points a game.
The Cowboys find themselves in the thick of the Big 12 regular season title race as a result of a seven-game winning streak that includes a thrilling 84-79 overtime victory over rival Oklahoma this past Saturday as nine-point home favorites. They are 19-5 SU and 12-10-1 ATS overall with the total going OVER in six of their last seven games. Oklahoma State is averaging 73 points a game while shooting 44 percent from the field. Both Marcel Brown and Marcus Smart are scoring over 15 points a game with Smart leading the team in assists with 4.5 a game.
Thursday, Feb. 21
No. 6 Duke Blue Devils vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (ESPN, 9:00 p.m.)
Duke should tumble a bit in the latest polls after falling to Maryland this past Saturday 83-81 as a four-point favorite on the road. The loss dropped the Blue Devils to 22-3 SU and 13-12 ATS. They now trail Miami by three full games in the ACC standings at 9-3 SU in conference play. The total went OVER the 141-point line against the Terrapins after staying UNDER in three of their previous four games. Duke is averaging 78.1 points a game and shooting 47.2 percent from the floor mainly behind the efforts of Mason Plumlee (17.6 points) and Seth Curry (16.9 points). Plumlee also leads the team in rebounds with 10.4 a game.
The Hokies current losing streak reached eight games with Saturday’s 90-86 overtime loss to NC State as 14-point road underdogs. They are 11-14 SU overall and a dismal 2-10 in conference play. Virginia Tech has gone 4-2-1 ATS in its last seven games to improve to 10-10-2 ATS on the year. The total has gone OVER in five of its last eight games. The team as a whole is averaging 71.4 points a game while shooting just 42 percent from the floor. However, Erick Green has been a one-man show with 25.3 points and 4.1 assists a game while hitting 47.3 percent of his shots from the field.
Friday, Feb. 22
St. Louis Billikens vs. No. 15 Butler Bulldogs (ESPNU, 7:00 p.m.)
The Billikens seven-game winning streak has them in second-place in the Atlantic 10 standings with a record of 8-2. They are 19-5 SU overall and 13-9 ATS. They have a huge showdown against VCU, which leads the conference, at home this Tuesday before heading on the road for this matchup. They have covered the spread in all seven games and the total has gone OVER in five of those contests. Saint Louis has five different players scoring at least nine points a game and as a team it is averaging 68.5 points while giving-up 57.8 points to its opponents.
Butler will play Duquesne at home this Tuesday before hosting the Billikens on Friday night. It is in third-place in the A-10 standings at 8-3 and is 21-5 SU overall. It has failed to cover in four of its last six games but is still a profitable 14-9-1 ATS on the year. The total has stayed UNDER in three of its last four games. The Bulldogs are putting up an average of 70.6 points a game while shooting 45.7 percent from the field. Rotnei Clarke leads the team in scoring with 17.2 points, but they have four additional players scoring in double figures.