Best Bets: Previewing Duke-Gonzaga in the Maui title game

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The final day of the Maui Invitational will tip-off this afternoon, the obvious headliner game being No. 1 Duke vs. No. 3 Gonzaga.

Instant classic potential.

As always, here is a look at the slate of games from a gambling perspective:

No. 1 DUKE vs. No. 3 GONZAGA, 5:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • Line: Duke (-6.5)
  • O/U: 164
  • Vegas Implied Score: Duke 85.25, Gonzaga 78.75
  • KenPom Projection: Duke 83, Gonzaga 79

Here we go again.

One day ago, Duke opened up as a 10 point favorite against No. 8 Auburn in a game with a total of 162.5, the line moved to Duke (-11) and the total jumped all the way up to 171 in some places. Today, Duke opened up as a 3.5 point favorite against No. 3 Gonzaga, and with minutes of that line getting posted, it was already up to six points and the total was at 164, two points up from where it opened.

And all this is coming one day after Duke and Auburn didn’t come close to touching the over while Auburn covered.

The reason this happened is that the notoriously-uptempo Tigers totally went away from the way that they want to play. They played a tough, halfcourt gapping defense (think Virginia) when their typical style of play is to press fullcourt, try to force turnovers and win by making the game hectic (think West Virginia). To a point, it worked — Auburn didn’t get run out of the gym after all — but they were never a threat to win, partly because Duke is just so damn good, and partly because Auburn went away from what they do best. They were so scared of trying to run with Duke that, when they were down 10 points with three minutes left in the game, they were still playing possession-by-possession, working the shot clock and trying to take pace out of the game.

It’s a conundrum that running teams are going to face all season long with Duke. You are not going to be able to beat them playing the way they want to play, but can you beat them playing a style that isn’t your best?

That’s the question that Mark Few will have had 20 hours to try and answer by the time tip-off rolls around.

And I have a tough time seeing Gonzaga being capable of changing the way they play the way that Auburn did. Auburn had roughly 30 hours to prep for their matchup with Duke. Gonzaga’s win over Arizona ended at 7:00 p.m. Maui time. By the time they finish with media, showering, getting food and all the stuff that comes with postgame, it will be around 9 or 10:00 p.m. The staff then has to study Duke, prep a game-plan and teach it to the team for a game that tips at 11:00 a.m. Maui time as the second game of the day in that gym.

Here’s the kicker: Gonzaga likes to run even more than Auburn does. They don’t press the way that Bruce Pearl’s team presses, but they sure do play at pace. With a turnaround that is that quick, can Few change the way that Gonzaga plays?

PICKS: I don’t know what the line is going to be by the time this thing publishes, but I do like the over here even though everything tells me that’s not a line that is going to hit. The under is 6-2 in Maui. The under is 4-1 in Duke games. The only time the over hit was when Duke and Kentucky played in the season opener. But there are just five teams that have a shorter average length of possession than Gonzaga does this season, they are 26th nationally in pace and they, like Duke, rank top five in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric.

As far as Duke covering (-6.5), I think it will be closer than people are giving this credit for. Gonzaga has the athletes to be able to matchup Duke’s stars. Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke have the size, strength and physical tools to do as good of a job on Zion Williamson as anyone in the country. When you throw in Corey Kispert, there are three wings on the Gonzaga roster that will be able to handle Duke’s wings. The two real concerns that I have: Those three are Gonzaga’s 3-4-5 while Duke plays a true five, meaning that Zach Norvell is likely going to be forced to guard Reddish or Barrett, or not be on the floor.

The other concern?

Tre Jones eating Josh Perkins’ for lunch. Jones is a terrific on-ball defender. Perkins is a mistake-prone point guard that doesn’t always do well when he is defended that way. I think I would lean towards waiting until tip-off and getting as many points as possible on Gonzaga.

Let’s roll through the rest of these games more quickly:

No. 2 KANSAS vs. MARQUETTE, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • Line: Kansas (-8.5)
  • O/U: 157.5
  • Vegas Implied Score: Kansas 83, Marquette 74.5
  • KenPom Projection: Kansas 83, Marquette 74

Kansas looked terrific in their first 35 minutes of the season, but it’s been difficult since then. They struggled to put away Vermont, trailing early in the second half, and they were down by as many as 12 points against Louisiana before winning that game.

Now the Jayhawks face off with a Marquette team that entered the season with quite a bit of hype but have yet to see that manifest on the court. They struggled with a couple of their buy games and got rocked by Indiana in Assembly Hall.

PICKS: I think I like Marquette to cover here. I’m not convinced that Kansas’ young backcourt is going to be totally comfortable guarding the ball-screens that Wojo will put Markus Howard and Joseph Chartouny in, and when Marquette goes small, they are going to create the same problems for Udoka Azubuike that they had when trying to cover Villanova in the title game. Gun-to-head, I’m taking the over, but I don’t love that line so I’ll stay away personally.

