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Best Bets: Title races will be on the line in the Big 12, SEC, Big Ten and ACC this weekend

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

No. 12 KANSAS at No. 14 TEXAS TECH, Sat. 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Texas Tech 69, Kansas 63
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Texas Tech 69, Kansas 64
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Texas Tech 71, Kansas 62

The biggest game of the day will be taking place in Lubbock as the Red Raiders and the Jayhawks face off in a battle of top 15 teams looking to remain one game behind Kansas State for first place in the Big 12 regular season standings.

The last time these two teams got together, the Jayhawks had Lagerald Vick (he’ll be gone Saturday) and did not have Marcus Garret (it looks like he’ll be back). They made six of their first eight threes, shot 13-for-30 from beyond the arc as a team and won 79-63 after jumping out to a 23 point lead early in the second half. Texas Tech shot 6-for-28 from beyond the arc in that game, but in their four-game winning streak since that loss, they are a combined 30-for-69 from beyond the arc, a very nice 43.5 percent.

With Garrett back in the fold, it is going to be very interesting to see how Self decides to play. The first time he played Tech, the Jayhawks went with four guards around Lawson, caught fire from deep and showcased Lawson’s newfound confidence on the perimeter. In the last three games, with Vick out of the picture and Garrett still dealing with his ankle injury, Kansas has gone back to playing big, using Lawson at the four with David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot averaging a combined 40 minutes per game.

Here’s the catch-22 — Texas Tech usually plays small. They’ll use Jarrett Culver, their all-american and de-facto point guard in the half court, at the four with three guards and one of Tariq Owens or Norense Odiase at the five. If Kansas plays big, that will force Dedric Lawson into guarding Culver, and that would not end well for the Jayhawks. But the flip side is that if they opt to play small — Garrett alongside Devin Dotson, Ochai Agbaji and Quentin Grimes — they’ll be using a lineup that simply did not work well early in the season. The problem with the lineup that had Garrett at the four, which I detailed here, is a lack of spacing created by the inability of Garrett to makes defenses pay for not guarding him.

Texas Tech is the nation’s best defense, and they have already shown a willingness to completely fade guarding someone that isn’t an offensive weapon — see: Jones, Tre. Kansas needs to be willing to shoot and capable of making threes to beat Texas Tech, and without their best shooter on the roster anymore, do you think they’ll be able to do that?

PICKS: So there are competing narratives here that we need to discuss.

For starters, it’s a given that Kansas is going to find a way to win the Big 12 regular season title somehow. It just is. We all know it, and if they are going to get that done this year, winning at Texas Tech will be a massive step in the right direction. The problem is that the Jayhawks have been dreadful on the road this year. All six of their losses have come in true road games — including at West Virginia, who stinks — and their only wins are at Baylor in their first game without Tristan Clark and at TCU.

I don’t think they get it done. I’ll be on Texas Tech, especially if the line creeps below (-5).

No. 10 MICHIGAN STATE at No. 7 MICHIGAN, Sun. 3:45 (CBS)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Michigan 67, Michigan State 65
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Michigan 68, Michigan State 64
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Michigan State 66, Michigan 65

It is going to be really, really interesting to see where this line opens up. The metrics are saying that it should be close, but those metrics factor in Nick Ward’s presence on the Michigan State roster.

Those metrics also fail to factor in that Zavier Simpson, arguably the nation’s best and most annoying on-ball defender, owns beachfront real estate in Cassius Winston’s head.

In two games against Simpson last season, Winston averaged 11.0 points and 3.5 assists while shooting 6-for-17 from the floor and 1-for-6 from three with five turnovers. Michigan State lost both games despite being favored to win both. In his career, Winston is 1-3 against Michigan, and while he had his best game — 16 points in 21 minutes — when the Spartans won his freshman season, Simpson played just four minutes in that game.

And here’s the kicker: With no Josh Langford and no Nick Ward, Winston will be the sole source of offensive creation for the Spartans.

