COLLEGE BASKETBALL TALKCBT Select Team
Buffalo Bulls Harvard Crimson Marshall Thundering Herd Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders NCAA Division I American Athletic Conference Central Florida Knights Cincinnati Bearcats Connecticut Huskies East Carolina Pirates Houston Cougars Memphis Tigers SMU Mustangs Temple Owls Tulane Green Wave Tulsa Golden Hurricane USF Bulls Atlantic 10 Davidson Wildcats Dayton Flyers Duquesne Dukes Fordham Rams George Mason Patriots George Washington Colonials La Salle Explorers Rhode Island Rams Richmond Spiders Saint Louis Billikens St. Bonaventure Bonnies St. Joseph's Hawks Umass Minutemen VCU Rams Atlantic Coast Conference Boston College Eagles Clemson Tigers Duke Blue Devils Florida Seminoles Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Louisville Cardinals Miami Hurricanes North Carolina State Wolfpack North Carolina Tar Heels Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pittsburgh Panthers Syracuse Orange Virginia Cavaliers Virginia Tech Hokies Wake Forest Demon Deacons Big 12 Conference Baylor Bears Iowa State Cyclones Kansas Jayhawks Kansas State Wildcats Oklahoma Sooners Oklahoma State Cowboys TCU Horned Frogs Texas Longhorns Texas Tech Red Raiders West Virginia Mountaineers Big East Conference Butler Bulldogs Creighton Blue Jays DePaul Blue Demons Georgetown Hoyas Marquette Golden Eagles Providence Friars Rutgers Scarlet Knights Seton Hall Pirates St. John's Red Storm Villanova Wildcats Xavier Musketeers Big Ten Conference Illinois Illini Indiana Hoosiers Iowa Hawkeyes Maryland Terrapins Michigan State Spartans Michigan Wolverines Minnesota Golden Gophers Nebraska Cornhuskers Northwestern Wildcats Ohio State Buckeyes Penn State Nittany Lions Purdue Boilermakers Rutgers Scarlet Knights Wisconsin Badgers Missouri Valley Conference Wichita State Shockers Mountain West Air Force Boise State Colorado State Fresno State Nevada New Mexico San Diego State San Jose State UNLV Utah State Wyoming Pac-12 Conference Arizona State Sun Devils Arizona Wildcats California Bears Colorado Buffaloes Oregon Ducks Oregon State Beavers Stanford Cardinal UCLA Bruins USC Trojans Utah Utes Washington Huskies Washington State Cougars Southeastern Conference Alabama Crimson Tide Arkansas Razorbacks Auburn Tigers Florida Gators Georgia Bulldogs Kentucky Wildcats LSU Tigers Mississippi State Bulldogs Missouri Tigers Ole Miss Rebels South Carolina Gamecocks Tennessee Volunteers Texas A&M Aggies Vanderbilt Commodores West Coast Conference BYU Cougars Gonzaga Bulldogs Pepperdine Waves Saint Mary's Gaels Old Dominion Monarchs UMBC Retrievers Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Getty Images

Saturday’s Things To Know: Recapping all of the college hoops action

3 Comments

PLAYER OF THE DAY: Cassius Winston, Michigan State

Cassius Winston was at his very best on Saturday afternoon. Playing in the early tip on the first fully-loaded conference season college hoops slate, Winston finished with 25 points and five assists as the No. 8 Spartans went into Columbus without Josh Langford and knocked off No. 14 Ohio State, 86-77.

Winston finished with 18 of his 25 points in the second half, as he torched C.J. Jackson for layups three times in the opening minutes of the half and forced Chris Holtmann to change his personnel. The Spartans played without their starting point guard on the floor for long stretches of the second half as a result. Ohio State’s offense stalled. Michigan State continued to execute, and by the time it was all said and done, Tom Izzo’s team had turned a seven point halftime deficit into a nine point road win to move to 3-0 in Big Ten play.

It was Winston that was the star on Saturday, outshining Columbus-native Nick Ward and outdueling a young Buckeye backcourt. He’s now averaging 17.7 points and 7.7 assists on the season with shooting splits of 47.7/83.0/45.7. He’s as efficient as point guards can get, and he’s doing all of that on a team that is going to push Michigan atop the Big Ten standings.

At this point, I need to start paying more attention to Winston in the Player of the Year Power Rankings.

TEAM OF THE DAY: Virginia Cavaliers

What No. 4 Virginia did to Florida State on Saturday afternoon should not go overlooked by anyone.

The final score was 65-52, which is impressive in its own right but is nothing compared to the way that the game actually played out. With just over two minutes left in the game and well after Virginia had already emptied their bench, the Cavaliers held a 65-36 lead. Florida State had scored eight points in the first four minutes, which means that over the course of a 34-minute stretch, Virginia held Florida State to just 28 points.

