It's the heart of the college basketball season, with each conference race now taking shape and the jockeying for position at March's Big Dance having begun.
That means a prime week of NCAA basketball betting. The highlight of this week is the rematch between North Carolina State and Duke on Thursday, but let's start chronologically with Notre Dame (18-4, 6-3) at Syracuse (18-3, 6-2) on Monday night, which will have first-place in the Big East on the line.
The Orange has lost two straight since an inspired run that included a win over then-No. 1 Louisville two Saturdays ago. Sharp-shooting senior guard Brandon Triche is the Orange's leading scorer and provides an excellent outside compliment to forward C.J Fair, who has posted 13.7 points and 7.0 rebounds a game for the 'Cuse.
The Irish have won three straight to stay in the Big East race. They are led by the senior double-double man Jack Cooley. The forward has averaged 15.0 points and 11.3 rebounds a game for the Irish this season.
Now on to N.C. State (16-6, 5-4) at Duke (19-2, 6-2). It was on Jan. 12 that the then-No. 1 Blue Devils lost at N.C. State. They have since won four of their next five games with the lone loss coming to ACC-leading Miami. Duke suffered a big blow with the loss of Ryan Kelly last month, but remain a threat to win the conference as long as leading scorer Mason Plumlee continues doing excellent work on the block.
Tuesday's slate features a Big 10 battle between bitter rivals Ohio State (17-4, 7-2) at Michigan (20-2, 7-2). Both are just a game back of Indiana in the conference race. The Wolverines are led by the smooth-as-silk guard Trey Burke, who is the leading candidate for National Player of the Year.
The Wednesday night menu is headed by Minnesota (17-5, 5-4) traveling to take on Michigan State (18-4, 7-2). The Spartans put up a gallant fight in a 75-70 loss at No. 1 Indiana last Sunday, which has been their only blemish, and remain squarely in the Big 10 title chase. Michigan State is paced by guard Keith Appling, who is posting 14.2 points, 4.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds a game this season.
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