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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.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.