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The Big NCAA Basketball Preview: Jan 24-26

Some of the best games this weekend to keep an eye on in the major conferences on down.

Villanova Wildcats guard Justin Moore and forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree salute the student section after a victory against the Butler Bulldogs at Finneran Pavilion. Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

There’s way too much good college basketball this weekend, and you can see the best of the best (and the best betting opportunities) below!

Check out all the games on the board this weekend here, but we’ll break down the best of what’s available now. All times Eastern.

Friday, January 24th

Marquette vs. #13 Butler, 9 p.m.

Marquette still thinks they can make a run to the tournament, but Butler brings a secret weapon to Hinkle Fieldhouse tonight:

The Bulldogs, alongside their newest Bulldog, are -6.5 tonight. But with 64% of the bets and only 57% of the money at DraftKings Sportsbook the smart money likes the Eagles on the road. Look for Butler’s Kamar Baldwin and Sean McDermott (not that one, the other one) to play more minutes tonight for a Bulldogs team that needs some key wins to end up on the top four lines in March.

Saturday, January 25th

Missouri @ #14 West Virginia, 12 p.m.

It’s been a weird season for the Mountaineers: when they aren’t fighting with the refs, they’re keeping pace in a tougher-than-expected Big 12 this year. A huge win over Ohio State in Cleveland will help the seeding come march, and they might have ethered Shaka Smart’s career with a 38-point pasting in Austin last Monday.

Meanwhile Mizzou is... bad! Cuonzo Martin takes time with turnaround projects, but it’s Year 3, they’re still awful, and neither the school or coach can do anything about it until next year at earliest. 1-5 in the SEC means they shouldn’t have much to play for in the league or out of it.

#21 Illinois @ Michigan, 12 p.m.

I-L-L is good and on a heater: they’re 6-2 in the B1G, with the last five all wins. A 17-point victory at Purdue last time out shows they can do it on the road as well.

Michigan is bad and freezing cold: they’ve lost three in a row while being 2-5 in the B1G, and just lost to Penn State at home. It’s not totally unexpected with Juwan Howard taking over as a new coach with no experience, and if Jon Teske can be contained by the Illini, expect both teams to continue their current form.

Miami (FL) @ North Carolina, 12 p.m.

Both these teams are so disappointing ticket buyers should be required to read their Yelp reviews. Miami under a cloud of FBI suspicion can’t stop a nosebleed (dead last in the ACC in everything related to defense), and Jim Larranaga’s retirement after reviving the program might be sooner than later.

Meanwhile when he’s not indirectly saying he’s been a terrible recruiter, Roy Williams oversees a team that can get stops, but can’t score if left alone in a playground overnight (dead last in the ACC in everything related to offense). Defense wins and the Heels are at home, and they can get on track here, but bring a blind fold for the scary parts of this one.

#9 Villanova @ Providence, 1 p.m.

You can almost feel the Traditional Villanova Midseason Letdown here, and Providence needs this one. The ‘Cats are in form winning five in a row including a big one at Hinkle over Butler on Tuesday, but this is the spot where the Jay Wright Letdown (TM) tends to happen. It’s something you can get away with when you’ve won two national championships however.

Meanwhile it’s Year 9 for Ed Cooley, and the natives are restless. It really isn’t fair coming off a string of five-straight NCAA appearances from ‘14-’18, but Alpha Diallo (14.0 ppg) and David Duke (12.8 ppg, not that one, the other one) will need to have a big day to keep postseason hopes on course for the 11-9 Friars.

E. Tennessee State vs. UT-Chattanooga, 4 p.m.

A battle for directional school respect in the Volunteer State. Unlike the NFL version, ETSU’s Buccaneers actually win and are 17-3 this season, 6-1 in the SoCon. They beat LSU in Baton Rouge, played Kansas in Lawrence and lost by just 12, and are that glass slipper mid-major that will want some breaks to be sure the committee doesn’t do anything stupid to leave them home.

UT-C can potentially screw their conference mates out of additional NCAA Tournament units with a win here, and they’re capable of doing it. The Mocs have a few near-misses on their 13-7 record, and 6’8 senior guard Matt Ryan (not that one, the other one) is a Notre Dame & Vandy transfer that isn’t afraid to gun. ETSU will need to check him to keep Cinderella dancing.

Sunday, January 26th

#4 San Diego State @ UNLV, 4 p.m.

The Aztecs should be a big favorite on the road, but every team still has to survive nine road conference games in the quest to be undefeated. Unlike every other flight to Vegas, SDSU flies in undefeated at 20-0 and 9-0 in the MWC this season.

The Rebels are 6-2 in the MWC, and are fresh of a 14-point loss to Nevada in their rivalry game on Wednesday. They’re first in the conference in defensive field goal percentage, but will need to contain Malachi Flynn, Yanni Wetzel, and Matt Mitchell of America’s Finest City: they’re all over 10 ppg on a team that doesn’t have a ton of depth but can score and defend with anyone.

South Florida @ Houston, 2 p.m.

If USF looked any more lifeless in 2020, you’d need to poke them with a stick to get them on the team plane. Take away a one-point loss to rival Central Florida last week, and they’ve yet to cover this calendar year. A combination of injuries and some brutally close losses has left the defending CBI champs depleted

Meanwhile this isn’t Kelvin Sampson’s best team, but they’re still pretty good and on the way to The Dance. With three Top 25 wins and 5-1 in a good American Conference, they should end this like the bull fighter usually does against the Bulls: by cutting their ears and tail off for public display.

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