We are now officially in the midseason of college hoops and that means big-time conference showdowns. There are plenty of ranked teams looking to improve their resumes for the postseason tournaments and they can start today by notching victories over highly-touted conference foes. Here’s a glimpse at a few of the most significant battles on the NCAA hardwood today.
#17 Missouri +13 at #10 Florida -13
Florida comes into today’s SEC clash with Missouri on a five game winning streak that has included three conference games, all of which the Gators won by more than 20 points. Florida’s large margins of victory can be attributed to its terrific defense, which has not allowed a single player to score more than 15 points during its winning streak.
The Tigers have enjoyed a solid start to the season, but they will certainly have their hands full with the Gators at home. The Tigers are 0-2 on the road so far this season, so today’s match-up doesn’t bode particularly well for them. However, I expect a team ranked in the top 20 should be able to compete enough to cover a large spread like 13. Yes, the Gators have dominated foes recently, but Missouri is the first ranked team they have faced since Dec. 15, when they lost to the Arizona Wildcats. Take Missouri to cover +13, but Florida to earn another conference win.
#11 Ohio State +2.5 at #18 Michigan -2.5
Over in the Big Ten we closely contested game between the Buckeyes and the Spartans. Both teams score between 70 and 75 points per game, both allow between 57 and 58.5 points per game and each have just one conference loss and three losses in total on the year. On paper, these teams stack up very evenly. Hence the small margin spread.
The Spartans have the slight edge with the home floor advantage, but the Buckeyes are the more battle-tested team at this point in the season and have enjoyed plenty of success in East Lansing in the past. Look for them to repeat that success today with a win over Michigan State , covering +2.5.
#7 Arizona -7 at Arizona State +7
The Wildcats have cruised through most of the early season so far–with only one slip up to Oregon–so understandably, there are still favored even on the road against their in-state rival, ASU. However, the Sun Devils are playing like a whole different team from a year ago. They’ve already won 14 games in 2012-2013 compared to just 10 all of last season.
The Sun Devils will certainly give the Wildcats a run for their money today. They haven’t faced any ranked opponents yet this year, but they are 11-1 on their home floor. I like the Sun Devils to keep things close, covering +7, but I think the Wildcats will pull out the win here.
#6 Syracuse +7 at #1 Louisville -7
The biggest showdown of the day will take place in the Big East as two top tens duke it out in Louisville. The Cardinals jumped into the No. 1 slot after Duke and Michigan fell last week and although we can’t be sure if they are the best team in the country just yet, they have proven to be a worthy top five team to say the least. Louisville comes into today’s contest on an 11-game win streak, with their only loss of the year coming against Duke, while Syracuse enters today’s game with a six-game streak of its own.
Since Louisville is not the undisputed No. 1 team in most people’s eyes, it’s hard to like them by seven points against a strong team like Syracuse. This game should be evenly matched and very close, so take the Orange to cover +7, but for the Cardinals to win outright.