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Best Bets: Previewing Kansas-Baylor, the biggest game of the season

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Baylor vs. Kansas.

The No. 1 vs. No. 3 in the AP Poll. The No. 1 vs. No. 2 in KenPom. And the No. 1 team is not the same in both rankings.

The Bears have won a Big 12 record 23 straight games. Kansas has only lost once since Christmas, and that loss came the first time they faced off with Baylor this season.

This is, almost without a doubt, the biggest game of the college basketball season to date. The first time these two teams faced off, the Bears went into Phog Allen Fieldhouse and knocked off a banged up Kansas team, 67-55, while landing the first win for Scott Drew in Lawrence in his 17-year tenure in Waco.

Saturday is the rematch.

Here’s the breakdown.

No. 3 KANSAS at No. 1 BAYLOR, Sat. 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Baylor 64, Kansas 63
  • TORVIK: Baylor 64, Kansas 61
  • HASLAM: Kansas 64, Baylor 62

Bill Self is the king of adjustments, so I will be fascinated to see what he schemes up to try and create some space for Udoka Azubuike to operate. The first time these two teams squared off, Baylor fronted the post and helped all the way off whoever was in the corner of the floor, making sure that a lob pass over the top of the defense was not possible. The concept was simple, really: Make sure that Doke was going to have to beat two guys just to get a post touch, pressure the hell out of the Kansas ball-handlers and force them to beat a crop of elite defenders off the dribble and make kick-out threes.

It did not go well.

I expect much of the same from the Bears on Saturday. This was nothing more than a somewhat exaggerated version of the defense that they play on a nightly basis, and I can’t imagine that Scott Drew will switch up too much considering the fact that this defense has led him to three months worth of consecutive wins. So the question then becomes whether or not Bill Self, who has had four days to prepare and install a game-plan for Saturday, can figure out something to beat this Baylor defense.

As far as what he’ll do, I think that the Jayhawks will end up doing two things to try and beat this Baylor defense. The first is to get out and run in transition. As good as Devon Dotson has been, I still think that he is at his best when he is running at a defense before it gets set, and considering just how hard Baylor goes to the offensive glass, Dotson will get his opportunities in transition. I also expect that Kansas will play more four guard lineups and will run more ball-screen stuff. Baylor likes to switch 1-through-5, and if Kansas can create situations where either Dotson can turn the corner or force a switch, it will play into the KU advantage.

All that said, the truth might end up being this simple: This game will probably come down to whether or not Kansas can continue to make threes at the rate that they have made threes the last two games. They are a combined 23-for-49 the last two games. They shot 4-for-15 the first time they faced off with Baylor.

BEST BET: I know this game is going to be played in Waco, but I think the answer here is Kansas. If they’re getting points, I’ll be on the moneyline. I just think that you’re giving Bill Self too much time to prepare, and that the Jayhawks have been playing much better basketball of late. I also think that Kansas has figured things out defensively to the point that they are the nation’s best defensive team.

Personally, I’m hoping that the Jayhawks win, that we get to the Big 12 title game with neither team taking another loss and that battle gets played to determine the No. 1 overall seed. That would be fun.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: This line is currently sitting at Kansas (+1.5) and the moneyline is (+104). I’m on the moneyline.

No. 2 GONZAGA at BYU, Sat. 10:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Gonzaga 82, BYU 80
  • TORVIK: Gonzaga 82, BYU 80
  • HASLAM: Gonzaga 85, BYU 79

Gonzaga and BYU both rank in the top five nationally in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom. They both rank in the top three of effective field goal percentage. BYU leads the nation in three-point shooting at a crisp 41.9 percent. Gonzaga is third at 39.4 percent. These are two of the nation’s elite offenses. obviously, which is why you are seeing projections that are so high.

I’m going to assume that Killian Tillie is playing for the Zags because he played on Thursday night against San Francisco, and that ends up being a major difference maker. He’s the athletic four that can create all of the mismatch problems against a smaller team like the Cougars.

BEST BET: My favorite bet here is going to be Gonzaga (-2), and the biggest reason is that the way Gonzaga wants to play, they pound the ball into the post for Filip Petrusev and Drew Timme. BYU’s best player, Yoeli Childs, has committed four fouls in the last two, three of the last four and four of the last six games. I would also lean towards the over, especially if the total ends up somewhere south of 160.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: This total opened for me at 158, shot up to 160 and has come back down to 158.5. I tend to lean towards the over here.

