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Handicapping This Weekend’s CBB Action

College Basketball Weekend

The Big Dance is just a few weeks away and not all tickets have been punched. This weekend has a ton of college hoops action that will impact the field of 65. Here’s a look at some of the best bets on the board:


Saturday – Kentucky Wildcats at Vanderbilt Commodores

Kentucky got a scare in Mississippi State, escaping Starkville with a 81-75 win in overtime as a 2.5-point favorite Tuesday. Head coach John Calipari was happy with his team’s effort and saw the win over the Bulldogs as an important jump in the maturation of UK’s young players.

John Wall posted a near triple-double and DeMarcus Cousins scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds despite playing with four fouls down the stretch. The Wildcats showed much better poise than in their nail-biting loss to South Carolina a couple weeks back. That steadiness will come in handy when the going gets tough in one of the SEC’s most hostile gyms.

The Commodores will be out to avenge an 85-72 loss to Kentucky in Rupp Arena at the end of January. Vanderbilt got a poor showing from star center A.J. Ogilvy in that loss, as he struggled against a bigger UK frontcourt. He finished with 12 points on 2-for-4 shooting but did get to the foul line 12 times, hitting eight of those free throws.

Vanderbilt will be coming off a game against Mississippi Thursday and getting short rest for this 6 p.m. ET start. The Commodores are a hard team to beat in Memorial Gymnasium. They are a perfect 13-0 at home this season, posting a 6-5 record against the spread. Vanderbilt could be without forward Andre Walker, who hurt his shoulder after colliding with a teammate, but should have reserve guard John Jenkins back. The freshman is scoring more than 10 points per game off the bench.

Sunday – Villanova Wildcats at Pittsburgh Panthers

These two Big East beasts have yet to meet this season. Their most recent collision was a memorable matchup in the Elite Eight in last season’s NCAA Tournament. Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds scored a streaking runner through the key with 0.5 seconds left on the clock to send the Wildcats to the Final Four. While many of the players from that Pitt team are gone, that moment is still fresh with Panthers coach Jamie Dixon, who will have his program frothing at the mouth for revenge Sunday.

Pittsburgh is sitting at No. 21 in the national polls this week, heading into Thursday’s game against Marquette. The Panthers have won four straight games at home, improving to 14-1 inside the John M. and Gertrude E. Petersen Events Center and posting a 6-4-2 mark against the spread this year. Pittsburgh is finally healthy and the roster is beginning to gel. Guard Brad Wanamaker and Ashton Gibbs each scored 24 points in the Panthers’ most recent home win – a 98-95 triple-overtime win against rival West Virginia last Friday.

Villanova bettors are still trying to pick their jaws up off the ground after watching the Wildcats get upset by Connecticut, 84-75, as 9.5-point home favorites Monday night. Villanova was bullied inside, getting out-rebounded by an athletic Huskies frontcourt, 40-29, and sent UConn to the foul line 44 times, where it cashed in 35 of those freebies. Senior forward Antonio Pena got in foul trouble early and left the game with just 10 points and three rebounds, not to mention taking any beef Villanova has inside out of the equation.

Reynolds also struggled. He scored 14 points in the first half but went ice cold in the final 20 minutes, scoring just four points. He was also abused on defense, watching Huskies guard Kemba Walker score 20 points in the second half. Reserve guard Taylor King, a former Duke transfer, was a no-show against UConn. He went 0-for-6 from the field and finished the game with a goose egg in the scoring column. Coach Jay Wright needs Smith to be ready to play Sunday against Pitt’s talented backcourt, which has a talent for coming back from the dead late in games.



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