It’s up for debate whether Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger is the best player in college basketball. A case can be made he’s not even the best big man in the Big Ten.
But Sullinger is definitely the most talented player who has alleged on Twitter that opposing fans spit in his face. If that’s true, it’s a disgrace.
Disrespecting the Buckeyes is as ill-advised as spitting into the wind. Despite what the polls say, Ohio State is the nation’s No. 1 team. It would be favored over any opponent on a neutral court, including Kansas, Texas, Pittsburgh and Duke.
The Buckeyes (25-1) were 24-0 before losing at Wisconsin 71-67 as 1½-point underdogs on Saturday, and while they wrongly fell to No. 2 in the polls, they remain in the top spot in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings.
For anyone who wants to see how the day’s college games might turn out — for entertainment or handicapping purposes — check out Kenpom.com. The score projections on the "FanMatch" page are eerily accurate for several games.
On Thursday, for example, Pomeroy predicted Penn State to defeat Minnesota, 66-64. The Nittany Lions, favored by 2 to 3 points, won 66-63. The Pomeroy ratings can be used as one of many sharp handicapping tools.
I don’t need ratings to say Ohio State is the nation’s top team, but the Pomeroy numbers back up the opinion. The NCAA Tournament will provide the final answer, and the Buckeyes are the lone elite team I fully expect to reach the Final Four.
"I can probably name 15 teams that can win it," Las Vegas handicapper Ken Thomson (SportsXRadio.com) said. "I don’t think there are any dominant teams, but Kansas and Ohio State are the most complete teams."
The Jayhawks, hours after being promoted to the No. 1 ranking Monday, were shot down 84-68 by unranked Kansas State as Jacob Pullen erupted for 38 points.
The Big 12 Conference is being dominated by Texas, which has a star scorer in Jordan Hamilton. On the Las Vegas Hilton futures board, the Longhorns’ odds dropped from 20-1 on Jan. 25 to 5-1 today.
Look for 10 Big East teams to populate the NCAA’s 68-team field, but Pittsburgh (10-1) and Notre Dame (30-1) are the only two I think have a good shot to reach the Final Four.
"I will come out and say no team from the Big East will win it. I don’t think there’s any great team from that conference," said Thomson, who is willing to play a pair from the Mountain West.
San Diego State (40-1) has a strong frontline led by Kawhi Leonard and a smooth leader in senior point guard D.J. Gay. Brigham Young (50-1) has a complete team and a big-time scorer in senior sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette.
The Aztecs and Cougars should each reach the Sweet 16. Beyond that, it’s a guess without knowing the matchups.
"I really think San Diego State is a Final Four-caliber team," Thomson said. "There’s no doubt the Aztecs can beat any team in the country."
Thomson is an example of why college basketball, for those who follow it with a microscope, is the ideal sport to wager on and win consistently. There were 52 games on the betting board Wednesday. Thomson had plays on 13 and won 11. He has bad days, too.
But with huge schedules on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, there are countless opportunities to beat the books.
When the opening numbers for Saturday’s games are posted this afternoon, I’ll be looking to bet Arizona, as a slight home favorite, over Washington. The Wildcats, anchored by low-post horse Derrick Williams, are a team to watch.
The must-see game of the weekend features Ohio State at Purdue. Expect the Buckeyes to be 1-point favorites.
In a battle between the Big Ten’s top teams and big men, the 6-foot-9-inch Sullinger squares off against JaJuan Johnson, the Boilermakers’ 6-10 senior.
Sullinger is a bull — the spitting image of a bigger Charles Barkley — and the Buckeyes will ride the freshman a long way. He’s a big piece to a complete puzzle that includes seniors Jon Diebler and David Lighty, junior William Buford and freshman point guard Aaron Craft.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta lost the Player of the Year, Evan Turner, to the NBA but returned a better team with few flaws.
The Buckeyes are the best bet to win it all.
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts the "Las Vegas Sportsline" weeknights at midnight on KDWN-AM (720) and thelasvegassportsline.com.