Best Bets: Previewing Louisville-Kentucky and West Virginia-Ohio State

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The Vegas lines for these games were not released at the time of this publishing. Score projections from KenPom, Torvik and Haslametrics were used in their stead. 

No. 3 LOUISVILLE at No. 19 KENTUCKY, Sat. 3:45 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM: Louisville 66, Kentucky 65
  • TORVIK: Louisville 66, Kentucky 63
  • HASLAMETRICS: Louisville 69, Kentucky 62

It’s going to feel pretty gross, but I think the smart money here will be on Kentucky.

We’ve seen this story before with the Wildcats. They struggle throughout the first two months of the season before they put together one, statement performance that lights a fire under the program and turns the season around.

I think this is going to be the performance.

Kentucky is coming home after five days and two losses in Vegas. They are going to be playing their first meaningful game in Rupp Arena this season, and it just so happens to come against their arch-rival Louisville.

I also think this is going to be a tough matchup for the Cardinals. They struggled against Texas Tech when the Red Raiders were able to get out and pressure Louisville’s ball-handlers. They beat Michigan at home, but that win was a product of Louisville’s defense. They only managed to score 58 points on 66 possessions. This is also going to be their first road game since the first game of the season, a win over Miami.

BEST BET: I’m hoping to be able to get this at Kentucky (+3), in which case I’d probably just end up on the Kentucky ML. What will worry me is if the line ends up around a pick-em or with Kentucky laying points. The major concern here is that the Cardinals are the second-best defensive team in the country, according to KenPom, and Kentucky has not exactly proven to be good offensively this year.

No. 22 WEST VIRGINIA at No. 2 OHIO STATE, Sun. 12:00 p.m. (FS1)

  • KENPOM: Ohio State 72, West Virginia 65
  • TORVIK: Ohio State 70, West Virginia 66
  • HASLAMETRICS: Ohio State 74, West Virginia 60

West Virginia has quietly put together a pretty impressive resume this season. They sit at 10-1 overall with wins over Pitt, Northern Iowa, Wichita State and Rhode Island, all of which are top 100 wins on KenPom. They are top 25 in the AP Poll and on KenPom.

The strength of this team is their frontcourt, where Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver are both threats to go for a double-double on a nightly basis. They pound the offensive glass, they erase the paint defensively and they are as good as anyone in the country at running opponents off of the three-point line.

This matters in this matchup, because the Buckeyes are a team that ideally wants to have four shooters on the floor surrounding Kaleb Wesson, who also happens to be a 46 percent three-point shooter. The trouble this causes is that this will pull one of their big men away from the bucket, and they can do it even if they are forced to play with Wesson and Kyle Young for the majority of the game.

BEST BET: Without knowing what the line is this is tough to project. If it is Ohio State (-4), as Torvik projects, then the value is on Ohio State. If it’s West Virginia (+14), as Haslam projects, then the value is on the Mountaineers. And if it is Ohio State (-7), than I’d lean the Buckeyes, but it will probably be a stay-away for me.

No. 5 KANSAS at STANFORD, Sun. 3:00 p.m. (ABC)

  • KENPOM: Kansas 69, Stanford 64
  • TORVIK: Kansas 70, Stanford 63
  • HASLAMETRICS: Kansas 70, Stanford 60

This is a sneaky game for the Jayhawks, who played on the road in their final pre-Christmas game – a loss at Villanova – and will start out their post-holiday run with a road game on the other side of the country.

The Cardinal have not exactly played a loaded schedule this season, but they’ve looked really good in the games that they have played. Their best win is over Oklahoma on a neutral, and they played Butler to a one-possession game in Kansas City, but those are the only two high-major programs they’ve faced. In the week before Christmas, the Cardinal had closer-than-expected wins over San Francisco and San Diego.

The key here is going to be how well you think the Cardinal can score against Kansas and whether or not Marcus Garrett plays. Let’s start with the latter: Garrett practiced on Thursday and, at this point, the Jayhawks staff believes they are going to have him available on Saturday afternoon. That’s big, He is not only the secondary playmaker and the best perimeter defender on the Stanford roster, but he is one of the guys that lets them play small.

