Week in Review: Mike Moser and Harvard stood out

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Player of the Week: Mike Moser, UNLV

Less than three weeks into the season, its already quite apparent who the most influential transfer in the country is. After seven games, Moser is leading the Rebels in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals. He ranks third in assists. In three games last week — wins against Cal Poly, USC and No. 1 North Carolina that pushed the Rebels to 7-0 on the season — Moser averaged 13.3 ppg, 13.0 rpg and 2.7 apg while adding three blocks and four steals. In the win over UNC, he had 16 points and 18 rebounds and helped keep Tyler Zeller and John Henson in check. That should give you a glimpse into Moser’s value for this team.

But its more than that. Moser’s value is in his versatility at the four spot. What UNLV wants to do is spread the floor and create lanes for penetration from the perimeter. Moser’s ability to rebound and defend at the four spot while providing a perimeter threat offensively makes the Rebels a more dangerous and complete team. Moser is probably not the most talented player on this team, but his skill set makes him the most valuable. Now imagine what will happen when he finds a consistent stroke from the perimeter; he’s done this much damage while shooting just 2-17 from beyond the arc.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team

G: Evan Roquemore, Santa Clara: Everyone knows about Kevin Foster, but he’s not the only talented back court player for the Broncs. Santa Clara went 2-1 in the 76 Classic — including wins over New Mexico and Villanova — while averaging 22.7 ppg, 8.0 apg and 3.7 rpg while shooting 12-21 from three and 24-25 from the foul line.

G: Kevin Dillard, Dayton: Dillard, a transfer from Southern Illinois, led the Flyers to the Old Spice Classic title with wins over Wake Forest, Fairfield and Minnesota. In the three games, he averaged 15.3 ppg, 5.0 apg, 3.7 spg and 2.3 apg while shooting 51.6% from the floor and 4-9 from three.

F: Eric Griffin, Campbell: Griffin led the Camels to a 2-1 week, including a 16 point win over Iowa, while averaging 23.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg and 3.7 bpg. He shot 75% (24-32) from the floor, 4-5 from three and also added six steals. Griffin went for 23 points, 13 boards and six steals in the win over Iowa, and then had 29 points and 14 boards in a loss to Creighton. Oh, and he did this.

F: Thomas Robinson, Kansas: The Jayhawks lost the title game of the Maui Invitational to Duke, but Robinson made a statement on the island. He had three straight double-doubles and averaged 17.0 ppg and 12.3 rpg in the three games.

C: Henry Sims, Georgetown: Sims only averaged 13.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.3 apg and 1.7 bpg in a 2-1 week for the Hoyas. But it was the 24 points, eight boards and five assists that Sims notched in an overtime win over Memphis in the fifth-place game.

Bench: Griffin Callahan, South Dakota State (18.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 18 3’s, 3-1 week); Isaiah Canaan, Murray State (25.3 ppg, 3.3 apg, 5.7 rpg, Great Alaska Shootout champ); Jason Clark, Georgetown (23.0 ppg, 12-20 3’s); Reggie Hamilton, Oakland (34 points, five assists, five steals vs. Utah Valley State); Orlando Johnson, UC-Santa Barbara (26.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 4.0 apg); Maurice Jones, USC (28 points, 7-7 3’s vs. South Carolina); Velton Jones, Robert Morris (38 points, 10-15 shooting vs. James Madison); Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee (23.0 ppg, 16.0 rpg, including 32 points, 20 boards vs. Memphis); Anthony Miles, Lamar (24.5 ppg, 6.0 apg, 4.5 rpg); Jim Mower, Lafayette (28.0 ppg, including 37 points, 10-13 threes vs. FDU); Jake Odum, Indiana State (10 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists vs. Fairfield); Joel Smith, Northeastern (29 points, 10 boards in win vs. St. John’s); Kyle Vinales, Central Conn. (27.0 ppg, 3.5 apg, 20-36 FG, 6-12 3’s)

Team of the Week: Harvard Crimson

The Crimson moved to 6-0 on the season as they rolled through the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. Harvard didn’t get a matchup with UConn, who lost in the semifinals to Central Florida, but they did land a couple of big wins. Harvard destroyed Utah, who may actually be the worst major conference team in the country, and followed that up with an impressive win over a big, physical Florida State team. Throw in their title game victory over UCF, and the Crimson legitimized the preseason speculation that they were one of, if not the best mid-major team in the country.

