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.

NCAA steering farther and farther away from harsh penalties

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The days of postseason bans and crippling scholarship reductions to punish schools for breaking NCAA rules appear to be winding down.

Memphis was placed on three years of probation earlier this week with a public reprimand and fined for NCAA violations related to the recruitment and short college career of James Wiseman, who is about to start his third season with the Golden State Warriors. The NCAA also wrapped up an investigation of Air Force football for breaking the COVID-19 recruiting quiet period.

No postseason bans or scholarship reductions in either case. The Independent Accountability Review Panel, the NCAA’s outside arm of enforcement, said in its decision in the Memphis case that it did not want to punish current athletes.

That sentiment is widespread in college athletics these days, even with millions of dollars suddenly flowing to athletes from various sources for their celebrity endorsements amid concerns over improper inducements. In fact, it is on the way to being codified: Last month, the Division I Board of Directors adopted three proposals to change the infractions process.

The board also committed to “identifying appropriate types of penalties and modifying current penalty ranges, including identifying potential alternative penalties to postseason bans.”

Trying to predict what those alternatives will be is difficult, but if the goal is to avoid harming athletes and others who were not involved in the violations the options are limited.

“I emphatically believe it’s the wrong direction to go,” said Nebraska law professor Jo Potuto, who spent nine years on the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“If you’re going to deter, the punishment has to fit the offense, right?” Potuto added. “You’re not going to deter serious violations with penalties that are not perceived to be really serious.”

Since January 2020, there have been at least 45 major infractions cases decided by the NCAA. Of those, at least 15 involved Level I allegations, the most serious and those carrying the most severe penalties; six cases resulted in some kind of postseason ban, with four of them self-imposed.

The Memphis case went through the IARP, which was created in response to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption but is now being discontinued. Sunsetting the IARP was among several recommendations put forth by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee earlier this year and recently adopted by the board.

As college sports moves toward less centralized governance by the NCAA and deregulation in general, the hope is to create a more streamlined enforcement process.

If justice is swift, the thinking goes, it is more likely to be applied fairly.

“The reality is the current system is broken,” said Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Jim Phillips, a member of the transformation committee. “I think everyone in the association, in the enterprise, understands it. When (an investigation) takes the amount of time that it does now and you start to penalize young men and women that were high school, if not middle school-age (when the violation occurred), it’s not an effective process.”

The IARP is still handling cases stemming from the FBI probe involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and LSU. Those have been in the NCAA enforcement pipeline for years. A related case against Oklahoma State did not go through IARP and the Cowboys did end up with a postseason ban.

David Ridpath, a professor at Ohio University and former compliance director for several schools, said even though the IARP failed, NCAA enforcement would be best handled by an independent organization.

“No system is perfect, but if you’re going to have an enforcement system at the end of the day you need to provide basic due-process protections and then you have to be able to consistently punish people,” he said.

In the Memphis case, Wiseman received $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 while Hardaway was coach at a local high school. Hardaway was hired as Memphis’ coach in March 2018, and Wiseman committed to the Tigers in November 2018.

The NCAA accused Memphis of four Level I and two Level II violations, including lack of institutional control, head coach responsibility and failure to monitor. In the past, those types of allegations could strike fear into athletic directors but probation and fines seem much more likely to be the outcome now instead of the sweeping scholarship sanctions, vacated victories and postseason ban that Southern California received in 2010 for the Reggie Bush improper benefits case. Those penalties set USC football back years.

In the end, the IARP essentially reduced the charges against Memphis and cleared Hardaway of wrongdoing.

While the NCAA is losing sway in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, with more power being shifted to its member conferences, it also remains clear the schools still want the association to handle enforcement.

But what exactly is being enforced?

Athletes can now be paid for endorsement and sponsorship deals and college sports is still waiting on and hoping for help from federal lawmakers to regulate name, image and likeness compensation.

Plus, as revenue skyrockets for schools at the top of major college sports, the NCAA is trending toward fewer restrictions on what financial benefits can be provided to athletes.

“Until we have clarity and certainty on what schools and boosters and athletes can and can’t do, I think many recognize that it’s dangerous to hand down significant punishments when it’s not clear what you can and can’t do,” said Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane. “And I think unless you have clear rules, it’s hard to harsh punishment.”

Still, punishments directed at schools (fines) and coaches (suspensions) could become steeper and longer, Feldman said.

Potuto said with so much money flowing into the top of college athletics, it is doubtful fines could be large enough to be a true deterrent. While she understands the desire to not have current athletes pay for the sins of previous regimes, loosened transfer rules could mitigate the potential harm.

“I will make one prediction: If there is a move to impose penalties much less frequently in five years there is going to be a move to put them back in,” Potuto said.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.