Should I mention that Florida State entered Saturday as the No. 9 team in the AP Poll and ranked in the top 15 on KenPom?

This was a total and utter annihilation of a team that is very capable of making it back to the Elite Eight this year. That should tell you everything that you need to know about this Virginia team. They are just as good defensively as they have been over the years, and this year they have two pros that carry their offense. That doesn’t include Kyle Guy, who finished with 21 points and five threes on Saturday, just three days after he went for a career-high 30 points against Marshall.

The Wahoos are better than they were last season, and that’s saying something.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra

Justin Wright-Foreman might actually be the player of the day. The Hofstra star went for 42 points as the Pride knocked off Northeastern on Saturday afternoon, but that’s not all he did.

He also hit this ridiculous game-winner at the buzzer:

Not a bad afternoon for that young man.

EXTRA ONIONS: Curran Scott, Tulsa

Right after USF at tied the game at 75 with 4.4 seconds left, the Golden Hurricane went the length of the court and did this:

Believe it or not, this is actually a pretty important win for Tulsa because USF has been decidedly not-that-bad this year.

WTF OF THE DAY: Lavall Jordan rips his pants

It was quite the afternoon for Butler head coach Lavall Jordan.

Not only did he coach his team to a blowout win over Creighton in Hinkle Fieldhouse, but he also managed to go viral because … he ripped the seam of his pants while coaching.

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

And when you rip the seam of your pants while coaching, the only option is to tie a towel around your waste and keep on coaching:

WINNERS

ALABAMA: The Crimson Tide made a statement on Saturday, as No. 13 Kentucky came into Tuscaloosa and left with a 77-75 loss. That final score would look much more impressive had the Tide not found a way to let the Wildcats back into the game in the final minutes. Tevin Mack was the hero, popping off for 20 of his 22 points in the first half while Donta Hall found a way to put Reid Travis in his back pocket. This Alabama team is more talented that I think anyone realizes, and this is the kind of win that will look really good for them on Selection Sunday.

IOWA STATE: I don’t need to say anything about the Cyclones beyond this.

GONZAGA: The Zags smoked Santa Clara on Saturday night, but the best news for them is that they got back both Killian Tillie and Geno Crandall from their injuries.

NEW MEXICO: The Lobos have not been good this season. They entered Saturday with a 6-6 record against Division I competition. They were ranked 190th on KenPom. They had lost to New Mexico State by 35 points. They lost to Saint Mary’s by 25. They lost at home to North Texas and Penn.

And on Saturday, they handed No. 6 Nevada their first loss of the season, an 85-58 beatdown in The Pit. I mean, what in the world? With all due respect to the Lobos, I think that this loss said more about Nevada than it did New Mexico, but it also left me scratching my head — I know that they just got Carlton Bragg back, but there is enough talent on that roster that New Mexico probably should be better than it has been this year.

OKLAHOMA: The Sooners went into Stillwater and picked off Oklahoma State, which means that this Oklahoma team is now 12-2 on the season and is sitting pretty with eight Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 wins, the most of any team in college basketball. They were already a No. 4 seed in our most recent bracket projection.

SHAMORIE PONDS: Ponds finished with another monster performance at Georgetown, finishing with 37 points in a 97-94 overtime win over the Hoyas. It is going to be a tremendously fun race to watch and see who wins Big East Player of the Year, Ponds or Markus Howard.

LOSERS

OREGON: As if things weren’t already bad enough for the Ducks after losing Bol Bol for the season and Kenny Wooten for a couple more weeks, Oregon went out on Saturday and lost a rivalry game at home, falling to Oregon State, 77-72, behind a 28 point outburst from Tres Tinkle. The Ducks were supposed to be the second-most likely option for an at-large bid in the Pac-12 behind Arizona State. Both teams lost at home this week to teams projected to finish in the bottom half of the conference.

That’s not ideal.

FLORIDA: The Gators had been one of the hottest teams in college basketball heading into Saturday. Then they opened up a double-digit lead on South Carolina in both the first half and the second half. Then they blew both of those leads, allowed the Gamecocks to tie the game up in the final seconds and then lost like this:

That’s not ideal, either.

CINCINNATI: The Bearcats had finally managed to convince people that they might actually be pretty god this year, and then they had to go and do this: Lose at East Carolina. This is a bad loss. A really, really bad loss. East Carolina is the team in the AAC that, along with Tulane, you cannot lose to. They are going to go onto Cincinnati’s tournament profile as a bad loss and drag down their computer numbers. In our most recent bracket, Cincinnati was a No. 6 seed, so they have some room to work with.

