Rice lands two commitments in back-to-back days

Leave a comment

In the span of less than 15 hours, first-year head coach Mike Rhoades bolstered Rice’s recruiting class for both next year and the following one, securing a pair of verbal commitments.

On Friday night, Jeff Goodman of ESPN reported that three-star power forward Marquez Letcher-Ellis, of Montverde Academy (Florida) became the third 2015 pledge. The following morning, Genesis Academy (Virginia) shooting guard Josh Hall, who is listed as the No. 67 overall recruit in Class of 2016, according to Rivals, also decided to commit to the Owls.

Letcher-Ellis, the 6-foot-7 forward, joins fellow three-star recruits Connor Cashaw and Marcus Evans. Letcher-Ellis had offers from Clemson, DePaul, USC. He also held an offer and even took an official visit to VCU, a school where Rhoades served as an assistant coach to Shaka Smart for five seasons. During the summer, Letcher-Ellis averaged 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds in 14 games for DC Premier in the Under Armour Association.

Hall becomes the first member of Rice’s Class of 2016. The 6-foot-6 wing held offers from Cincinnati, Houston, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, Nebraska and Oklahoma State.

Rhoades took over the Rice program in March after the school parted ways with Ben Braun following a last place finish in Conference USA.

Gators guard Andrew Nembhard has flu, could miss Auburn game

Getty Images
Leave a comment

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida could be without point guard Andrew Nembhard against No. 4 Auburn on Saturday.

Coach Mike White said Nembhard has the flu and missed practice Thursday and Friday. The sophomore and Canadian national team player has started all 52 games in two seasons.

“We all better be ready to play potentially without him,” White said.

Nembhard is averaging 11.1 points, 5.9 assists and 2.8 rebounds this season. He also ranks second on the team with 21 steals. If he doesn’t play, the Gators (11-5, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) would start one of two freshmen: Tre Mann or Ques Glover.

Neither option seems ideal against Auburn (15-1, 3-1), which starts four seniors including two in the backcourt.

“Great opportunity for freshmen guards,” White said. “All these guys want opportunities. They have to take advantage of it. We have to be ready.”

Although Florida has plenty of time remaining to bolster its postseason resume, White acknowledged that his team could use a victory against an Auburn team that sits 11th in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings. The Gators have only one win against a team currently ranked in the NET top 50.

You’ve got to start taking advantage of some of them,” White said. “You want to play postseason and you want to play in that one tournament as opposed to the others, and you’ve got to win some of these.

“I don’t think any of them are do or die. I don’t think you put your team – especially this team – in the right mindset to execute (by saying that). But our guys also have to understand and we all have to understand that at this time of year – really from now to finish, really from the first game to finish – you’ve got to take advantage of some of these opportunities.”

It might be without Nembhard, who’s assist-to-turnover ratio is slightly better than 2 to 1.

“He’s one of the best guards in our league,” senior forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. said. “He’s somebody who calms us down on both ends of the plays, accountable on both ends. But I think we have some guys ready to step up, been really good in practice these last few days.

“I think we got a good chance of winning this one.”

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Best Bets: Where is the value in college basketball this weekend?

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Friday night’s lines have been released, but Saturday’s have not yet been put out by the fine folks running sportsbooks. Until they are, we will be using projections from KenPom, Torvik and Haslametrics to analyze Saturday’s games.

FRIDAY

No. 13 DAYTON (-7) at SAINT LOUIS, 137.5 (7:00 p.m.)

  • KENPOM: Dayton 73, Saint Louis 65
  • TORVIK: Dayton 73, Saint Louis 64
  • HASLAM: Dayton 76, Saint Louis 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: Dayton 72.25, Saint Louis 65.25

I love this Dayton team. They are so efficient and so hard to guard on the offensive end of the floor because of their spacing, they number of quality perimeter weapons that they have and the fact that Anthony Grant has implemented a pro-style offense with a roster of upperclassmen.

Oh, and they happen to have this guy, Obi Toppin, who just so happens to be a perfect fit at the five for what they want to run.

But I think I lean Saint Louis here. Chaifetz Arena is always a tough place to play, and the Billikens have been playing well of late. They have talent, too, and they have traditionally been one of the better defensive teams in the Atlantic 10 under Travis Ford. They also happen to have Hasahn French on the roster, and he is about as good of a matchup as you can ask for with Toppin. They can play small, and they actually do have some high-level talent on the roster — Jordan Goodwin is a first-team all-Atlantic 10 player.

