Top 10 games to watch in college hoops

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Obi Toppin of Dayton
© Imagn

ARIZONA STATE AT UCLA (Thursday)

First place in the Pac-12 is on the line — and that’s not a joke. The Sun Devils (19-8, 10-4) are on top of the conference after a seven-game winning streak. The Bruins (17-11, 10-5) can take the lead with a win. At the end of December, these teams barely showed a pulse, so the high stakes in this matchup are a major surprise. UCLA has won seven of its last eight with defense plus some smoke and mirrors. Arizona State point guard Remy Martin is the league’s No. 2 scorer at 19.1 points per game. I lean to the Sun Devils getting two points or more.

DAVIDSON AT DAYTON (Friday)

Obi Toppin might be the nation’s top player. The 6-foot-9 sophomore forward is averaging 19.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks for the Flyers, who are 26-2 with overtime losses to Kansas and Colorado on neutral courts. Dayton deserves to be in the discussion for a No. 1 seed, but it must run the table in the Atlantic 10 for that to happen. The Flyers’ top four scorers — Toppin, Jalen Crutcher, Trey Landers and Ibi Watson — each shoot 35% or better from 3-point range. A disappointment for most of the season, Davidson is 4-1 in its last five games. Dayton will be about a 12-point favorite. Bettors looking to fade the Flyers are targeting their next game March 4 at Rhode Island.

KANSAS AT KANSAS STATE (Saturday)

Bill Self and the Jayhawks are back to No. 1 in the AP poll. The Wildcats, who have won only two games in 2020, are 0-8 in February. In the first meeting Jan. 21, Kansas covered 16½ in an 81-60 victory. This is a one-sided rivalry and the last meaningful game of K-State’s lost season, so the home underdog could be worth a look if the line is inflated to 14 points.

SETON HALL AT MARQUETTE (Saturday)

Markus Howard continues to lead the nation in scoring at 27.1, but Marquette had dropped three in a row going into Wednesday’s game against Georgetown. The Golden Eagles were 5½-point dogs in a 69-55 loss at Seton Hall in early January. Myles Powell scored 23 points in the first meeting and is averaging 21.3. The Pirates (20-7, 12-3) lead the Big East by a slim margin, so they are playing for a league title, while Marquette is hungry for a quality win to improve its NCAA tournament seed. This is probably a pick-’em game.

AUBURN AT KENTUCKY (Saturday)

It’s a revenge spot for the Wildcats, who have not lost in SEC play since a 75-66 setback Feb. 1 at Auburn. Kentucky’s top four scorers — Immanuel Quickley, Nick Richards, Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans — have flipped the switch in the second half of the season, when coach John Calipari’s teams typically peak. The Tigers dropped their last two road games at Georgia and Missouri, each by double digits. Kentucky -5 is the projected line.

DUKE AT VIRGINIA (Saturday)

The Blue Devils (24-5) are long shots to share the ACC title with Florida State, and Duke might have blown its chance to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament after losing Tuesday at Wake Forest. The Blue Devils are No. 5 overall in the Kenpom.com power rankings and have dropped out of the top 10 in defensive efficiency. Virginia is fourth in defensive efficiency and 214th in offensive efficiency. The Cavaliers are 7-1 in their last eight games, so coach Tony Bennett has his team peaking. This is Duke’s hardest remaining regular-season game, and it will be tough because of Virginia’s grinding pace. I might consider betting the Cavaliers if they are getting four points or more.

SAN DIEGO STATE AT NEVADA (Saturday)

The undefeated bubble finally burst on the Aztecs, who fell to 26-1 after a stunning 66-63 loss to UNLV, which was a .500 team and a 14-point underdog. Malachi Flynn did his best to save San Diego State by totaling 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists. One loss is no big deal, and another loss would be no big deal. I will maintain the opinion the Aztecs are better off being the No. 2 seed in the West than the top seed in the East, especially if Duke is the second seed in that region. The regular-season finale in Reno looks like a tricky spot for the Aztecs. Steve Alford has coached the Wolf Pack to six straight wins. Nevada guard Jalen Harris is a dynamic scorer who averages 21.7 per game, and the Wolf Pack rank eighth in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (38.3). Nevada could be the play if getting at least six points.

MICHIGAN STATE AT MARYLAND (Saturday)

Is it time to buy low on the Spartans? This is when Tom Izzo usually starts working his magic, and this is a revenge opportunity for a stinging loss in East Lansing two weeks ago. The Terrapins closed the game with a 14-0 run to win 67-60 as 6½-point dogs. Anthony Cowan Jr. outscored Cassius Winston 24-14 to win the point guard duel for Maryland, which figures to be about a 3-point favorite in the rematch. Kenpom still rates Michigan State as the slightly better team, and my power ratings agree. I see Maryland as a fortunate team and its 22-5 record as somewhat of a fluke, but this game will tell us a lot more.

MICHIGAN AT OHIO STATE (Sunday)

The Wolverines are rolling again, and their five-game win streak coincides with the return of leading scorer Isaiah Livers. But Michigan is also getting better play from point guard Zavier Simpson, center Jon Teske and guards Eli Brooks and Franz Wagner. Simpson’s mistakes down the stretch allowed the Buckeyes, three-point dogs, to escape Ann Arbor with a 61-58 win in early February. Ohio State recently beat Maryland to run its home win streak to four games. I will look to take a few points with Michigan with revenge as motivation.

TEXAS TECH AT BAYLOR (Monday)

The Bears were 3½-point underdogs in a 57-52 win at Texas Tech in early January, when we started to realize that Baylor was for real. The Red Raiders have been inconsistent on the road, where their most impressive showing was a 78-75 loss at Kansas on Feb. 1. Tech will be getting about eight points in Waco, and it’s tough to turn down a good coach like Chris Beard getting that many points in a low-scoring game.

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