NEVADA: Oh, we’ll get to them.

FINAL THOUGHT

Nevada was absolutely embarrassed on Saturday night.

New Mexico mollywhopped them. The Pit looked like it did in Steve Alford’s glory days. The Wolf Pack got down 22-9, trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half and eventually ended up losing 85-58 in a game that they never truly threatened to win.

And that’s a problem for this group, who did not look all that impressive through the first six weeks of the season. They needed a second half comeback to beat Arizona State. They struggled to knock off Grand Canyon. They beat South Dakota State by four, Akron by six and needed to pull away from Utah in the second half to win.

Now this, a 27 point home loss to a team that entered the day ranked 190th by KenPom, a team that had lost by 35 points to New Mexico State, 25 points to Saint Mary’s and to Colorado, North Texas and Penn in the same building that they manhandled Nevada.

The question that we now need answered is which team is Nevada — the one that we fell in love with because of last year’s run to the Sweet 16 and their wins away from home against teams we once thought were pretty good (Arizona State, USC, etc.), or are they the team whose best win, according to KenPom, is either at Loyola-Chicago or at home against Utah State?

I understood why Nevada had some slow starts early on this season. This is a team full of fifth-year seniors that thought they were headed to the NBA. They’ve already won the Mountain West title and are playing out a regular season where they may not end up with a top 50 KenPom team on their schedule when it’s all said and done. It makes sense that this group threw it into cruise control — hell, the Warriors have done it for three straight regular seasons.

On Saturday, they finally got caught coasting by a team that was able to slow down their one-on-one game in the second half.

Frankly, I’m pretty interested in seeing where Nevada goes from here, because I do think that this team can beat just about anyone in college basketball. That’s how high their ceiling is. This roster is built around three all-american caliber players that thrive in isolation and when asked to make a play against smaller, less-talented defenders. That’s what they do, and on the nights when the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline get it rolling, they can do things like they did in the second round of the NCAA tournament last year: light up Cincinnati, one of the nation’s toughest defensive teams.

But Saturday proved that they are not talented enough to avoid getting caught on the nights they decide not to show up, and that matters because of how weak their schedule is. To put this into context, Saint Mary’s entered Selection Sunday with a 28-5 record last season, a win at Gonzaga and four of their five losses away from home — their one home less was to the Zags. They missed the NCAA tournament. Now, Nevada’s non-conference schedule was tougher than that Saint Mary’s team, and the Mountain West is better than last year’s WCC, but there’s nothing that Nevada can do that will be remotely as impressive as winning at Gonzaga.

We’re still three losses away from really needing to have this conversation, but if Nevada can lose by 27 points at New Mexico, why should we assume that they’ll go 17-1 in the Mountain West?

No. 19 Maryland tops Ohio State 75-61 for 7th straight win

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Leave a comment

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Maryland’s depth and shooting touch were too much for Ohio State.

Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 20 points, and the 19th-ranked Terrapins won their seventh straight game, 75-61 over the skidding Buckeyes on Friday night.

Bruno Fernando added 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting and had 15 rebounds for Maryland (16-3, 7-1 Big Ten), which shot 58.1 percent from the field. Aaron Wiggins and Darryl Morsell each scored 11, and Jalen Smith had 10. The Terrapins went 11 of 17 (64.7 percent) from 3-point range.

“We had great depth tonight,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “We really shared the ball.”

C.J. Jackson scored 15 points for the Buckeyes (12-5, 2-4), who lost their fourth straight. Duane Washington Jr. scored 14 and Kaleb Wesson had 11.

Fernando continued his strong play after being named the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week and Big Ten Player of the Week. He averaged 17.5 points and 12 rebounds in victories over Minnesota and then-No. 22 Indiana. The 6-foot-10 sophomore from Angola has 10 double-doubles this season.

Ohio State kept it close through most of the first half before Maryland went on an 8-0 run, including a three-point play by Fernando, to move ahead 38-30.

“I didn’t feel like we could ever get a rebound in the first half,” Turgeon said. “The second half I thought we got all of them.”

The Buckeyes got within one early in the second half before Maryland responded with a 13-2 burst, including five points from Fernando. Ohio State got no closer than six points the rest of the way.

The Buckeyes have allowed opponents to shoot better than 50 percent in four of the last seven halves they have played.

“We missed some open shots and took some quick ones, too,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “They were also really collapsed, trapping Kaleb on every collapse.

“We have a tough stretch here. We have to find a way to dig our way out, accept responsibility and play better.”

