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Every week, we're providing a betting breakdown of college basketball's biggest games. It's a light slate this week, as it will be in most of December throughout the holidays. However, the schedule features some interesting games Tuesday with Maryland traveling to Penn State and No. 1 Louisville in action versus last year's Cinderella, Texas Tech.
Here's a betting breakdown of this week's top matchups.
Butler has been one of the surprises through the first month of the college basketball season. Picked to finish near the bottom of the Big East, the Bulldogs enter Tuesday's matchup against Baylor a perfect 9-0 with victories over Minnesota, Missouri, Florida, and Ole Miss. Butler ranks 12th in offensive efficiency and ninth in points allowed, giving up just 56.2 per game. Senior guard Kamar Baldwin has been sensational early in the year, averaging 17 points and hitting 41.7% from 3-point range.
The Bulldogs will face their toughest test of the year when they travel to Waco, Texas. Baylor hung on to beat Arizona on Saturday 63-58, covering as a 4-point favorite. The Bears are getting it done on both ends of the court, ranking in the top 25 in offensive and defensive efficiency. One thing to watch in this game: Butler is one of the worst rebounding teams in the country, while Baylor ranks seventh in offensive rebounding percentage.
Butler has been a covering machine early in the year, going 7-2 against the spread. A lot of that has to do with the Bulldogs entering the season undervalued. However, Baylor is projected to be around a 4-5 point favorite at home. The value is now gone with Butler, and while it should be a competitive game between two strong defensive teams, lean toward Baylor minus the points at home.
This game will take place at Madison Square Garden with Chris Beard and Texas Tech trying to figure out a way to solve No. 1 Louisville. The Cardinals and Ohio State have been the two most dominant teams early in the year. Louisville is coming off a week where it dismantled both Michigan and Pittsburgh. The Cardinals rank in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency and feature eight players who average at least 15 minutes per game. Junior forward Jordan Nwora has been unstoppable through nine games, averaging 21.6 points and 7.3 rebounds.
Texas Tech just missed out on cutting down the nets last April, but the team is off a slow start this year after losing some key pieces from the team that reached the national championship game. The Red Raiders come into Tuesday's matchup on a three-game losing streak. Offense has been an issue for Texas Tech recently - the Red Raiders averaged 65 points in their three losses even though two of the games went into overtime. It won't get any easier against a Louisville defense giving up only 57.6 points per game.
Texas Tech is still finding its way, and you can expect the Red Raiders to be a better team later in the season. Louisville is projected to be around an 8-9 point favorite on a neutral court, and while Beard's teams are always dangerous as an underdog, the Cardinals are simply in a different class right now. Lay the points.
In one of the most interesting matchups of the week, No. 3 Maryland goes on the road to face a pesky Penn State squad. The Terps rallied from seven points down in the final two minutes to defeat Illinois 59-58 Saturday. Meanwhile, Penn State is licking its wounds after getting steamrolled by Ohio State 106-74 as 8-point underdogs.
Both teams are much better than what they showed over the weekend. Maryland is a very good shooting team but struggled against Illinois, hitting just 8-of-31 (25.8%) from 3-point range. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions looked like a live dog heading into Columbus but were no match for the early-season juggernaut known as Ohio State. The Buckeyes shot a sizzling 60.7% from the field and outrebounded Penn State 37-25.
Despite the close call, Maryland remains one of the most balanced teams in the country, ranking in the top 15 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. While the Terps have already played three neutral-site games this season, this will be their first true road test. Penn State is 6-3 ATS this year and has covered four of five games on its home court. Expect a tight game, but I'm going with Penn State to bounce back from Saturday's embarrassment and pull the upset as a small home underdog.
Thomas Casale is theScore's supervising editor of sports betting. He's been following the sports betting industry for almost 30 years. A devoted fan of the wishbone offense, Thomas bets on all sports but specializes in college football, NFL, and college basketball. Find him on Twitter @TheTomCasale.