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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).

Wife, daughter of Wisconsin assistant Howard Moore killed in car accident

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The Wisconsin basketball program officially confirmed an awful piece of news on Sunday morning: Assistant coach Howard Moore was involved in a tragic accident early on Saturday morning that claimed the life of his wife, Jennifer, and daughter, Jaidyn.

Howard and his son, Jerell, were both injured in the accident but are expected to recover.

“There are no words to describe how devastated we are for Howard and his family,” head coach Greg Gard said in a statement. “Our basketball program is an extremely close family and we are all grieving for the Moore and Barnes families. Howard is so much more than a colleague and coach. He and Jen and their children are dear friends to everyone they meet. Their positivity and energy lift up those around them. We will miss Jen and Jaidyn dearly and we will put our arms around Howard and Jerell and the entire family, giving them love and support during this unspeakable time.”

According to Michigan state police, the Moore family was driving on a highway in Ann Arbor, Mich., at about 2 a.m. on Saturday morning when they were struck head-on by a car driven by a 23-year old woman going the wrong way on the highway. The woman driving the other car died at the scene.

“I’ve known Howard ever since he was a student-athlete at Wisconsin and gotten to know his wonderful family through the years,” director of athletics Barry Alvarez said. “He has always been an incredible representative of our athletic department and a positive influence on everyone around him. We are truly heart-broken for his family and will be doing everything possible to help him through this tragic time. Our prayers, love and support go out to the Moore and Barnes family.”

NCAA reverses ruling on Silvio De Sousa, clears him for 2019-20 season

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Silvio De Sousa’s appeal has been approved.

On Friday afternoon, the NCAA announced that they will be reversing their original decision, allowing the Kansas center to be eligible to play during the 2019-20 season. He was suspended for the entirety of the 2018-19 season.

“Kansas appealed the NCAA staff decision of a two-season withholding to the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee, which determined additional relief was appropriate,” the NCAA said in a statement.

This decision came just hours after De Sousa’s final appeal formal appeal and not a moment too soon; Wednesday marks the final day that players that have declared for the NBA draft can withdraw and return to school. It is unlikely that De Sousa would get drafted should he be forced to leave his name in the draft.

The NCAA originally determined in February that De Sousa would have to sit out the remainder of the 2018-19 season and the entire 2019-20 season after allegations arose that his guardian, Fenny Falmagne, had accepted at least $20,000 in order to steer De Sousa to Kansas. These allegations arose as a result of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball.

De Sousa was a freshman during the 2017-18 season, averaging 4.0 points and 3.7 boards as Kansas made a run to the Final Four. He will join Udoka Azubuike and David McCormick in the Jayhawks oversized frontline.

NCAA president Mark Emmert made $2.9 million in 2017

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Mark Emmert holds the top job of a major organization. It oversees thousands of people and generates billions in revenue. It’s not surprising the guy makes a lot of money.

It always just looks silly, though, as Emmert is the president of the NCAA, which does not allow its athletes compensation beyond the scholarships schools give them. So, we’ll take a minute to highlight that silliness here.

Emmert, who has led the NCAA since 2010, made $2.9 million in net compensation in 2017, USA TODAY reports after examining the organization’s tax filing.

The 66-year-old was credited with $3.9 million in total compensation, but $1 million of a deferred $1.4 million payment had been reported in prior years, according to USA TODAY.

Three other NCAA executives cleared $1 million in salary in 2017.

Again, given the scope, size and profitability of college sports, it’s not surprising that Emmert and his execs are well compensated, but it’s always worth pointing out that finances in college athletics – from administrative and coaching salaries to facilities to travel – are all inflated because athletes are prohibited from taking part in the profit-taking.

With news coming that athletes could be in line to profit off their name and likeness sometime in the near future and the NBA signaling the end of the one-and-done era, there is progress in player compensation, but during that time, there are a lot of checks getting cashed without players’ names on them.

Seven returning collegians among Team USA U19 invites

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USA Basketball is welcoming seven sophomores among its 34 total invitees to training camp next month ahead of the FIBA U19 World Cup in Greece.

Incoming freshmen and Class of 2020 will vie for 12 roster spots with Kansas State coach Bruce Weber helming the team and being assisted by Washington’s Mike Hopkins and North Carolina Central’s LaVelle Moton.

The returning college players garnering invites are Kessler Edwards (Pepperdine), Tyrse Haliburton (Iowa State), Kira Lewis (Alabama), Isaac Likekele (Oklahoma State), Trevion Williams (Purdue) and Bryce Willis (Stanford), along with Jayden Scrubb from the junior college ranks.

“The committee is excited at the level of talent that will be at training camp for the USA U19 World Cup team, and we expect to have a difficult decision trying to narrow down the group to 12 team members,” Matt Painter, Purdue coach and cahr of the junior national team committee, said in a statement.

R.J. Hampton, Samuell Williamson, Scottie Barnes and Jalen Suggs are some of the headliners from the group of players without college experience.

Sophomores

Kessler Edwards (Pepperdine/Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.)

Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State/Oshkosh, Wis.)

Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama/Meridianville, Ala.)

Isaac Likekele (Oklahoma State/Mansfield, Texas)

Jayden Scrubb (John A. Logan College/Louisville, Ky.)

Trevion Williams (Purdue/Chicago, Ill.)

Bryce Wills (Stanford/White Plains, N.Y.).

Incoming freshmen

Eric Dixon (Abington H.S./William Grove, Pa.)

Dajuan Gordon (Curie H.S./Chicago, Ill.)

R.J. Hampton (Little Elm H.S./Little Elm, Texas)

Justin Moore(DeMatha Catholic H.S./Accokeek, Md.)