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: The Terrapins have been one of the surprise teams of the Big Ten thus far, but their schedule won’t get any easier, with a road matchup looming at No. 6 Michigan State and two games against second-ranked Michigan.

Ohio State: Foul trouble and the Terps’ hot shooting doomed any chance of an end to the Buckeyes’ skid.

INJURY

Maryland freshman Eric Ayala landed on his hip early in the second half and did not return.

HELPING HAND

Starting with the Maryland game and continuing through the end of the partial federal government shutdown, Ohio State will provide all federal employees with two free tickets to any Buckeyes athletic event.

QUOTABLE

“Aaron Wiggins is a starter who plays sixth man on our team.” — Turgeon

Best Bets: Is it time to go all-in on Virginia at Duke?

AP Photo/Steve Helber
Leave a comment

Here is everything you need to know when betting the biggest games this weekend.

As always, this is coming out before the Vegas lines for Saturday’s games, so we are using projections from KenPom and Haslametrics to walk through how the game will play out. 

No. 4 VIRGINIA at No. 1 DUKE, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Duke 71, Virginia 69
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Duke 73, Virginia 70

The biggest game of the weekend got a lot more interesting with Tre Jones suffering a shoulder injury and likely being forced to miss the game. Jones may be the fourth-best freshman on this Duke team, but he’s arguably the most valuable and certainly the most irreplaceable player on the roster.

Without him, I think this is Virginia’s game to win, even in Cameron Indoor Stadium, a building that Virginia won in last season.

And it all stems from the way that Duke wants to play.

The dirty little secret with this Duke team is that they are not all that good in the halfcourt, and they are even worse when they are forced to play in late-clock scenarios. On the season, the Blue Devils have scored 0.923 points-per-possession (PPP)* in halfcourt possessions (97th nationally) and 0.763 PPP in short-clock scenarios (130th nationally), but they are scoring 1.161 PPP in transition with 23.9 percent of their total possessions coming in transition. Only ten teams have played a higher percentage of their offensive possessions on the break, and North Carolina is the only high major among them.

Virginia, on the other hand, is specifically designed to avoid playing in transition as much as possible. They’ll typically fade the offensive glass, sending three players back and ensuring that the game will be played at their pace. In total, 88.9 percent of Virginia’s defensive possessions have been played in the half court, which is the fourth-highest total of 353 Division I basketball teams; Michigan is the only high-major that has faced fewer transition possessions while Texas Tech is the only team in the country that can better Virginia’s 0.713 PPP allowed in halfcourt defense.

And that’s before we get into the issue of three-point shooting.

Virginia is famous for running the Pack-Line Defense, which, as I explained in full detail here, is built around two core concepts: 1) The player guarding the man with the ball is to provide intense ball-pressure well beyond the three-point line while 2) The other four help defenders are to all be within an imaginary, 16-foot arc. What this does is encourage penetration into those help-defenders, known as ‘The Pack’, forcing kick-outs to spot-up shooters who will have to take a jumper with a defender running at them.

Or, more simply, don’t allow penetration into the paint or baseline and contest all jumpshots from the perimeter.

There is not a worse matchup for Duke than this.

For starters, we know all about their issues shooting from the perimeter. They were shooting 33 percent from three before going 9-for-43 from beyond the arc against Syracuse. And then there are the issues that R.J. Barrett has with overdribbling into help. We saw what happened at the end of the Gonzaga game. Barrett has been better, but the Syracuse loss was another perfect example of this. The Orange play zone instead of Pack-Line, but they basically did the same thing defensively Virginia will do: Pack big bodies in the lane to limit Zion Williamson’s effectiveness and give Barrett no space to drive, dare Duke to win with kickout threes to Reddish, Jack White and Alex O’Connell.

And this is where the loss of Jones plays a major factor in this game.

One of the problems is that it will either force Jordan Goldwire to play or, as it did on Monday night, push Barrett into the point guard role. That’s not ideal, because Goldwire isn’t good enough and Barrett is wired to score; he’s better playing off the ball than on the ball. Hopefully, this will mean Duke decides to unleash Reddish at the point, but I’m not convinced that will happen.

The bigger story, however, is on the defensive side of the ball. Jones is such a menace. He creates so many turnovers that lead to easy buckets at the other end — pick-six turnovers, if you will — but it’s more than just that. His ball pressure forces opposing point guards to chew up clock getting the ball over halfcourt. Then they are forced to initiate offense 40-feet away from the rim with their back to the basket to protect the ball from Jones’ pesky hands. By the time they are finally running action, the shot clock is starting to run down. This creates more rushed shots, lower efficiency offense and more misses. Those misses lead to more opportunities for Duke in transition — Williamson grab-and-go’s, Barrett or Reddish leading the break, long rebounds creating 3-on-2s or 2-on-1s, etc. — which takes the scoring burden off of executing in the halfcourt.

