Best Bets: Kentucky-Auburn, Texas Tech-Kansas and a weekend preview

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Saturday’s line have not yet been put out by the fine folks running sportsbooks. Until they are, we will be using projections from KenPom, Torvik and Haslametrics to analyze Saturday’s games.

No. 13 KENTUCKY at No. 17 AUBURN, Sat. 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Auburn 72, Kentucky 69
  • TORVIK: Auburn 72, Kentucky 69
  • HASLAM: Auburn 74, Kentucky 69

For my money, there are two guys that are talented enough to be able to takeover a game for the Wildcats: Nick Richards and Tyrese Maxey. Auburn has guys at both of those spots — Austin Wiley and Isaac Okoro — that will be able to slow them down.

Combine that with the fact that Auburn has been a much better team at home this season, and that makes me believe that the Tigers can win this won by multiple possessions.

BEST BET: I like Auburn up to (-4.5).

*SATURDAY UPDATE: The line opened at Auburn (-2.5) and is not at Auburn (-3). I’ll be on the Tigers.

TEXAS TECH at No. 3 KANSAS, Sat. 4:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Kansas 70, Texas Tech 58
  • TORVIK: Kansas 71, Texas Tech 59
  • HASLAM: Kansas 70, Texas Tech 55

I don’t think that I’ve gotten one Texas Tech game right this season, but we’re going right back to the well this weekend.

And if I’m going to be forced to bet a side here, I’m going to be on The Red Raiders, especially if that line opens above the (+12) that KenPom and Torvik are projecting. The reason for that has everything to do with the way that I expect the Red Raiders to defend. When Baylor beat Kansas in the Phog earlier this year, what they did was switch everything, slough off of weakside shooters, front the post and essentially double-team Udoka Azubuike before he even got a chance to touch the ball. Much of what Scott Drew did that day was taken from the Texas Tech playbook, and I don’t know if there is a coach in the country that is better at building a game-plan defensively than Chris Beard and his staff.

That said, I also think that Kansas is going to be able to slow the Red Raiders down. I don’t expect them to make 11 of their first 15 threes again, as they did against West Virginia because of what Kansas has been on the defensive side of the ball this season. They’ve been at their best playing small, switching 1-4, icing ball-screens and using Azubuike to zone up around the rim.

BEST BET: So I’m going to be back on the under here assuming the total opens above 127.5.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: This line is currently sitting at Kansas (-8.5), which seems too low. I like the Jayhawks here. The total is all the way up at 131.5, which means that the under is still my favorite play.

No. 14 MICHIGAN STATE at WISCONSIN, Sat. 1:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Michigan State 66, Wisconsin 65
  • TORVIK: Michigan State 65, Wisconsin 63
  • HASLAM: Michigan State 66, Wisconsin 61

I’m really going to be fascinated to see where this line opens up. The projections that I trust the most — KenPom and Torvik — both have Michigan State as small favorites. Haslam has Michigan State (-5), and given the narrative surrounding the Wisconsin program this week, I think that the public will likely be fading the Badgers here.

Michigan State won their most recent road game. Wisconsin has lost three of their last four, with the only win coming at home against Nebraska. The Badgers will be down two starters. And I think it’s worth noting that the Badgers have lost seven straight games to the Spartans; their last win came on Jan. 17, 2016, when Denzel Valentine was in the middle of his Player of the Year season.

BEST BET: I get why everyone will be on the Spartans. If the line opens at Michigan State (-2), I’ll be on them as well. But I have a feeling this is going to be closer to Michigan State (-6) or so, and I’ll feel much less comfortable betting them at that number.

I can’t see myself betting Wisconsin at any reasonable number here, but I probably will stay away from the Spartans at anything (-5.5) and above.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: The line is currently at Michigan State (-5.5). If forced to pick, I would bet on Michigan State, but I will not be betting on this game, personally.