PICKS: Wherever it opens, take Michigan.

No. 3 VIRGINIA at No. 18 LOUISVILLE, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (ACCNET)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Virginia 64, Louisville 59
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Virginia 63, Louisville 59
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Virginia 64, Louisville 58

Pack-Line vs. Pack-Line.

On the one hand, Louisville head coach Chris Mack should be very well-versed in how to breakdown Tony Bennett’s vaunted defensive scheme; Louisville runs the exact same defense. On the other hand, Louisville is a team that seems to be completely devoid of confidence right now. They’ve lost four of their last six games. They blew a ten point second half lead at Florida State and lost in overtime. They blew a 23 point lead with nine minutes left and lost to Duke at home. They very nearly blew an eight point lead in the final minute at home against Clemson and got bailed out by a spectacular Jordan Nwora block in the final seconds. On Wednesday, they went into the Carrier Dome and lost by 20 points.

The last thing you want to see you want to see when you are struggling is a team that is as unforgiving, ruthless and efficient as Virginia. To make matters worse, Louisville won’t even have the benefit of advantageous matchups on Saturday. Part of what makes Louisville effective is that Dwayne Sutton and Nwora play the forward spots, and their ability on the perimeter is not something a lot of teams can match. On Saturday, they will be going up against De’Andre Hunter and Braxton Key for much of the game, and that has the potential to be an absolute nightmare.

PICKS: I fully expect this game to be low-scoring and while I have the utmost respect for that Louisville coaching staff, I just don’t see how they are going to be able to score against that defense. The metrics are projecting Virginia to be favored by five points, and I’ll take them to cover on the road.

No. 16 FLORIDA STATE at No. 8 NORTH CAROLINA, Sat. 3:45 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: North Carolina 83, Florida State 75
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: North Carolina 87, Florida State 77
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: North Carolina 87, Florida State 75

Is this a letdown spot for North Carolina? The Tar Heels are coming off of an absolutely monstrous win over Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, vaulting them into the race for an ACC regular season title — as things stand, there is a three-way tie for first place between the Tar Heels, Virginia and Duke.

I ask that because the Seminoles are rolling. They are the least-discussed 21-5 team in college basketball. They have won eight straight games since a 1-4 start to conference play. Four of those eight wins came on the road, and while the best team that they have beaten in this run is either Syracuse or Louisville, it is worth nothing that FSU matches up pretty well with the Tar Heels. They want to play fast. They also want to play small, and while Phil Cofer hasn’t been great this year, I think that he is good enough to earn a draw in a matchup with Luke Maye.

PICKS: I do not think that Florida State will win this game, but the average of the metrics is projecting Florida State to be getting 10 points. I’ll take the Seminoles (+10), and if the total ends up being in the low 150s, I’ll also take a long look at the over.

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

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Duke 77, Syracuse 67
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Duke 76, Syracuse 69
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Duke 81, Syracuse 68

It’s too early to make any kind of picks or predictions for this game. As of this publication, we are still 36 hours out from tip-off and we have no idea yet if Jim Boeheim will coach, and with Zion Williamson already ruled out, it is tough to know exactly what the line is going to open at.

What I will say is this: I don’t expect this game to be anywhere near as high-scoring as the first time these two teams got together, when Duke lost to the Orange 95-91 in overtime. Cam Reddish did not play in that game and Jones got hurt, but Zion did. Reddish and Jones will be back for this one. If the total opens up in the high-140s, I’ll be on the under, regardless of whether or not Zion is on the floor. If he doesn’t play, I’ll feel even better about it.

I also think that it is important to note that Duke will have time to prepare for playing without Zion. In the first loss to Syracuse, they learned 15 minutes before tip-off that Reddish would not be playing and lost Jones six minutes into the game to a shoulder injury. In the loss to North Carolina, Zion was injured in the first 30 seconds. They’ll have two days to figure out what they want to do to beat the Syracuse zone without Zion this time around. That matters.