He’s one of the biggest reasons the Jayhawks have been a top five defense in the country this season, which brings me to the other point: Stanford’s strength this season has been on the defensive end. They have not been great offensively despite shooting the ball really well because they turn the rock too much and fade the offensive glass.

BEST BET: It’s hard to make a pick here without knowing what the line is going to be. Assuming it is Kansas (-5), which is what KenPom’s projections list, I lean the Kansas side but will personally be staying away. If the line is Stanford (+10), as Haslametrics projects, then there is value on the Cardinal and I’ll be on Stanford.

WISCONSIN at TENNESSEE, Sat. 1:30 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM: Tennessee 62, Wisconsin 57
  • TORVIK: Tennessee 59, Wisconsin 56
  • HASLAMETRICS: Tennessee 59, Wisconsin 56

I’ve included Wisconsin-Tennessee here because I think that it is worth noting that this is the first game that the Vols have played since losing point guard Lamonte Turner. He has not been healthy for the majority of the season when he has played, and his ineffectiveness was a major reason why the Vols had been struggling to score of late.

The Vols have a freshman point guard from Uruguay coming in, Santiago Vescovi, but he only just enrolled and will not arrive in Knoxville until Saturday morning. That means that the only player that can even pretend to be a point guard on the Tennessee roster is five-star freshman Josiah-Jordan James.

That’s not an ideal situation.

And neither is betting on a Wisconsin team that has lost four of their last six games and is 0-5 in games away from the Kohl Center.

BEST BET: If the line ends up being Wisconsin (+5), which is where KenPom has it, I think that’s where the value is. But I’m going to assume that this will open lower and get bet towards the Wisconsin side, at which point I’ll be on Tennessee, hopefully somewhere around a pick-em.

I also think the under is in play if the total opens at 119. The Vols already were a really good defensive team that is only going to get better now that they’ll be playing five guys 6-foot-6 or taller.

LIBERTY at LSU, Sun. 1:30 p.m. (SECN)

  • KENPOM: LSU 70, Liberty 66
  • TORVIK: LSU 68, Liberty 66
  • HASLAMETRICS: LSU 69, Liberty 66

Wherever this line opens up, I think I am going to be on Liberty here. This is a chance for the Flames to really make a statement. They are currently undefeated on the season, but they only have one win over a high-major opponent, and it came against Vanderbilt, which may not even count. Ritchie McKay is one of the best x’s and o’s coaches in the sport – ask Mississippi State, who lost in last year’s NCAA tournament to Liberty – and while I do respect Will Wade’s coaching acumen, he does not exactly have the most disciplined team.

BEST BET: I like the Liberty side, and anything less than (+2.5) I’ll be betting the money line.

Duke edges North Carolina 63-57 behind Roach, Lively

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DURHAM, N.C. — Jeremy Roach scored 20 points, Dereck Lively II had career highs of eight blocks and 14 rebounds and Duke defeated North Carolina 63-57.

Kyle Filipowski added 14 points and Tyrese Proctor 11 for the Blue Devils (17-6, 8-4 ACC), who won their third straight and beat the Tar Heels (15-8, 7-5) for the first time in three meetings, including in last year’s Final Four in the NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina’s Armando Bacot had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his 63rd career double-double, extending his own program record, Leaky Black had 13 points and 10 rebounds, Caleb Love added 12 points and RJ Davis 11.

Roach scored eight of Duke’s final 10 points, including the last four after Lively’s tiebreaking dunk with 1:35 to go. North Carolina missed its last five shots, including a trio of 3-point tries in the final minute.

The Blue Devils’ six-point winning margin matched their largest lead.

Neither team reached 40% shooting but Duke outscored North Carolina 20-2 off fast breaks and was 11 of 15 at the free-throw line to only 2 of 3 for the Tar Heels.

The stat sheet was fairly even at halftime when Duke led 33-32 except for one telling stat, a 16-0 advantage for the Blue Devils on fast-break points as they scored repeatedly off transition.

A 14-5 run erased a seven-point North Carolina lead — the Tar Heels’ largest — and put Duke in front 26-24 with just under four minutes left in the half. A Proctor 3-pointer broke the fourth tie before Bacot cut it to the one-point margin at the break. Bacot had 12 points in the first half. Roach had 10.

