Best Bets: Where do you want to bet your money on college basketball’s opening night?

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Basketball is back!

It’s been 218 days since we had a college basketball game that counted, and while Wisconsin Lutheran vs. Green Bay isn’t quite Michigan vs. Villanova for the national title, it is the first Division I college basketball game of the season. 

The best part of college basketball being back is that betting on college basketball games is back. 

So let’s dive head-first into Tuesday night’s lines.



No. 2 KENTUCKY vs. No. 4 DUKE, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)

  • Line: Kentucky (-2)
  • O/U: 157
  • Vegas Implied Score: Kentucky 79.5, Duke 77.5
  • KenPom Projection: Duke 78, Kentucky 77

This game actually opened at Kentucky (-1) and has moved to (-2) since, and that makes sense. In early season games like this, it makes sense to bet on the team that has more experience, and while calling a team that has just one scholarship player on the roster that’s not a freshmen or sophomore “experienced” seems silly, this is the one-and-done world we live in. Duke will, after all, start four freshmen.

That said, I think this matchup favors Duke. I fully expect the Blue Devils to come out playing the kind of pressuring, switching, halfcourt man-to-man defense that Mike Krzyzewski has been forced to go away from in recent years. In theory, the pieces on their roster are perfect for this — Tre Jones is a much better athlete and defender than his older brother, Tyus, was, and the three freshmen wings (R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish) all have the tools to play this way. Given some of the concerns about Duke’s offensive effectiveness playing in the halfcourt, seeing them become a team that thrives on defense and playing in transition would make sense. This is how Duke played in their two exhibition games and during their tour of Canada.

When a team plays this way defensively, overplaying passing lanes and extending out 40-feet in the halfcourt, it forces an offense out of what they are trying to run and puts the onus on the ball-handlers to try and make a play on their own. The two best point guards on this Kentucky roster are both freshmen — Quade Green is at his best playing as a secondary ball-handler — which will put quite a bit of pressure on Immanuel Quickley and Ashton Hagans in their first college game.

Now, this all assumes that the Blue Devils are going to A) play this way, and B) be effective playing this way. Blindly accepting that Duke will be elite defensively early in the season would be to ignore everything that has happened with this program in recent years. Throw in the concerns I have with Kentucky — Who is their best five? Can they put a team on the floor that is both elite offensively and defensively? — and I think Duke wins this game.

PICKS: I think Duke (+1.5) is the bet in this game. I also like the under in this game. While both teams are going to want to play fast, I think this is the kind of game that is going to be ragged, inefficient and feature a whole lot of scoring inside the arc. The line has already climbed from 156 to 157, so I’d suggest waiting until closer to tip-off to see if you can get another point or two in your favor.

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No. 1 KANSAS vs. No. 10 MICHIGAN STATE, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • Line: Kansas (-5.5)
  • O/U: 155.5
  • Vegas Implied Score: Kansas 80.5, Michigan State 75
  • KenPom Projection: Kansas 79, Michigan State 72

While Duke-Kentucky is the game that will get all of the hype, there is some intrigue with the undercard as well.

The line for the opener of the Champions Classic opened at Kansas (-5) and has moved to (-5.5) since, and I expect the line to continue to move towards Kansas. I think the Jayhawks are going to overwhelm Michigan State tonight.

For starters, I have trouble seeing how the Spartans are going to matchup with Dedric Lawson, who has a chance to be the single-most productive player in college basketball this season. As a sophomore at Memphis, he averaged 19.2 points, 9.9 boards, 3.3 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.3 blocks. In two exhibition games, he showed off a newly-minted jumper, burying 6-of-8 from beyond the arc. Bill Self has raved about Lawson’s passing ability, and Lawson fits perfectly at the four in a program that has thrived with players that do what he does — the Morris twins, Perry Ellis, Wayne Simien.

Lawson is a fourth-year junior. He’s going to be guarded by … who, exactly? Slow-footed bigs Nick Ward or Xavier Tillman? Former walk-on Kenny Goins? One of Michigan State’s (admittedly underrated) freshmen?