PICKS: It’s hard to make a prediction without having any idea what the line is going to be, but I will say this: Any bet on the over or on the Duke side is a bet that the Blue Devils are going to be able to make perimeter shots. They were 9-for-43 from three in the first game. Jack White was 0-for-10. Barrett was 4-for-17. On Wednesday against North Carolina, Duke players not named Cam or R.J. were 1-for-16 from three. If the Blue Devils don’t make perimeter shots, I can’t see them winning.

No. 5 TENNESSEE at No. 13 LSU, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Tennessee 81, LSU 79
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Tennessee 81, LSU 80
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Tennessee 83, LSU 80

The way to slow down this Tennessee team is to take away the offense they want to get in the paint. They are a weird team in the sense that they are the nation’s No. 2 offense based on KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric, but they score less than 25 percent of their points from beyond the three-point line. We normally equate efficiency with teams that play like Villanova did last year, not throwback offenses that run things through the post.

And frankly, I just do not think that the Tigers have enough defensive mettle to be able to handle that frontline. Naz Reid is uber-talented for LSU. Naz Reid is also a mess on the defensive end. I’m not sold on Kavell Bigby-Williams or Emmitt Williams being able to slow down that Tennessee frontcourt, either.

If there is something that concerns me, it’s that LSU’s frontline is going to be so much bigger and more athletic than Tennessee, and where that will come into play is on the offensive glass. LSU gets a ton of second chances and Tennessee gives up a ton of offensive rebounds.

PICKS: I’m not buying LSU the way other people are right now. They have a lot of weird wins during this run through the SEC. They came back from 14 points down at Missouri in the final two minutes. They won at Kentucky on a tip-in that shouldn’t have counted. They needed OT to win at Mississippi State and at Arkansas. They lost at home to Florida in OT. They lost at home to Arkansas by one. They lost to Florida State in overtime.

That said, this is a talented LSU team that seems to get up for big games and will be playing at home for first-place in the SEC after a weird loss on Wednesday night. If they are getting points, I’m taking the money line.

AUBURN at No. 4 KENTUCKY, Sat. 1:30 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Kentucky 75, Auburn 68
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Kentucky 76, Auburn 69
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Kentucky 74, Auburn 68

The first time these two teams played was one of the most entertaining games of the season. Kentucky jumped out to a big lead on the Tigers before Bryce Brown caught fire in the second half and led Auburn all the way back. Auburn had a couple chances to tie and win the game in the final seconds, but Kentucky held on.

And as weird as this is going to sound to the Kentucky fans that absolutely despite Reid Travis, I think this is the kind of game where they are really going to miss his mass inside. He had 17 points and seven boards at Auburn, grabbing three offensive boards and shooting 6-for-7 from the floor in 29 minutes. Auburn’s frontline is athletic and skilled, but both Chuma Okeke and Anfernee McLemore and around 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds. Travis buried them.

I don’t think Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery are going to be able to do that, and it plays into Auburn’s hands. The Tigers are one of the nation’s worst defensive rebounding teams while Kentucky is the fourth-best offensive rebounding team in the sport. Richards and Montgomery actually are better offensive rebounders based on per minute stats, but I think it will be difficult for them against Auburn defenders that will be as athletic and mobile as they are.

And that’s really what it comes down to for me. Can Kentucky get to the offensive glass and beat Auburn in the paint, and can they control tempo and keep Auburn from forcing turnovers and turning this into a run-and-gun game. Those two things go hand-in-hand.

PICKS: Auburn is coming off of one of their best performances of the season against Arkansas this week, and they could really, really use the win to bolster a resume that doesn’t have all that much at the top. Kentucky, on the other hand, must win this game to keep pace with LSU and Tennessee at the top of the SEC.

I don’t think this is the letdown spot for the Wildcats. That comes Tuesday, when they host Arkansas. So I’ll take UK here, up to about (-7).