There is so much to like about this Harvard team. They have a front line that went punch for punch with one of the biggest and most physical front lines in the country in Florida State, keeping the Seminoles off of the offensive glass despite holding them to 36.2% shooting. They have a solid point guard in Brandyn Curry and a slew of jump shooters on their perimeter. They have youthful experience, meaning that their young roster has been together for a couple of seasons. Perhaps most importantly, the Crimson have depth on their roster. They are bringing top 100 recruits off the bench. This team is for real.

Teams that also deserved to be Team of the Week:

Missouri Tigers: I just wrote a 700 word post on Missouri, so I’m not going to go to in depth here about the Tigers, but their start to the season has been nothing short of incredible. What’s most impressive is the way that Frank Haith has been able to embrace the principles that Mike Anderson instilled in this group during his tenure. The Tigers play terrific pressure defense on the perimeter and have excelled in transition.

San Diego State: I’ll admit it — I doubted this team. And it looks like that was a mistake. The Aztecs moved to 7-1 after a 2-0 week in which Steve Fisher’s club won two games on the road. On Wednesday, they went into the McKale Center and hung on to beat Arizona after opening up the game with a 21-4 run. Then on Saturday, the Aztecs knocked off UC-Santa Barbara in overtime. SDSU has a loaded perimeter attack, but if they can get more performances like the 13 points and nine boards that center Garrett Green had against UCSB, this team gets that much better.

St. Louis Billikens: This group was named BIAH Team of the Week last week after going 3-0 and beating Washington at home. They continued that terrific play this week as they rolled through the 76 Classic, knocked off BC, Villanova and Oklahoma in the span of four nights. What makes this group so intriguing is the way that they play defense and how well they shoot the three ball. That is going to keep them in a lot of games this season. With Temple’s Michael Eric banged up, is St. Louis now the second best team in the Atlantic 10?

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels: UNLV looked very, very impressive in their win over North Carolina on Saturday night. But the game also brought some concerns to the surface. For example, UNLV caught a break down the stretch in that the Tar Heels were unable to get a defensive rebound or force a turnover, because they made some really sloppy decisions down the stretch. There were three or four possessions in the final three minutes where UNLV shot a three with 25 or 30 seconds left on the shot clock. North Carolina will usually make their opponents pay for rushing shots like that.

Teams deserving a shout out:

DePaul: The Blue Demons are now 4-1 on the season after a 2-1 week down in Orlando for the Old Spice Classic. DePaul knocked off Texas Tech and Arizona State, and while neither of those teams are going to be competing for conference titles, they are wins none-the-less. Those haven’t been easy to come by for DePaul the past couple of seasons. Their one point loss to Minnesota might have been their most impressive performance of the week.

Duke: The Blue Devils improved to 7-0 on the season by rolling through Tennessee, Michigan and Kansas to take home the Maui Invitational title. The two best signs of the week for Duke — Austin Rivers is starting to show signs of understanding how to be a basketball player, and Mason Plumlee’s back-to-the-basket game is getting better and better.

Georgetown: Its tough to not be impressed by the performance that the Hoyas had in Maui last week. After nearly knocking off Kansas, Henry Sims and Jason Clark took over as Georgetown knocked off Memphis in overtime in the fifth-place game. With how much the Big East has struggled this year, the Hoyas look like they may be able to finish in the top six.

Indiana: The Hoosiers went 2-0 last week, but it was their 75-59 win over Butler that turned the most heads. The Bulldogs are down this season, but the Hoosiers have been down for the entirety of Tom Crean’s tenure. With this win, they, once again, look like the best team in the state. While Cody Zeller has been impressive, its been the play of Will Sheehey that has really sparked IU.

Marshall: The Thundering Herd improved to 5-0 on the season by winning a pair of road games last week. They knocked off UNC-Wilmington by five, and followed that up by going into Cincinnati and beating the Bearcats in overtime.

