Best Bets: The Bettor’s Guide to Thursdays’ Sweet 16 action

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7:09 p.m.: No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 Florida State, CBS
  • LINE: Florida State (-7.5)
  • TOTAL: 146.5
  • IMPLIED SCORE: Gonzaga 77, Florida State 69.5
  • KENPOM: Gonzaga 79, Florida State 72

If this matchup sounds familiar, it should.

Last season, in this same regional and same round, No. 9 seed Florida State, fresh off of an upset win over No. 1 seed Xavier in the second round, picked off No. 4 seed Gonzaga to advance to the Elite 8. It is a bit head-scratching that the same two programs are facing off again, but here we are.

There is a lot about the particulars of this matchup that are fascinating. How does Mfiondu Kabengele matchup with Gonzaga’s super athletic frontcourt? Who on Gonzaga is going to guard Terance Mann? Just how healthy is Killian Tillie, and what kind of impact will he have after missing last year’s Sweet 16 game? Can Gonzaga’s guards hold their own defensively against the bigger backcourt of Florida State?

We dove into a lot of that in the podcast below, but for my money, this game is going to hinge on just how well Josh Perkins is going to be able to handle the pressure that is assuredly going to be coming his way. Florida State’s going to pressure him. They are going to throw waves of big, athletic wings at him. Assuming that David Nichols does not play, their smallest rotation player will be 6-foot-5 Trent Forrest.

This is what Perkins struggles with, and when Perkins struggles, it impacts everything that Gonzaga does offensively because so much of what they want to do is created by Perkins’ ability in transition and the way he operates ball-screens.

PICK: This is one of the worst matchups that Gonzaga could have seen in the Sweet 16 given Florida State’s ability, and willingness, to switch everything 1-through-5. I do think that Tillie being healthy is going to help Perkins, but I think there is a very real chance that he has another game similar to the dud he posted against Saint Mary’s in the WCC tournament.

So I love Florida State (+7.5) here. I actually have Florida State winning in my bracket, and I would be willing to bet on the Seminoles money line (+255) if it continues in the direction it has been trending.

(Harry How/Getty Images)

7:29 p.m.: No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 3 Purdue, TBS

  • LINE: Tennessee (-2)
  • TOTAL: 146.5
  • IMPLIED SCORE: Tennessee 74.25, Purdue 72.25
  • KENPOM: Purdue 75, Tennessee 74

The tough part about figuring out where to bet this line is figuring out how each team is going to play.

What I mean by that is that Tennessee has a habit of being wildly inconsistent, particularly defensively, from game-to-game and even half-to-half. They were absolutely torched by Auburn in the SEC tournament title game. They were dominant in the first half against both Colgate and Iowa in the NCAA tournament before blowing big leads in the second half of both games. The Vols were No. 6 is defensive efficiency last season, and they are 37th this season despite essentially having the same roster. There’s no rhyme or reason to it beyond the simple fact that sometimes they become complacent and decide they don’t want to guard.

Purdue is a fascinating team offensively. They finished fifth nationally and second in the Big Ten in offensive efficiency despite the fact that Carsen Edwards, who has a higher usage rate than all but nine players in the sport, shot 34 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three in conference play. Put another way, Purdue was unbelievably efficient offensively despite the fact that their resident gunner was super-inefficient.

That’s why, on a night where Edwards hits nine threes and scores 42 points, Purdue can do things like take a 59-24 lead on Villanova.

PICK: And for that reason, I just have no desire to bet any money on the line itself in this game.

I do, however, really like the over here. Both of these teams are more than willing to run. Both of them are top five nationally is offensive efficiency. Both of them rank outside the top 25 in defensive efficiency. But the biggest reason I think the over hits is that the things these teams do well are weaknesses in the other team.