That matchup favors Kansas, as does the matchup in the backcourt. The big concern for me with Kansas is that they are going to be starting two freshmen in the backcourt in Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes, but I just cannot see Michigan State providing the kind of ball-pressure defensively that they need to slow them down. Neither Cassius Winston nor Josh Langford are known for their athleticism or their defensive prowess, and as a team, Michigan State was among the worst in the nation last season at forcing turnovers. Should I mention they lost their two-best defensive playmakers?

I’m very in on Michigan State as being better than people realize this year.

I’m very out on Michigan State covering 5.5 points on Tuesday night.

PICKS: To me, Kansas (-5.5) is a pretty easy bet, and I would lock that in before the line gets any higher. I also like the under in this game, as I think that this game will be played at a slower pace than it being projected. The Vegas over/under is currently 155.5, while KenPom is projecting the total at 151.

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FLORIDA at No. 17 FLORIDA STATE, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • Line: Florida State (-4)
  • O/U: 149.5
  • Vegas Implied Score: Florida State 76.75, Florida 72.75
  • KenPom Projection: Florida State 79, Florida 74

I actually think that Florida is going to sneak up on some people this season. They might have lost Chris Chiozza and Egor Koulechov, but they bring back Jalen Hudson — who is going to have a monster season — and we should see the best out of the ever-streaky KeVaughn Allen. Getting him more consistent shots should result in more consistent play out of the talented scorer.

I also really like Florida’s freshman point guard, Andrew Nembhard. He’s mature beyond his years and he’s already played at a really high level with the Canadian senior national team. Throw in the fact that Florida State will be playing without Phil Cofer, and I can see why people would be on the Gators in this game.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the obvious — Florida State will be playing at home. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Seminoles not only returned essentially everyone from last year’s Elite 8 team, the departure of Braian Angola and the injury to Cofer opens the door for their two sophomores that everyone is expecting to make a jump this season —  M.J. Walker and Mfiondu Kabengele.

PICKS: I actually think this is a really good line. If forced to pick, I’d probably lean Florida State (-4), but that’s not the bet I like in this game. I think the over/under is far too low. Florida State had finished top 50 in adjusted tempo in each of the last three seasons, according to KenPom, and I don’t see that changing this year. Last season was the first time in Mike White’s head coaching career that one of his team’s finished outside the top 120 in adjusted tempo. I expect an up-and-down affair, and unlike Duke-Kentucky, I think a game between two teams loaded with good veterans will be far more efficient. The line is 149.5, which has already dropped a point, while KenPom is projecting a total of 153. I’ll be on the over in this one.

No. 8 NORTH CAROLINA at WOFFORD, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • Line: North Carolina (-10)
  • O/U: 154.5
  • Vegas Implied Score: North Carolina 82.25, Wofford 72.25
  • KenPom Projection: North Carolina 84, Wofford 72

Wofford won this game last season when it was played in Chapel Hill. The Terriers return essentially everyone from that team, including one of the nation’s best shooters in Fletcher Magee. The Tar Heels, on the other hand, lose both their point guard in name (Joel Berry II) and the man that ran their offense in the halfcourt (Theo Pinson), replacing them both with freshmen — Nassir Little and Coby White. Wofford’s strength defensively is on the glass, which helps mitigate UNC’s ability to get second-chance points. UNC didn’t force turnovers last season, which makes them less likely to take advantage of Wofford’s ball-control issues.

The dots connect here.

I just cannot pull the trigger.

PICKS: To be clear, I don’t think that North Carolina (-10) is a “good bet”. I’ll stay away from this game personally, but that’s because I cannot unwrap the narrative here. North Carolina lost at home to Wofford last season in their last game that was played before Christmas. This year, on national television on the opening night of the season, they get a shot at a rematch against a team that went 11-7 in the SoCon and lost 13 games in total. I don’t care that it’s on the road. I think UNC makes a statement here, even if picking on freshman point guards in road games is something that’s relatively easy to do.

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WESTERN KENTUCKY at No. 25 WASHINGTON, 10:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

  • Line: Washington (-7.5)
  • O/U: 152.5
  • Vegas Implied Score: Washington 80, Western Kentucky 72.5
  • KenPom Projection: Washington 80, Western Kentucky 73

Western Kentucky is a talented team — arguably more talented that Washington — but one that is dealing with some personnel issues. Auburn grad transfer Desean Murray will not travel for this game due to a suspension. Josh Anderson was suspended for their most recent exhibition, while Taveion Hollingsworth missed the first WKU exhibition through suspension. Lamonte Bearden is ineligible for the first semester.

