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Best Bets: Maryland-Michigan State, Auburn-Kentucky highlight a loaded weekend slate

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Saturday’s lines 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. 24 MICHIGAN STATE at No. 9 MARYLAND, Sat. 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM: Maryland 70, Michigan State 67
  • TORVIK: Maryland 69, Michigan State 68
  • HASLAM: Maryland 68, Michigan State 67

The biggest knock on this Maryland team has been their inability to start games well, which is ironic given the fact that the last time these two teams played, the Terps needed a miracle, 14-0 run in the final three minutes to avoid losing a game they led by 15 points in the first half.

I cannot imagine the Terps finding a way to dig a hole like they did against Minnesota on Wednesday, or Ohio State on Sunday, or Northwestern, or Indiana, or Illinois in either of the games they played against the Illini. Gameday will be in town! It will be an 8 p.m. tip! They will be getting the Scott Van Pelt bump! All the narratives!

I expect that, combined with some of the issues that Michigan State has had this season, to push this line up past Maryland (-3), and that makes me want to bet on the Spartans. I know, I know, maybe I just can’t quite Michigan State, but with Rocket Watts, Marcus Bingham and Malik Hall starting to play better, it’s allowed Aaron Henry to focus on being more than just a third-scorer. I also think Xavier Tillman should be able to shut down Jalen Smith the way he shut down Luka Garza in the second half on Tuesday night.

BEST BET: I’m going to stay away from this game unless I can get Michigan State at (+4.5) or higher.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: This line is currently sitting at Michigan State (+3). I want to be on the Spartan side, but I am going to stay away from it at that number.

No. 15 AUBURN at No. 8 KENTUCKY, Sat. 3:45 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM: Kentucky 73, Auburn 68
  • TORVIK: Kentucky 73, Auburn 67
  • HASLAM: Kentucky 73, Auburn 68

This is such a weird matchup between two teams that have been brutally inconsistent. Auburn has been depantsed on the road too many times to feel comfortable betting them in this spot, but Kentucky’s shooting splits — they are significantly better from beyond the arc away from home than they are in Rupp — makes terrified to wager on them when they are laying six or seven points. I will not be on a side in this game unless the line just gets complete out of hand in either direction.

BEST BET: My favorite bet here is going to be the under, especially if the total creeps up past 143.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: This line has been sitting steady at Kentucky (-6.5) for me since it opened, and at that number I am going to be staying away. The total is more interesting. It opened at 140.5, dropped to 139.5 and it now at 140. I still lean towards the under, but I was hoping this would open higher.

ARIZONA at UCLA, Sat. 10:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM: Arizona 71, UCLA 67
  • TORVIK: Arizona 70, UCLA 66
  • HASLAM: Arizona 69, UCLA 64

First and foremost, there is no way in hell that this line opens at UCLA (+4). The Bruins are the hottest team in the country. They beat Arizona in Tucson. They have won six in a row, ten of their last 12 and are coming off of a win over Arizona State to take over first place in the Pac-12 race. This game will be played in Pauley Pavilion, which was rocking on Thursday night against the Sun Devils. Arizona is the team that is actually UCLA’s rival, and that’s to say nothing of the fact that Mick Cronin and Sean Miller hate each other from their time as rival head coaches in Cincinnati.

I also think it’s important to point out that the metrics have tended to overvalue Arizona this season while UCLA — who ranks outside the top 75 in all metrics — has been playing like a top 35 teams over the last six weeks.

Should I mention that Arizona’s Josh Green will not be playing in this game?

BEST BET: I will be checking this line early and often to see if I can snag the UCLA moneyline while they are getting points. I would probably take the Bruins all the way up to (-1).

*SATURDAY UPDATE: UCLA is (+2) right now and the moneyline is +112. This is my favorite bet of the day.

No. 13 SETON HALL at MARQUETTE, Sat. 2:30 p.m. (FOX)

  • KENPOM: Marquette 75, Seton Hall 72
  • TORVIK: Marquette 76, Seton Hall 73
  • HASLAM: Marquette 76, Seton Hall 73

I’ve said over and over against that I hate betting on Marquette games because it feels like I am betting on whether or not Markus Howard is going to have himself a day. And I know the numbers. Last season, in three games against the Pirates, Howard averaged just 17.7 points while shooting 21.4 percent from the floor and 21.7 percent from three. In their first matchup this season, Howard finished with 27 points, but it took an 8-for-22 shooting night to get there. Quincy McKnight has been his kryptonite.

