Between today and tomorrow, there are 19 games that feature teams in the top 25. Sadly, none of them feature two ranked teams against each other, but that doesn't mean they won't be a great couple days of hoops.
One of the best parts of this "holiday" season is daytime games - today, for example, we have major conference basketball games from noon until the wee hours of the morning. Here's part one, your viewing and betting guide for this afternoon, 24-style:
Noon: Northwestern @ Rutgers
Line: Rutgers -3
They hit this line on the head. I think Rutgers is a little bit better, and I'd take them to cover simply because they're at home and a lot of their student section is local. That said, I really don't like this game all that much.
1pm: Iowa @ #20 Ohio State
Line: OSU -9
The Buckeyes have kicked the shit out of everyone except for Louisville and UNC (their only two losses). I'd expect this to be similar to their 74-63 win over Marquette, and I like them to cover against and up-and-down Hawkeyes team. Even though they went into Raleigh and beat UNC a month ago, this is a team that just shot .383 from the field (and gave up 70 points) against North Florida. Blowout city.
2pm: Virginia Tech @ #17 West Virginia
Line: WVU -16
Is this a rivalry game? Maybe/maybe not. But it is the start of a brutal stretch for the Hokies, who follow this game with games against Syracuse, Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Virginia. Woof. WVU has beaten NC State (83-69) and Boston College (70-66) in the ACC this year. But, because Va Tech hasn't played a single ranked team yet, it's tough to say how they'll show. I'd stay away, but if you can tease West Virginia down to single digits then I'd take it.
3pm: Illinois @ Michigan
Line: Michigan -2
There really isn't too much to say about the Michigan Wolverines, other than I have absolutely NO idea how they are favored over anybody. This Illinois team beat Mizzou and Baylor, and actually looked good against Villanova (even though they lost by 14.. go cats). The Illini's only losses have come against top-half teams in the Pac 12 (Oregon), ACC (Miami), and Big East (those Cats). I like Illinois here, floaters for days.
4pm: Cincinnati @ NC State
Line: NCST -4
Both of these teams are very, very average. My gut says Cincy, and I like that better than praying Louisville is able to cover 18.5 points against Long Beach State (same time slot). The Bearcats have a balanced, low-scoring attack - nobody averages 10 points per game. The Wolfpack, on the other hand, get major contributions from 3 players. Whichever way this game goes, you can bet that these will not be the top teams in the AAC/ACC at the end of the season.
5pm: #12 Maryland @ Michigan State
Line: Michigan State -6
Before I knew what the line was, I told myself I was going to take MSU regardless. But giving six points? Against a ranked team? That beat Iowa State and Arizona State on a neutral court and won at Oklahoma State? How could Sparty possibly be favored here? Brandon Dawson and Dez Wells will be returning to their respective teams, so there isn't too much difference there. Tom Izzo, your thoughts? "I just don't think we're in great shape," Izzo said. "I just don't think we're there." How is this team favored?! I want to see where the Maryland moneyline opens, because that's the bet here. If not, take them +6 just to be safe.
6pm: Davidson @ #3 Virginia
Line: Virginia -16.5
UNC beat Davidson 90-72 on a neutral court (but any game in the state of North Carolina is basically a home game for UNC). Virgina scores about 70 a game and gives up about 46 (that's best in the nation). Take Virginia and thank me later.
Picks: Ohio State -9, Maryland +6, Virginia -16.5, tease West Virginia/Illinois to -12/+6
Night game preview coming later (unless my boss catches me and I get fired).