BEST BET: Here’s the catch: Saint Louis (+7) feels like a very sharp line. At (+6.5), I think there’s an argument to be made that the value is on Dayton. So I’ll probably stay away unless it gets to (+7.5) or, ideally, (+8).

WISCONSIN at No. 15 MICHIGAN STATE (-9.5), 130.5 (7:00 p.m.)

  • KENPOM: Michigan State 69, Wisconsin 62
  • TORVIK: Michigan State 68, Wisconsin 62
  • HASLAM: Michigan State 69, Wisconsin 61
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: Michigan State 70, Wisconsin 60.5

Michigan State is the play for me here. They’re in a perfect spot. Wisconsin has won two games in a row and six of their last seven, they are coming off of a somewhat fluky win over Maryland at home on Tuesday night and now have to turn around and head on the road to take on the best team in the league.

The Spartans?

They were just humiliated at Purdue, losing by 29 points in Mackey Arena, before having a full week off to prep for the Badgers.

BEST BET: I liked this line significantly more when it opened at Michigan State (-8), but I think the Spartans run away with this so I will be on Sparty (-9.5), as well.

No. 19 MICHIGAN at IOWA (-4.5), 149.5 (9:00 p.m.)

  • KENPOM: Iowa 76, Michigan 72
  • TORVIK: Iowa 76, Michigan 72
  • HASLAM: Iowa 76, Michigan 71
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: Iowa 77, Michigan 72.5

The last time these two teams got together, Iowa beat Michigan 103-91 in a game where the Hawkeyes got 44 points from Luka Garza. After that game, the Hawkeyes ranked 175th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to Torvik.

Since that game, Iowa has ranked 28th nationally in AdjDE. The under has hit in seven of their last eight games. The total in this game opened at 148, spiked at 151 and has come down to 149.5.

Should I mention that Isaiah Livers, Michigan’s leading scorer and most talented player, is not going to be available?

BEST BET: I like Iowa (-4.5). I love under 149.5. I would probably take the under all the way down to 147, which is the lowest total among any of the projections I use.

SATURDAY

No. 3 DUKE at No. 11 LOUISVILLE, 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Duke 72, Louisville 64
  • TORVIK: Duke 71, Louisville 64
  • HASLAM: Duke 76, Louisville 63
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

The biggest game of the weekend feels like a prime bounceback spot for Duke.

The Blue Devils are coming off of a loss at Clemson on Tuesday night where their perimeter defense was exposed. The Tigers played four guards and a perimeter-oriented five in Aamir Simms that pulled Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt away from the paint and made them guard in space. It did not go well.

Louisville is playing their third-straight road game, and the first two were not exactly statement wins. The Cardinals blew a double-digit lead at Notre Dame in a 67-64 win and they needed overtime (and this controversial call) to beat Pitt.

The kicker here is that Louisville cannot spread the floor the way that Miami can — they typically always have one low-post banger on the court in Steve Enoch and Malik Williams — and their questionable point guard play has been an issue in every game they’re lost. Tre Jones is as good of a defender at the point of attack as anyone.

BEST BET: We’ll see where the line opens, but if you can get Duke (-8.5) or lower, that seems pretty tasty.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: Duke opened at (-7) and is still available at (-7.5) for me. This is my favorite bet of the day.

No. 10 KENTUCKY at ARKANSAS, 4:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Arkansas 69, Kentucky 66
  • TORVIK: Arkansas 69, Kentucky 65
  • HASLAM: Arkansas 73, Kentucky 65
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

This is the toughest game on Saturday’s slate to get a good feel for. Kentucky is coming off of a loss at South Carolina where they held a big lead early in the second half and choked it away on a banked-in, buzzer-beating three.

Arkansas, on the other hand, is 14-2 on the season and their two losses have come on the road at LSU by two and at Western Kentucky in overtime (before WKU’s best player hurt his knee).

The Razorbacks basically run everything through Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones offensively, and I do think that Kentucky has the perimeter defenders to be able to deal with them, but I think it’s worth noting that Arkansas is the best in the country at running opponents off of the three-point line and Kentucky has been shooting the three at a 41.4 percent clip in SEC play, which leads the league.

BEST BET: I lean Arkansas (-3) here, and I will take a gander at the under if it gets to 139 or higher. If you want to bet on Kentucky, take the ML.

BYU at NO. 1 GONZAGA, 10:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Gonzaga 82, BYU 73
  • TORVIK: Gonzaga 81, BYU 73
  • HASLAM: Gonzaga 87, BYU 73
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

I felt like I needed to mention this game because BYU is probably the second-best team in the Mountain West and, when they have a healthy Yoeli Childs, might be a top 25 team nationally.