Michigan: The Wolverines have been one of the bigger surprises of the young season, and much of the credit has to go to Trey Burke. The freshman point guard has valiantly replaced Darius Morris, and while he’s not going to put up the same numbers, his leadership and playmaking has been there. As Burke continues to learn the game, he’s only going to get better.

Santa Clara: Santa Clara finished in third place at the 76 Classic, but they had a couple of very impressive performances. The Broncs not only knocked off New Mexico in the opening round, they beat Villanova in the third-place game, coming from down seven points in the final minute to win. Kevin Foster is the name that everyone knows of this team, but Evan Roquemore has played like a potential all-WCC player early in the season.

St. Joseph’s: The Hawks are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the A-10 this season. After losing a double overtime battle to Iona earlier in the week, St. Joe’s went into Happy Valley and scored the first 22 points of the game as they knocked off Penn State. This is a young group with a lot of promise.

Stanford: Its hard not to be impressed with the way that Stanford played in New York over the holidays. They soundly smacked Oklahoma State before giving Syracuse all they could handle in a six-point loss at the Garden, what effectively amounts to a home-game for the Orange. Josh Owens, Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle provide a sold 1-2-3 punch for Johnny Dawkins, but if Dwight Powell ever grows into his potential, this could be a dangerous team late in the year.

Tennessee: They lost both of their meaningful games in Maui, but the Vols deserve some credit. They are a much different team than last season. They play hard, they play smart and they appear to be well-coached. If Jeronne Maymon and Trae Golden can avoid letting their egos get too big for the team, this is a group that will make some noise in the SEC.

Five Thoughts:

What’s going on in the Pac-12?: There have been two impressive teams in the Pac-12 this season: Oregon State and Stanford. What’s crazier is that neither of them actually won the preseason tournament that they played in. Its gotten to the point in the Pac-12 where we are impressed when teams are able to beat mediocre competition and simply compete with some of the top teams in the country. That’s not a good sign.

I’m not ready to say that either the Beavers or the Cardinals are the favorite in this league just yet. The beatdown that Cal received at the hands of Missouri seems like more of a bad matchup where Cal happened to play poorly and Missouri happened to be on fire. If those two played 10 more times, Cal would win four of them. The same can be said for Washington’s performance at St. Louis; the Huskies aren’t as bad as they appeared playing a game that was a 9:00 am tip pacific time. Arizona will get better as the season progresses, young teams always do. At the very least, the league will be fun to follow.

The bottom of the Pac-12 is where it gets ugly. Arizona State lost to DePaul. Washington State lost to UC-Riverside. Utah was blown out by Harvard, UNC-Asheville and UMass. USC lost to Cal Poly. That’s bad.

The Big East is down, too: The Pac-12 isn’t the only conference dealing with some early-season struggles. The Big East has been anything but impressive this year. UConn lost to Central Florida. Pitt lost to Long Beach State. Villanova went 1-2 in the 76 Classic after needing overtime to beat La Salle. Cincinnati has now lost to Presbyterian and Marshall. West Virginia lost to Kent State. Notre Dame looked terrible at the CBE Classic and lost Tim Abromaitis for the season with a torn acl. St. John’s lost to Northeastern. Half of Louisville’s roster is injured.

I’d go as far as to say that the only Big East team that has been impressive this season has been Georgetown. Marquette could have been included in that conversation until they struggled to beat Norfolk State.

North Carolina’s loss: There are definite issues with the Tar Heels. They don’t defend well enough, they can get beat up in the paint and they struggle when they are forced to play a half court game. Those are major red flags. But remember this: there are not going to be many games that the Tar Heels get such poor performances out of their front line. Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, John Henson and James Michael McAdoo combined to go 12-38 from the floor, 13-24 from the line, score just 37 points and grab only 24 rebounds. Credit UNLV’s front line for some of that, but also remember how rare that kind of stat line is going to be.

What happened to Alex Oriakhi?: UConn’s big man played such a vital role in their national title performance last season, anchoring the paint and defending the rim. This year, however, he’s struggled to find minutes, and its not because Andre Drummond has been playing great basketball. Against Florida State, Oriakhi played just 10 minutes despite going up against the biggest front line in the country. So what’s the issue? Oriakhi’s been fouling too much, rebounding too little and done nothing to force Calhoun to keep him on the floor. When he did against Central Florida — 14 points, 10 boards, 5 blocks — you saw the results. In those 10 minutes against FSU, he went without a rebound or a shot attempt. Its no wonder he’s not playing.