No. 14 OREGON AT No. 24 ARIZONA, Sat. 9:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Arizona 74, Oregon 69
  • TORVIK: Arizona 73, Oregon 67
  • HASLAM: Arizona 71, Oregon 66

This has suddenly turned into a must-win spot for Oregon if they want to remain in the Pac-12 regular season title race. The Ducks lost on Thursday night at Arizona State while Arizona is coming off of an easy home win over Oregon State.

The first time these two teams played, Oregon erased a big second half deficit, eventually winning in overtime. I do think that the Oregon zone will cause some problems for Arizona, but there won’t be enough size inside to deal with Zeke Nnaji.

BEST BET: I think I lean Oregon here, especially if this line gets up past (+6). I do think the Ducks are the better team, because the metrics are way higher on Arizona than they should be.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: With the line currently sitting at Oregon (+4.5), I think I’m going to stay away. I would take Oregon if you forced me to pick.

No. 21 BUTLER at No. 13 CREIGHTON, Sun. 4:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Creighton 73, Butler 68
  • TORVIK: Creighton 72, Butler 66
  • HASLAM: Creighton 72, Butler 65

The first time that these two teams played, Butler won fairly easily. But the Bulldogs were a different team then. They were 14-1 on the season. They were playing as well defensively as anyone in the country. Kamar Baldwin wasn’t having to put the team on his back as often. Since that game, these two teams have gone in entirely different directions. Creighton has won eight of their last nine games and, with three of their last four games at home and a date with Seton Hall in the season finale, they have a very real chance of winning the Big East regular season title. Butler, on the other have, has lost two straight, three of their last four and seven of their last 11. They are now just .500 in Big East play.

BEST BET: The Bluejays have covered four in a row and seven of their last eight games. They are playing at home, where they have won three straight by double-digits and lost just once this season. I’ll be on Creighton up to (-6.5).

MICHIGAN at PURDUE, Sat. 2:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Purdue 67, Michigan 65
  • TORVIK: Purdue 65, Michigan 63
  • HASLAM: Purdue 66, Michigan 63

I know how good Purdue can be at home. But Michigan has turned a corner, and if Isaiah Livers is playing, than I want my money on the Wolverines. Michigan is 11-3 with a healthy Rivers. They are 6-6 when he sits out, and they just because the first team in college basketball this season to win at Rutgers, and they did that without Livers.

BEST BET: Michigan ML if and when we get word that Isaiah Livers will be healthy.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: The moneyline for the Wolverines here is (+143), but Livers is currently listed as a game-time decision. Keep an eye on that.

FLORIDA at No. 12 KENTUCKY, Sat. 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Kentucky 72, Florida 67
  • TORVIK: Kentucky 70, Florida 66
  • HASLAM: Kentucky 70, Florida 67

As this projection continues to creep towards Kentucky, it does feel like the value here is on Florida. The Gators are not going to have to worry about big wings taking advantage of their smaller guards, and while Nick Richards has been a monster this season, Kerry Blackshear ranks 16th nationally by drawing 6.9 fouls per 40 minutes. If Richards gets into foul trouble, Kentucky is going to be in trouble.

BEST BET: I lean Florida in this spot, but I’m going to hope that I can find the line at (+6) somewhere.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: With the line sitting at Florida (+4.5), I think I’ll be staying away.

Mike Tirico to host NBC Sports’ new daily sports talk show ‘Lunch Talk Live’

We’re excited to bring viewers fresh programming every day with unique, topical conversations from prominent individuals in all corners of sports. This will be a daily lunch date to share sports and stories we miss during these unique times.
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A new daily sports talk shot called Lunch Talk Live will debut on NBCSN at noon ET on Monday, April 6th.

The show will feature Mike Tirico joined like by special guests every single day, including a lineup of NBC Sports’ on-air personalities, current and former athletes and prominent people in sports media.

The show will focus on how the sports world is navigating the coronavirus pandemic, providing a platform for intelligent discussion on the state of sports and how we, as a society, are adapting to living in this challenging time. the goal is to detail personal stories of how different people from across the sports industry are functioning in the day-to-day.