Murray and Bearden are probably starters for this team. Hollingsworth started 38 games as a freshman last season. Anderson started three of 23 games after getting eligible in January. Those losses hurt, but the news isn’t all bad — top ten recruit and potential lottery pick Charles Bassey will be playing.

PICKS: I think Washington (-7.5) is the easy money here. The Huskies are arguably the best team in the Pac-12, and they return everyone from a team that nearly made the NCAA tournament in their first season playing under Mike Hopkins. Combining the pieces that WKU will be missing with just how good Washington has a chance to be (remember, they smoked No. 7 Nevada in a scrimmage) makes me wonder why this line is just (-7.5)

BYU at No. 7 NEVADA, 11:00 p.m. (CBSSN)

  • Line: Nevada (-14)
  • O/U: 156
  • Vegas Implied Score: Nevada 85, BYU 71
  • KenPom Projection: Nevada 85, BYU 72

This might be the toughest test that Nevada will face at home this season, and while I do think BYU is flying a bit under-the-radar with the return of Yoeli Childs and Nick Emery back with the program, I have a feeling this will be something of a statement game for the Wolf Pack.

Eric Musselman is known as one of the toughest and most demanding coaches in the country. His team, which is legitimately ranked in the top ten in the preseason and returns their top three players from last year’s Sweet 16 team, will not have enjoyed practice since Washington ran them out of the gym. If there is a concern for Nevada, it’s that they may not actually have a point guard, as Lindsay Drew is not yet back to 100% after tearing his achilles. As good as Cody Martin is, I’m not sure he’s a pure point guard.

But I’m also not sure BYU is the team that can exploit that defensively.

PICKS: 14 points is a lot of points, and I think BYU does deserve some respect. I would probably stay away from that line, although I do think that this game hits the over. I won’t have any money on this game.

ALSO KEEP AN EYE ON

  • Florida-Gulf Coast at Illinois State, 7:00 p.m.
  • Fort Wayne at No. 21 UCLA, 9:00 p.m.

Flagler, No. 6 Baylor rally late, top No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63

Baylor vs. Gonzaga
USA Today
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — In a rematch of the 2021 national championship game, Adam Flagler hit a pair of 3s as No. 6 Baylor scored the final eight points to rally past No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63 Friday night.

Gonzaga’s Rasir Bolton missed a wild, driving layup try at the buzzer.

Two seasons ago, Baylor beat the then-undefeated Zags 86-70 to win its first title. This time, the Bears didn’t take the lead for good until Jalen Bridges made two free throws with 16 seconds left.

“Adam is a great leader, but no one knew he wasn’t feeling well today,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “To be honest, some players wouldn’t have played. He played through the pain and left it all out on the court. As a coach, I appreciate that.”

The Bears (6-2) trailed 63-56 before Flagler hit a 3-pointer with 1:33 left. Flagler’s 3 with just over a minute to play cut Baylor’s deficit to 63-62.

After a Gonzaga shot clock violation, Flagler’s 3-point attempt for the lead was off the mark, but Bridges was fouled by Drew Timme on the rebound attempt. Bridges hit two foul shots to put Baylor ahead.

The Zags (5-3) had a final chance when Bolton caught an inbounds pass near his own foul line with 4.6 seconds remaining. He drove the lane, but his off-balance shot went high off the glass and missed as the buzzer sounded.

“We took two balls down hill and tried to make plays at the rim. At that point in the game, those are tough,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “It’s very disappointing. They made plays, man.”

Freshman Keyonte George had 18 points and seven rebounds for Baylor. Flagler had 11 points and Langston Love added 10.

“I trust my work. I was able to knock them down,” George said. “My teammates believe in me each and every day. They give me that confidence in a big game to make big shots like that.”

Malchi Smith scored 16 points for Gonzaga. Anton Watson added a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Timme had nine points.

Baylor led by as many as 12 in the first half before Gonzaga closed to five at the break.

