By Tony George
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Georgetown at Kansas Noon ET
4* Kansas -8-
Thompson still juggling combinations and looking for best rotation as indicated by a lethargic win, no cover, efforts vs. Colgate and Elon. That is a bit dichotomous to his 25-15 ATS December log. This bureau has correctly predicted the last 3 Kansas games as Bill Self molds Frosh Jayhawks, Wiggins, Embiid, Seldon, and Mason into what many preseason prognosticators predicted. This has been a sweet spot for the Jayhawks who are 26-10 as home chalk of -6 to -12, while it is the first true road game for the Hoyas. Do any students remain for this game to rock Allen FH?
Butler at Evansville 3:00 ET
4* Butler -5
The Purple Aces got caught in a midweek sandwich between Xavier and Butler when they lost to a decent Jackson St. team on this court 57-51. In the 7th year for HC Simmons, these Purple Aces at 6-5 SU seem mired for the middle of the Valley once again. Defense will be the difference in this contest. The Aces allow 72 PPG on 45% shooting. The more things change, the more they remain the same at Butler. Positive ratios in rebounding, TO/A, and TOs combine with a defense that allows just 64/43/30 characterizes the Butler way. First year HC Miller is well aware of the necessity of these non con wins, now that his team has stepped into the Big East. Led by emerging offense force Dunham and the experience of Marshall, this is a far more cohesive group that a one dimensional Purple Aces team who relies exclusively on Balentine. Bulldogs enter on a 5-0 ATS run, including 4 straight away from Indianapolis.
Michigan St. at Texas 4:00 ET, CBS
4* Michigan State -2-
Following a 16-18 SU year of last, I anticipated a huge bounceback season for 6th year Texas HC Barnes. The Longhorns have not disappointed breaking from the gate at 10-1 SU, 6-2 ATS. They enter today on a 6 game win streak. At their Erwin Center home, they are 7-0 SU this season, running the mark to 50-9 SU, 3+Y. But, this bureau always considers fading home dogs against an opponent off a win, when our home team has pulled a double digit underdog upset. Such as Texas did midweek in defeating N. Carolina 86-83 as +11. In the Spartans first true road game, they will need all hands on deck including lead guard Harris who has been compromised with an ankle injury. But with the Spartans lone loss coming at home to this same N. Carolina team that Texas defeated, there is a huge psychological and emotional edge for the Spartans in this one.
Missouri vs. Illinois 5:30 ET, ESPN2, St. Louis, MO
4* Missouri -1-
Annual December border rivalry was won by Missouri 82-73 last year. Never thrilled backing undefeated away/neutral teams at this point in the season. But, the Tigers appear to be the right SIDE as 3rd year HC Haith has done a remarkable job in molding his newcomers with a limited returning roster. The Tigers defense has allowed just 38% from the field, 27% from the arc with a +10 rebound margin. That nicely complements their 50% shooting. Must note, one of Haith’s greatest accomplishments is a 36-16 ATS mark (including 3-0 ATS this year) in neutral court games. The Illini 60/39 defense will be severely tested in this, as they were in their lone 2 step-up games, a 7 point neutral loss to Oregon and a 3 point road loss to Georgia Tech.
Ohio St. vs. Notre Dame 7:30 ESPN2, MSG
4* Ohio State -7
Following a trio of home games against Delaware, Bryant and N. Dak St. (an outright loss) in which the Fighting Irish went 0-3 ATS, Brey’s bunch responded with their best game of the year last Saturday, a 79-72 neutral court victory as 4 point underdog against rival Indiana. Now, the Fighting Irish must carry the ACC banner against one of the best the Big 10 has to offer. The Notre Dame defensive numbers are unremarkable this year compared to the tough Buckeyes. For the year, the Ohio St. defense allows just 56/37/25. Needless to say, this 11-0 SU team features positive rebound, TO, and assist numbers. Key advantage will come in the backcourt where Buckeye defenders will smother the perimeter power of Notre Dame, keying easy baskets in transition, much as they did in their lone trip away from Columbus where they won at Marquette 52-35.