The Austin Rivers conundrum: Much has been made about the early season performance of Austin Rivers. And, yes, its been less than ideal. But remember, this kid is still a freshmen. He’s still learning the game. He’s still learning how to be a member of a team as good as Duke is. For his entire high school career, Rivers played a style that was, essentially, “give Austin the ball and let him do what he wants”. He’s taking fewer bad shots and playing more within the Duke offense.

It also should be noted that you don’t want to take away the ability of Rivers to throw up one or two ill-advised shots a game. That aggressiveness is what makes him so dangerous. You can’t take away his confidence, but he does need to learn about when the right situation is to attack and when he needs to pull it out and run some offense. He’ll get there. Give him time.

Game of the Week: Duke 68, Kansas 61

This really was just a sensational game. Two high-level teams trading haymakers in a raucous environment. There was defense being played, there were battles underneath the rim and there big-time shots being made. The hero? Seldom-used Tyler Thornton, who hit back-to-back threes in the final minute to clinch the win:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXJQXjhuxmI%5D

Matchups of the Week:

– Mon. 7:00 pm: No. 12 Xavier at No. 22 Vanderbilt
– Mon. 7:00 pm: Long Beach State @ No. 7 Louisville
– Tue. 7:00 pm: No. 15 Michigan @ Virginia
– Tue. 9:30 pm: No. 6 Duke @ No. 3 Ohio State
– Wed. 7:30 pm: No. 20 Florida State @ Michigan State
– Wed. 9:30 pm: No. 11 Wisconsin @ No. 1 North Carolina
– Wed. 10:30 pm: No. 25 Creighton @ San Diego State
– Thu. 9:30 pm: Georgetown @ No. 13 Alabama
– Fri. 7:00 pm: No. 9 Florida @ No. 5 Syracuse
– Fri. 9:00 pm: No. 22 Vanderbilt @ No. 7 Louisville
– Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 1 UNC @ No. 2 Kentucky
– Sat. 3:00 pm: Purdue @ No. 12 Xavier
– Sat. 3:15 pm: No. 19 Gonzaga @ Illinois
– Sun. 5:00 pm: No. 18 Cal @ San Diego State
– Sat. 4:30 pm: No. 17 Marquette @ No. 11 Wisconsin

Bubble Banter: It’s that time of year again!

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It’s getting to be that time of year.

Bubble Banter is back, baby!

Over the course of the next three days, we are going to be diving headlong into bubble chatter right here, breaking down every single team that is on or near the bubble for the NCAA tournament Field of 68. This, of course, is according to our Dave Ommen, who sent me a list of all the bubble teams. Our cut-off, at least for this conversation, is teams that currently sit as a No. 9 seed or better in the most recent bracket that we released.

Why?

Because — with the notable exception of Ohio State — it is difficult to see how any of those teams can end up out of the NCAA tournament before our next bracket projection gets published on Monday.

So, you know, they’re not currently on the bubble.

Anyway, come back throughout the weekend to see who the winners and the losers are and what it means for their standing in regards to the cut line.

FRIDAY

Wisconsin at PURDUE, 7:00 p.m.
YALE at Brown, 7:00 p.m.

SATURDAY

VCU at La Salle, 12:00 p.m.
PITT at SYRACUSE, 12:00 p.m.
ST. JOHN’S at DEPAUL, 2:00 p.m.
VIRGINIA TECH at Boston College, 2:00 p.m.
LSU at TEXAS, 2:00 p.m.
OKLAHOMA at MISSISSIPPI STATE, 2:00 p.m.
RHODE ISLAND at St. Bonaventure, 3:00 p.m.
UNCG at Samford, 3:00 p.m.
AKRON at Ohio, 3:30 p.m.
LIBERTY at Stetson, 4:00 p.m.
Chattanooga at EAST TENNESSEE STATE, 4:00 p.m.
N.C. STATE at Georgia Tech, 4:00 p.m.
SMU at MEMPHIS, 4:00 p.m.
TENNESSEE at No. 3 Kansas, 4:00 p.m.
BYU at San Francisco, 5:00 p.m.
No. 7 Dayton at RICHMOND, 6:00 p.m.
No. 15 Kentucky at No. 18 TEXAS TECH, 6:00 p.m.
Kansas State at ALABAMA, 6:00 p.m.
Washington State at UTAH, 7:00 p.m.
NOTRE DAME at No. 5 Florida State, 8:00 p.m.
SAINT MARY’S at LMU, 9:00 p.m.
WASHINGTON at No. 23 Colorado, 9:00 p.m.
No. 22 Arizona at ARIZONA STATE, 9:30 p.m.
Colorado State at UTAH STATE, 10:00 p.m.