Casey Morsell (St. John’s College H.S./Washington, D.C.)

Zeke Nnaji (Hopkins H.S./Hopkins, Minn.)

Isaac Okoro (McEachern H.S./Powder Springs, Ga.)

Onyeka Okongwu (Chino Hills H.S./Chino, Calif.)

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (IMG Academy, FL/Overland Park, Kan.)

Isaiah Stewart (La Lumiere School, IN/Rochester, N.Y.)

Anton Watson (Gonzaga Prep/Spokane, Wash.)

Mark Watts Jr. (SPIRE Institute/Pontiac, Mich.)

Romeo Weems (New Haven H.S./Chesterfield, Mich.)

Samuell Williamson (Rockwall H.S./Rockwall, Texas).

Class of 2020

Scottie Barnes (University School/West Palm Beach, Fla.)

Nimari Burnett (Prolific Prep, Calif./Chicago, Ill.)

Joshua Christopher (Mayfair H.S./Lakewood, Calif.)

Sharife Cooper (McEachern H.S./Powder Springs, Ga.)

Cade Cunningham (Montverde Academy, Fla./Arlington, Texas)

Hunter Dickinson (DeMatha Catholic H.S., Md./Alexandria, Va.)

Jalen Green(Prolific Prep/Fresno, Calif.)

Walker Kessler (Woodward Academy/Newnan, Ga.)

Caleb Love (Christian Brothers College H.S./St. Louis, Mo.)

Evan Mobley (Rancho Christian School/Temecula, Calif.)

Ethan Morton (Butler H.S./Butler, Pa.)

Jalen Suggs (Minnehaha Academy/Minneapolis, Minn.)

Ziaire Williams (Notre Dame H.S./Sherman Oaks, Calif.).

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey: Transferring players need ‘deterrent’

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The NCAA is granting too many waivers allowing players who transfer to compete immediately, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said Wednesday, calling the requirement that players sit out a year a useful “deterrent” to players switching schools.

Brey made his comments at a meeting of the Knight Commission, a nonprofit that pushes for reform in college sports. While the commission has not taken a position on transfer waivers, it often advocates for players being given more freedom to pursue their professional ambitions.

“As coaches we’re concerned about the number of waivers, to the point where the NCAA has given too much of a blueprint on how to get a waiver,” Brey said. “Kids feel they can go and, you know, bring up enough of a case to get eligible right away. So they’re more apt to want to go.”

In April 2018, the NCAA relaxed its waiver requirements, allowing a transferring player to suit up immediately if there are “documented mitigating circumstances that are outside the student-athlete’s control and directly impact the health, safety and well-being of the student-athlete.”

During the 2018-19 academic year, 79 men’s basketball players requested waivers and 44 were granted, a 56% success rate, according to NCAA data. Men’s basketball accounted for 33% of all waiver requests, the NCAA said.

Commission co-chairman Arne Duncan, the former U.S. Secretary of Education, declined to comment on waivers but lauded the “transparency” of the NCAA’s transfer portal, in which players submit their names if they want to switch schools.

Brey said he believes players should be free to transfer and that it’s up to coaches to make their players want to stay, but he said sitting out a year can be beneficial and prevents players from transferring for immature or capricious reasons.

“It’s a bit of a deterrent for a kid. The year in residency saves kids from themselves sometimes,” Brey said. “I’ve seen some kids then come back, stick it out, and now they’re in the lineup and they come back five years later and go, ‘I was an idiot.’ Because every kid thinks about (transferring) when he’s not playing.”

ROADBLOCKS TO REFORM

Brey’s comments were one of a few examples from Wednesday’s meeting of the basketball establishment pushing back against reforms that would give players more autonomy or promote transparency about the way schools profit from college athletics.

The Knight Commission is pushing the NCAA to release to the public the financial details of contracts between athletic departments and shoe and apparel companies, a proposal that has not gained much traction. In the past, the commission has persuaded the NCAA to release graduation rates and other financial data, including compensation for coaches.

“The shoe companies, there has to be agreement across the board, that there has to be willingness and openness to share all those records. Candidly, I think more work needs to be done,” said Kevin Lennon, the NCAA’s vice president for Division I governance. “We don’t control all the third parties and their ability to cooperate with us. More conversation needs to continue to occur within the NCAA and between the NCAA and the third parties if we want to move the ball.”

Two NBA executives told the commission the league is in talks with the players’ union about lowering the NBA’s minimum age to 18, prompted largely by a recommendation by the Commission on College Basketball to rid the sport of the “one-and-done rule.”

But even that proposal is meeting some resistance in the NBA. David Krichavsky, the league’s senior vice president and head of youth basketball development, said some in the league would rather raise the age limit than lower it.

“Many teams and general managers would still be in favor of going to 20, given the additional scouting information you receive on players, seeing them compete at the NCAA level for two years after high school,” Krichavsky said, “but at the same time we recognize that the world has changed and will continue to change.”

COACHES BEHAVING BADLY

Brey, the president of the board of directors of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, said he’d like to see coaches reach a consensus about how to police their own behavior.

An ongoing federal investigation into illicit payments made to players during the recruiting process led Louisville to fire longtime coach Rick Pitino, but some other coaches implicated in the probe have held onto their jobs. Brey said schools ought to move more aggressively to fire coaches for cause when they violate NCAA rules.

“We all have clauses in our contracts about NCAA rules and behavior, all of us. If those are violated, doesn’t that start on the campuses?” Brey said. “And no question the NABC could make a stronger stand. We have not maybe been as vocal about some of the things that have gone on.”