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Best Bets: Previewing your college hoops weekend

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

No. 16 WEST VIRGINIA at No. 3 KANSAS, Sat. 4:00 (ESPN+)

  • KENPOM: Kansas 75, West Virginia 65
  • TORVIK: Kansas 76, West Virginia 65
  • HASLAMETRICS: Kansas 76, West Virginia 61

Assuming this line opens with West Virginia getting double digits, then I think that we have to be on the Mountaineers here.

For starters, they actually have the size inside to be able to matchup with Kansas. Udoka Azubuike is a monster, and while I don’t think that Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver are going to do enough to stop him, I do think that they will make life really difficult for the big fella. They are second nationally in defensive effective field goal percentage and 15th nationally in two-point field goal percentage defense.

Another reason that they are so good defensively is the fact that they can force turnovers. They’re not quite at the Press Virginia level because they don’t play that way anymore, but they to turn opponents over on 21 percent of their possessions. Kansas has had turnover issues this season.

The mitigating factor here is that Kansas not only has the size to be able to matchup with a two-big look from West Virginia, but they can also go small and pull Culver away from the bucket, where he can be foul prone. I’m also somewhat worried about foul issues. It’s not exactly a secret that Kansas is going to get a friendly whistle in Phog Allen Fieldhouse, and we just saw the Mountaineers get whistled for roughly 689 fouls in their win against Ohio State.

BEST BET: All that said, if the line opens up at (+10) or higher, then I think we have to be on West Virginia. They are too good to be getting 10 points against anyone. I’m also intrigued by the under here, especially if it is 140 or above. These are two top ten defenses facing off, although the foul issues could create problems in that regard.

*UPDATE: The line opened at Kansas (-9) and is now Kansas (-9.5) or (-10). That’s just too many points. I think the play here is West Virginia. The total has also moved a point, going up to 141 from 140. I still lean the under, but I don’t feel great about it.

No. 12 MICHIGAN at No. 14 MICHIGAN STATE, Sun. 1:30 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM: Michigan State 77, Michigan 70
  • TORVIK: Michigan State 77, Michigan 70
  • HASLAMETRICS: Michigan State 76, Michigan 69

All three metrics have Michigan State favored by seven in this one, but I don’t think the number is going to open that high in Vegas. I do, however, love the Michigan State side in this one, and the truth is that it’s not really anything to do with the matchups, or where the game is being player, or the players on the floor.

The Spartans feel like they have turned a corner. They’ve won their last six games after getting smoked by Duke at home. Five of those six wins were by double-digits. The last three have been absolute blowouts, including Thursday night’s win over Illinois. At (+7), I think I’ll probably stay away and at (+8.8) I think the value might actually be on Michigan, but I don’t expect the line to open quite that high.

The x-factor here is going to be Isaiah Livers. He missed the last game with a groin injury that he suffered against Presbyterian. If he is out, that is a major blow for the Wolverines.

BEST BET: I love Michigan State at anything (-6.5) and below.

No. 18 FLORIDA STATE at No. 7 LOUISVILLE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • KENPOM: Louisville 70, Florida State 62
  • TORVIK: Louisville 70, Florida State 61
  • HASLAMETRICS: Louisville 70, Florida State 61

All three projections have essentially the same score, which leads me to believe that this line is going to open right around Florida State (+8.5). I think there is value on the Seminoles there. Now, betting on Leonard Hamilton in a road environment against a team that is top five in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency is less than ideal, I think the matchup favors Florida State.

We know Louisville can struggle offensively when dealing with a defense that provides pressure at the point of attack and forces turnovers. That’s precisely what Florida State does. They also have enough big, athletic wings to consistently throw bodies at Jordan Nwora, who has struggled against elite defenses this season.

BEST BET: I’ll take Florida State at anything (+7.5) and below.

*UPDATE: The line opened at Louisville (-7) and was bet down to Louisville (-5.5) in some spots. At that number, I think I lean towards Louisville, but I wouldn’t feel great about it

No. 10 VILLANOVA at MARQUETTE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • KENPOM: Marquette 77, Villanova 75
  • TORVIK: Villanova 77, Marquette 76
  • HASLAMETRICS: Marquette 79, Villanova 76

I’ve always said that I have betting on Marquette because you are basically betting on whether or not you think Markus Howard is going to go off.

Having said that, this does feel like a bounce back spot for the Golden Eagles after losing to Creighton on Wednesday night. They’re coming home and taking on the team that most believe is the favorite to win the Big East this season. The one mitigating factor here is that I think Villanova has enough versatility to cause problems for Marquette.