UTAH STATE at No. 4 SAN DIEGO STATE, Sat. 10:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: San Diego State 70, Utah State 59
  • TORVIK: San Diego State 69, Utah State 59
  • HASLAM: San Diego State 68, Utah State 56

The Aggies have been playing much better basketball of late. They’ve won three in a row and four of their last five, and the one loss during that stretch came in a game where they blew an 18 point lead in four minutes on the road.

Sam Merrill looks healthier. Neemias Queta is back at 100 percent. They look much more like the top 25 team that they were in the preseason, and at this point, this is a must-win game if the Aggies want a shot at getting an at-large bid. This is their last chance at an elite win this season.

BEST BET: I’ll be on the Aggies here, particularly if the line gets as high as (+12). I like them all the way down to (+10).

*SATURDAY UPDATE: Oddly enough, Utah State is only getting (+7.5). At this point, I think the value is probably on San Diego State, but I still like the Utah State side. That means it’s a stay-away for me.

No. 21 HOUSTON at CINCINNATI, Sat. 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Cincinnati 69, Houston 68
  • TORVIK: Cincinnati 69, Houston 67
  • HASLAM: Cincinnati 67, Houston 65

Cincinnati has won three in a row and five of their last six games to move within a game of first place in the American. In those six games, Jarron Cumberland is averaging 18.3 points and 5.7 assists. With losses to Bowling Green, Colgate and Tulane on their resume, the Bearcats have a major hole to dig out of to get an at-large bid.

BEST BET: Here’s to hoping we can get Cincinnati at a pick-em. I like the Bearcats up to (-2.5).

*SATURDAY UPDATE: Cincinnati is at (-3) right now. If forced to pick, I’d take the Bearcats at home in a must-win scenario, but I will not be betting it myself.

No. 23 WICHITA STATE at TULSA, Sat. 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Tulsa 65, Wichita State 64
  • TORVIK: Wichita State 64, Tulsa 63
  • HASLAM: Wichita State 65, Tulsa 64

Wichita State has righted the ship after losing two straight earlier this month, but the key point to make here for me is that they have had a week off to prep for this game. The reason that Tulsa is so difficult to play against is because Frank Haith is running a 1-2-2 matchup zone that is difficult to run offense against and is unlike what you’re going to see most teams do.

Gregg Marshall and the Shockers have had a full week off to prep for this game. I trust that he’ll be able to figure something out for them.

BEST BET: I like Wichita State here. If they’re getting points I’ll be on the ML. If they’re giving points, I’ll bet them up to (-2.5).

*SATURDAY UPDATE: Wichita State is (-2), so I’ll be on the Shockers.

No. 19 ILLINOIS at No. 18 IOWA, Sun. 1:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Iowa 76, Illinois 71
  • TORVIK: Iowa 76, Illinois 71
  • HASLAM: Iowa 75, Illinois 70

The big question with this game is going to be whether or not you think Kofi Cockburn is going to be able to stay out of foul trouble. Luka Garza has drawn nearly seven fouls per 40 minutes this season — a number that jumps up to 8.0 in Big Ten play — and Cockburn has had some issues with fouling this season. But where he really struggles is when he is asked to defend away from the basket, whether it is against big men that are quicker than him or offenses that like to run ball-screens. That’s not really the case in this matchup.

If Cockburn can stay out of foul trouble, than it means that the one player that is bigger, stronger and more physical than Garza in the Big Ten will stay on the floor. It also means that the third-best offensive rebounder in the Big Ten will be able to attack the glass against a team that has played quite a bit of zone of late.

BEST BET: Assuming the line opens up at Iowa (-5), I think I lean the Hawkeyes. They are coming off of a road loss to Maryland and have not lost at home since Nov. 11th. Illinois has won seven in a row — five of which have been by single digits, and four by four points or less — and while they have won three straight road games, they do get Maryland and Michigan State at home next week.

So yes, I’ll buy low on the Hawkeyes playing in a potential lookahead spot for Illinois in a game where so much of it could hinge on whether or not the Big Ten Player of the Year gets a favorable whistle at home.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.