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.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Ohio State tumbles

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It was a rough week for Ohio State, which lost all three of its games and tumbled down the AP Top 25 as a result.

The previously unbeaten Buckeyes fell from second to 10th in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll released Monday after losing to Iowa and Indiana, two top 10 teams, as well as Purdue. Ohio State fell two games back in the Big Ten Conference standings.

South Carolina remained No. 1 for the 32nd consecutive week. The Gamecocks, who were again a unanimous choice from the 28-member national media panel, have the fourth-longest streak ever atop the poll. Only UConn (51 and 34 weeks) and Louisiana Tech (36) have had longer runs at No. 1.

Stanford moved back up to No. 2 in the poll and the Cardinal were followed by LSU, Indiana and UConn in the top five. LSU is the only other undefeated team in women’s basketball besides South Carolina, which visits UConn for a top-five showdown on Sunday.

Iowa jumped out four spots to sixth with Utah, Maryland and Notre Dame coming in ahead of Ohio State. The Hawkeyes started the season No. 4 in the poll.

The Fighting Irish split a pair of games last week against ranked opponents, routing Florida State before falling to N.C. State.

“There’s a lot of parity right now, which is great, great for the game,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said. “The game is growing, which is what you want. But yeah, I mean, every night, especially the ACC, the ACC is the strongest league and, you know, we have just a tough stretch every night.”

One week after falling out of the rankings, Texas re-entered the poll at No. 24. The Longhorns routed then-No. 14 Oklahoma and Oklahoma State last week. South Florida also came in at No. 25. Colorado and Illinois fell out of the poll.

RISING BULLS

No. 25 South Florida continued its streak of being ranked for at least one week every season since the Bulls entered the poll for the first time in 2015.

“For us not being in a so-called football five conference, that’s a huge accomplishment,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. His team has won 10 consecutive games and has 20 victories this season. The team’s four losses have all come against ranked opponents (Michigan, Villanova, Ohio State and N.C. State).

“This group has been fun to coach. We always play a great non(equals)conference schedule,” Fernandez said. “We won on the road at Texas, beat Alabama, beat Arkansas. We challenged ourselves in November and December.”

RECORD PERFORMANCES

Cameron Brink carried Stanford to a win over Oregon with a triple-double that included 10 blocks. It was the first triple-double in NCAA Division I women’s basketball featuring double-digit blocks since Tamari Key did it for Tennessee in an overtime win against Texas on Nov. 21, 2021.

No. 20 Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson set the all-time NCAA women’s career record for 3-pointers when she hit her 498th in a loss to Iowa State on Saturday. Robertson has 503 entering this week. The all-time NCAA record, men or women, is held by Antoine Davis of Detroit Mercy, who has 534 and counting.

Purdue a unanimous No. 1 in AP Top 25; Vols up to No. 2

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Purdue became this season’s first unanimous No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 men’s college basketball poll Monday after wins over Michigan and Michigan State last week as chaos ensued behind the Boilermakers among other ranked teams.

More than half of Top 25 teams lost, including second-ranked Alabama, which was routed by Oklahoma in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. That allowed Purdue to grab the remaining No. 1 votes and tighten its grip atop the poll, while Tennessee jumped two spots to second and Houston held onto third in voting by 62 national media members.

The Boilermakers (21-1) have won eight straight since a one-point loss to Rutgers on Jan. 2.

“We’re the No. 1 team in the country because of how unselfish we are as a team,” Purdue guard David Jenkins Jr. said. “We had a lot of people doubting us in the beginning because, you know, we may not be the most talented team or whatever, but we’re close on the court and off the court and it’s really translating to how we’re winning.”

The Volunteers climbed to their highest perch since reaching No. 1 for four weeks during the 2018-19 season. They routed Georgia before becoming one of three SEC teams to beat Big 12 opponents on Saturday, knocking off No. 10 Texas 82-71 for their fifth consecutive win over a top-10 team.

Perhaps this is the year Rick Barnes finally gets the Vols through the Sweet 16 for the first time as their coach.

“We have a chance to be as good as we want to be,” he said. “It’s up to one thing: Are we tough enough to embrace the daily grind? And not worry about going to the Final Four or worry about going to the NCAA Tournament, but can we build a team that can be successful that time of year? It starts with truly embracing the grind.”

The Crimson Tide dropped to fourth after the blowout loss to the Sooners, when Alabama fell behind by 17 at halftime in an eventual 93-69 defeat. The Tide edged fifth-ranked Arizona by just two points in this week’s poll.

“It doesn’t have any effect on SEC standings, which is the only good thing to come out of this,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said of the lopsided loss. “Hopefully we’ll recover from a loss out of conference, but you know, it’s not good.”

Virginia was sixth and Kansas State, which rebounded from a narrow loss at No. 13 Iowa State by pummeling Florida on Saturday, fell two spots to seventh; the Wildcats face eighth-ranked Kansas in a top-10 showdown Tuesday night.

UCLA dropped to ninth after losing to Southern California and Texas rounded out the top 10.

Baylor continued its climb from unranked to No. 11 following wins over the Jayhawks and Arkansas. The Bears were followed by Gonzaga, Iowa State, Marquette and league rival TCU – the sixth Big 12 team in the top 15.

Xavier, Providence, Saint Mary’s, Florida Atlantic and Clemson completed the top 20, while poll returners Indiana and San Diego State joined Miami, UConn and Auburn in rounding out the Top 25.

RISING AND FALLING

The No. 11 Bears and No. 17 Providence made the biggest leaps, each climbing six spots from last week.

“I think our defense is better. Our turnovers are better. When you don’t give people easy transition baskets, now its five-on-five in the half court,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team had a date with the Longhorns on Monday night.

“We execute at a pretty high rate,” Drew said. “It really comes down to taking care of the ball, making sure we get shots up and when you don’t make them, you’ve got to get rebounds. And our guys are buying into that.”

Auburn took the biggest hit of those still in the poll, dropping 10 places after losses to unranked Texas A&M and West Virginia.

IN AND OUT

The Hoosiers returned to the poll at No. 21 and the Aztecs rejoined it right behind them. They took the place of Charleston, which fell out from No. 18 after losing to Hofstra, and New Mexico, which lost to Nevada in double overtime last week.

CONFERENCE CALL

The Big 12’s dominance of the SEC in the final year of their head-to-head challenge was rewarded in the poll, where the league led the way with six ranked teams and all of them in the top 15. The Big East has four teams in the poll but none higher than No. 14 Marquette, while the SEC and ACC have three teams apiece.

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.

Clemson starter Galloway will miss time after surgery

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson starter Brevin Galloway is expected to miss games for the 24th-ranked Tigers after having surgery on his groin area Thursday.

The 6-foot-3 Galloway has started 20 of 21 games after transferring from Boston College this past offseason.

Galloway posted on social media that he’d had the surgery. Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that Galloway had the operation.

Galloway said in his post he will be in uniform soon. He is not expected to play at Florida State on Saturday.

A fifth-year player, Galloway has averaged 10.6 points a game this season. He’s second on the Tigers with 55 assists and 18 steals.

The Tigers (17-4) lead the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1 in league play.

Clemson is already down two experienced players due to injury.

Point guard Chase Hunter, who started the team’s first 18 games, has missed the past three with a foot injury.

Guard Alex Hemenway, in his fourth season, has missed the past nine games with a foot injury. Hemenway was the team’s leading 3-point shooter (27 of 54) before getting hurt.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.