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Best Bets: Breaking down the Duke-Virginia rematch, Marquette-Villanova and Wisconsin-Michigan

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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, Torvik and Haslametrics to walk through how the game will play out. 

No. 2 DUKE at No. 3 VIRGINIA, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Virginia 70, Duke 65
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Virginia 69, Duke 63
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Virginia 70, Duke 67

(For clarity, I’m writing this as if Ty Jerome is going to be healthy for this game. If Jerome is unavailable, it really changes things. Kihei Clark going up against Tre Jones isn’t going to end well for Virginia.)

On Saturday evening, we get the much-awaited rematch between the two teams that are sitting atop KenPom’s rankings: Duke and Virginia. The first time these two teams played, we got a fascinating tactical battle between two of the best coaches in the sport that involved both of them doing something that they almost never do.

Duke switched every exchange to take Virginia out of their blocker-mover offense, and Virginia responded by using ball-screens to create the switch they wanted and then attacking that switch off the bounce with the likes of De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy.

I’ve written plenty of words about how Virginia is the worst possible matchup for this Duke team, and that is certainly still true. Playing in John Paul Jones Arena, where Virginia likely won’t have another 3-for-17 shooting night, will certainly help make a difference, one that may or may not be negated by the return of Tre Jones.

And it is his presence on the floor that has me wondering if Duke is going to switch as much as they did in the first game. Without Jones available, Duke did not play a single player under 6-foot-6 in the first matchup. That size meant that regardless of matchup, no one was going to be overpowered in the post by anyone on the Virginia roster, and that they would at the very least be athletic enough to stay in front of Virginia’s stars, who are not known for being great in isolation.

This is where the rematch gets interesting.

Since Jones returned, Duke has done a couple of different things defensively. Against Notre Dame, they played exactly like they did against Virginia – switching all exchanges, including every ball-screen. Against St. John’s, the Blue Devils did plenty of switching off the ball, but whenever Shamorie Ponds was involved in a ball-screen, they hedged and allowed Jones to recover or trapped the ball out of his hands. And against Boston College, they switched every ball-screen that Ky Bowman was involved in.

I bring this up because Virginia, which has been known for running the blocker-mover offense that Tony Bennett’s dad created in the 80s, has been running much more continuity ball-screen offense this season. It makes sense, given just how good Jerome can be in ball-screens and how often they have four perimeter players and one true big man on the floor this year:

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diCUq-5p4FY&w=560&h=315]

This is the perfect offense to run against what Duke is likely going to do defensively. Virginia is one of college basketball’s best three-point shooting teams with a number of talented perimeter players that are capable of beating Marques Bolden or Javin DeLaurier on a switch. The ball-screen continuity offense will ensure that there is plenty of space for them to do so, and frankly, I’m not expecting Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett to be able to dominate with penetration like they did at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

PICKS: I think Virginia wins, but what scares me here is where the projections currently sit. Based on the averages above, we’re looking at Virginia (-5), which is a lot of points to be giving against a team as good as Duke. If that number is (-1) or (-1.5), I’d feel a lot more comfortable betting Virginia. If it gets to the higher end of that range — Torvik has Virginia winning by six — I personally will be betting smaller and taking the value on Duke’s money line.

No. 14 VILLANOVA at No. 10 MARQUETTE, Sat. 2:30 p.m. (FOX)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Marquette 72, Villanova 70
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Marquette 73, Villanova 70
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Villanova 70, Marquette 69

The battle between the two titans in the Big East lost a bit of luster when, on Tuesday night, Marquette lost at home to St. John’s. They are now two games off the pace in the league standings, but a win here will ensure that the Golden Eagles can earn at least a share of the league title if they win out.

And I think they have a really good shot to win on Saturday, because I’m not sure how Villanova matches up with them. My guess is that Phil Booth starts out guarding Markus Howard, but Villanova does like to switch a lot and Booth is not exactly the kind of defender that has given Howard trouble. He’s smoked everyone in the Big East except for St. John’s this season because no one else in the Big East has Justin Simon, whose length and athleticism really, really bothered Howard.

That said, I would not be surprised to see Wright run Saddiq Bey or Jermaine Samuels on Howard and let Booth matchup Sam Hauser, which might be more favorable for the Wildcats, but the Hausers are another major reason why I think Marquette gets this win. I can’t see Villanova slowing both of them and Howard down. This is the conundrum that every team faces. The Hausers (especially Joey) are tough as nails and can hold their own banging against bigger defenders, but they are absolutely lethal shooters that cannot be left open on the perimeter. It’s a nightmare matchup, especially when you consider that someone has to help on Howard at some point.