SUNDAY

VIRGINIA at Wake Forest, 12:00 p.m.
No. 11 Michigan State at MINNESOTA, 3:00 p.m.
Fordham at SAINT LOUIS, 3:00 p.m.
XAVIER at Creighton, 4:00 p.m.
Loyola-Chicago at NORTHERN IOWA, 4:00 p.m.
OHIO STATE at Northwestern, 6:30 p.m.

Best Bets: Previewing Baylor-Florida, Texas Tech-Kentucky

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As always, the Vegas lines are not out for the weekend games, so we will be breaking them down using KenPom, Torvik and Haslametric projections.

FRIDAY

MARQUETTE at No. 13 BUTLER, 9:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Butler 72, Marquette 66
  • TORVIK: Butler 72, Marquette 66
  • HASLAM: Butler 71, Marquette 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: Butler 70, Marquette 64

In theory, this is an ideal buy-low spot for Butler. They are coming off of three straight losses, the last two of which came on the road. The loss at DePaul was a bad matchup, and the loss at Villanova was a result of Sean McDermott and Jordan Tucker shooting a combined 1-for-12 from three until the final minute of a 15-point loss.

Marquette, on the other hand, is in a prime sell-high spot. The Golden Eagles have won three in a row. Two of them came at home and the third was at Georgetown, a team that is down to just seven scholarship players. Trying to predict the nights that Markus Howard doesn’t score 30-plus is more or less impossible, but I do think that it is worth noting Butler is 12th nationally in defensive three-point field goal percentage and has a couple of quality perimeter defenders they can throw at him.

BEST BET: The logic says to bet Butler here. The problem is that, at Butler (-6) or (-6.5), I don’t think we’re buying Butler low or selling Marquette high. KenPom and Torvik both have the line at (-6) while Haslam has it at (-7). I was hoping to get it at (-5) or lower, which is unfortunate. Either way, if I’m going to be betting this game — which, let’s be honest, is probably going to happen — it will be with Butler.

Oh, and Butler is unveiling Butler IV, their new puppy, tonight. Never fade the puppy play.

SATURDAY

No. 15 KENTUCKY at No. 18 TEXAS TECH, 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Texas Tech 67, Kentucky 64
  • TORVIK: Texas Tech 67, Kentucky 64
  • HASLAM: Texas Tech 69, Kentucky 63
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

The more I think about this, the more I like the Texas Tech side here. I do think that the Red Raiders have one of the best coaching staffs when it comes to developing and instituting a game-plan. That’s a problem for a Kentucky team that tends to be fairly limited in what they run offensively. Put another way, Kentucky tends to figure out what works for them and run it over and over and over again. Their playbook shrinks as the season progresses, and that’s the kind of thing that Chris Beard and Mark Adams can take advantage of.

This is also a good buy-low spot for Texas Tech, considering that they are coming home off of a loss at TCU.

On the other side of the ball, I do worry about Texas Tech’s ability to create offense. They have struggled on that end, and I don’t think they actually have the front court pieces to be able to pull Nick Richards out of the paint.

BEST BETS: I’ll be curious to see where the line opens up here. I lean Texas Tech at anything (-4) and below, and I hope that the Kentucky effect can push that line much lower. I also will be on the under. If I think Texas Tech will have trouble to score, and Kentucky will have trouble to score, it only makes sense.

No. 1 BAYLOR at FLORIDA, 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Baylor 65, Florida 64
  • TORVIK: Baylor 65, Florida 63
  • HASLAM: Baylor 65, Florida 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Baylor feels like they’re due for a loss, right?

