College Basketball Weekend Primer – Best Games, Best Bets For Jan. 6-8

A Big Ten showdown in West Lafayette highlights the weekend slate, but there’s potential for more upsets after a week full of them.

The transition from 2016 into the new year didn’t go so well for some of the nation’s top teams.

Duke was no match for Virginia Tech, UNC couldn’t hang with Georgia Tech and FSU stunned Virginia all before the clock struck midnight on December 31. Then Purdue rung in 2017 the following day by losing to Minnesota in overtime at home.

And that was just the start. The Tar Heels escaped another shocker Tuesday at Clemson, something that didn’t sit well with Tigers coach Brad Brownell.

Also on Tuesday, West Virginia wasn’t so lucky in its overtime loss to Texas Tech, and Kansas needed about 300 steps from Svi Mykhailiuk to survive against rival Kansas State:

That couldn’t last for three days in a row, right? Wrong.

No. 1 Villanova fell at Butler on Wednesday shortly before No. 2 Baylor hung on for a two-point win over Iowa State. And just for good measure, N.C. State crushed Virginia Tech, Notre Dame knocked off Louisville and Pittsburgh dealt Virginia another defeat.

Whew. Now let’s see what’s in store for this weekend.

ACC Chaos

There’s one certainty when it comes to ACC hoops: Nothing is certain. You read above what happened over the course of the first five days of conference play. Only two – No. 12 Florida State and No. 23 Notre Dame – of the ACC’s 15 teams head into the weekend with unbeaten conference records.

And we haven’t even gotten into the fact that Mike Krzyzewski won’t be on the Duke sideline for the next month because of back surgery, or that he reinstated tripping artist Grayson Allen from an “indefinite” suspension after just one game. But I digress.

There’s really no telling what’s in store for this weekend. Would anyone be surprised if N.C. State went into Chapel Hill and defeated the Tar Heels? Or if Clemson won at Notre Dame? Maybe it’ll be a bit of a shock if Louisville loses at Georgia Tech, but the Yellow Jackets beat UNC there last weekend.

FSU puts its unblemished ACC mark up against No. 21 Virginia Tech on Saturday. The Seminoles are hoping everything stays true to form.

B1G Time

One of the best matchups of the weekend pits No. 13 Wisconsin against No. 20 Purdue on Sunday afternoon. The Badgers have won nine in a row, thanks in large part to sophomore standout Ethan Happ, whose 67.2 field-goal percentage ranks sixth in the nation.

Caleb Swanigan is the major reason why the Boilermakers are off to a 13-3 start. His four 20-point, 20-rebound performances are more than the rest of the country has combined, and his 13 double-doubles also lead the nation.

Wisconsin and Purdue have emerged as the top favorites for the Big Ten title with Indiana taking a huge dip. The Hoosiers have dropped three straight games – including a home loss to the Badgers on Tuesday – and look nothing like a contender despite having an immense amount of talent.

Michigan State got freshman star Miles Bridges back this week as the Spartans seemed poised to make a run, but for now it’s a two-horse race until they get some more wins under them. Michigan State faces Penn State on Saturday at the historic Palestra in Philadelphia.

Best of the Rest

The ACC and the Big Ten aren’t the only conferences featuring intriguing games this weekend. Here’s a look at a few others, with each taking place Saturday.

TCU at No. 7 West Virginia, 1 p.m. ET on ESPU

Hey, remember when Jamie Dixon surprisingly left Pittsburgh for the TCU job? He has his alma mater off to a 12-2 start, with the Horned Frogs’ only losses being at SMU and by six points to Kansas. They’ve beaten Washington twice and most recently picked up a win over Oklahoma. Dixon will be looking to get an early signature victory that could go a long way in March when TCU visits Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers, who are coming off that loss to Texas Tech.

No. 10 Creighton at Providence, 2 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network

If this game was in Omaha, it wouldn’t make the list. But the Dunkin’ Donuts Center is a dangerous place. The Friars have won 13 in a row there, so you can throw their slightly above-average 11-5 record out the window.

For the record, I’m not saying Providence is going to win. But the Bluejays might struggle a bit and be in for a tight contest.

Texas Tech at No. 3 Kansas, 7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN 2

The Jayhawks got away with one big time when the referees suffered from temporary blindness. That was the second straight game Kansas struggled to beat lesser foes, including the aforementioned six-point win over TCU.

Meanwhile, Texas Tech is coming off that win over West Virginia and is 12-2 under first-year coach Chris Beard. The Red Raiders don’t boast nearly the amount of star power as the Jayhawks, but they still could make things interesting at The Phog.

Best Bets

In this section each week I pick five games against the spread that I’d put smart money on. I then keep a running record throughout the season. These picks will consist of games taking place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Here’s a look at what I like this week:

Season record: 12-13
Last week: 3-2

  • Baylor (-6) over Oklahoma (W)
  • Arizona (+2.5) over California (W)
  • Creighton (+1) over Villanova (L)
  • Louisville (-2.5) over Indiana (W)
  • Virginia (-9) over Florida State (L)

This week:

  • Pittsburgh (+4) over Syracuse
  • Michigan State (-5) over Penn State
  • Notre Dame (-3) over Clemson
  • Villanova (-12) over Marquette
  • Kentucky (-16) over Arkansas

MORE: With Miles Bridges Back, Michigan State Equipped To Soar In Wide-Open Big Ten