No. 5 TENNESSEE vs. LOUISVILLE, 5:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • Line: Tennessee (-8.5)
  • O/U: 144.5
  • Vegas Implied Score: Tennessee 76.5, Louisville 68
  • KenPom Projection: Tennessee 76, Louisville 69

Louisville has been somewhat up-and-down in their first three games under Chris Mack. They steamrolled Southern (who stinks) but struggled to put away Nicholls State and Vermont (who doesn’t stink). Tennessee, on the other hand, is a veteran team that essentially returned everyone from last year’s SEC title winner.

PICKS: I don’t want to overthink this one. Tennessee is a very, very good defensive team that doesn’t let you get good looks at the rim. Louisville has struggled at times this season and is three games into a tenure with a new head coach.

No. 8 AUBURN vs. ARIZONA, 11:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • Line: Auburn (-6)
  • O/U: 152
  • Vegas Implied Score: Auburn 79, Arizona 73
  • KenPom Projection: Auburn 78, Arizona 71

Auburn is the top ten team and Arizona is the scrappy underdog that gave a top ten team a fight. Who saw that coming?

PICKS: Auburn has not looked right in Maui, and I think this is their get-right spot. Arizona is coming off of a tough loss while Auburn knew heading into the tournament that 2-1 with a loss to Duke was their most likely scenario. Give me Auburn, give me the over and give me all the Justin Coleman vs. Jared Harper.

No. 16 CLEMSON vs. CREIGHTON, 7:30 p.m.

  • Line: Clemson (-3)
  • O/U: 145
  • Vegas Implied Score: Clemson 74, Creighton 71
  • KenPom Projection: Clemson 74, Creighton 71

Both Clemson and Creighton have looked impressive through two games in the Cayman Islands, but the difference is that Clemson rolled over Georgia while Creighton — who has already lost at home to Ohio State — beat Georgia State and Boise State.

PICKS: Give me the veteran Tigers. Marcquise Reed has been unbelievable through the first two weeks of the season.

No. 22 Tennessee beats No. 3 Kansas 64-50 for Atlantis title

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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Tennessee’s players proved to be determined defenders and relentless rebounders, along with having the kind of toughness to ensure the reigning national champions would have little chance to get comfortable.

It was all enough to give the 22nd-ranked Volunteers a title of their own, along with the blueprint that coach Rick Barnes hopes they follow the rest of the year.

Santiago Vescovi scored 20 points while Tennessee locked down on third-ranked Kansas in a 64-50 win Friday night in the championship game at the Battle 4 Atlantis, snapping the Jayhawks’ 17-game winning streak.

Vescovi hit five 3-pointers as the tournament’s most valuable player for the Volunteers (5-1), who dominated the glass, overcame their own turnover troubles and made the Jayhawks work for clean looks. And for the third time in as many days, Tennessee won without leading scorer Josiah-Jordan James (knee soreness).

Perhaps that’s why reserve guard Zakai Zeigler, who had 14 points and four steals, showed up wearing sunglasses to the postgame news conference after the Volunteers had danced and hollered through the on-court trophy ceremony.

“We know if you can’t stop the man in front of you, then you’ll have no shot at winning the game,” Zeigler said, adding: “We just like to play defense, and we just happen to be good at it.”

The Vols held the Jayhawks to 32.1% shooting, bothering them with size and length around the rim. They also took the ball right at the Jayhawks with 5-foot-9 Zeigler leading the way, down to him refusing to let go of a jump ball and trading words with 6-8 forward Jalen Wilson.

Zeigler’s night included a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock at the 7-minute mark to push Tennessee’s lead to 56-38. He followed with another big one from the right wing with 4:42 left after Kansas had closed within 11.

Wilson and Joseph Yesefu each scored 14 points to lead the Jayhawks (6-1), who shot 28.6% in the first half and never warmed up. They made 5 of 21 3-pointers in what was an all-around rough night, from losing starting guard Dajuan Harris to fouls with 9 minutes left to failing to keep the Vols off the glass (45-27).

“We played a team tonight that was older and more mature and obviously played stronger and tougher,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We didn’t handle the situation near as well as what I would hope a poised team would.”

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers opened the tournament with a win over Butler, then grinded through an overtime win against Southern California in Thursday’s semifinals. This time, Tennessee played in front the entire way en route to its first title in three tries at the Atlantis resort.

“I think the main thing from the whole week was stay together through tough times, that’s what you’ve got to do,” Vescovi said.

Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have an easy first two days in the Bahamas. First came a battle to the final minutes with North Carolina State. Then came Thursday’s overtime win against Wisconsin on Bobby Pettiford Jr.’s last-second putback. But they never looked in any type of offensive flow this time with their smaller lineup.

