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.