PICKS: Look, Villanova is Villanova. With the way that Booth, Paschall and Collin Gillispie have been playing of late, and with the way that they can shoot the rock, Villanova can beat anyone, anywhere on any night. But I think the fact that they are playing at home combined with how improved the Golden Eagles are defensively will be the difference here, and if the line ends up around Marquette (-2), I think that’s the play.

I would also bet the over if the total ends up in the low 140s, mostly because when two teams that love to shoot threes and don’t love to defend play, I typically lean over.

No. 19 WISCONSIN at No. 7 MICHIGAN, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (FOX)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Michigan 62, Wisconsin 56
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Michigan 62, Wisconsin 55
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Michigan 61, Michigan 57

Another rematch, and this time around, the narrative surrounding the two teams involved has been flipped.

The last time we saw these two teams face-off, Wisconsin had just lost four of their last five games and Michigan was undefeated, which, of course, led to Ethan Happ putting up one of the most impressive individual performances of the season in a Wisconsin win. The Badgers have not lost since that game, which Michigan struggled to put away Minnesota at home, lost by 15 at Iowa and is now coming off of an unconvincing win at Rutgers.

Beyond the simple fact that Happ reminded Jon Teske that he is still just Jon Teske, what the Badgers did to win that game was completely take away Ignas Brazdeikis and Charles Matthews for the game and Jordan Poole for the second half. Wisconsin has developed into a top ten defense in college hoops, and I don’t really expect anything to change in regards to that in this game.

(Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

And for my money, I think Michigan gets it done. In the first game, Happ had his ceiling games while Brazdeikis, Matthews and Poole — for a half — had their floor games. Brazdeikis has scored double-figures in every game since Dec. 22nd except for when he went scoreless against the Badgers in the first meeting.

PICKS: I do think that Michigan is going to win. I also think that this is going to be a close, low-scoring dogfight that plays out the same way as the first game. Think about it like this: Michigan is the nation’s second-best defense and Wisconsin is the nation’s seventh-best. Neither team ranks in the top 25 of adjusted offensive efficiency, neither of them draw a lot of fouls and both of them fade offensive rebounding while doing everything they can to prevent fast breaks.

This is going to be a prototypical Big Ten slugfest. Assuming the total opens in the mid-120s, I will be all over the under. I’d lean the Michigan side if forced to make a pick, but at Michigan (-5.5), which is what the metrics are suggesting, I’ll likely stay away. That’s a lot of points in a low-scoring game.

No. 5 KENTUCKY at MISSISSIPPI STATE, Sat. 1:00 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Kentucky 72, Mississippi State 70
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Kentucky 72, Mississippi State 70
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Kentucky 72, Mississippi State 70

There has not been a hotter team in college basketball in the last month than Kentucky, and including in that run was a game against Mississippi State in Lexington on January 22nd that saw the Wildcats knock off Ben Howland’s club, 76-55.

In total, Kentucky has won nine straight and 12 of their last 13 games. They are 8-1 in the SEC, a run that includes wins at Auburn and Florida as well as a home win over Kansas. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have lost three of their last five and five of their last nine, including a pair of home games against Ole Miss and LSU.

The first matchup was won by P.J. Washington — Mississippi State’s less mobile bigs did not have an answer for the way he could wreak havoc on the perimeter — and he is going to have his work cut out for him dealing with Reggie Perry. The 6-foot-10 freshman has had the three best games of his season in the last three games, averaging 19.3 points and 9.3 boards during that stretch. He and Aric Holman both fouled out in the first game against Kentucky.

I’m not too concerned with Quinndary Weatherspoon in this game. I know that he is going to get his, and I think that Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson will be able to make him work for his buckets. That’s all you can really ask. I also think that Ashton Hagans will, once again, assert his alpha status against whoever Howland has handling the ball on a given possession. For me, what this game comes down to is Washington. His value here is that he’s the guy that is tough enough to be able to bang in the paint while being the guy that Mississippi State’s bigger fours cannot guard at the other end of the floor.

He creates the mismatches, and he has arguably been the best frontcourt player in the country over the court of the last three weeks.

PICKS: I’ll take him to Washington to win his matchup, and if the line ends up at Kentucky (-2), as all the metrics are projecting, then I will be heavy on the Wildcats Saturday. Go Big Blue.

