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.

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.