This is the worst possible matchup for a healthy Duke team, and the absolute worst possible team to face without Jones.

*All stats via Synergy

PICKS: The lines are going to be fascinating to see when they come out, but if Virginia is getting points, I will hammer them. I’ll probably bet them even if the line comes out as, say, Virginia (-3). I also think that, assuming the total ends up around 140 or so, the under will be a good bet as well.

(AP Photo/Justin Hayworth)

TCU at KANSAS STATE, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: TCU 66, Kansas State 65
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: TCU 70, Kansas State 61

It’s not the biggest game of the weekend, but it is the one that I feel the most confident in how it will play out, which is why the line on this game is going to be fascinating to see. TCU has been better than Kansas State this year, which is why both KenPom and Haslametrics are projecting the Horned Frogs to go into the Octagon of Doom and get a win. But TCU also just lost their fourth player to transfer this year — Jaylen Fisher — while Kansas State is playing their best basketball of the season, having won at Iowa State and Oklahoma in the last week. That coincided with the return of Dean Wade, their best offensive player and the only guy on the roster than can be thought of as a dangerous three-point shooter.

Vegas knows all of that.

But then there’s this: Barry Brown Jr. is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country. In three games against TCU last season, Kansas State won twice (at home, in the Big 12 tournament) and in those three games, Robinson — the engine of TCU’s offense — finished with 17 assists and 18 turnovers. On the season, he had a 2.6:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

And then there’s this: In 47 games since the start of the 2017-18 season, Robinson has played 47 games and turned the ball over more than five times in just three of them. Two of those games came against Kansas State.

PICKS: I expect this line to open somewhere around Kansas State (-3), which is a line I would love.

No. 12 KENTUCKY at No. 14 AUBURN, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Auburn 74, Kentucky 70
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Auburn 74, Kentucky 70

A matchup between the two teams vying for second in an SEC that is currently being dominated by Tennessee will make for one of the more entertaining matchups of the weekend, but it’s a game that is pretty difficult to figure out.

Let’s start with the obvious: Kentucky is horrid at running teams off the three-point line. On the season, they’re allowing opponents to shoot 36.3 percent from beyond the arc (270th nationally), and more than 36 percent of the points that they have given up this season have come from three (52nd-highest). Those numbers come after Kentucky held Vanderbilt and Georgia to a combined 11-for-51 from three in the last two games. Auburn shoots 46.1 percent of their field goals from deep, and only 18 teams — and just three high-majors — score a higher percentage of their points from three than Auburn does.

That would usually make me lean towards the Auburn side here, but it is also worth noting just how important Jared Harper is to the Tigers at the point guard spot, and Kentucky just so happens to have Ashton Hagans on their roster. Hagans is as good on the ball as any defender in the country. Hagans shut down North Carolina’s Coby White, held Alabama’s Kira Lewis to 4-for-14 shooting, forced Texas A&M’s T.J. Starks into five turnovers without an assist (he did have 18 points on 7-for-15 shooting) and kept Vanderbilt and Georgia’s guards from getting going. I should also note that Louisville’s Christen Cunningham had one of his best games against Kentucky.

So I don’t know what to make of this.

PICKS: Both KenPom and Haslametrics are projecting the same score on Saturday, and if the line is Auburn (-4) I think I would probably lean towards the Kentucky side — I just think the Wildcats are a better team, I’m not buying Auburn this year — but I will be staying away personally.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

No. 2 MICHIGAN at WISCONSIN, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Michigan 63, Wisconsin 62
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Michigan 64, Wisconsin 60

Michigan is going to get a serious test on Saturday, as they head to the Kohl Center as one of just two undefeated teams left in college basketball. Since pounding Villanova in the second week of the season, Michigan has played just two road games, and one of those two was on Dec. 4th. John Beilein’s team has overwhelmed people at home, but they only beat Northwestern by two (the Wildcats had a shot to win it at the buzzer) at their place and beat Illinois by 10.

Wisconsin, however, has not been good of late. They’ve lost four of their last five games, including home dates with Minnesota and Purdue. They’ve really struggled to get things going offensively at times as well, scoring just 14 first half points against Minnesota and 15 first half points against Maryland. The last thing you want to do is start slow against Michigan’s vaunted defense.