“In these challenging times, we are all missing sports and the people who make sports memories,” said Tirico. “Hopefully, we can bring a midday connection with some of them to help fill the void.”

“We’re excited to bring viewers fresh programming every day with unique, topical conversations from prominent individuals in all corners of sports,” said Sam Flood, the Executive Producer & President of Production for NBC Sports. “This will be a daily lunch date to share sports and stories we miss during these unique times.”

The show will be an hour long. It will air on weekdays at Noon ET on NBCSN and will be streaming on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Additionally, content will also be provided on the NBC Sports’ YouTube channel as well as other social media platforms.

All episodes of the show will be hosted remotely.

Michigan State AD defends Tom Izzo after witness report

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman defended basketball coach Tom Izzo on Thursday after Izzo was accused in

of contacting a witness who was part of a 2017 criminal sexual conduct investigation involving one of his players.

According to a police report obtained by ESPN, Michigan State student Brayden Smith was with basketball player Brock Washington on the night a female student said Washington forcibly groped her. When police interviewed Smith, he said he had already been contacted by Izzo and assistant coaches Dwayne Stephens and Mike Garland. They “asked (Smith) if he was OK and if there was anything that he had seen during the evening,” according to the report.

Beekman responded in a lengthy statement Thursday.

“Tom Izzo has been a beacon of integrity in his profession for nearly four decades, including a quarter century as head coach. Michigan State’s Office of Institutional Equity has gone on record to say that no policies were violated in regards to any actions taken by the men’s basketball staff during a Title IX investigation into a student,” Beekman said. “There’s nothing to support any claims that any member of the men’s basketball staff conducted their own investigation, or interfered with any ongoing investigation. Any insinuation to the contrary is nothing more than an attempt to smear a coach, a program, and an entire university.”

Smith, the son of former Michigan State player Steve Smith, has not played basketball for the Spartans. According to a Title IX report obtained by ESPN, Brayden Smith told investigators he considers the coaches his “godfathers” who check in on him occasionally.

According to ESPN, police said in their report that Brayden Smith’s perception of his conversation with the coaches about the night in question “was not to get information out of him, but rather to ensure that he was OK and remind him to be responsible.”

The school’s Title IX investigation determined that Washington was not responsible for having violated the university’s sexual misconduct policy, according to ESPN. The network

that in early 2018, Washington pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault under a provision allowing offenders to plead guilty without a court entering a judgment of conviction.

Earlier this week, ESPN reported that campus police told prosecutors they had probable cause that Brock Washington raped a woman Jan. 19 while she was too intoxicated to consent County prosecutors

because they didn’t feel they could prove their case to a jury.

Washington played a total of 19 minutes this season before he was suspended in late January.

NC State’s NCAA case recommended for independent process

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State’s NCAA case involving recruiting violations tied to former Wolfpack one-and-done star Dennis Smith Jr. has been recommended to go through an independent investigation process created for complex cases.

In a statement Friday, athletics spokesman Fred Demarest said the school must respond by April 14 to the recommendation. Demarest said officials are “reviewing and evaluating our options.”

The NCAA created the Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP) last year, a product of proposals from the commission led by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2018 to reform college basketball amid a federal corruption investigation into the sport. The process includes independent investigators and decision-makers with no direct ties to NCAA member schools, and rulings cannot be appealed.

The NCAA announced last month that Memphis’ case involving star freshman basketball player James Wiseman would go that route, becoming the first to enter the process.

IARP spokeswoman Whitney Ertel declined to comment on the N.C. State case, but said involved parties have the chance to respond to any recommendation before a determination is made.

“A case can either be accepted into the independent process or it can be denied,” Ertel said. “If any case is going to be accepted, then we will make an announcement.”

N.C. State was charged last summer with four violations, including former head coach Mark Gottfried being charged individually under the provision of head-coach responsibility for violations within his program.

Specifically, the NCAA has alleged ex-assistant Orlando Early provided Smith and his associates approximately $46,700 in impermissible benefits – including $40,000 that a government witness testified he delivered to Early intended for Smith’s family in 2015.

N.C. State has argued the NCAA had not proven money was actually provided to Smith or his family, noting Smith – picked ninth in the 2017 NBA draft after one year in Raleigh – denied receiving money in a school interview in 2019.

