What a great day of college hoops action we have in store for you today! The day kicks off with the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Iowa Hawkeyes battling in a game between two of the top three teams in the nation. After the Zags and Hawkeyes wrap up, the national attention will shift to another stellar contest between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Kentucky Wildcats.
— Gonzaga Basketball (@ZagMBB) December 19, 2020
All told, we will have nine of the top-25 teams playing today. Louisville plays Wisconsin, with both teams ranked in the top-25 of the latest AP Poll. Baylor plays at K-State in a Big 12 conference game. Arizona and Stanford square off out west, with both teams eying a PAC-12 regular-season title run this year.
A couple of underrated games between non-ranked teams, include Indiana at Butler, Cincinnati at Georgia, and Notre Dame at Purdue. For our free daily betting pick, we will head to Cleveland, Ohio, for a neutral site game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the UCLA Bruins.
- UCLA Bruins (5-1) at Ohio State Buckeyes (5-1)
- Rocket Mortgage FH, Cleveland
- 1:15 PM PST
- TV: CBS
The CBS Sports Classic kicks off today with the Ohio State Buckeyes hosting the UCLA Bruins. The Buckeyes won’t be playing on their home floor, but with the game being in Cleveland, they will have a far shorter trip than UCLA, who will travel clear across the country for the non-conference matchup. The Buckeyes are 5-1 on the season but have played a very soft schedule and will look to rebound from their first loss of their season, coming in their last game, against the Purdue Boilermakers.
Not near a TV today? @CBSSports has college basketball fans covered.
North Carolina takes on Kentucky at 11 a.m. (PT), before the BRUINS face No. 20 Ohio State at approximately 1:30 p.m. (PT) in Cleveland.
— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) December 19, 2020
For UCLA, the Bruins lost their season opener at San Diego State, but have won five straight games since and are playing quality basketball as of late. The schedule has been mostly soft for UCLA, but they did pick up a nice win over Marquette in their last game. A win tonight over Ohio State would go a long way on Selection Sunday for UCLA, as their resume is light on top-50 wins.
UCLA Bruins (5-1)
Last season, the UCLA Bruins finished the season on fire and hit March Madness as a team that nobody wanted to play. Mick Cronin was slow to get the Bruins to buy into his brand of basketball, but once they did, the Bruins started winning a lot of basketball games. This year, UCLA brings basically everything back, and despite the season-opening loss to San Diego State, which looked worse at the time than it does now, the Bruins are still looking like a PAC-12 title contender.
Jaime Jaquez Jr had a promising freshman season and has emerged as a potential all-conference player for UCLA this year. He has mostly been used off the bench but is leading the team in scoring at 14-points a game and is second on the team with 6 rebounds per contest. The Bruins use a very guard-heavy rotation, and with so many ball handlers on the floor, they get a lot of great looks and easy buckets by always finding the open man, and they rarely turn it over.
Ohio State Buckeyes (5-1)
The Big 10 is absolutely loaded this year. With so many good teams in the league, there are going to be teams that aren’t going to be able to compete. We know teams like Michigan State, Iowa, and Illinois are going to be at the top of the standings at some point, but the middle of the pack programs like Purdue, Michigan, and Ohio State are going to all be fighting like dogs to emerge from the pack. Most people expect that Ohio State will end up being one of those teams that’s able to separate themselves and win enough games to finish in the top half of the conference and make the NCAA tournament.
The Buckeyes have played efficient basketball, but it has come against weak competition. Ohio State has wins over Illinois State, UMASS-Lowell, Morehead State, Cleveland State, all teams ranked outside of the top-200 nationally. The only decent win on the year for the Buckeyes came over Notre Dame, but the Irish are down this year and won’t be an NCAA tournament team. Ohio State lost at Purdue in their last game, to start their Big 10 schedule off in the losing column, and they need to take care of business tonight in what is essentially a home game against UCLA to avoid losing back-to-back games.
Who Do I Like?
I think UCLA is going to be really good by the end of the year. Mick Cronin is a heck of a basketball coach, and now that he has established his trademark ferocious defense and has moved the Bruins away from their run and gun ways under former head coach Steve Alford, I see UCLA getting back to an elite program very quickly. If this game were in March, I think the Bruins would win fairly easily. But it’s not, it’s in December, and they are going to be in a dog fight tonight.
This line opened up with Ohio State laying -1-point. The early betting sharps seem to agree with me that the Bruins are better than advertised, and they backed UCLA. That shifted the line towards UCLA, to where it stands, with them as -2-point favorites. I got on board with the sharps last night and took UCLA as dogs, but I think that even though we are going to sweat this line out, that UCLA is still the side to back at the current price.
I am just not sure that Ohio State is a good basketball team. Chris Holtzman is a great coach, but the Buckeyes lost a lot last year, and with the Big 10 being so tough, I think they are going to be the odd team out at the end of the year.
It’s easy to look good against bad teams, and the one decent team the Buckeyes played, Purdue, beat them handedly. That’s what I see happening tonight as I think UCLA wins this one. Give me the UCLA Bruins, laying a couple of points on the road tonight against an overrated Ohio State Buckeyes team.