PICKS: The computer models really like Wisconsin despite the fact that they are just 11-6 on the year. The Badgers are 17th in KenPom, which is probably too high. The problem, however, is that I have a hard time seeing a situation where this isn’t a close, grind-it-out game played in the 50s. Michigan has a top three defense and hasn’t had a road test like this year this year. Wisconsin has a top 15 defense and hasn’t been able to score against worse teams. Both teams fade the offensive glass. Neither of them turn the ball over. Both play at a pace that ranks in the bottom 30 nationally.

If the total ends up being in the mid-to-high 120s, I think the under is probably my favorite bet. (When Wisconsin played Virginia, the final score was 53-46.) I’ll probably stay away from the line unless it is Michigan (-1), a pick-em or Wisconsin is favored; then I’ll be on Michigan.

No. 19 MARYLAND at OHIO STATE, Fri. 6:30 p.m. (FS1)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Ohio State 70, Maryland 67
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Maryland 69, Ohio State 67

Ohio State comes into this one on a three-game losing streak while Maryland own sole possession of second place in the Big Ten race with a 6-1 record. The Terps have won six in a row as Anthony Cowan has thrived playing in a role off the ball and Bruno Fernando has been dominant in the paint.

PICKS: Personally, I just think that the Terps are a much better basketball team that Ohio State is. All due respect to Chris Holtmann, but that team has been playing above their level all season long, and frankly, wins at Cincinnati, at Creighton and over UCLA don’t look as good now as they did at the time. My only concern is that the Buckeyes have Kaleb Wesson, and he’ll be able to ensure that Fernando does not wear anyone down in the paint.

The line here is going to be interesting. KenPom is projecting it at Maryland (+3), at which point I would be all over the Terps. But Haslametrics has it at Maryland (-2), which I probably will stay away from.

No. 25 INDIANA at PURDUE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (FOX)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Purdue 75, Indiana 69
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Purdue 76, Indiana 70

This will be a fun rivalry game between two Big Ten brands that are in something of a rebuilding year. The Hoosiers have now lost three in a row (at Michigan, at Maryland, Nebraska at home) with two of those three coming by double-digits. Purdue, on the other hand, has won five of their last six games with the only loss coming on the road against Michigan State in a game where Carsen Edwards shot like was Carsen Daly.

PICKS: Mackey Arena is a mad house for big games, and I don’t expect anything less on Saturday. The question you need to ask is whether or not you think Indiana can slow down Edwards. I don’t think that the Boilermakers have the defenders to keep Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan from getting their’s, and Indiana has proven that they can be really good at running teams off of the three-point line — threes are where Purdue butters their bread on the offensive end. Lead guards have been able to get it going against Indiana this year, so I think Edwards will as well.

If this line opens at Purdue (-6), I’d probably lean towards Purdue.

No. 8 TEXAS TECH at BAYLOR, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Texas Tech 63, Baylor 59
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Texas Tech 64, Baylor 55

The Red Raiders too, their first loss of the season on Wednesday night at home against Iowa State. The Cyclones have quite a bit of talent on the perimeter and the way they play, they can stretch a defense with some shooting and with playmakers. Baylor ranks 286th nationally in three-point percentage (although they have been shooting it well in league play) and turn the ball over a ton. That plays right into Tech’s hands.

PICKS: Tech is the best defensive team in the country this season, but they struggle to score the ball. This means they are going to be in tight games every single night in a league where, frankly, just about every team is more or less built the same way. Throw in Baylor’s zone defense, which can be tough to crack, and my guess is that the Red Raiders once again find themselves in a defensive battle.

Where this line opens will determine who I bet. If it is Tech (-4), like KenPom predicts, I’d lean Tech. If it’s Baylor (+9), I’d probably be on Baylor. Either way, if the total gets up into the mid-120s, I think the under is the clear best bet here.

No. 7 KANSAS at WEST VIRGINIA, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Kansas 78, West Virginia 72
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Kansas 83, West Virginia 69

West Virginia is not very good this year.

At all.

Kansas has won three straight and is starting to figure things out without Udoka Azubuike.

PICKS: The x-factor is Sagaba Konate. If he plays, I’d be less inclined to bet Kansas, because that rim protection makes West Virginia’s defense work better than it has. But frankly, I don’t have a ton of respect for the Press Virginia system right now, and while Morgantown has been a bit of a bugaboo for Kansas over the years, this is a different WVU. If the line is Kansas (-6), as KenPom suggests, hammer it.

ALABAMA at No. 3 TENNESSEE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Tennessee 85, Alabama 70
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Tennessee 90, Alabama 71

Tennessee has been able to simply overpower the lesser teams in the SEC this season, and on paper, Alabama is a lesser team. The question you have to ask is just how much of a “lesser” team is Alabama. They have NBA talent on their roster and, as they showed against Kentucky, they have some dudes on the roster that can take over a game.