They needed to erase a 12-point second half deficit at Oklahoma State last weekend. On Monday night, they nearly had Austin Reaves hitting a three in the final seconds to give Oklahoma a win in Waco. And now they are heading back out on the road to take on a Florida team that has been better of late?

Here’s to hoping that this line gets inflated because of the number next to Baylor’s name.

I also believe that the under is in play here. Baylor is one of the nation’s best defensive teams. Florida has not been as good on that end of the floor of late, but they, too, have shown flashes of being able to guard. They also matchup well with the Bears. But more importantly, I don’t believe that either of these teams are going to try and push the tempo. Florida has shown a frustrating determination to play possession by possession this season, while the Bears rank 269th in average offensive possession length.

BEST BET: I’ll be targeting the Florida ML here, particularly if the Gators end up getting points, but taking the under seems like the best play in this game.

No. 8 VILLANOVA at PROVIDENCE, 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Villanova 70, Providence 68
  • TORVIK: Providence 70, Villanova 69
  • HASLAM: Villanova 68, Providence 66
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

It’s not going to feel comfortable, but this feels like a good spot to take Providence. Villanova has won five in a row and 11 of their last 12, but their last four games have been played at home. They’ve failed to cover in two of their last three games and are just 1-3 against the spread on the road this season.

Providence has lost back-to-back games on the road, covering the spread in both games, and have covered in six of their last eight games.

BEST BET: I’ll be on the Providence side, but whether I take the Providence ML or take the points will depend on what the line opens up at.

No. 21 ILLINOIS at MICHIGAN, 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Michigan 71, Illinois 68
  • TORVIK: Michigan 71, Illinois 68
  • HASLAM: Michigan 71, Illinois 69
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

The logic here is going to be exceedingly simple: Illinois is as hot as any team in the country right now. They’ve won five straight games, including wins at Wisconsin and at Purdue, the latter of which was by 17 points. Michigan, on the other hand, has not been the same team since they lost Isaiah Livers to a groin injury and, since January 1st, they’ve ranked 127th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to Torvik.

BEST BET: I’ll be all over the Illinois ML, especially if this line opens up at Illinois (+3).

TENNESSEE at No. 3 KANSAS, 4:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Kansas 68, Tennessee 54
  • TORVIK: Kansas 68, Tennessee 54
  • HASLAM: Kansas 70, Tennessee 50
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Kansas ranks No. 1 nationally in adusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. They’re third in Torvik’s rating system. Since Lamonte Turner saw his season come to an end, Tennessee has ranked 251st nationally if adjusted offensive efficiency. The one point guard on their roster, freshman Santiago Vescovi, is averaging 5.0 turnovers per game despite playing just 24.5 minutes — to be fair, he had 21 turnovers in his first three games and has had just nine in the last three.

BEST BETS: I think Kansas rolls here after a week of hearing how bad they are because of Tuesday night’s fight.

SUNDAY

No. 17 MARYLAND at INDIANA, 1:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Maryland 67, Indiana 66
  • TORVIK: Indiana 67, Maryland 65
  • HASLAM: Maryland 66, Indiana 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Maryland is 1-4 on the road this season. Their one win came at Northwestern in a game where they trailed by 14 points in the first half. The Terps might be the worst road team in the Big Ten, a league where road teams have been terrible this season.

BEST BET: If Indiana is getting points, take the ML. I also will be interested in betting the Indiana first half line. Fade Turgeon is in full effect this weekend.

No. 11 MICHIGAN STATE at MINNESOTA, 3:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 71
  • TORVIK: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 71
  • HASLAM: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 70
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

This is a tough spot for me. Michigan State has not been great away from East Lansing this season and they are coming off of a road loss at Indiana on Thursday night. That said, their loss came after erasing a 16-point first half deficit in a game where Xavier Tillman missed a wide-open layup that would have forced overtime.

BEST BET: I will be staying away from this game.

Kentucky’s Kahlil Whitney is leaving school

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Kentucky will be down a five-star recruit for the rest of the season.

Kahlil Whitney, who was the No. 11 prospect in the Class of 2019, according to 247 Sports’ composite ranking, announced on Friday that he will be leaving the Kentucky program.