Watson’s basket put Gonzaga ahead 41-40. From there, the teams swapped leads over the next 13 minutes as the second half featured two ties and 14 lead changes.

A thunderous dunk from Smith gave Gonzaga its seven-point lead with under two minutes to go.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: The win was a big rebound for Baylor after its 26-point loss to Marquette earlier in the week. The loss was the Bears’ most lopsided since they fell to Kansas 82-56 in 2007

Gonzaga: After opening the season ranked No. 2 in the AP preseason poll, the Zags have now lost two of three.

STAR WATCH

Timme began the night leading the Bulldogs in scoring at 20 points per game. He was hampered by foul trouble against Baylor and got his first field goal with six minutes remaining. He fouled out with 16 seconds to play.

REMATCH PLAYERS

Four players on the floor Friday night had significant minutes in the championship game two years ago including Flagler, Timme and Watson, along with Baylor’s Flo Thamba.

UP NEXT

Baylor: The Bears return home to host Tarleton on Tuesday before playing Washington State on Sunday in Dallas for the Pac 12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs return to Spokane for three straight beginning Monday when they face Kent State for the first time in school history.

Carr scores 19, No. 2 Texas beats No. 7 Creighton 72-67

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AUSTIN, Texas – Texas had pressured Creighton’s shooters into a miserable night, only to watch a late flurry of 3-pointers start swishing.

An 11-point Longhorns lead was down to three.

That hardly rattled Marcus Carr and the second-ranked Longhorns, who stepped up with big late shots of their own and steady free-throw shooting to secure another impressive early-season victory, 72-67 over the seventh-ranked Bluejays on Thursday night.

Carr scored 19 points and made two free throws with 10 seconds left as Texas held off Creighton’s furious late-game rally.

Creighton struggled through a wretched 3-point shooting night, but pulled within 62-59 thanks in part to five points in a row by Baylor Scheierman. Carr’s baseline jumper and an easy layup by Tyrese Hunter when Creighton lost him on an inbound pass with 46 seconds left stretched the Longhorns’ lead again.

That didn’t quite close the door on Creighton, which got two more 3-pointers from Scheierman, who had missed his first nine attempts. That forced Texas to finish it from the free-throw line behind Carr and Brock Cunningham. Cunningham’s two free throws with 4 seconds left were his only points of the game.

“There’s going to be a bunch of times one of us has to go down there and knock down a bunch of free throws,” Carr said. “We talk about it all the time.”

The matchup was part of the Big 12-Big East Battle and Texas earned its second win over a top-10 opponent in its new arena. The Longhorns (6-0) beat then-No. 2 Gonzaga on Nov. 16 and have their highest ranking since they were No. 1 during the 2009-2010 season.

“I don’t think we’ve proven anything,” Texas coach Chris Beard said. “We’re just a team that’s trying to get better.”

Hunter scored 15 points for Texas.

Ryan Kalkbrenner had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Creighton (6-2), and Ryan Nembhard scored 17 points. The Bluejays were 4 of 27 on 3-pointers.

Scheierman, a 44% shooter from beyond the arc this season, made three 3s in a row late. His off-balance shot from the right corner over a defender pulled the Bluejays within 68-65 with 11.4 seconds left.

Scheierman finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

“The reality is you are gonna have nights,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It just happens. We don’t ever want him to stop shooting.”

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: Kalkbrenner was all but unstoppable on a 9-of-10 shooting night for the Bluejays, who kept launching from long range instead of looking for their 7-foot-1 center.

Texas: The Longhorns couldn’t force their usual numbers of turnovers and fast-break points, but were exceptionally clean with the ball on offense. Texas had just three turnovers that Creighton turned into three points.

FORMER TEAMMATES

Texas senior forward Christian Bishop played three seasons at Creighton before transferring prior to last season. He finished with six points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.

“We understood what this game was, not just for our team but for Christian,” Carr said.

TIRED TEAM

McDermott suggested his team maybe just wore out. The Bluejays went 2-1 in the Maui Invitational last week and then played their first game of the season on an opponent’s home court.

“Three games in three days against ranked teams (in Hawaii) and then to come in here,” McDermott said. “That’s a lot to ask of my team.”