PICKS: Based on the projections, this looks like it will be a pretty large spread. Tennessee (-15) is a lot of points, and I might be tempted to take the Vols to cover. I’ll probably pass, personally, but the Vols would be the better bet.

Thursday’s Things To Know: No. 6 Michigan State outlasts Nebraska, Ja Morant dunks all over the OVC and the Pac-12 has a sole leader

AP Photo/Nati Harnik
1 Comment

There wasn’t a matchup of top-25 teams Thursday, but there were competitive games across the country, starting in Lincoln with Michigan State and Nebraska and ending in Tempe with Oregon State and Arizona State. Pl, there was a dunk that may have qualified as national emergency. Here’s what you need to know:

NO. 6 MICHIGAN STATE STAYS PERFECT IN THE B1G WITH WIN AT NEBRASKA

Nebraska looked like it had the sixth-ranked Spartans on the ropes in Lincoln with the score knotted at 44 just inside the midpoint of the second half. Then, though, Michigan State ripped off a 7-0 run and never looked back – despite an ugly final minute – to claim a 70-64 win over the Huskers to move to 16-2 on the year and 7-0 in the Big Ten.

The win is most notable for the Spartans as it once again came without the services of Joshua Langford or Nick Ahrens, both of whom continue to be sidelined with injuries. With both on the shelf, Cassius Winston put together a game to bolster his player of the year candidacy, scoring a career-best 29 points on 9 of 15 shooting while dishing out six assists and grabbing three rebounds. Winston doesn’t have the game that always pops off the TV screen, but he’s the type of veteran point guard that can help propel a team to a national title, especially if Langford comes back healthy and productive.

For the Huskers, it’s certainly not a bad loss given Michigan State’s profile, but the opportunity cost has to sting. Last year Tim Miles’ team racked up wins, but missed out on the tournament because not enough of them were of the quality variety. Here, they had a top-10 team staggered with less than 10 minutes to play at home but couldn’t close the deal. The good news for them is they’ve already got a couple of nice wins on the resume, but most importantly the B1G isn’t the wasteland it was last year, leaving them with bountiful opportunities to pick up meaningful victories before March. To do that, though, they can’t have James Palmer, Jr. going 6 of 21 from the floor like he did against the Spartans. To Palmer’s credit, though, he got to the line 11 times and made every attempt to finish with 24 points while grabbing eight rebounds and recording three assists. Shooting 5 of 26 (19.6 percent) from 3-point range won’t win you too many games, either.

STAY OUT OF JA MORANT’S WAY

If you wanna jump with Ja Morant, God bless you, but it ain’t going to work out well for you. Eastern Illinois learned that lesson Thursday as Morant unleashed yet another must-see dunk.

On top of that, the future lottery pick had 27 points and nine assists while shooting 11 of 16 from the floor and 4 of 5 from 3-point range. He’s an unsolvable problem for the OVC.

WASHINGTON IS ALONE IN FIRST IN THE PAC-12

Congratulations to the Washington Huskies, the last remaining undefeated in Pac-12 play. It may not be an honor, but it’s something, at least.

Mike Hopkins’ team blasted Stanford (80-64) while Arizona lost at home to Oregon (59-54) and Oregon State was behind big before making things tight in Tempe and eventually losing to Arizona State (70-67), which has now won three of four. There’s been plenty written about the Pac-12, but the league continues to do itself damage, most notable with the Wildcats taking a loss in Tuscon to a depleted Ducks team. That’s not going to do much for the conference’s reputation or their own NCAA tournament resume.

Zach Norvell leads No. 5 Gonzaga over Loyola Marymount 73-55

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Leave a comment

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Zach Norvell Jr. scored 17 points and No. 5 Gonzaga used a stout defense to beat Loyola Marymount 73-55 on Thursday night, the eighth consecutive win for the Bulldogs since a pair of losses knocked them out of the top spot in The AP Top 25.

Brandon Clarke added 13 points, Corey Kispert 12 and Rui Hachimura 10 for Gonzaga (17-2, 4-0 West Coast), which beat Loyola Marymount for the 20th straight time. The Zags have won 18 straight games at home.

James Batemon led Loyola Marymount (13-5, 1-3) with 12 points.

Loyola used a slow-down offense and stingy defense to keep the scoring low, and it mostly accomplished that goal.

Gonzaga, which averages 92 points a game, led just 17-16 midway through the first half.

The Zags went on a 19-6 run the rest of the half to take a 36-22 lead at halftime. The Lions shot only 36 percent in the first and committed 11 turnovers.