“I feel like if we were able to get them out of place and not just have them standing there, waiting to contest a layup, that could’ve gave us some better chances at finishing at the rim,” Wilson said.

STRONG RUN

Tennessee held its three Atlantis opponents to 36.9% shooting and 15 of 59 (25.4%) from 3-point range. The Volunteers also averaged a +9 rebounding margin, ending with having Jonas Aidoo (nine) leading five players snagging at least six rebounds against Kansas.

“You can be a good defensive team but if you can’t be a great one if you give them second and third shots,” Barnes said.

SIDELINED

Beyond Harris’ foul trouble, the Jayhawks played most of the way without Pettiford, who exited midway through the first half grabbing at his right leg.

Afterward, Self said he would be out “for a while” with a hamstring strain.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers return home to host McNeese State on Wednesday.

Kansas: The Jayhawks host Texas Southern on Monday.

BYU erases 23-point deficit, beats Dayton in overtime 79-75

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NASSAU, Bahamas – Gideon George scored 21 points and combined with Jaxson Robinson and Rudi Williams for BYU’s 15 overtime points as the Cougars came back from a 23-point deficit to beat Dayton 79-75 in overtime Friday.

BYU’s victory came in the seventh-place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

George’s 3-pointer with 2:19 left in regulation gave BYU (4-3) its first lead after Dayton scored the first 10 points of the game and led 32-9 with six minutes left in the first half.

Mike Sharavjamts’ basket gave the lead back to Dayton but George’s free throw with a minute left sent the game into overtime.

Dayton got the first points in overtime but Robinson’s 3-pointer gave BYU the lead for good halfway through the extra period.

Robinson had 14 points, Dallin Hall 12 and Williams 11 to join George in double figures for BYU.

DaRon Holmes II scored 21 points and Sharavjamts 15 for Dayton (3-4). The Flyers lost starting guards Kobe Elvis and Malachi Smith to lower-body injuries in the second half, Smith with with just seconds left in regulation.

Portland beats Villanova 83-71 in Phil Knight Invitational

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Moses Wood scored 16 points and Portland beat Villanova 83-71 on Friday in the Phil Knight Invitational.

Villanova (2-4) has lost three straight games, including an overtime loss to Iowa State on Thursday to drop below .500 for the first time since March 7, 2012.

Vasilije Vucinic’s layup with 4:16 remaining in the first half gave Portland the lead for good. The Pilots had an eight-point lead at halftime and scored the first 10 points of the second half.

Wood added six rebounds and three blocks for the Pilots (5-3). Tyler Robertson scored 15 points while shooting 6 for 12 (1 for 5 from 3-point range) and added seven rebounds and eight assists. Kristian Sjolund recorded 14 points and shot 5 for 7 (2 for 3 from 3-point range).

Caleb Daniels finished with 18 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats. Villanova also got 14 points from Jordan Longino. Brandon Slater had 11 points.

Caleb Grill, Iowa State topples No. 1 North Carolina 70-65

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Caleb Grill has followed T.J. Otzelberger from South Dakota State to UNLV and now back to Iowa State hoping the pair could share a moment like they did Friday.

Taking down the No. 1 team in the country was another bookmark moment in a long journey for the pair.

“I’m actually really enjoying sitting next to him from this moment right now just thinking about how long we’ve known each other and how cool this really was,” Otzelberger said.

Grill hit seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 31 points and Iowa State rallied in the final five minutes to stun No. 1 North Carolina 70-65 in the semifinals of the Phil Knight Invitational.

Iowa State (5-0) picked up just its third win over a team ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25. The Cyclones are 3-22 against No. 1 teams, with the other wins coming against Kansas in 1957 and Oklahoma in 2016.

The Cyclones can now add North Carolina (5-1) to the list.

“I was just staying the course of the game. I never really thought about it and the game just kind of came to me,” Grill said.

Grill was averaging 7.3 points and had made just 4 of 24 3-point attempts for the season entering Friday. But he couldn’t be stopped from beyond the arc, hitting a pair of big 3s to spark Iowa State’s late rally. His deep fadeaway jumper just inside the 3-point line with 1:40 left gave Iowa State a 63-61 lead and the Cyclones did just enough at the free throw line in the final minute to close out the upset victory.

Grill’s previous career high was 27 points while playing for UNLV in the 2020-21 season against Alabama. He also hit seven 3-pointers in that game.

Grill originally signed with South Dakota State when Otzelberger was the coach there. He was released from his commitment when Otzelberger took the head job at UNLV and started his career at Iowa State before deciding to join his coach in Las Vegas.

When Otzelberger returned to Ames, Grill followed again.

“Just having him be the first person that really had belief in me, it’s just really special what he’s done for me and my family and everything we’ve done,” Grill said.