UP NEXT

Creighton hosts in-state rival Nebraska on Sunday.

Texas plays No. 16 Illinois in New York City on Dec. 6 in the Jimmy V Classic.

No. 20 Maryland upsets No. 7 Notre Dame at the buzzer, 74-72

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Diamond Miller scored 31 points, including the game-winner at the buzzer, to lead No. 20 Maryland to a 74-72 victory over seventh-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Irish guard Sonia Cintron’s layup had tied the game with 15 seconds left off before Maryland held for the last shot. Miller hit a contested mid-range jumper just before time expired to give the Terrapins a victory over a top-10 opponent. It was the 15th lead change of the game.

Miller also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to go along with five assists. Shyanne Sellers added 17 points.

Maryland (7-2) picked up its first win over Notre Dame (6-1) since 2007.

Cintron’s double-double led the Irish with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Notre Dame’s leading scorer Olivia Miles got off to a slow start on Thursday due to foul trouble. She scored 12 of her 14 points in the final 15 minutes of the game to go along with seven assists and two steals.

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: The Terrapins picked up their second top-20 win of the season ahead of the upcoming Big Ten opener.

Notre Dame: The Irish have had issues with foul trouble this season, a problem that persisted on Thursday. Miles played just 25 minutes, including the majority of the fourth quarter, due to picking up her fourth foul late in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Maryland: Returns to College Park for the program’s Big Ten opener Sunday against Nebraska.

Notre Dame: Stays home to host No. 3 UConn Sunday.

Virginia’s depth helping its rapid climb in the AP Top 25

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The starting five is the same, but that is where comparisons between the Virginia team that has climbed to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 and last year’s NIT quarterfinalists ends.

Yes, one more year together and a trip to Italy has made the first five significantly better, but part of the credit for that surely goes to another group: the reinforcements. They’ve helped the Cavaliers (6-0) already knock off No. 6 Baylor, No. 16 Illinois and Michigan.

Virginia has scored 70 points or more in its first six game for the first time since the 2003-04 season, and coach Tony Bennett said it was the offense – and not UVA’s signature relentless defense – that saved them in a 70-68 victory this week at Michigan in the ACC/Bg Ten Challenge.

“Our offense kind of kept us in it in the first half,” Bennett said, before the team put it all together, erasing an 11-point halftime deficit to disappoint a raucous Wolverines crowd.

Reece Beekman was the offensive catalyst, scoring 15 of his 18 points before halftime, but four others joined him in double figures, including Jayden Gardner. His foul-line jumper with 39.9 seconds left provided the last of his 11 points, and the winning margin.

Gardner, who led Virginia in scoring last season (15.3 ppg), is averaging 11.5 this year.

“We’ve got a lot of capable scorers and we’re just gonna keep playing together. And we’re playing very unselfish basketball right now,” Gardner said after scoring 24 against Maryland Eastern Shore. He went into the game with 31 points through four games.

“He’s not the most jumping type of guy, but he’s got so much power,” Hawks coach Jason Crafton said of Gardner, an East Carolina transfer with 2,068 career points. “That low center of gravity and the flexibility that he has to be able to get under people and hold his position is elite. When he wants the ball at a certain spot, he can get it there.”

The leader remains guard Kihei Clark, who already has a place in Virginia history, having retrieved a loose ball and fed Mamadi Diakite for a jumper that sent the Cavs’ Elite Eight game against Purdue into overtime on the way to winning the 2019 national championship.

Newcomers Ben Vander Plas, a transfer from Ohio, and freshman Isaac McKneely have given Bennett more options, and more scoring power than a year ago.

As a junior, Vander Plas had 17 points for No. 13 seed Ohio when the Bobcats upset Virginia 62-58 in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

He scored seven straight in the second half against the Wolverines, twice scoring inside and then swishing a 3-pointer while trying to slow down bruising big man Hunter Dickinson.

“Ben, yeah. Just his poise and composure in the post, took advantage of some mismatches and he really gave us a great lift,” Bennett said. Vander Plas is the son of a teammate of Bennett’s at Green Bay, and his first name is a tribute to Bennett’s father, Dick.

