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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.

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.”