The Monday Overreaction podcast: Florida stinks, Tennessee doesn’t, George Papas is a legend

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We are back for another rendition of the Monday Overreactions podcast. Rob Dauster was joined by Bobby Reagan to walk through everything that happened in college basketball in the last 72 hours, including an impressive win for UConn over Florida, a dominant performance for Washington over Tennessee and Vermont’s upset win at St. John’s. They also talk through the atrocious flopping rule and how it cost Xavier as well as Monmouth’s George Papas, who set the college basketball world on fire with the most ridiculous garbage dunk of all-time.

College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Duke back to No. 1 as the top reshuffles

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This week’s Top 25 is tough to put together because so many of the top teams in the country keep on losing.

The No. 1 team in the country lost at home to Evansville. That’s really all you need to know at this point. But since they had beaten the previous No. 1 team in the country in Michigan State, it makes trying to decipher the top of the sport just that much more difficult.

To be frank, I think this is going to end up being one of those seasons where there is never truly a “No. 1 team.” It’s the kind of season where there 15 teams that feel like they are good enough to be a “top ten team,” so to speak, but none of those 15 feel like they are good enough to be a “top three team.”

Put another way, there are a whole bunch of teams that feel like they are somewhere between pretty good and very good and no one that feels like they are remotely close to unbeatable.

We’ll see if that ends up being the way that everything plays out.

But for now, I think that it’s fair to say that you can have the top 10-12 teams in any order this week and it would be tough to argue against it.

So with that in mind, here is the Week 2 version of the NBC Sports Top 25:

1. DUKE (4-0, Last Week: 3)
2. LOUISVILLE (4-0, 2)
3. MICHIGAN STATE (2-1, 4)
4. KANSAS (2-1, 5)
5. KENTUCKY (2-1, 1)
6. GONZAGA (4-0, 6)
7. OHIO STATE (3-0, 24)
8. MARYLAND (3-0, 8)
9. VIRGINIA (3-0, 9)
10. TEXAS TECH (3-0, 10)
11. OREGON (4-0, 11)
12. ARIZONA (4-0, 14)
13. NORTH CAROLINA (3-0, 13)
14. SETON HALL (3-1, 12)
15. UTAH STATE (4-0, 15)
16. VILLANOVA (2-1, 6)
17. XAVIER (4-0, 17)
18. TENNESSEE (3-0, 23)
19. AUBURN (4-0, 22)
20. MEMPHIS (3-1, 20)
21. TEXAS (4-0, 25)
22. WASHINGTON (2-1, 21)
23. VCU (4-0, NR)
24. LSU (2-1, 18)
25. BAYLOR (2-1, NR)

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 23 VCU, No. 25 BAYLOR
DROPPED OUT: No. 16 SAINT MARY’S, No. 19 FLORIDA

No. 15 Florida falls to UConn 62-59 on the road

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STORRS, Conn. — Christian Vital scored 15 points and made a key steal at the end of the game as UConn upset No. 15 Florida 62-59 on Sunday.

Tyler Polley also scored 15 points and Josh Carlton added 13 for the Huskies (2-1) who led by five points at halftime and never trailed after intermission.

A layup by Florida’s Keyontae Johnson with just over a minute to go cut the lead to 60-59, but those would be the last points the Gators scored.

Vital hit two free throws with 17 seconds left and Florida had a chance to tie. But Alterique Gilbert tipped the ball out of Johnson’s hands and Vital grabbed it and dribbled away, securing the win.

Kerry Blackshear Jr. had 15 points and eight rebounds for Florida (2-2), falling two boards shy of a fourth straight double-double. But he fouled out with 4:37 left in the game and his team trailing 53-49.

Andrew Nembhard scored Florida’s next four points, including a 3-pointer that brought the Gators within a point at 54-53.

Blackshear scored the game’s first two baskets, but the Gators made just four of their first 13 attempts from the floor.