“My time at Kentucky has not gone as I had hoped,” Whitney wrote in a statement released on his twitter page, “and I therefore need to make a difficult decision quickly to put myself back in to the best position possible as I continue to develop and work towards my ultimate goal.

“I’ve realized since high school that the business of basketball waits for no one, and sometimes tough choices need to be made in order to progress.”

Whitney was a starter early on in the season for the Wildcats, but he has been relegated to a limited role off the bench since league play started. He’s averaged 3.3 points in less than 13 minutes. In the last seven games he’s averaging just 6.1 minutes.

Whitney’s statement does not mention transferring, but if he did opt to head to a different school, he will not be eligible to play until 2021-22 without a waiver.

Bracketology: The top seeds remain in place

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Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

It’s been a while since we could say this:  All four No. 1 seeds remained in place between bracket updates: Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas and San Diego State.

Elsewhere, more than a handful of teams still have significant resume questions.  And several current bubble teams have important showdowns this weekend – including key matchups in the Big 12 / SEC Challenge.

On a closing note … remember that the Selection Committee evaluates a team’s entire profile, from beginning to end.  How a team performed in its last ten games is no longer an official criteria (although each Committee member may have his or her own perspective on its importance).  So while Ohio State and Michigan, as examples, have both struggled of late, each team’s early wins remain relevant considerations with regard to team sheet evaluation.

The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …

UPDATED: January 24, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Oklahoma vs. VCU
MIDWEST REGION Minnesota vs. Texas Tech
SOUTH REGION  PR VIEW AM vs. NORFOLK ST
WEST REGION MONMOUTH vs. ROBERT MORRIS

SOUTH Houston                  WEST – Los Angeles 
Omaha Spokane
1) BAYLOR 1) GONZAGA
16) PV-AM / NORFOLK ST 16) MONMOUTH / ROB MORRIS
8) USC 8) Wichita State
9) Michigan 9) Arkansas
St. Louis Sacramento
5) Butler 5) Arizona
12) EAST TENNESSEE ST 12) AKRON
4) Maryland 4) Iowa
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) NEW MEXICO ST
Albany Greensboro
6) Wisconsin 6) Marquette
11) Virginia Tech 11) NC State
3) Villanova 3) West Virginia
14) COLGATE 14) LITTLE ROCK
Tampa Spokane
7) Rutgers 7) Indiana
10) Memphis 10) BYU
2) Florida State 2) Oregon
15) AUSTIN PEAY 15) UC-IRVINE
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Sacramento Omaha
1) SAN DIEGO STATE 1) Kansas
16) WINTHROP 16) MONTANA
8) STANFORD 8) HOUSTON
9) Florida 9) Ohio State
Tampa Cleveland
5) Penn State 5) Creighton
12) LIBERTY 12) YALE
4) Kentucky 4) DAYTON
13) VERMONT 13) NORTH TEXAS
Greensboro St. Louis
6) Auburn 6) Colorado
11) Oklahoma / VCU 11) Minnesota / Texas Tech
3) Duke 3) LOUISVILLE
14) WRIGHT STATE 14) LOYOLA-CHICAGO
Albany Cleveland
7) Illinois 7) LSU
10) Saint Mary’s 10) DePaul
2) SETON HALL 2) MICHIGAN STATE
15) WILLIAM & MARY 15) SOUTH DAKOTA ST

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Saint Mary’s Oklahoma Xavier Arizona State
DePaul Minnesota Richmond Alabama
Virginia Tech Texas Tech Georgetown Mississippi State
NC State VCU Rhode Island Tennessee

Top Seed Line
Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, San Diego State
Seed List

Breakdown by Conference …
Big Ten (11)
Big East (6)
ACC (5)
SEC (5)

Big 12 (5)
Pac 12 (5)
American (3)

West Coast (3)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (1)

Duarte’s 30 points leads No. 12 Oregon past USC 79-70 in double OT

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EUGENE, Ore. — Paying close attention paid off for Oregon’s Chris Duarte.

The junior guard had 30 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals, and the No. 12 Ducks outlasted Southern California 79-70 in double overtime Thursday night.

“I was watching the point guard’s eyes. I was watching everybody’s eyes. So I knew where they were going to pass the ball,” Duarte said. “So I took that as an advantage.”