Jaren Holmes added 22 points and the Cyclones withstood off shooting games from Aljaz Kunc and Gabe Kalscheur, who combined for three points and missed all eight of their shot attempts. Both were averaging double figures scoring for Iowa State.

RJ Davis led North Carolina with 15 points, Armando Bacot added 14 and Caleb Love scored 12. But the Tar Heels will lament a series of mistakes in the closing minutes that allowed Iowa State to rally.

“We had wide open threes. We were able to get to the basket. We were able to get whatever we wanted, we just didn’t make those shots,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said.

North Carolina led 57-49 after Leaky Black’s layup with 5:43 left, but missed four of its final six shots and had four turnovers during that span.

“We turned the ball over a couple of times and you just can’t do that in late-game situations,” Davis said. “You have to be sound and discipline and you have to do that on both ends of the floor and we just didn’t do it.”

NO. 1 LOSSES

North Carolina lost as the No. 1 team in the country for the first time since Nov. 21, 2015 when it lost 71-67 at Northern Iowa. The Tar Heels also lost as No. 1 to UNLV in 2011 at a Thanksgiving tournament.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: Pete Nance wasn’t able to contribute in the same way he did in Thursday’s opening round. Nance, who tied his career high with 28 points against Portland, didn’t score for the first 27 minutes and finished with seven points.

Iowa State: The Cyclones were playing a No. 1 team from outside their conference for the first time since 1999 when they faced Cincinnati in the championship game of the Big Island Invitational.

UP NEXT

Iowa State will face either No. 18 Alabama or No. 20 UConn in the championship game while the Tar Heels will face the loser for third place.

No. 8 Duke locks down late, holds off Xavier 71-64

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PORTLAND, Ore. – After a shaky offensive performance in the opening round of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament, Duke coach Jon Scheyer wanted to see Jeremy Roach get back to playing more instinctively, especially at the offensive end of the floor.

Roach responded with a season-high 21 points, Mark Mitchell added 16 and No. 8 Duke withstood Xavier’s second-half comeback for a 71-64 win on Friday.

The Blue Devils (6-1) advanced to the championship game thanks to the play of their standout guard and another strong defensive effort. Roach came one point shy of matching his career high, and the Blue Devils rebounded after an unexpectedly tight victory over Oregon State in the opening round of the event.

Roach was 3 of 14 shooting against Oregon State as the Blue Devils scored a season-low 54 points. He made 9 of 15 shots and had five assists against Xavier.

“There’s a lot that falls on your shoulders so you can end up overthinking it a little bit,” Scheyer said. “The thing that I love for him today is he just was him. And when he’s that way, he is to me the best guard in the country.”

The Musketeers (4-2) were held to two points over the final five minutes and missed their last four shot attempts. Souley Boum scored 23 points and Adam Kunkel had 13. Kunkel didn’t play the last 11 minutes after taking a hard fall committing a foul.

Xavier leading scorer Jack Nudge was 1 of 13 shooting and finished with five points.

“Jack played a great effort. He really did. He was ready for the game. He just had one of those nights where the ball didn’t go in the basket,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said.

At the same time, Miller was disappointed in what he called the “fracturing” he saw from his team.

“There were spurts and segments of the game where I thought we reflected our style, how we’re trying to play, whether it be defense and offense. But there were way too many segments of the game, if not most of the game, where we were at times in our own way,” Miller said.

Mitchell scored seven points in the opening minutes of the second half, including a pair of layups, and he hit a 3-pointer from the wing that gave Duke a 49-36 lead, its largest of the game.

That’s when Xavier’s comeback started. The Musketeers pulled within three points on several occasions, but Duke answered each time. Desmond Claude’s driving layup pulled Xavier within 63-60 with 5:51 left, but Ryan Young scored for Duke and Xavier didn’t make another basket.

Roach’s jumper with 2:40 left pushed Duke’s lead to 69-62.

“We like to play inside out but I mean, when guys are hitting shots it just opens up for everybody else,” Roach said. “Just try to continue to be consistent hitting shots and I think we’ll be fine.”

Kyle Filipowski had 12 points and was not Duke’s leading scorer for the first time in five games.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils’ dominance on the backboards finally came to an end. Duke had outrebounded each of its first six opponents by double figures, the longest such stretch in school history. But Xavier’s interior size limited Duke to a 33-32 advantage on the glass. The Blue Devils had 12 second-chance points.

Xavier: The Musketeers played an Atlantic Coast Conference team for the first time since beating Virginia Tech in last year’s NIT Season Tip-Off. Xavier dropped to 0-2 against ranked opponents this season, having lost to Indiana last week. The Musketeers will play another ranked foe in Sunday’s third-place game.

UP NEXT

Duke will face the Gonzaga-Purdue winner in the championship game on Sunday, while Xavier will play the loser.