No. 16 LOUISVILLE at No. 22 FLORIDA STATE, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Florida State 72, Louisville 71
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Florida State 73, Louisville 72
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Louisville 73, Florida State 72

Both Louisville and Florida State enter this game having played very well of late. The Cardinals lost to North Carolina at home last Saturday, but they bounced back with a win at Virginia Tech on Monday night, their seventh win in the last eight games.

Florida State, on the other hand, has won four straight to get back over .500 in ACC play, but the best win in that bunch in a win at Syracuse, where Old Dominion and Georgia Tech have also won.

The Seminoles actually matchup really well with Louisville from a personnel perspective. They’ll have the length, athleticism and versatility to throw bodies at Jordan Nwora, and the things that Dwayne Sutton does well are the things that Florida State’s team is built on. But the other side of it is that Louisville’s scheme is not ideal for Florida State. The Cards are a Pack-Line team, meaning that they force teams to shoot jumpers, really protect the offensive glass and prevent dribble penetration and post touches. For context, Florida State was down 65-36 at Virginia with two minutes left when they played.

PICKS: I don’t love either side here, so I’ll bet on the locale. If this game ends up as a pick-em or with Florida State as a small favorite, I’ll take the Seminoles. The only team to beat them at home this season is Duke, who won on a buzzer-beater. It’s also probably worth noting that Louisville hosts Duke on Tuesday. It will be easy for them to look ahead here.

Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim comment on death of Kobe Bryant and daughter, Gianna

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Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski was the head coach of the USA Men’s National team for nearly a decade, and in that time, he won two gold medals with Kobe Bryant.

Bryant, and his daughter Gianna, died on Sunday morning after a helicopter that they were flying in crashed in Calabasas, Cali.

“We have tragically lost one of the greatest sports figures of our time with the passing of Kobe Bryant,” Coach K said. “He was an incredibly gifted person who was universally respected. He was in constant pursuit of doing something special and there will never be a greater warrior in our sport.

“I had the amazing honor of coaching Kobe in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, and I will always remember how much he cherished representing his country in a first-class manner playing the game he so loved. The game of basketball is better today because of Kobe, and he deserves eternal appreciation for that. This is a devastating loss, made even more tragic by the passing of his daughter, Gianna, and all others on board. The entire Krzyzewski family is saddened as we genuinely loved and admired Kobe. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Vanessa, their daughters Natalia, Bianka, and Capri, and the families of those involved.”

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was an assistant on the 2008 Gold Medal winning team, dubbed the Reedem Team. That squad restored the image of USA Basketball after winning bronze medals in the 2004 Olympics and the 2006 World Championships.

“I first saw him in person when he came to the qualifier in ’07 before the Olympic year,” Boeheim told Syracuse.com. “He came in the first day and worked twice as hard as everybody else. He taught all the young players, LeBron and Carmelo and all those guys: ‘This is what you gotta do. You gotta go after this.’

“We lost in the World Championship the year before. And he just showed everybody — this is what you do. And we overpowered everybody in that tournament, then we went to the Olympics and overpowered everybody. When it was a close game against Spain in the finals, he took the ball, made the play to win the game.

“That’s who he was. He set a high standard. He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever seen. Jordan, I didn’t coach, but Jordan was the same. Of all the guys that I’ve ever coached and ever seen, he worked harder than everybody.”

Tom Izzo broke the news of Kobe Bryant’s death to Cassius Winston on live TV

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While the shock and immediacy of Kobe Bryant’s death spread through my network of friends and social media follows like wildfire on Sunday afternoon, one thing I kept thinking about was how many people involved with the game of basketball were actually playing while this was happening.

Take Michigan State and Minnesota, for example. The news of Bryant’s death broke around 2:30 p.m. ET. This game tipped off at 3 p.m. ET. Cassius Winston, Michigan State’s resident all-american, found out about Kobe’s death live on TV after the game came to an end:

 

Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu breaks down during moment of silence honoring Kobe Bryant

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Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu was moved to tears during a pregame moment of silence in honor of Kobe Bryant prior to a rivalry game against Oregon State on Sunday:

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna died Sunday morning in a place crash that also resulted in the death of one of Gianna’s teammates and a parent.

Ionescu is the best women’s player in the country, recently surpassing Gary Payton for the Pac-12 career assist record, and she has developed a friendship with Kobe Bryant over the years. Gianna, a budding basketball star in her own right, was a huge fan of Sabrina Ionescu’s game, and Kobe Bryant had brought her and her teammates to a number of Oregon games in recent years.