McKneely scored 15 and made 4 of 6 3-point tries in an 89-42 victory against Monmouth

“He was standing in front of our bench. I’m like, `Listen, we’re not helping off him,”‘ Monmouth coach King Rice said he told his team, pointing at McKneely, a two-time player of the year in West Virginia. “And he kind of looked at me and I said, `Yeah, you, because you make all of them,’ and he started laughing.”

Ryan Dunn also made quite the impression on Rice in his first collegiate appearance, scoring 13 points with six rebounds and three blocks in almost 27 minutes.

“I was in the building when De’Andre Hunter came off the bench and had a breakout game,” Rice said of Hunter, now with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. “Dunn reminds me a lot of Hunter, and you can tell he’s young. But when he grows into that body with that skill set, he’ll be giving people problems for a long, long time.”

The Cavaliers open Atlantic Coast Conference play against Florida State, then host top-ranked Houston, which beat them 67-47 last season, a week later.

“A good schedule for sure and it tests you, it kind of shows you, win or lose, you see where you’ve got some holes,” Bennett said.

So far, the Cavaliers have been able to fill them all.

No. 4 Arizona turning heads early in the season

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd knew there was talent on his roster. He wasn’t exactly sure how good the team would be.

The former longtime Gonzaga assistant had a similar view of last year’s team and that one turned out to be pretty good, running all the way to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

This year’s team could end up being even better.

Buoyed by transfers and improved returning players, Arizona has rolled through the early part of its schedule, climbing to No. 4 in this week’s AP Top 25 after winning the Maui Invitational.

“I learned that we’re good,” Lloyd said. “We’re tough. We’re gritty. I think there’s going to be some great things for us to really double down on and some things to show our guys where we went the wrong way.”

Lloyd had a superb first season in the desert, earning coach of the year honors last season with a team that lost three players to the NBA.

The Wildcats (6-0) had to replace three NBA players again this season. Again, they made a seamless transition.

Improvement on the part of the returning players has been a big part of it.

Oumar Ballo, considered a project as a freshman at Gonzaga, has transformed into one of the nation’s best big men. The 7-foot, 260-pound center from Mali has vastly improved his footwork and developed patience in the post, setting himself up for good shots instead of trying to bull his way to the basket.

Ballo is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 76.7% from the field, fourth-best nationally. He was named Maui Invitational MVP after finishing with 30 points and 13 rebounds against No. 7 Creighton in the title game.

Not bad for a player who averaged 2.5 points and 6.3 minutes per game two years ago at Gonzaga.

“When he struggled, I still believed in him,” Lloyd said. “I didn’t need for him to be instantly successful for me to reaffirm my belief in him. When he struggled, we continued to love him and work with him and then he continued to hang in there and I think it is a great story.”

Fellow big man Azuolas Tubelis has made a few strides of his own, adding strength and toughness to his athletic, fluid game. The 6-10 forward leads Arizona with 19.3 points per game while grabbing 8.0 rebounds.

Fiery point guard Kerr Kriisa has rounded into a reliable floor leader, averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 51% from the 3-point arc.

“I don’t pay attention to the antics because they don’t mean anything to me,” Lloyd said. “I know maybe that draws attention to him from other people but when it comes to just pure basketball, I mean he is doing a good job and I think he is really showing something.”

So is Courtney Ramey.

The Texas transfer has given the Wildcats a huge boost in his first season in Tucson, providing hounding defense, leadership and another scoring option. He’s averaging 16 points per game and has hit 10 of 16 from 3-point range so far this season.

Campbell transfer Cedric Henderson Jr. has provided an athletic lift off the bench and 7-foot Estonian Henri Veesaar has given Arizona solid minutes.

The mix of new and old has helped Arizona lead the nation with 97.5 points a game and rank second with 21.8 assists per game. The Wildcats climbed 10 spots in this week’s poll after wins over Cincinnati, No. 24 San Diego State and Creighton.

Arizona opens Pac-12 play Thursday at Utah.

“It was good to get the recognition, but we’re not satisfied,” Ramey said. “Our ultimate goal is to be No. 1 at the end of the season and be the final two teams playing, so I think the regular season matters but it’s not the ultimate goal for us.”

The Wildcats are certainly off to a good start.