CBB: Two Top 5 Teams in Action

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Duke and Kentucky are both hopeful of being on the "top line", where the four #1 seeds of the NCAA Tournament will reside in just over two weeks. However, neither can afford to take the upcoming action off, starting Thursday night on ESPN2. The Blue Devils and Wildcats will be the host teams in a evening doubleheader on the deuce, with both teams booked as heavy favorites at Sportsbook.com.

Tulsa at Duke 7:00E

The last several years, Coach Mike Krzyzewski scheduled one of these non-conference games in February with two things in mind. First, to break up the strain of playing in the ACC, and two, to give his players a chance to face a team fighting to earn a NCAA berth. This current collection of Blue Devils' players has never won a ACC title and that is foremost on their minds, leading Maryland by a game, nonetheless this is great preparation, taking on an unknown opponent as his club is starting to gel, having won six straight and eight of nine (5-3-1 ATS).

Coach K knows what he's going to get from his Big Three (Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and  Kyle Singler) and recently he's been working on putting certain players like Lance Thomas, center Brian Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers in more comfortable positions on the floor for them to score. Duke (23-4, 16-9-1 ATS) is 15-0 and 10-4 ATS at home this season.

With Memphis presumably down at the start of the year, Tulsa (19-8, 7-16-1 ATS) believed this might be the opportunity to take charge of Conference USA, with its two senior leaders. Unfortunately the rest of the league has not cooperated and the Golden Hurricane is a distant fifth in the league, having lost four of their last five to teams that are ahead of them in the standings. Coach Doug Wojcik has never been able to develop a bench and possibly the heavy minutes the starters are playing is taking a toll. Tulsa has not covered a spread since Jan. 16, a span of 10 games.

Sportsbook.com has Duke as 18.5 point favorites and they are 12-2 and 8-5 ATS in non-conference action. The Blue Devils are 13-1 and 9-3-1 ATS with three or more days off. Tulsa is 0-7-1 ATS taking on a team with winning record and is 4-10 ATS off a spread loss, including eight failures in a row.

South Carolina at Kentucky  9:00E

The Wildcats will seek revenge for their lone defeat this season at the hands of the Gamecocks. In the 68-62 loss, Kentucky was "Downey-ized" by Devan Downey, who torched them for 30 points. One important element from the earlier matchup that played a key role was the undersized South Carolina squad held a +4 rebounding edge. Kentucky (26-1, 14-11 ATS) no doubt will seek redemption and is 13-4 ATS revenging a straight up loss vs. opponent as a road favorite.

Since their moment of the year, South Carolina (14-12, 9-14 ATS) has returned to mediocrity, a slightly above average squad with limited ability in the paint and dependent on Downey to score and distribute the ball to others. The Gamecocks have shriveled up as visitors, with a 1-8 and 2-7 ATS record away from Columbia. South Carolina will need an even better performance to sweep Kentucky, but they are 3-12 ATS vs. shooting teams making 45 percent or more of their shots this season.

Big Blue is 11-1 and 8-4 ATS against South Carolina in Lexington, with the last seven contests going OVER the number and they are a solid 16 point favorite at Sportsbook.com to avenge the earlier loss.

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