*(NOTE: Lines are not posted for Saturday or Sunday games as of publication. Spreads referenced are via Kenpom.com)
No. 2 WEST VIRGINIA at No. 8 TEXAS TECH (-6), 2:00 p.m.
There will not be a game between two tougher teams all season long. What’s most fascinating to me about this matchup is that it is a battle between two of the nation’s five best turnover inducing teams, but they go about it in totally different ways. West Virginia presses full court. Texas Tech gets after you in the half court.
Either way, I’m not sure that this is going to be the prettiest game. It will be physical, there will be a lot of fouls called and even more fouls that go uncalled. But these just might be the two best teams in the Big 12 this season. So it will certainly be worth the watch.
- PREDICTION: If you can get West Virginia (+6) I think you need to take West Virginia (+6). I don’t expect the spread to be that high when it is actually released. I think Texas Tech wins a close one. West Virginia (+6)
No. 25 CREIGHTON at No. 10 XAVIER (-2), 2:00 p.m.
Xavier is stuck in a rut. We went over that yesterday. Much of it has to do with the fact that Trevon Bluiett has not been right for a while, and he may end up facing off with Khyri Thomas on Saturday. That is not ideal. That said, the Musketeers have lost two in a row on the road. They’re coming back home in a game they really need to win if they want the pipe dream of unseating Villanova top the Big East to still be within reach.
- PREDICTION: I think this is the game where the notoriously streaky Bluiett gets it going. Once he gets it going, the Musketeers are a totally different team. Xavier (-2)
No. 16 TCU at No. 9 OKLAHOMA (-6), 1:00 p.m.
Just two weeks ago, Trae Young played his first road game as a member of the Big 12 conference at TCU, going for 39 points and 14 assists as the Sooners erased an 11-point second half deficit to win in Fort Worth. I expect more of the same from Young. His efficiency numbers took a hit the last two games, thanks to matchups with West Virginia and Texas Tech, and this should be the game where he gets right.
- PREDICTION: I think the Sooners win by double-digits. Oklahoma (-6)
WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO WATCH?
Other than the NFL Playoffs?
Quite a bit, actually …
- MICHIGAN at No. 4 MICHIGAN STATE (-10), 12:00 p.m.: This in-state rivalry has gotten a lot more interesting now that Michigan is playing well and the Spartans are doing things like getting smoked by Ohio State and nearly losing to Rutgers at home. I think the Wolverines keep this close. Michigan (+10)
- No. 5 PURDUE (-8) at MINNESOTA, 12:00 p.m.: The Golden Gophers are a train wreck right now. I just don’t see them keeping pace with a very good Purdue team. Purdue (-8)
- OREGON at No. 17 ARIZONA (-9), 2:00 p.m.: Oregon is coming off of a win at Arizona State while Arizona is coming off of a scare at home against Oregon State. I think this is the game where the Wildcats wake-up and run Oregon out of Arizona. Arizona (-9)
- No. 18 MIAMI at No. 19 CLEMSON (-4), 3:00 p.m.: Miami badly need to right the ship. They’ve struggled on the offensive end of the floor, but with Clemson coming off of a loss at N.C. State on Thursday, the Tigers are going to be trying to avoid a losing streak as well. Miami (+4)
- No. 21 KENTUCKY (-5) at VANDERBILT, 4:00 p.m.: Vanderbilt has proven to be a tough out at home, and Kentucky hasn’t exactly been a world-beater this season. I think the actual line will be more than (-5), and I like Vandy to keep this close. Vandy (+5)
- TEXAS A&M at No. 24 TENNESSEE (-5), 6:00 p.m.: Texas A&M will drop to 0-5 in the SEC if they lose this game and are getting to the point where the team with the best roster – when healthy – in the league is in danger of missing the Big Dance. I think the Aggies – who are a couple of fluky plays away from being 2-2 in conference – figure it out. Texas A&M (+5)
Matisse Thybulle will return to Washington for his senior season after contemplating declaring for the NBA draft following a junior campaign in which he was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.
“The NBA is really enticing and it was definitely something that I seriously considered when the season was over,” Thybulle told the Seattle Times. “I talked it over with my family and we came to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to stay and get my degree (in communications) and grow as a basketball player and take this last year to mature and fine tune everything so I can be fully prepared to take that next step when it’s time.”
The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last season. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from 3-point range.
“I talked to coach (Mike Hopkins) and he gave me some good advice that was honestly something that helped in the grand scheme of things,” Thybulle said. “He told me that if I do it (enter the draft), then I should be all in because that’s what I’m going to be up against is a whole bunch of guys fighting for their lives. He thought it would be a better idea for me to stay in school until I’m at that point.”
Washington is awaiting the decision of Noah Dickerson, who declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. The 6-foot-8 averaged 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season.
Steve Wojciechowski added a significant piece to his 2019-20 team over the weekend.
Koby McEwen announced his intention to transfer to Marquette from Utah State late Sunday evening.
“I would like to thank God, my family, inner circle and all the schools/coaches that recruited me during this process!” McEwen tweeted. “With that being said, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be furthering my college career at Marquette University.”
McEwen picked the Golden Eagles over fellow finalists Creighton and Grand Canyon after he decided to transfer when the Aggies announced South Dakota coach Craig Smith was taking over the program last month. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.
After sitting out the upcoming season, McEwen will have to years of eligibility remaining. Marquette went 21-14 last season, but missed the NCAA tournament for the third time in Wojciechowski’s four years in Milwaukee.
Minnesota has added some depth for the future.
The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.
Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.
The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.
Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.
After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.
Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.
John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.
Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.
Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.
Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.
With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.
The NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline came and went on Sunday night, meaning there are now roughly 60 college players that have signed with an agent and another 100 or so that have declared for the draft while retaining their college eligibility. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who has the most on the line? Sam Vecenie of the Game Theory podcast joined Rob Dauster to talk through all of it. The rundown:
OPEN: What do NBA teams value in players these days?
10:00: Villanova has more on the line during this testing the water process than anyone
19:00: Just how important was De’Andre Hunter’s decision to return to Virginia
25:25: Gonzaga getting Rui and Killian Tillie back makes them a title favorite
32:10: Nevada has a top ten season on the line with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline
36:15: #RANTALERT – The decision to turn pro is so much more complicated than “is he a first round pick”
48:30: Rapid fire: Maryland, Kansas, Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. What do they have on the line?