The problem is that they don’t have a healthy Yoeli Childs, and that creates a bit of a problem when projecting this line.

I do think that BYU has the horses to run with Gonzaga even without him, and their ability to shoot and space the floor could give a bigger Gonzaga team some issues. The Cougars have also had some success playing at Gonzaga in past seasons — they won in the Kennel in 2015, 2016 and 2017. So I’m not necessarily going to get scared of by the opponent here.

BEST BET: It’s impossible to say without knowing where the line is going to open, so check back on Saturday morning when we have that info.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: BYU (+13) is not going to feel comfortable, but I think we have to take the points here.

No. 20 COLORADO at ARIZONA, 2:30 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Arizona 73, Colorado 68
  • TORVIK: Arizona 71, Colorado 67
  • HASLAM: Arizona 70, Colorado 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Both Colorado and Arizona played late on Thursday night, meaning that there will be a 36-hour turnaround between games, which makes me lean towards the home team.

I also think it’s worth noting that these two teams have been trending in opposite directions. Prior to beating Utah on Thursday night, Arizona has lost four of their last five and five of their last seven and were coming off of a sweep at the Oregon schools. Colorado, on the other hand, is currently sitting in second place in the Pac-12 race.

BEST BET: Assuming this line opens at Arizona (-4.5), I think the value is on the Wildcats. Playing two road games in three days is never easy, and you know the McKale Center is going to be rocking with a ranked team coming to town.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: At Arizona (-6), I am going to stay away. If you have to bet this, I like the Arizona side more.

PURDUE at No. 17 MARYLAND, 2:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Maryland 62, Purdue 58
  • TORVIK: Maryland 59, Purdue 58
  • HASLAM: Maryland 59, Purdue 56
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

This is a perfect spot play.

Maryland has lost their last two games on the road, the latter of which was an L because of a fluky turnover with 12 seconds left in a game the Terps were leading. Purdue, on the other hand, is riding high after they beat Michigan State by 29 points at home.

The Boilermakers are 0-3 on the road in the Big Ten this season and also lost at Marquette. Maryland is 0-4 on the road but they have not lost at home this season.

BEST BET: If the line is Maryland (-4), I love it. If the line is lower than that, I love it even more.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: Maryland opened at (-5) and has moved to (-5.5). The Terps are my second-favorite bet of the day.

Bracketology: Baylor leads, Big Ten reigns

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

One bracket decision was easy today: Baylor as the No. 1 overall seed.  The Bears are 5-1 against Quadrant 1 teams, have a win at Kansas, and haven’t lost since dropping a close game to Washington in early November.

Elsewhere, the Big Ten reigns, filling up the field with a dozen teams.  Much of that has to do with the strength and depth of the conference, with quality wins available almost every night and home teams rarely losing.  Another contributing factor is fewer contenders in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big 12, and even the Southeastern Conference (SEC).   Whether those trends continue remains to be seen.  Ultimately, the Big Ten is more likely to end up with nine or ten bids.

In a close call, Butler remains the final No. 1 seed, but loses its Midwest route to Kansas.  The Bulldogs depth of wins against teams in the Field was the difference.  But one could make an equally compelling and accurate case for San Diego State.

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

UPDATED: January 17, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Minnesota vs. Virginia Tech
WEST REGION NC State vs. Washington
MIDWEST REGION  ROBERT MORRIS vs. NC A&T
SOUTH REGION PR VIEW AM vs. NO COLORADO

SOUTH Houston WEST – Los Angeles                   
Omaha Spokane
1) BAYLOR 1) GONZAGA
16) PV-AM / NC A&T 16) QUINNIPIAC
8) Illinois 8) Wisconsin
9) Florida 9) Oklahoma
Tampa St. Louis
5) Michigan 5) WICHITA STATE
12) LIBERTY 12) NC State / Washington
4) Auburn 4) Louisville
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) NEW MEXICO ST
Albany Spokane
6) STANFORD 6) Iowa
11) Saint Mary’s 11) Houston
3) SETON HALL 3) Oregon
14) COLGATE 14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
Greensboro Sacramento
7) Arkansas 7) Penn State
10) Purdue 10) Texas Tech
2) DUKE 2) SAN DIEGO STATE
15) NORTHERN COLORADO 15) UC-IRVINE
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
St. Louis Omaha
1) Butler 1) Kansas
16) ALBANY / ROB MORRIS 16) RADFORD
8) LSU 8) Marquette
9) Rutgers 9) Indiana
Sacramento Albany
5) Maryland 5) Ohio State
12) EAST TENNESSEE ST 12) AKRON
4) Colorado 4) Villanova
13) YALE 13) GEORGIA STATE
Cleveland Cleveland
6) Kentucky 6) Creighton
11) Minnesota / Virginia Tech 11) NORTHERN IOWA
3) DAYTON 3) MICHIGAN STATE
14) WILLIAM & MARY 14) WRIGHT STATE
Greensboro Tampa
7) Arizona 7) Memphis
10) Georgetown 10) BYU
2) West Virginia 2) Florida State
15) AUSTIN PEAY 15) CHARLOTTE