These are the details of the crash, according to our Kurt Helin:

The crash took place in Calabasas, an area about 30 miles northeast of the Staples Center, where Kobe starred as a player for more than a decade. It is not far from the Mamba Academy athletic training center where Kobe was both an owner and an active participant. It was a foggy day in Southern California, which could have contributed to the crash.

The crash killed five people, of which Kobe was one.

Kobe was 41. He and his wife Vanessa have four daughters. Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was aboard the helicopter with Kobe (they were on their way to one of her basketball games, along with a fellow teammate of Gianna’s and her parent).

 

Saturday’s Things To Know: Kentucky survives, Ayo Dosunmu’s on a tear, Roy and Huggs reach milestones

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It was actually a relatively slow day for a Saturday in late-January in college hoops, but there is still plenty to discuss. Here are the ten things that you need to know:

1. No. 15 KENTUCKY KNOCKED OFF No. 18 TEXAS TECH

Nick Richards went for 25 points, 14 boards and four blocks and Immanuel Quickley chipped in with 21 points of his own as Kentucky went into Lubbock and knocked off the Red Raiders in overtime. A full breakdown of that game can be found here.

2. TEXAS TECH IS IN REAL BUBBLE TROUBLE

I’m not sure people realize just how little their is on Texas Tech’s resume right now. They beat Louisville (11) on a neutral court. They beat Iowa State (70) at home. They beat Oklahoma State (83) at home. They won at Kansas State (89). Combined, that’s one Quad 1, two Quad 2 and a Quad 3 win. They have eight wins against sub-200 teams and have lost to seven Quad 1 opponents, including Kentucky (23) at home on Saturday. The Red Raiders will have plenty of chances to build on their profile — they get West Virginia (7) at home and play at Kansas (3) next week alone — but there is no doubt that this team has to start winning some games against teams that are not horrific.

3. AYO DOSUNMU CONTINUED HIS TEAR

In case you haven’t noticed, No. 21 Illinois is the hottest team in the Big Ten, sitting all alone in first-place in the conference standings and Ayo Dosunmu — who scored 27 points and hit the game-winner at Michigan today — has been the best player in the Big Ten this month. More on the Illini and their star here.

4. ROY WILLIAMS PASSED DEAN SMITH ON THE ALL-TIME WINS LIST

It’s ironic when you think about it: North Carolina was in the midst of their first five-game losing streak since 2003, and it just so happened to come after Williams had tied Smith on the all-time wins list. He finally broke the streak on Saturday, blowing out Miami, 94-71, to win his 880th game as a head coach. It is, quite literally, the first win for the Tar Heels in 2020.

5. BOB HUGGINS PASSED ADOLPH RUPP ON THE ALL-TIME WINS LIST

No. 14 West Virginia blew out Missouri in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge to give Huggy Bear is 876th career win, good for seventh on the all-time list, one better than Adolph Rupp, the legendary Kentucky head coach.

6. No. 1 BAYLOR UPSET UNRANKED FLORIDA

This might sound ridiculous, but if you subscribe to the theory that any underdog that wins a game is an upset happening, then No. 1 Baylor going into the O-Dome and knocking off Florida is, technically, an upset. The Gators entered the game as 2.5 point favorites, jumped out to a big league and then proceeded to watch as the nation’s best team proved that they are, in fact, the nation’s best team.

We have spent the majority of this season explaining away the reasons why there isn’t an elite team in college basketball, but I’m beginning to think that there’s a chance Baylor could be that team. They’re never going to be the darlings of the metrics and they don’t have much NBA talent, but they are so balanced, so effective in crunch time and elite on the defensive end of the floor.

7. MEMPHIS BLEW AN 11-POINT LEAD IN THE FINAL SIX MINUTES

This one was hard to do.

The Tigers were up 70-59 with less than six minutes remaining in the game and then never scored again. They would give up a 15-0 run in that stretch and go on to lose, 74-70, at home to an SMU team that is not very good. Penny Hardaway’s team has found themselves in a bad, bad spot this season.

8. ARIZONA BLEW A 22-POINT LEAD

The No. 22 Wildcats led Arizona State in Tempe by 22 points in the first half. With 1:40 left before the break, they were ahead 43-24. At halftime, they were up 43-30. With 16:30 left on the clock, the Sun Devils had cut that lead to 43-40, and after Alonzo Verge scored with 10 seconds remaining, the Sun Devils had a 66-65 lead and went on to win by that score.