The game matched two men who played in this rivalry and are now leading the programs they played for: first-year Duke coach Jon Scheyer and Hubert Davis, in his second year for North Carolina.

The teams will meet again in their regular-season finale at Chapel Hill on March 4. Duke plays at No. 23 Miami on Monday. North Carolina is at Wake Forest on Tuesday.

No. 13 Iowa State rolls past eighth-ranked Kansas 68-53

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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes scored all 15 of his points in the second half as No. 13 Iowa State rolled past No. 8 Kansas 68-53 on Saturday.

Osun Osunniyi added 13 for the Cyclones (16-6, 7-3 Big 12), who stayed within at least a game of front-running Texas in the conference standings. Tamin Lipsey added eight rebounds and 10 assists.

“Today, we came out and played desperate,” Holmes said.

Jalen Wilson led the Jayhawks (18-5, 6-4) with 26 points for his sixth straight game with at least 20. No other Kansas player had more than 8 points.

“It’s not a formula for success for us,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “We need balance from our starting five. If one guy feels like he’s got to go do it all on his own, it crashes the offense.”

The Cyclones led for all but 1:14 of the game, building a 34-16 scoring edge in the paint. Kansas struggled early, making just two of their first 10 shots and committing 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

Iowa State shot 46% for the game.

“From the beginning, we gave them some easy buckets,” Wilson said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with (defensively) … the easiest way to get comfortable is easy buckets, layups, stuff like that.”

Iowa State was up 33-21 at the break.

Holmes missed all four shots in the first half, but after getting sick at halftime, he helped the Cyclones stretched the lead to 42-31 early in the second half with a 3-pointer and layup.

“I felt a little nauseous the whole day,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with some sickness over the past week and a half.”

BIG PICTURE

Kansas: The Jayhawks dropped to 3-4 during a stretch in which six of its seven opponents were ranked. The lone unranked foe was Kentucky. … Kansas committed a season-high 20 turnovers Saturday. … The loss to Iowa State was Self’s first in five meetings with second-year Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger.

Iowa State: Improved to 12-0 at home this season and 5-0 in the Big 12. It was also the Cyclones’ fifth win over a top-10 opponent in the past two seasons.

UP NEXT

Kansas: Hosts No. 10 Texas on Monday.

Iowa State: Travels to West Virginia on Wednesday.

Bishop helps No. 10 Texas rally past No. 7 Kansas State, 69-66

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Christian Bishop was as frustrated as anyone in a Texas jersey in the first half Saturday. He’d been held without a point by Kansas State and, not surprisingly, the No. 10 Longhorns were facing a double-digit deficit on the road.

Maybe that’s why he punctuated every bucket in the second half with a fist pump.

Bishop poured in 14 points after the break to lead the Longhorns’ comeback, including the go-ahead lay-in with 37 seconds to go, and the new Big 12 leaders held on for a 69-66 victory over the No. 7 Wildcats on Saturday.

“Christian’s been working really hard over the last couple of games to get him back to the level he was playing four or five games ago,” interim Texas coach Rodney Terry said. “He really came out and rebounded and gave our team an incredible lift the way he played the second half.”

Red-hot guard Sir’Jabari Rice also had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Longhorns, and it was his two free throws with nine seconds left that forced the Wildcats into needing a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.

After a quick timeout, the Wildcats’ Ismael Massoud got an open look from the wing but came up well short of the basket, allowing the Longhorns to hold on for their fifth win over a Top 25 team this season.

Tyrese Hunter and Marcus Carr added 10 points apiece for Texas (19-4, 8-2), which took over sole possession of first place in the rough-and-tumble Big 12 by avenging its overtime loss to the Wildcats (18-5, 6-4) early last month.

“Our league, we don’t have any bad teams,” Terry said. “To come in on a home court against a top-10 team and have this kind of performance, I’ll stack it up with one of the best wins I’ve been part of in 30 years of coaching.”

Keyontae Johnson struggled through foul trouble but still had 16 points to lead the Wildcats, who have lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. Desi Sills scored 11 points and Markquis Nowell had 10, but he also had six turnovers, including one with less than a minute to go and Kansas State down by one.