For example: Purdue is a really good offensive rebounding team, especially when Trevion Williams plays big minutes. Tennessee struggles on the defensive glass. Purdue gets 39 percent of their points off of three-pointers (25th nationally) and Tennessee gets lit up from beyond the arc. Tennessee absolutely pounds people in the paint, and the Boilermakers don’t have an obvious matchup for Grant Williams or Admiral Schofield.

I just don’t think there will be all that many stops in a game that I think will be played at a pretty good pace.

The over is the bet for me.

(Harry How/Getty Images)

9:39 p.m.: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Texas Tech, CBS

  • LINE: Michigan (-1.5)
  • TOTAL: 126.5
  • IMPLIED SCORE: Michigan 64, Texas Tech 62.5
  • KENPOM: Michigan 62, Texas Tech 61

If you like tough, physical, defensive-minded basketball, then this is the game for you.

Texas Tech is the No. 1 defense in the country, according to KenPom. Michigan is the No. 2 defense in the country. There are elite defensive players up and down the roster for both of these teams, where ‘toughness’ has become a trademark for both of these programs.

Put another way, this is going to be a fistfight.

PICK: Frankly, I don’t love either side of the line here because I really do think this is going to end up being a one possession game throughout. I really don’t want to bet against John Beilein in a game where the ability of a coach to scheme two or three extra baskets could be the difference between a win and a loss, but I also don’t want to bet against Chris Beard’s program in a game that I think will be determined by who is tougher.

There’s more.

Michigan’s two-best on-ball defenders — Charles Matthews and Zavier Simpson — will be able to matchup with Texas Tech’s two-best creators offensively — Jarrett Culver and Matt Mooney. Texas Tech’s defense is going to be able to take away the ball-screen action featuring Simpson and Jon Teske thanks to the defensive versatility of Tariq Owens, and the Red Raiders will be able to play smaller, which lets them matchup with Iggy Brazdeikis.

I just don’t know if I can see a way that either of these teams are going to be able to create all that much offense.

Which is why I love the under here.

(AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

9:59 p.m.: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 12 Oregon, TBS

  • LINE: Virginia (-8.5)
  • TOTAL: 118.5
  • IMPLIED SCORE: Virginia 63.5, Oregon 55
  • KENPOM: Virginia 64, Oregon 54

On the one hand, this looks, on paper, like Virginia caught a break, drawing the only team seeded outside the top five to get to the Sweet 16. I’m not quite sure that’s necessarily true, because I don’t know that there has been a hotter team in the country over the course of the last month than Oregon.

As far as this matchup is concerned, I’m a bit torn.

Oregon has been playing a matchup zone down the stretch of the season, one that dares opponents to shoot contested threes thanks to the amount of length and athleticism that Oregon has in their frontcourt, but I’m not sure this is a good thing against Virginia. Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and Deandre Hunter are elite three-point shooters, and the last time we saw them play against a zone that tried to do this, the Wahoos shot 17-for-23 from three in a 79-53 win at Syracuse.

I also wonder about this matchup. Oregon, on paper, looks a bit like the teams that have beaten Virginia this year — Duke and Florida State — because of that athleticism and versatility. But it is definitely a poor man’s version, and the thing about Virginia this year is that they can matchup with teams like that with Hunter and Brandon Key in their program. And it’s probably worth nothing that, the first time they played, Virginia was up 65-36 on the Seminoles.

PICK: I’m somewhat hesitant to bet against Oregon because I just don’t know how good they truly are right now, but I do think that the Virginia side of this line makes more sense. That said, I like this over in this game a bit more than Virginia (-8.5), mostly because I think that Virginia can get it rolling, and Oregon has proven they have a knack for big second halves.

Houston reaches No. 1 in AP poll for first time since 1983

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Make some room, Phi Slama Jama. Another Houston team has reached the top of men’s college basketball.

Nearly four decades after Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon took the Cougars to No. 1, the latest bunch led by Marcus Sasser and star freshman Jarace Walker took over the top spot in the AP Top 25. They received 45 of 63 first-place votes from the national media panel, easily outdistancing second-place Texas and third-place Virginia.