But UConn had a tougher start, going without a basket for the first six minutes.

Vital got the UConn crowd into the game with a 3-pointer, a dunk and a jumper on consecutive trips down the court that gave the Huskies an 11-6 lead.

The Huskies held Florida to two Blackshear free throws over the final 4:17 of the first half and led 25-20 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

The loss ends a rough seven days for the Gators. Florida was No. 6 coming into the season but lost to Florida State a week ago and beat Towson by just six points on Thursday. The Gators offense came into the game averaging just 63.7 points per game, while giving up 60.7.

UConn: Highly touted freshman guard James Bouknight has finished serving his three-game suspension following his arrest on charges including evading police in a September car accident. Bouknight, who is due in court on Monday, is expected to suit up for the Huskies in this week’s Charleston Classic, where it’s possible the Huskies could again face either Saint Joseph’s or Florida, depending on how the early rounds pan out.

UP NEXT

Florida: The Gators face Saint Joseph’s in the Charleston Classic on Thursday.

UConn: The Huskies also travel to Charleston and face Buffalo in the first round of the tournament on Thursday.

Seton Hall placed on probation for three years for transfer tampering

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SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. — The NCAA has placed the men’s basketball program at Seton Hall on probation for three years, taken away a scholarship for the 2020-21 academic year and limited recruiting in each of the next two seasons as part of a negotiated resolution of a transfer tampering case started in 2016.

Under terms of the agreement announced Friday, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard was given a two-game suspension he has already served, and his former assistant and current Saint Peter’s University head coach Shaheen Holloway received a four-game suspension that has two games remaining.

Seton Hall, which is currently ranked No. 12 and dropped a 76-73 decision to No. 3 Michigan State on Thursday night, remains eligible for the NCAA tournament.

The NCAA also announced Friday Seton Hall has been fined $5,000 plus 1% of the men’s basketball budget and had its scholarships reduced to a maximum of 12 in 2020-21. Willard will have to attend an NCAA rules seminar in 2020 and the program will have a two-week ban on recruiting communication this academic year and next.

Holloway, who was Willard’s assistant at Seton Hall in 2016, is prohibited from all recruiting communication for six weeks during the 2019-20 academic year. He also is required to attend a rules seminar in each of the next two years.

The case centers around current Seton Hall forward Taurean Thompson, who transferred from Syracuse to Seton Hall in August 2017.

During the investigation, the NCAA learned Holloway had approximately 243 impermissible contacts with the prospect’s mother from Nov. 16, 2016, through Aug. 28, 2017, while the prospect was enrolled at his initial institution.

The NCAA said Holloway and the prospect’s mother had 154 phone calls without written permission from the prospect’s athletic director. After Thompson informed his original university of his intent to transfer and requested permission to contact Seton Hall, the university denied the request. After the request was denied, Holloway still had 87 impermissible calls with the prospect’s mother.

Willard, who has taken Seton Hall to the past four NCAA tournaments, was penalized for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance within his program. He admitted to not taking adequate steps to report or stop the calls when he found out about them.

According to the agreement, Holloway did not report the calls with the prospect’s mother because they involved a personal relationship outside of the prospect and basketball, and he believed the communications were permissible.

“Seton Hall University, in conjunction with the NCAA, recently concluded a review of an infraction within our men’s basketball program,” Seton Hall said in a statement Friday afternoon. “Our department was proactive in our review and fully cooperated with the NCAA enforcement staff. While the violation was inadvertent, it was nonetheless against NCAA bylaws, and for that we take full responsibility.”

The case was processed through the new negotiated resolution process. The process was used instead of a formal hearing or summary disposition because the university, the head coach, the former associate head coach and the enforcement staff agreed on the violations and the penalties.

The Division I Committee on Infractions reviewed the case to determine whether the resolution was in the best interests of the NCAA and whether the agreed-upon penalties were reasonable.