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Purdue Minnesota USC St. John’s
Texas Tech Virginia Tech Oregon State Arizona State
Houston NC State VCU Utah
Saint Mary’s Washington Xavier Georgia

Top Seed Line
Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, Butler
Seed List

Breakdown by Conference …
Big Ten (12)
Big East (6)
ACC (5)
SEC (5)

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

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

Elleby’s 25 points leads Washington State in upset of No. 8 Oregon

AP Photo
Leave a comment

PULLMAN, Wash. — CJ Elleby went 25 points as Kyle Smith led Washington State to a win over a Top-10 team for just the third time in program history, surprising No. 8 Oregon 72-61 on Thursday night.

Elleby, who was held to a season-low six points in his last game, helped Washington State (11-7, 2/3 Pac-12) to its first win over a Top-10 opponent since 2007.

Elleby shot 9 for 20, including 4 for 7 from 3-point range, and added a season-high 14 rebounds. Isaac Bonton finished with 12 points and six assists, and Jeff Pollard scored 11 for the Cougars.

Payton Pritchard had 22 points and five assists for Oregon (14-4, 3-2), which had its three-game winning streak halted. Chris Duarte had 15 points for the Ducks.

Trailing by five points with 3:24 left, Pritchard made a clutch jumper in the paint and then converted a free throw to make it 60-58.

On the ensuing possession, Elleby converted a three-point play to make the score 63-58.

Washington State then went on a 9-0 run that closed out Oregon.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon: The heavily favored Ducks were outplayed by the Cougars and are now 4-2 in the Pac-12.

Washington State: The Cougars get a much needed victory over a heavily favored Oregon squad.

UP NEXT:

Oregon: At Washington on Saturday

Washington State: Host Oregon State on Saturday

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Three Things To Know: No. 8 Oregon lost, the Pac-12 is dunk, Memphis won

AP photo
Leave a comment

It’s a Thursday night, which obviously means that the Pac-12 got weird again.

These are the three things you need to know:

1. OREGON LOST AT WASHINGTON STATE

Kyle Smith landed his first big win as the head coach of the Cougars as he knocked off the 8th-ranked Ducks, 72-61, in Pullman.

C.J. Elleby scored 25 points to lead the way for Wazzu, who improves to 11-7 on the season and 2-3 in the Pac-12 with the win.

The loss is more relevant for Oregon, however, as they fall two games off the pace that Stanford has set in the Pac-12. The Cardinal are now sitting at 4-0 in league play after last night’s win over UCLA and have a one-game lead on Colorado and USC.

The three teams that were ranked in the preseason from the conference?

Arizona and Oregon are both two games out of first. Washington is three games off the pace, which is definitive proof that, once again, the Pac-12 looks like it may not actually be all that good.

And here I thought there would be at least one conference in college basketball that made any sort of sense.

2. COLORADO BEAT UP ON ARIZONA STATE; ARIZONA BEAT UP ON UTAH

While Oregon was struggling to put away the Fighting Klay Thompsons, Colorado and Arizona both took care of business against Arizona State and Utah, respectively, setting up a Saturday afternoon showdown in the desert.

No. 20 Colorado paying a visit to the McKale Center to take on Arizona and all their freshmen lottery picks.

That should be fun.

3. MEMPHIS KNOCKED OFF CINCINNATI

The No. 22 Tigers took care of business at home against Cincinnati on Thursday night, and while the final score ended up being 60-49, it wasn’t quite as easy as that would indicate.

Memphis held an 11 point lead at halftime, but the Bearcats used an 18-2 second half run to take the lead and trailed by only four with four minutes left on the clock.

The good news for Memphis fans is that Penny Hardaway has seemingly fully committed to the idea that he needs to start Alex Lomax alongside Lestor Quinones and D.J. Jeffries. What’s somewhat frustrating is that he still isn’t playing Precious Achiuwa at the five full-time, which is where I think that he is going to play at the next level and where he has been the most effective at this level.

But some of that is because Malcolm Dandridge showed up to play. He finished with seven rebounds, four blocks, three steals and four assists in 26 minutes.