The importance of this win for Bobby Hurley’s club cannot be overstated.

9. SAN FRANCISCO WORKED THEIR FOULING MAGIC AGAIN

Last weekend, San Francisco fouled a ball-handler at the end of the first half in order to get the ball back. It was a sneaky bit of math that gave the Dons an extra two points on their lead heading into the break.

On Saturday against BYU, Todd Golden drew up something similar. With 22 seconds left in the game and the Dons clinging to a 79-77 lead, he had his team intentionally foul Yoeli Childs, BYU’s star center who just so happens to be a 60 percent free throw shooter and coming off of a broken finger. The reasoning was simple: Since BYU was in the one-and-one, Childs shooting free throws meant that A) BYU’s xPPP for that possessions was 0.96, lower than the average possession for a team that had scored 77 points in 39 minutes and shot 15-for-27 from three on the night. If he made both, USF had a chance to win on the final possession. If he missed one, BYU’s best rebounder was shooting the free throws. Turns out, he missed the first, and USF hung on to win, 83-82.

10. SAMUELL WILLIAMSON MAY HAVE HAD HIS BREAKOUT GAME

Last weekend, it was freshman David Johnson that had his breakout game for No. 6 Louisville. He went for 19 points and seven boards as the Cardinals went into Cameron and beat Duke. This weekend, it was fellow freshman Williamson, who scored 14 points for the Cards as they blew out Clemson in the Yum! Center. Is this the start of his star turn?

No. 1 Baylor smothers Florida 72-61, 16th straight win

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — MaCio Teague and Devonte Bandoo scored 16 points apiece and No. 1 Baylor extended its winning steak to 16 with a 72-61 victory over Florida in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday night.

The Bears improved to 6-1 in the annual inter-conference series – the best record of any team in either conference – and themselves another week atop The Associated Press poll.

Baylor also gave the Big 12 an even split (5-5) in the daylong series.

The Bears (17-1) overcame an eight-point deficit early and led by 19 points in the second half before Florida mounted a minor rally. The Gators (12-7) had a chance to make it a single-digit game with a little more than 7 minutes to play, but they missed the front end of three consecutive one-and-ones. Kerry Blackshear Jr. misfired twice on back-to-back possessions and then Noah Locke did the same seconds later.

What could have been an eight-point game was still a comfortable lead for the Bears.

Florida eventually managed to whittle Baylor’s lead to 10 on Andrew Nembhard’s driving layup with 2:40 remaining. But the Bears answered on the other end thanks to their 13th offensive rebound, which led to two free throws for Bandoo.

Davion Mitchell finished with 11 points and six assists for Baylor, which was a slight underdog entering the game. Jared Butler chipped in 10 points.

Baylor’s length, athleticism and defensive prowess posed problems all night for Florida, which shot 44% from the field and 23.5% from 3-point range.

The Gators fell to 2-17 against the No. 1 team, including 10 consecutive losses.

Keyontae Johnson led Florida with 20 points. Nembhard added 16 points and eight assists, but he missed more shots (8) than he made (6), including all four 3-pointers. The Gators missed 13 of 17 from behind the arc.

Baylor took control of the game with a 13-2 run to close the first half, turning a tie game into a double-digit lead. The Bears hit six 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes – twice as many as Florida – and had seven offensive rebounds.

They got help from an unlikely source. Bandoo, who averages 7.5 points off the benched, scored 11 in the opening half on 4 of 6 shooting.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: The Bears matched their best 18-game start in school history. They also started 17-1 in 2011-12 and 2016-17. They landed No. 3 seeds in the NCAA Tournament after those regular seasons and were eliminated both times by SEC teams (Kentucky in ’12, South Carolina in `17).

Florida: The Gators appeared to be taking strides while beating then-No. 4 Auburn last Saturday and nearly stunning LSU on the road earlier this week. But the team’s offensive woes returned against Baylor – no surprise given the Bears are one of the best defenses in the nation.

STILL HOBBLING

Florida forward Dontay Bassett missed his second consecutive game with a calf injury. Bassett averages 1.3 points and 2.1 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Baylor: Returns to Big 12 action and plays at Iowa State on Wednesday night. The Bears have won three of the last four in the series, but lost to the Cyclones in the conference tournament last March.

Florida: Returns to SEC play and hosts Mississippi State on Tuesday night. The Gators lost to the Bulldogs last year to end an eight-game winning streak in the series.