“I don’t want to wash this one. I want to live with this one for 36 hours,” Wildcats coach Jerome Tang said. “Everybody in our arena did our job except the coaches and players on the floor.”

Kansas State and Texas played one of the most entertaining games of the season in Austin, when they went bucket-for-bucket through regulation and into overtime. The Wildcats eventually escaped with a 116-103 victory.

Early on Saturday, Texas looked as if it would struggle to score half as much.

With the Wildcats clamping down on the perimeter, the Longhorns kept throwing the ball away, and at one point had seven turnovers against just five made shots. They also went a stretch of more than 7 minutes with just one field goal.

Kansas State took advantage of their offensive malaise.

Despite the sure-handed Nowell’s turnover trouble, and leading scorer Johnson picking up his third foul with 5 1/2 minutes left in the half, the Wildcats steadily built a lead. It reached as many as 14 before Texas made three free throws in the final second to get within 36-25 heading to the locker room.

It was the spark the Longhorns needed: They made their first six shots of the second half, and their run spanning the break eventually reached 17-4 while getting them within 40-39 with 15 minutes left in the game.

“There were points in the second half we did get rushed,” Nowell said, “and it led to turnovers and fast-break points.”

Rice’s 3-pointer a few minutes later gave Texas its first lead since the opening minutes. And when the Wildcats went on a nearly 5-minute scoring drought, Bishop began to assert control, the Creighton transfer scoring 11 points over a 6-minute stretch and punctuating each of them with a roar and a fist pump.

Just like their first meeting Jan. 3, though, the rematch Saturday was destined to go down to the wire.

“There’s no blowouts in our league,” Tang said.

BIG PICTURE

Texas could do nothing right in the first half and nothing wrong in the second, shooting 57% from the floor over the final 20 minutes. Most of the success came in the paint; the Longhorns were just 4 of 16 from the 3-point arc.

Kansas State couldn’t overcome 19 turnovers, including six by Nowell, who had 36 points, nine assists and eight rebounds when the teams met in Austin. He had just six rebounds and three assists on Saturday.

UP NEXT

Texas heads down Interstate 70 to face eighth-ranked Kansas on Monday night.

Kansas State wraps its homestand against No. 15 TCU on Tuesday night.

James leads No. 2 Tennessee over No. 25 Auburn, 46-43

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Josiah-Jordan James scored 15 points and 14 rebounds to lead No. 2 Tennessee to a 46-43 victory over No. 25 Auburn on Saturday in a game in which every point was difficult and nothing flowed.

“Both teams played as hard as they could,” said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. “Every possession was a grind.”

The Volunteers (19-4, 8-2 Southeastern Conference) shot just 27% from the field and 9.5% from the 3-point line. They were recovering from a Wednesday loss to Florida in which they shot 28%.

Tennessee had a 47-42 edge on the boards and 15-8 on the offensive glass.

“A game like this shows a lot of character,” said James. “I knew coming in (rebounding) was what I’d be called to do. I had to use the body God’s given me.”

“Both teams did a fantastic job,” said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. “To hold Tennessee to 27% … It doesn’t get any better than that.”

“I don’t think there’s a more physical league in the country,” said Barnes.

The Tigers (17-6, 7-3) were led by Johni Broome with 11 points and nine rebounds and K.D. Johnson off the bench with 10 points. Auburn managed only 24% from the field and 11% from the 3-point line.

Jaylin Williams made two free throws with 2:47 to play cut Tennessee’s lead to 40-38. Santiago Vescovi hit his first 3-pointer of the game and got a four-point play out of it for a 44-38 lead. A 3-pointer by Wendell Green Jr. cut the advantage to 44-41 with 30 seconds left.

A turnover on the inbounds play gave Auburn the ball with 23 seconds to play. Broome got a tip-in to make it a one-point game, and Zakai Zeigler made two free throws.

Green’s last-second 3-point to tie clanked out.

“At the end, Wendell Green got the shot off and got fouled,” said Pearl. “Nothing got called.”