“It’s not like we went online and applied for it and waited for a response back. We’ve been working for this,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, whose team is coming off a Final Four and Elite Eight trip the past two seasons. “But remember, it’s a rental. You don’t own it. You’re just renting it because someday somebody else is going to be No. 1.”

North Carolina had been No. 1 all season, but the Tar Heels lost to Iowa State and in a four-overtime thriller to Alabama at the Phil Knight Invitational to cede the top spot to Houston, which beat Kent State in its only game last week.

The last time the Cougars ascended to No. 1 was the final poll of the 1982-83 season, when “The Glide” and “The Dream” along with coach Guy Lewis were the favorites to win it all. They rolled through the NCAA Tournament before falling to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in an iconic championship game in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I’ve never been ranked No. 1,” said Sampson, now in his 34th season as a college basketball coach. “We were ranked all 12 years at Oklahoma. I’m sure we were ranked at Indiana. Then we’ve been ranked five or six straight years. We’re used to having a high level of success.”

Texas received eight first-place votes and Virginia received two. Arizona climbed from 14th to fourth after emerging from a stacked field to win the Maui Invitational. Purdue jumped from 24th all the way to fifth and scooped up eight first-place votes after beating West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke at the Phil Knight Legacy tourney.

“Our guys are competitive. They’re fun to coach. They get along. They’re out there playing with purpose and that’s what you have to have,” said Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, whose team was briefly No. 1 about this time last season.

“Early in the season, very few teams play with the purpose collectively,” he said. “I thought our guys played with a purpose.”

Baylor was sixth, Creighton seventh and U Conn climbed from 20th to eighth after beating Oregon, Alabama and Iowa State to win the Phil Knight Invitational. Kansas fell from third to ninth after losing to Tennessee in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, while Indiana rounded out the top 10.

There was a tie for 11th between SEC rivals Alabama and Arkansas with the Volunteers, another conference foe, right behind them. Gonzaga dropped from sixth to 14th, its first time outside the top 10 since Feb. 5, 2018, and Auburn was 15th.

Illinois was next followed by Duke and North Carolina in a tough week for Tobacco Road. The Blue Devils fell from eighth after their 75-56 loss to the Boilermakers.

Kentucky and Michigan State joined UCLA, Maryland, Iowa State, San Diego State and Ohio State in rounding out the poll.

RISING AND FALLING

Purdue made a rare 19-spot jump as the poll underwent a massive shakeup. UConn climbed 12 spots, Arizona moved up 10, Tennessee climbed nine and Alabama seven. On the flip side, the Tar Heels tumbled 17 spots, Duke dropped nine, Gonzaga fell eight and San Diego State fell seven.

IN AND OUT

Despite all the movement, Iowa State was the only newcomer this week, checking in at No. 23 after beating Villanova and North Carolina before falling to UConn. The Cyclones replaced Iowa, which dropped out after a one-week stay following its loss to TCU in the title game of the Emerald Coast Classic.

CONFERENCE WATCH

There are six difference conferences represented in the first seven teams in the poll. The Big Ten leads the way with six in the Top 25 while the SEC has five and the Big 12 has four, though three of them are in the top 10.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Stanford, UConn next

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South Carolina remained the unanimous No. 1 choice in The Associated Press women’s poll, as the Gamecocks keep close watch on the foot injury of reigning Player of the Year Aliyah Boston.

The Gamecocks received all 29 first-place votes in the poll, a day after Boston left a game with her injury. Coach Dawn Staley said Boston was “questionable” going forward but added that the “team doctor wasn’t too, too concerned.”

South Carolina’s next game is at home against No. 15 UCLA.

Stanford remained No. 2 after cruising through a tournament in Hawaii. It’s the 618th appearance for Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, tying the late Pat Summitt for most all-time. Summitt’s teams only missed being in the poll 14 times during her Hall of Fame career at Tennessee.