Oregon teammate Payton Pritchard added 24 points and seven assists, becoming the first Pac-12 player to reach 1,500 career points, 600 assists and 500 rebounds. When the achievement was noted on the video scoreboard at Matthew Knight Arena in the second half, the crowd gave the senior guard a standing ovation.

Pritchard is the sixth player in Pac-12 history with 1,500 points and 600 assists, joining Oregon State’s Gary Payton, Arizona’s Damon Stoudamire and Jason Gardner, USC’s Jordan McLaughlin and UCLA’s Tyus Edney.

Oregon (16-4, 5-2) led by 11 in the second half but USC rallied with a 17-2 run to take a 62-58 lead, capped by Jonah Mathews’ 3-pointer with 1:24 left.

C.J. Walker and Pritchard hit consecutive layups to tie it at 62 and send the game to overtime.

Pritchard’s 3-pointer in the first extra period gave the Ducks a 65-64 lead, but Ethan Anderson’s layup and free throw put the Trojans up by two. Duarte made free throws for the Ducks to tie it again, and Mathews and Pritchard both missed shots down the stretch.

Duarte and Pritchard each hit a pair of free throws that gave Oregon a four-point advantage to open the second overtime. Duarte’s 3-pointer put the Ducks up 74-68, and USC couldn’t catch up.

Duarte’s eight steals were one shy of the school record.

“He was the difference in the game,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “No doubt about it.”

Onyeka Okongwu had 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Trojans (15-4, 4-2).

“You’ve got to take care of the ball. Some ill-timed passes that went to the other guys. We just have to make the right basketball play,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Give them credit, they’re a good defensive team.”

It was Oregon’s third overtime game in league play.

Oregon was coming off a 64-61 overtime win at Washington last weekend. The Ducks overcame a 16-point deficit and won it on Pritchard’s 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left. But Oregon lost to Washington State 72-61 last Thursday, resulting in a fall from No. 8 to No. 12 in the AP Top 25.

USC had won nine of its last 10 games and three straight, including last Saturday’s 82-78 overtime victory against Stanford. The Trojans came back from a 21-point deficit in the second half to beat the Cardinal.

The Ducks built an early 15-7 lead after Duarte’s fast-break layup and 3-pointer. Oregon stayed in front, but USC closed to 24-23 on Daniel Utomi’s jumper.

The teams went to the break with Oregon ahead 32-30. Utomi led all scorers with 10 points.

Okongwu’s layup for USC tied it at 32 to start the second half but the Ducks responded with a 10-0 run, capped by Duarte’s jumper off a dish from Pritchard. Okongwu’s dunk ended the Trojans’ scoring drought.

Okongwu made consecutive baskets to pull USC to 56-53, and Matthews tied it with a 3-pointer to top off an 11-0 Trojans run. Pritchard answered with a layup for Oregon.

Freshman forward Chandler Lawson’s layup stretched the Ducks’ lead to 49-38 midway through the second half.

“A lot of things we’ve got to work on. But we got some defensive stops when we needed it, we got some big rebounds when we needed it, and just found a way to win the game,” Altman said. “We’ve been doing that too much, though. We’ve got to find a way to get our offense cranked a little bit.”

Lawson made his first start for the Ducks after he had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Washington. Oregon was without center N’Faly Dante, who was questionable for the game after hurting his knee against the Huskies.

Pritchard was one of just two Division I players averaging at least 19 points, five assists and four rebounds per game, joining Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross.

BIG PICTURE

USC: The Trojans started 4-1 in conference play for the first time since 2016. USC went 5-0 to open conference play in 2002. … Enfield said afterward that this loss stung. “We’ve played a few close games this year. We won three or four close ones,” he said. “We were right there and we lost. It hurts when you lose a game and have a chance.”

Oregon: Pritchard is closing in on Oregon’s career record of 614 assists held by Kenya Wilkins. … Pritchard has won 96 games as a Ducks player, one shy of Oregon’s career leader, Johnathan Lloyd. … Sabrina Ionescu, star guard for the No. 4 Oregon women, was at the game and was interviewed by the Pac-12 broadcast team during the first half.

UP NEXT

USC visits Oregon State on Saturday.

Oregon hosts UCLA on Sunday.