In an alternate timeline, the No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes will host the University of Tennessee Martin Skyhawks tonight. However, on our Earth, that game was canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak amongst OSU’s squad; their Saturday game against Kentucky was also canceled.
So, if you had your heart set on watching some interesting men’s college basketball tonight, I’ve got five games that just might scratch that particular itch.
No. 18 Xavier at No. 23 Villanova (-5) | 7 p.m. ET | FS1
After some afternoon contests, the evening will open up with the day’s only ranked vs. ranked matchup as the No. 18 Xavier Musketeers visit the No. 23 Villanova Wildcats. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the home team is a five-point favorite, despite being the lower ranked team.
Despite the AP ordering, according to KenPom’s rankings, the Wildcats are the No. 12 team in the country, while Xavier is down at No. 23 (despite their win over No. 15 Ohio State). ‘Nova has the eighth rated adjusted offensive efficiency and are 39th on the defensive side. The Muskies are 24th and 31st respectively.
With a fairly thin slate of quality action tonight, this should be a pretty entertaining and competitive contest worthy of your time.
Purdue Fort Wayne at Michigan (-23) | 7 p.m. ET | ESPN
This one is of two Big Ten games on the night, and both feature teams from the Mitten State. Now, aside from the B1G of it all, there’s not much to be interested in for this games except the line. Twenty-three points is a lot for any college basketball game, even one between two teams that appear very unevenly matched.
However, the NCAA Game Simulator projects an average score in this matchup of Michigan 78.1, Purdue Fort Wayne 58.1, pretty darn close to that -23 next to the Weasels name. So, if you like a very sicko specific kind of thrill, it might be worth putting some money on this game and seeing if the Skunk Bears can secure a two dozen point lead against the Mastodons.
No. 11 Michigan State (-11) at Oakland | 7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN+
The other B1G game on tonight’s slate is the in-state matchup between Michigan State and Oakland, and much respect to Tom Izzo for making the 40-minute trek from East Lansing to Rochester, Mich. You don’t see big time programs willing to play mid-level in-state opponents on the road very often; more of them should do it more often... looking at Buckeyes.
But, beyond that, this 11-point margin that DraftKings has set is a bit interesting to me. Oakland is No. 119 according to KenPom, while Sparty is No. 20. they have the 163rd rated offense while MSU has the sixth rated defense. While Michigan State’s offense is good, not great, I think it is going to be difficult for the Grizzlies to score enough to keep pace with their visitors. So, if I were a betting man and sports gambling was legal in the state that I am currently in, I might be so inclined to take Sparty giving the points tonight.
UConn (-2.5) at Marquette | 9 p.m. ET | FS1
This is another game in which the line caught my attention. Marquette is currently 8-4 on the season, but three of those four losses came to teams currently ranked in the AP Poll (Wisconsin, UCLA, Xavier). Similarly, the Huskies are 9-3 having suffered defeats at the hands of No. 11 Michigan State, No. 22 Providence, and West Virginia.
So, those understandable defeats for these historically proud programs certainly make you think that a one-possession game is possible, but returning to the best analytics in the sport, KenPom has the Golden Eagles as his No. 76 team in the country, while UConn is 27th.
The biggest issue for Marquette is their 106th ranked offense. They are scoring 72.8 points per game while giving up 70.4. On the other hand UConn is putting up 79.4 ppg, but allowing just 61.7. So, with just a 2.5-point line, I would be inclined to take the Huskies laying the points.
However, there is another factor to consider. Despite the fact that this is a Big East matchup, because it is so early in the year, who these teams have played thus far has a huge impact. The Huskies currently have the 282nd rating in KenPom’s non-conference strength of schedule, while Marquette is No. 40. So maybe that line makes sense after all.
So, while I would probably stay away from this number, it very well might end up being a fascinating matchup to watch.
Georgia State at Georgia Tech (-5.5) | 9 p.m. ET | ACC Network
The campuses of Georgia Tech and Georgia State are separated by less than two miles. The journey for the Panthers will take them past the College Football Hall of Fame, the World of Coke, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the world famous Varsity (“What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?”), the Fabulous Fox Theatre, and many other world famous Atlanta institutions.
The Game Simulator projects a 73.4 to 66.2 win for the Yellow Jackets, which is more or less in line with what the bookmakers are projecting. Both teams are in the low-ish 100s in KenPom’s rankings (GT- 108, GA St. 137), but the biggest difference between the two is that the Panthers have the 230th rated defense according to adjusted efficiency margin.
If anything could spell the difference between the two Atlanta teams, that could be it.
Ohio State is currently scheduled to return to the court one week from today on Tuesday, Dec. 28 as they will host New Orleans at 6:30 p.m. ET on the Big Ten Network. Assuming that the Buckeyes are able to get back to action as scheduled, that will be a 17-day gap between games following the cancelations of the games against Kentucky and UT Martin.