Attorneys for Gottfried, now coach at Cal State Northridge, have questioned the fairness of the process and argued Gottfried fulfilled obligations to monitor the program.

The NCAA enforcement staff’s response in February held firm that violations had occurred.

2020 NBA Draft Early Entry Tracker

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Here is CBT’s full 2020 NBA Draft early entry tracker. You’ll find a full breakdown of what players are deciding. We’ll track signing with agents, testing the waters and returning to school here. 

Underclassmen have until Sunday, April 26th at 11:59 p.m. EST to declare for the 2020 NBA Draft.

A deadline of Monday, June 15th at 5 p.m. EST is set for underclassmen to withdraw and retain college eligibility.

Of course, these dates are subject to change given the fluidity of the COVID-19 situation.

Here is the full list of the underclassmen who have declared for the 2020 NBA Draft. You can also find a list of the biggest names we’re waiting on.

NBA DRAFT EARLY ENTRY

Preseason Top 25 | Mock Draft | Early Entry Tracker

NBA DRAFT TESTING THE WATERS

  • PAUL ATKINSON, Yale
  • SADDIQ BEY, Villanova
  • TYLER BEY, Colorado
  • JERMAINE BISHOP, Norfolk State
  • JOMARU BROWN, Eastern Kentucky
  • JORDAN BRUNER, Yale
  • JORDAN BURNS, Colgate
  • MARCUS CARR, Minnesota
  • TAMENANG CHOH, Brown
  • DAVID COLLINS, South Florida
  • JALEN CRUTCHER, Dayton
  • RYAN DALY, St. Joseph’s
  • DEVON DANIELS, N.C. State
  • KENDRIC DAVIS, SMU
  • DEXTER DENNIS, Wichita State
  • MASON FAULKNER, Western Carolina
  • L.J. FIGUEROA, St. John’s
  • D.J. FUNDERBURK, N.C. State
  • ALONZO GAFFNEY, Ohio State
  • JIMMA GATWECH, Huntington Prep (WV)
  • JORDAN GOODWIN, Saint Louis
  • JAYVON GRAVES, Buffalo
  • RAYSHAUN HAMMONDS, Georgia
  • ELIJAH HUGHES, Syracuse
  • FERON HUNT, SMU
  • HERB JONES, Alabama
  • MASON JONES, Arkansas
  • KAMERON LANGLEY, North Carolina A&T
  • SABEN LEE, Vanderbilt
  • KIRA LEWIS, Alabama
  • ISAIAH LIVERS, Michigan
  • SANDRO MAMUKELASHVILI, Seton Hall
  • NICO MANNION, Arizona
  • NAJI MARSHALL, Xavier
  • KENYON MARTIN JR., IMG Academy (FL)
  • REMY MARTIN, Arizona State
  • MAC MCCLUNG, Georgetown
  • ISAIAH MILLER, UNCG
  • ELIJAH OLANIYI, Stony Brook
  • JOHN PETTY JR., Alabama
  • NATE PIERRE-LOUIS, Temple
  • XAVIER PINSON, Missouri
  • JEREMIAH ROBINSON-EARL, Villanova
  • MARCUS SANTOS-SILVA, VCU
  • JAY SCRUBB, John A. Logan College (Louisville commit)
  • MITCHELL SMITH, Missouri
  • STEF SMITH, Vermont
  • PARKER STEWART, UT Martin
  • MACIO TEAGUE, Baylor
  • XAVIER TILLMAN, Michigan State
  • JEREMIAH TILMON, Missouri
  • JORDAN TUCKER, Butler
  • KALEB WESSON, Ohio State
  • KEITH WILLIAMS, Cincinnati
  • MCKINLEY WRIGHT, Colorado