UConn, Ohio State and Indiana rounded out the top five.

The Huskies are one of four Big East teams to be ranked this week as Marquette entered the poll at No. 24. It’s the first time the Big East has four ranked teams since the conference realigned in 2014. The league is 56-14 so far this season, including going 8-2 against ranked teams.

“We’ve been trying to earn a little more respect,” Marquette coach Megan Duffy said of the Big East. “Tried to schedule tougher non-conference (games). ‘Nova’s playing people. Us going to the Bahamas was great. Creighton’s doing what they’ve been doing since last season. Getting some of those quality wins is everything.”

North Carolina moved up two spots to No. 6 after rallying to beat then-No. 5 Iowa State in the Phil Knight tournament. The Cyclones fell to eighth.

The Tar Heels visit the Hoosiers on Tuesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Indiana returns home after winning two games in Las Vegas at a subpar venue that lacked basic necessities.

Notre Dame remained No. 7 while Virginia Tech and Iowa finished off the top 10. At No. 9, Virginia Tech has matched its best ranking ever and is in the top 10 for the first time since 1999.

Tennessee fell out of the poll this week marking the 56th time in the 827-week history of the poll that the Lady Vols weren’t ranked. Kansas State also fell out with Gonzaga moving in at No. 23.

FALLING CARDINALS

Louisville dropped to 18th in the poll this week after falling to South Dakota State in the fifth place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis last week. It’s the Cardinals lowest ranking since Jan. 11, 2016.

Louisville entered the top 10 in the preseason poll in 2017 and hadn’t been out since, a span of 98 consecutive weeks. It was the longest active streak.

“It’s a compliment to the consistency that we built here,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of being ranked in the top 10 for so long. “Obviously are goal would have been to stay in the top 10, but it’s a new team and growing.”

Edey scores 21 as No. 24 Purdue beats No. 8 Duke 75-56

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Zach Edey and No. 24 Purdue shook off a slow start. When No. 8 Duke tried to rally in the second half, the Boilermakers finished strong.

Edey had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Purdue beat Duke 75-56 on Sunday in the championship game of the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Fletcher Loyer scored 18 points for Purdue (6-0), and reserve Caleb Furst finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“I feel like we weren’t getting the looks we wanted early. As we settled into the game, we kept our poise and kept getting the shots that we wanted,” Edey said. “They were making some tough twos at the beginning of the game, shots we’re OK with all season.”

The 7-foot-4 Edey was 7 for 13 from the field and 7 for 8 at the line. He was named tournament MVP.

“They have the most unique player in the country,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said of Edey. “He’s a hard guy to prepare for because there’s nobody else like him.”

Duke (6-2) shot 36.2% (21 for 58) from the field. Tyres Proctor scored 16 points for the Blue Devils. Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach each had 14.

Ethan Morton had a steal and a dunk to help Purdue open a 58-41 lead with 15:37 left in the second half.

Duke countered with an 8-0 run, capped by two foul shots by Dariq Whitehead. But Furst made a layup and a jumper to help hold off the Blue Devils.

A hook by Edey and a 3-pointer by Loyer made it 68-56 with 5:03 remaining.

Duke got off to a 14-7 start before Purdue worked its way back into the game.

“I don’t feel like we came out bad today, but they matched our energy,” Edey said.

A 3-pointer by Brandon Newman pushed the Purdue lead to 46-28. A late run by Duke cut the Boilermakers’ lead to 46-35 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: It looked as if Roach had an issue with his left foot at one point, but he went back into the game. Scheyer said Roach had hurt his toe.

Purdue: Although neither team had great offensive games, Purdue was the better team from range. Purdue made seven 3-pointers to just two for Duke.

UP NEXT

Duke: Hosts Ohio State on Wednesday.

Purdue: Visits Florida State on Wednesday.