BEST BET: If forced to bet, I would lean towards Marquette (-2), but personally, I will be staying away from this one.

*UPDATE: The line opened at Marquette (-2) and is now Marquette (-1) in some spots. Like I said, I lean the Golden Eagles here, but I will not be betting it myself.

No. 23 IOWA vs. No. 21 PENN STATE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (BTN)

  • KENPOM: Penn State 77, Iowa 76
  • TORVIK: Penn State 78, Iowa 77
  • HASLAMETRICS: Penn State 78, Iowa 76

How are both of these teams ranked? That is one of the wilder story lines of the season.

Either way, I think that the obvious play here is the over. Iowa can’t really stop anyone, and there aren’t really any teams that have been able to stop Iowa this season.

One thing to note is that this game is going to be played in a neutral site that isn’t all that neutral: It’s a league game that is being played at the Palestra in Philly as a Penn State home game.

BEST BET: I’ll take the over on anything (154) and below.

*UPDATE: The total opened at 154.5 and is down to 154, so I’ll be on the over here.

No. 13 SAN DIEGO STATE at UTAH STATE, Sat. 10:00 p.m. (CBSSN)

  • KENPOM: San Diego State 66, Utah State 65
  • TORVIK: San Diego State 66, Utah State 62
  • HASLAMETRICS: San Diego State 65, Utah State 58

This is the proving ground for the Aztecs. They are undefeated on the season and have taken over the role of the favorite in the Mountain West, and on Saturday evening they will be heading to Logan to face off with the team that was picked as the preseason favorite in the league.

This is the statement game. We’ve seen SDSU blowout Creighton, beat Iowa and win at BYU. We know they’re good. This is probably the toughest game they have left on their schedule, and I think they will be up for it.

The x-factor here is Neemias Queta, who has been dealing with knee issues all season long. If he is out there, he will make a difference, but I doubt we’ll get anything close to an answer about that until we see who is warming up for the Aggies.

BEST BET: So much of this is going to depend on the line. If it opens at SDSU (-1), as KenPom suggests, then that’s one thing. If it opens up at SDSU (-7), it’s a much different conversation. Utah State is coming off of a loss in their Mountain West opener, and if they lose to the Aztecs, they’ll be two games behind them in the MWC standings. That might end up being insurmountable.

Playing at elevation on national television in front of what should be a raucous crown with a season title potentially on the line, I think the Aggies win this game.

*UPDATE: So the line here opened with Utah State favored and has moved up to Utah State (-2.5), which is a sharp line. At that number, I think the value is actually on the San Diego State side. The problem with that is I believe the Aggies are going to win. So I probably will not be betting this game. If I do, it will be on Utah State.

No. 4 OREGON at UTAH, Sat. 5:00 p.m. (Pac-12)

  • KENPOM: Oregon 75, Utah 69
  • TORVIK: Oregon 74, Utah 72
  • HASLAMETRICS: Oregon 76, Utah 68

This is a tough spot. Oregon has never lost at Utah. They’ve also never played Utah on the second leg of the Mountain road trip. They’ve also never won the second leg of the Mountain road trip, having been beaten all four times they played at Colorado.

The Ducks also lost at Colorado last night, and this Utah team seems to have turned a corner. This feels like a bounce back spot to me, but you should always be wary of betting against Utah and Colorado at home in league play.

BEST BET: I like Oregon at anything (-4.5) and below, but I will not be betting it myself.

*UPDATE: The line opened at Oregon (-6) and has been bet down to Oregon (-4.5) in some spots. I like Oregon at that number, but I’ll stay away at (-5) and above.

ARIZONA STATE at No. 25 ARIZONA, Sat. 9:30 p.m. (Pac-12)

  • KENPOM: Arizona 80, Arizona State 68
  • TORVIK: Arizona 79, Arizona State 68
  • HASLAMETRICS: Arizona 79, Arizona State 63

This should be a fun, late-night rivalry game in the McKale Center. Both teams like to play an uptempo brand of basketball, but here’s the catch: Arizona State has had trouble scoring the rock this season. They don’t shoot it well from distance, and Arizona is top five in the country is defensive two-point field goal percentage thanks to the Pack-Line defense they play.

My guess is that the total in this game is going to get bet up. A rivalry game played as the opener of league play feels like a good place to fade the steam.

BEST BET: The under, and hope you can get it at (150).

*UPDATE: So the line opened at Arizona (-10), which wasn’t unexpected, but the opened at 146.5 and has held firm there. I will not be betting this game at those numbers.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

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

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

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.