That said, this does feel like a sell-high spot for the Pirates. They are coming off of back-to-back home wins and, prior to that, had developed a bit of a habit for slow starts. The last time they played a road game Providence led 34-9 before Seton Hall finally decided to play.

And I think it is worth noting that this will be Howard’s senior night. He’s going to be gunning.

BEST BET: If you can find a player prop for Markus Howard shot attempts, take the over. And if there was ever a time to bet on Howard finding a way to have a blow-up game, this is it. I like Marquette (-3).

*SATURDAY UPDATE: If I like Marquette (-3) then I love Marquette (-2), which is where this line is currently sitting.

No. 19 MICHIGAN at No. 23 OHIO STATE, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM: Ohio State 71, Michigan 67
  • TORVIK: Ohio State 70, Michigan 66
  • HASLAM: Ohio State 70, Michigan 65

This is such a weird matchup. Prior to Wisconsin lighting up Michigan on Thursday night, I would have said that this was a battle between the two Big Ten teams that were playing the best basketball in the league. I think the matchup here actually favors Michigan, to a point. Ohio State plays a gapping defense, which means that they are going to try and prevent penetration by sacrificing open threes. The way that Wisconsin beat Michigan on Thursday night was to stick to shooters in the corner and allow Zavier Simpson to try and win a game by himself. He had 32 points, and Michigan shot just 10 threes on the night, the fewest they’ve attempted in a game since John Beilein’s first season.

On the other hand, Michigan is really good at running teams off of the three-point line, and Ohio State shoots a ton of threes. Put it all together, and if we like the matchup for the defenses on both sides of a rivalry game that will be the second matchup between the two teams on the season, the best bet seems to be obvious.

BEST BET: The total looks like it will be somewhere around 136.5. The first game was 61-58. Hit that under.

No. 16 PENN STATE at No. 18 IOWA, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (BTN)

  • KENPOM: Iowa 78, Penn State 75
  • TORVIK: Iowa 78, Penn State 77
  • HASLAM: Iowa 78, Penn State 75

I love this spot for Iowa. For starters, it’s the ideal spot play that we look for. Penn State is coming off of a home win that they maybe didn’t deserve — they blew a big lead to Rutgers and needed a three with 12 seconds left for a one point win that prevented a three-game losing streak — and will not have to go on the road to play an Iowa team that is coming off of a road loss to Michigan State. Now throw in that the Nittany Lions did not have an answer for Luka Garza the first time these two teams squared off, and all signs point to the Hawkeyes.

BEST BET: I’ll be on Iowa up to about (-4.5).

*SATURDAY UPDATE: Iowa opened (-3.5). It’s now at (-4). Let’s roll.

No. 7 DUKE at VIRGINIA, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM: Duke 62, Virginia 58
  • TORVIK: Duke 60, Virginia 58
  • HASLAM: Duke 63, Virginia 58

UCLA is my favorite bet of the day. Virginia is my second-favorite bet of the day. As it currently stands, Duke is a top eight team in the metrics and Virginia is more of a borderline top 50 team. But over the course of the last month, the Wahoos have gone 8-1 and are playing as the 31st best team in college basketball. During that same stretch, Duke, who has lost two of their last three games, is playing like the 28th-best team in the country.

As far as the matchup is concerned, I think that Virginia has the size inside to be able to limit Vernon Carey’s effectiveness, and their Pack-Line defense forces opponents to have to settle for jumpers over the top of the defense, and Duke’s shooting is not exactly a strong-suit.

BEST BET: I will be on the Virginia side here without a doubt. If the line is +2.5 or below, I will be on the UVA moneyline. If it’s +3 or above I will take the points.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: This line has been bouncing between Virginia (+3.5) and (+4). Iowa and UCLA are my favorite bets of the day, but this is not all that far behind.

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.