No. 18 Alabama beats No. 1 North Carolina 103-101 in 4 OTs

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Mark Sears had 24 points, five rebounds and five assists, and No. 18 Alabama sent top-ranked North Carolina to a second straight loss with a 103-101 victory in a quadruple-overtime thriller on Sunday in the third-place game of the Phil Knight Invitational tournament.

Jahvon Quinerly added 21 points off the bench for the Crimson Tide (6-1), who knocked off the top-ranked team for the first time since upsetting Stanford in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

“I was losing track of how many overtimes we were in there at the end,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “A lot of credit to our guys. I thought they showed a lot of character when we could have folded.”

Charles Bediako had 14 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks, while Brandon Miller also scored 14 points.

Caleb Love led the Tar Heels (5-2) with 34 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Armando Bacot contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds, and R.J. Davis had 19 points and nine rebounds in the second four-overtime game in North Carolina history. The other was a victory over Tulane in 1976.

“At the end of the day, Alabama made one more play than we did,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “I walked in the locker room and a number of the guys had their head down and I told them to pick their head up. I’m just as disappointed (as the players) in terms of the final outcome, but I couldn’t be any more proud about the way they competed.”

Bediako gave the Crimson Tide the lead for good on a layup with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime.

The Tar Heels, who lost to Iowa State in the semifinals, led by as much as eight in the second half before Alabama came back to tie it. The Crimson Tide retook the lead on a pair of free throws from Gurley with 2 minutes remaining, and later tied with another free throw from Sears with 51 seconds remaining in regulation.

Alabama starting forward Noah Clowney took a hard fall on a dunk attempt four minutes into the first half and had to be helped off the court. He did not return.

The Crimson Tide were 16 for 38 (42.1%) from 3-point range, with Sears making seven.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: The Tar Heels figure to take a deep drop in the Top 25 poll.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide bounced back nicely following their loss to No. 20 UConn in the semifinals, beating a top-ranked team in the regular season for the first time since a 66-64 victory over eventual national champion Arkansas on Jan. 8, 1994.

UP NEXT:

North Carolina: The Tar Heels travel to Bloomington to face No. 11 Indiana on Wednesday.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide return home to face South Dakota State on Saturday.

Clingan lifts UConn past Iowa State for Phil Knight title

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Donovan Clingan had 15 points and 10 rebounds to power No. 20 UConn to a 71-53 win over Iowa State in the championship game of the Phil Knight Invitational on Sunday night.

Tristen Newton scored 13 points for the Huskies (8-0), who went 20 for 25 at the free-throw line. Alex Karaban and Andre Jackson, Jr. each had 10 points.

Osun Osunniyi led Iowa State (5-1) with 14 points. Tamin Lipsey had 12 points and Jaren Holmes finished with 11.

“They were the more aggressive team,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We wanted a physical game. We didn’t want a physical game with them getting the rebounds and then also us putting them on the foul line. Lesson that we’ve got to learn is we need to embrace being the aggressor at both ends of the floor at all times.”

The Huskies had more offensive rebounds (20) than the Cyclones had total rebounds (19), and capitalized on that disparity with 20 second-chance points.

“Those guys are tough,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “T.J.`s an excellent coach. They grind people up. To outrebound them, it just speaks to how tough we were.”

Clingan, who was named tournament MVP, scored eight points to help UConn to a 38-28 lead at the break.

Iowa State closed to 53-48 on Holmes’ 3-pointer midway through the second half. But Karaban made a 3 and a dunk, and Newton’s jumper made it 60-48 with 7:13 remaining.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies couldn’t have asked for a better showing in Portland, winning all three of their games.

Iowa State: The Cyclones picked up nice wins over Villanova and top-ranked North Carolina in the earlier rounds but ended with their first loss of the season.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies return home to face Oklahoma State on Thursday.

Iowa State: The Cyclones return home to face North Dakota on Tuesday.