Holloway is in his second season at Saint Peter’s. He will miss games against Providence on Saturday and Wagner on Wednesday. His first game will be against St. Francis, New York, on Nov. 30.

Quinones, Achiuwa send No. 13 Memphis past Alcorn St 102-56

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Despite playing their first game without heralded recruit James Wiseman, the No. 13 Memphis Tigers had little trouble with Alcorn State.

That’s what happens when you have the top recruiting class in the nation.

Freshman Lester Quinones had 21 points and 10 rebounds and fellow freshman Precious Achiuwa added 20 points Saturday, sending No. 13 Memphis to a 102-56 romp over Alcorn State.

Wiseman was sidelined because of eligibility issues, but Memphis hardly missed him in bouncing back from its first defeat of the season, an 82-74 loss to Oregon on Tuesday night.

“His presence is huge. Seven-footer in the paint. His dominance obviously wasn’t felt,” Quinones said of not having the 7-foot-1 Wiseman. “I feel like other guys stepped up.”

“We understand James is not playing right now,” Achiuwa added, “which hurts the team in a way because he’s a big part of the team. But this is an opportunity for other guys to play.”

DJ Jeffries finished with 15 points and Tyler Harris and Lance Thomas added 11 each for Memphis (3-1). Isaiah Attles led Alcorn State (1-3) with 13 points while Troymain Crosby had 10.

Wiseman was declared ineligible because Memphis coach Penny Hardaway helped with the family’s moving expenses from Nashville to Memphis two years ago when Hardaway was coach at East High School. Wiseman’s status is in limbo while the NCAA considers disciplinary action.

“We don’t want to change too much because we know he’s going to be back earlier than later,” Hardaway said after moving Achiuwa into the center spot vacated by Wiseman. “The guys can just slide over. They already understand the rotations. They understand the offensive side and the defensive side of what we want. We’re not going to change too much.”

Alcorn State’s zone initially took Memphis out of any flow, the Tigers choosing long passes across the top of the defense and struggling to get the ball inside. That kept the Braves in the game near the midway point of the first half.

The Memphis defense eventually put pressure on the Braves, leading to 16 Alcorn State turnovers in the half. Memphis put together a 24-3 run to close the half and carry a 52-24 lead into the break. The lead would swell to 53 in the second half.

“We didn’t follow the game plan,” Braves coach Montez Robinson said. “I thought if we followed the game plan – which we did in the first four-to-five minutes of the game – and stuck to that, it may have been a different outcome. Not knowing what the outcome would be, but it would have been different.

“It wouldn’t have been a 40-to-50-point game.”

BIG PICTURE

Alcorn State: The Braves did well in staying with Memphis for a while even with the Tigers employing a fullcourt press. But the Memphis defense proved intimidating, and the Braves began overpassing inside. That led to way too many turnovers — 26 for the game.

Memphis: Without Wiseman, Memphis relied on Achiuwa inside. While his 20 points and eight rebounds were impressive, his 8 of 20 from the free throw line was a detraction. Still, overall, that wasn’t a factor as Memphis controlled the final 30 minutes of the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Certainly, a rout over the Braves, who haven’t beaten a non-conference Division I team since the 2012-13 season, is not going to enhance the Tigers’ ranking. The potential impact will come from last Tuesday’s loss to Oregon in Portland.

FOUL SHOOTING WOES

Achiuwa’s foul shooting stood out enough that even the freshman forward noticed it on the stat sheet before the postgame press conference. “I’m probably one of the few dudes that can get to the free throw line at will,” he said. “My physicality and the way I play. …I’ve just got to knock them down in the game. That just tells me I have to work on that. There’s room for improvement.”

LAST WORD

“The sky’s the limit for those guys. They’re young so they’re going to continue to get better, continue to grow. – Alcorn State coach Montez Robinson on No. 13 Memphis.

UP NEXT

Memphis: Hosts Arkansas-Little Rock on Wednesday.