Auburn scored eight straight points to start the game. Tennessee followed with a six-point run and an eight-point spurt early in the second half. Those were the longest runs of the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Tennessee was in the No. 2 spot in the poll for two days before falling at Florida. Under Barnes, the Vols now have 25 wins over teams ranked in the Top 25. . Auburn had been clinging to the elite at No. 25 this week. The Tigers have been ranked as high as No. 11, coming in the fifth week of the season.

STAT SNACKS

Since statistics started being kept in 1999-2000, Tennessee is on pace to be the all-time leader in field-goal percentage defense (.348; Stanford, 1999-2000, is second .352) and 3-point defense (.225; Norfolk State, 2004-05, is second .253). . Through 22 games, the similarities between last year’s Vols point guard Kennedy Chandler (now with the Memphis Grizzlies) and this year’s Ziegler are striking (points per game: Chandler 13.5, Ziegler 11.4; rebounds: 3.0, 3.0; assists: 4.95, 5.05).

UP NEXT

Auburn: The Tigers will host Texas A&M on Tuesday night.

Tennessee: The Vols will tackle in-state rival Vanderbilt in Nashville on Wednesday.

Pedulla’s 22 points lift Virginia Tech past No. 6 Virginia

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BLACKSBURG, Va. – Sean Pedulla scored 22 points and Virginia Tech beat No. 6 Virginia 74-68 on Saturday, snapping the Cavaliers’ seven-game winning streak.

Pedulla made 6 of 13 from the floor as the Hokies (14-10, 4-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) posted their biggest win of the season. He added 8 of 9 from the free-throw line. Justin Mutts added 17 points.

Virginia Tech never trailed and shot 50% from the floor for the fourth straight game.

“There was no pouting (after the Miami loss). Just back to practice the next day,” Virginia Tech coach Mike Young said of his team, which lost 92-83 to No. 23 Miami on Tuesday. “Yeah, we’ve got Virginia coming in. Yes, in-state and all of that stuff. We’ve got another opportunity to play another really good opponent. We’ve got a chance to play Virginia Tech basketball and fight and compete and adhere to the things that are important to us – and we did that by and large on both ends of the floor.”

Jayden Gardner’s 20 points led Virginia (17-4, 9-3), which saw its usually stingy defense struggle. Kihei Clark finished with 17 points for the Cavaliers, while Reece Beekman had 15. Armaan Franklin, who had scored in double figures in 10 straight games, had six.

The Cavaliers tied the game at 38 on Gardner’s basket with 15:09 remaining, but the Hokies outscored Virginia 17-7 over the next seven minutes and never looked back.

Mutts hit 7 of 11 from the floor and added eight assists and four rebounds. Grant Basile had 14 points and Hunter Cattoor scored all 10 of his points in the second half for the Hokies.

“The heart was there, but to win in this setting against a team that’s playing good basketball, and Tech is, and they’ve got the players, you’ve got to be hard and smart,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “You can’t just be all hard. We were (hard and smart) for stretches, and they made us make some adjustments that helped a little bit, but they made the big shots.”

TIP-INS

Virginia: The Cavaliers suffered a rare poor outing on the defensive end, and it cost them. They led the ACC in scoring defense (60.2 ppg) going in, but allowed the Hokies to score 74 points and shoot 50.9% (27 of 53) from the floor. The Hokies became just the third team this season to shoot better than 50% against Virginia and scored 40 points in the paint.

“They run a lot of action, whether it’s dribble handoffs, fakes, they keep you on your toes, and it takes an incredible, and I think disciplined (effort) to keep them in front and keep them out of the paint,” Bennett said.

Virginia Tech: After losing eight of their previous 10 games, the Hokies needed a big win to help their thin NCAA Tournament resume. Registering 19 assists and turning the ball over just eight times were keys.

“Obviously, we keep up with stuff throughout the year, like `Oh, this would be a huge win on our resume,”‘ Pedulla said. “We do think about (the NCAA Tournament), and we obviously want to get there again. We know our team’s capable of it. We’re focused on it and we’re just trying to stack those wins on top of each other. I think this win definitely helps us.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Cavaliers were one-point underdogs going into the game, so they shouldn’t drop more than a few spots in Monday’s poll.

UP NEXT

Virginia: Hosts N.C. State on Tuesday.

Virginia Tech: Takes on Boston College in Blacksburg on Wednesday.