A 3-pointer by Norvell highlighted a 14-2 Gonzaga run to open the second half that lifted the Bulldogs to a 50-24 lead. Meanwhile, the Lions were missing eight of their first 10 shots.

Loyola Marymount made just five of its first 20 shots in the second half, and fell behind 61-35 with less than 8 minutes left.

BIG PICTURE

Loyola Marymount: The Lions opened the season 11-1, but have dropped off since … The Lions ranked 13th in the NCAA in defense at 61.2 points per game … Their last win in this lop-sided series was in 2010. They have not won in Spokane since 1991 … The Lions have already surpassed last season’s 11 wins.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs are cruising toward another WCC title, outscoring conference foes by nearly 30 points per game… The Zags suffered back-to-back losses to No. 3 Tennessee and at No. 13 North Carolina in mid-December and have not lost since … They lead the nation in field goal shooting at 52.6 percent and are second in scoring at 92.2 points per game … Gonzaga and Marquette are the only programs with both men’s and women’s teams in the Top 15.

UP NEXT

Loyola Marymount hosts Pepperdine on Saturday.

Gonzaga plays at last place Portland on Saturday.

Cassius Winston’s career-high 29 lifts No. 6 Spartans over Huskers

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Four nights after Tom Izzo called out Cassius Winston for his poor play in Michigan State’s previous game, the Spartans’ star point guard responded better than his coach would have expected.

Winston scored a career-high 29 points to go over 1,000 for his career, had six assists and played tough defense on Glynn Watson Jr. while leading No. 6 Michigan State past Nebraska 70-64 on Thursday night.

“I told him before the game, ‘You’re going to get measured on how you bounce back,’ ” Izzo said.

Winston more than passed the test.

“Cassius, the way he ran that whole thing, he was like a quarterback dissecting a defense,” Izzo said.

In a win at Penn State on Sunday, Winston had seven turnovers, and his 11 points were his fewest since Florida held him to 10 on Dec. 8. Izzo told reporters it was one of the worst games Winston had played in his three seasons.

Of the Spartans’ first 18 field goals against Nebraska, Winston scored eight of them and had assists on five others. He held Watson, the Huskers’ hottest player the last week, to 3-of-13 shooting from the field and eight points.

Izzo’s criticism motivated him, he said.

“Just get back on track, playing at the level I was playing at,” Winston said. “I want to play at the highest standard, my best ability. I’ve got to do that for this team and put us in the best situation.”

Michigan State (16-2, 7-0) won its 11th straight game overall and extended its school-record Big Ten winning streak to 19 games. The Cornhuskers (13-5, 3-4) had their school-record 20-game home win streak end.

Nick Ward added 15 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double. He also made his first 3-pointer of the season and second of his career.

“That should keep him happy for a week or 10 days,” Izzo said.

The Spartans led by 12 points in the final 2 minutes, but Nebraska cut the lead to four twice before Matt McQuaid made a pair of free throws for his first points with 14.2 seconds to put the game away.

Nebraska shot a season-low 32.8 percent and was just 5 of 26 on 3-pointers, 1 of 12 in the second half.

“I wasn’t very pleased with our offense in any way, shape or form,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said.

James Palmer, who led Nebraska with 24 points, struggled mightily from the field, going 6 of 21, but he made all 11 of his free throws.

“Palmer’s a good player, and I feel like I did a pretty good job on him,” McQuaid said. “I just tried to do what I could. He’s a bigger, more physical guard. I tried to get a couple charges, but things weren’t going my way. So I had to figure out different ways to guard him.”

Nebraska had hoped to build off its win at No. 25 Indiana on Monday night but couldn’t get going. The Huskers were trying for their first win over a top-10 opponent in nine tries.

“You need to build and play from the front against these teams,” Miles said.

He found no consolation in playing the Spartans close for most of the game, which had 11 lead changes and six ties.

“There are no moral victories,” Miles said. “I’m utterly mad and disappointed.”

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: This was a gut-check win for the Spartans, who were without Joshua Langford (ankle) for a fifth straight game and Kyle Ahrens (back) for a second in a row.

Nebraska: The Huskers were feeling pretty good about themselves after an impressive win at No. 25 Indiana on Monday, and they had an amped standing-room crowd on hand. But they could never find rhythm until it was too late against the nation’s No. 3 team in field-goal defense.

HE SAID IT

“We were paranoid of this game. They didn’t make shots tonight. Those things happen sometimes. Tim’s got a great team that’s going to be an NCAA Tournament team, and I hope they keep on winning now.” — Izzo.

UP NEXT

Michigan State hosts No. 19 Maryland on Monday.

Nebraska visits Rutgers on Monday.

%d bloggers like this:
Powered by WordPress.com VIP