NOTABLES RETURNING TO SCHOOL

  • DEREK CULVER, West Virginia
  • OSCAR TSHIEBWE, West Virginia

NOTABLES YET TO ANNOUNCE

PRECIOUS ACHIUWA, Memphis
DERRICK ALSTON, Boise State
COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina
BRYAN ANTOINE, Villanova
JOEL AYAYI, Gonzaga
JARED BUTLER, Baylor
VERNON CAREY, Duke
AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois
DEVON DOTSON, Kansas
MALACHI FLYNN, San Diego State
LUKA GARZA, Iowa
JOSH GREEN, Arizona
ASHTON HAGANS, Kentucky
AARON HENRY, Michigan State
MATTHEW HURT, Duke
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS, Indiana
ISAIAH JOE, Arkansas
DAVID JOHNSON, Louisville
A.J. LAWSON, South Carolina
SCOTTIE LEWIS, Florida
TYRESE MAXEY, Kentucky
JADEN MCDANIELS, Washington
WENDELL MOORE, Duke
JORDAN NWORA, Louisville
FILIP PETRUSEV, Gonzaga
YVES PONS, Tennessee
NEEMIAS QUETA, Utah State
IMMANUEL QUICKLEY, Kentucky
JAHMI’US RAMSEY, Texas Tech
NICK RICHARDS, Kentucky
JALEN SMITH, Maryland
CASSIUS STANLEY, Duke
TYRELL TERRY, Stanford
TRENDON WATFORD, LSU
ROMEO WEEMS, DePaul
KAHLIL WHITNEY, Kentucky
ROBERT WOODWARD, Mississippi State

Preseason Top 25 | Coaching Carousel | NBA Draft Early Entry (link)

WHEN IS THE 2020 NBA DRAFT?

The 2020 NBA Draft is currently scheduled to take place on June 25th, 2020, but that date is up in the air due to the spread of COVID-19. At the very least, the league is preparing as if the pre-draft process is going to be drastically different than it has been in past seasons.

WHEN IS THE DEADLINE FOR AN EARLY ENTRY TO DECLARE FOR THE 2020 NBA DRAFT?

Underclassmen have under April 26th to declare for the draft. Those that don’t sign with an agent have until June 15th to pull their name out of the draft and return to school.

WHERE CAN I FIND A 2020 MOCK DRAFT?

Right here, thanks for asking.

Dr. Anthony Fauci to Coach K: ‘We’re not even at halftime’ in fight against COVID-19

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Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on the radio show of Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski — Basketball and Beyond with Coach K — on Thursday to discuss our nation’s battle with coronavirus and COVID-19. Fauci is an immunologist that has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984.

In an interview with Coach K that was overrun with basketball analogies, Fauci stressed the same talking points that he has stressed in every appearance that he has made over the course of the last month: The coronavirus pandemic is incredibly serious, we have not yet come close to winning the fight against it and the only way to save lives, slow this thing down and get back to normal is social distancing.

In simple terms, Fauci, again, told Krzyzewski we need to stay at home if they want COVID-19 to be a thing of the past.

“The [battle with coronavirus] is going to go on for several weeks, Coach K,” Fauci said. “The issue is that we have a large country and we have different metropolitan areas.”

Preseason Top 25 | Mock Draft | Early Entry Tracker

“If you want to do the basketball analogy, that right now we have a team that’s a very powerful team, and that’s the virus, and what we need to do is that we’ve got to play a full-court press. We can’t let them get the ball on the ground to dribble. We’ve just got to be all over them,” he added. “I mean, that’s what we’ve really got to do, because that’s the only tool we have right now.”

Fauci also told Krzyzewski that we are “not even at halftime,” and that the only way to truly combat the coronavirus is to do everything we can as a nation to avoid contact with other human beings.

“We are not yet at the point where we’re turning the corner and we’re coming around the bend and coming down as a country,” Fauci said later, a reference to flattening the curve. “There are some cities that have not yet even begun to spike and it’s our absolute responsibility to make sure that in those cities that people understand what they need to do to prevent that explosive spike that New York City has seen, that New Orleans has seen, that parts of New Jersey have seen, Detroit and on and on.”

These talking points are not new.

It’s what we’ve been hearing for months on end. It’s the reason sports in our country have been postponed for the foreseeable future, to avoid a situation like the one stemming from a Champions League soccer match in Italy.

Fauci has been steadfast in his efforts to get this message out. In addition to Coach K’s radio show, he appeared on an Instagram live with Stephen Curry and did an interview with Pardon My Take. It’s clear what he is trying to do, reaching the largest cross section of sports fans that he can. Put another way, I’d imagine the venn diagram of people that listen to Coach K’s radio show and Pardon My Take is basically two circles.

Hopefully people are listening.