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Bracketology: Happy Valentine’s Day for Duke, LSU

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Since it’s Valentine’s Day, we’ll sweep the epic crumbles of futility – otherwise known as this year’s bubble – under the proverbial rug and try not to look.

Instead, we’ll send Happy Heart greetings to the Duke Blue Devils and LSU Tigers, both of whom celebrated huge road wins in the Commonwealth on Tuesday.  For their efforts, Duke remains the No. 1 overall seed in today’s bracket.  LSU rises to No. 12 on the seed list, good for the final No. 3 seed.

As for those crumbles, today’s cutline decisions included serious consideration for teams like Oklahoma, Indiana, Butler, and Florida, all of whom have significant resume issues. There are no clear answers, especially with regards to how the Selection Committee will use the NCAA’s new NET ratings.  The good news for those four, and others, is we still have games to play.

BRACKET UPDATE: February 14, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
WEST REGION Clemson vs. Arizona State
MIDWEST REGION UNC Greensboro vs. Utah State
EAST REGION Norfolk State vs. Quinnipiac
MIDWEST REGION Robert Morris vs. Prairie View

EAST Washington, DC   SOUTH – Louisville                       
Columbia Columbia
1) DUKE 1) TENNESSEE
16) QUINNIPIAC / NORFOLK ST 16) BUCKNELL
8) BUFFALO 8) Baylor
9) Alabama 9) Syracuse
San Jose Salt Lake City
5) Wisconsin 5) KANSAS STATE
12) LIPSCOMB 12) BELMONT
4) Iowa State 4) VILLANOVA
13) VERMONT 13) OLD DOMINION
Des Moines Tulsa
6) Florida State 6) Maryland
11) UCF 11) Texas
3) Marquette 3) HOUSTON
14) YALE 14) UC-IRVINE
Hartford Jacksonville
7) Mississippi State 7) Ohio State
10) NC State 10) Seton Hall
2) Michigan 2) North Carolina
15) LOYOLA-CHICAGO 15) RADFORD
WEST – Anaheim MIDWEST – Kansas City
Salt Lake City Hartford
1) GONZAGA 1) Virginia
16) SAM HOUSTON 16) ROB MORRIS / PR VIEW
8) St. John’s 8) WASHINGTON
9) Auburn 9) TCU
San Jose Des Moines
5) Louisville 5) Texas Tech
12) Clemson / Arizona State 12) NC-Greensboro / Utah State
4) NEVADA 4) Purdue
13) NEW MEXICO ST 13) HOFSTRA
Jacksonville Tulsa
6) Virginia Tech 6) Iowa
11) Temple 11) VCU
3) LSU 3) Kansas
14) NORTHERN KENTUCKY 14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
Columbus Columbus
7) Ole Miss 7) Cincinnati
10) WOFFORD 10) Minnesota
2) MICHIGAN STATE 2) Kentucky
15) MONTANA 15) TEXAS STATE

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Minnesota Clemson Oklahoma Arkansas
Texas Arizona State Indiana Georgetown
UCF UNC-Greensboro Butler Fresno State
Temple Utah State Florida Davidson

TOP SEED LINE: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Tennessee, Virginia, and Gonzaga

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (9): DUKE, Virginia, North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, NC State, Clemson

Big 10 (8): MICHIGAN STATE, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio State, Minnesota

BIG 12 (7): KANSAS STATE, Kansas, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Texas

SEC (7): TENNESSEE, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Alabama

Big East (4): VILLANOVA, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall

American (4): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, UCF, Temple

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Mountain West (2): NEVADA, Utah State

Southern (2): WOFFORD, UNC-Greensboro

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Quinnipiac (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Northern Kentucky (HORIZON), Sam Houston (SLND), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Robert Morris (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Bracketology: Committee pens Duke, Tennessee as 1-2 punch

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Few of us were surprised on Saturday when the Selection Committee announced that Duke and Tennessee were Nos. 1 and 1A on their Seed List.  After an action-filled weekend, neither position has changed, although one could argue that Duke’s win at Virginia, giving the Blue Devils a regular-season sweep, might create a more distinct line of separation between those two.

The only top-line move this morning was lifting Gonzaga to No. 3 on the Seed List and dropping Virginia to No. 4.  Gonzaga still reigns over the West Region and Virginia the Midwest.  Elsewhere, team positions on the first four lines mirror what the Committee gave us on Saturday.  One could argue whether or not Iowa State would stay after a home loss to TCU, or about how losses by Louisville and Wisconsin might also impact those lines.  For today, we’ll let the Committee’s voice be heard.

Unfortunately, the Committee didn’t provide us any sort of insight into what has become a very mediocre bubble picture.  Then again, why take on that headache right now? Hopefully, some cleaner lines of separation will develop over the next three weeks.

UPDATED: February 11, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
SOUTH REGION Butler vs. UCF
WEST REGION Oklahoma / Temple
EAST REGION Norfolk State vs. Canisius
MIDWEST REGION Robert Morris vs. Prairie View

EAST Washington, DC      SOUTH – Louisville                       
Columbia Columbia
1) DUKE 1) TENNESSEE
16) NORFOLK ST / CANISIUS 16) BUCKNELL
8) BUFFALO 8) Syracuse
9) Alabama 9) Baylor
San Jose San Jose
5) LSU 5) Texas Tech
12) BELMONT 12) Butler / UCF
4) Iowa State 4) NEVADA
13) HOFSTRA 13) VERMONT
Des Moines Hartford
6) Virginia Tech 6) Florida State
11) VCU 11) Seton Hall
3) Marquette 3) Purdue
14) NORTHERN KENTUCKY 14) YALE
Columbus Jacksonville
7) Cincinnati 7) Mississippi State
10) Texas 10) Minnesota
2) MICHIGAN 2) North Carolina
15) LOYOLA-CHICAGO 15) RADFORD
MIDWEST – Kansas City WEST – Anaheim
Hartford Salt Lake City
1) Virginia 1) GONZAGA
16) PR VIEW / ROB MORRIS 16) SAM HOUSTON
8) St. John’s 8) Auburn
9) Ole Miss 9) TCU
Salt Lake City Columbus
5) KANSAS STATE 5) VILLANOVA
12) LIPSCOMB 12) Oklahoma / Temple
4) Wisconsin 4) Louisville
13) NEW MEXICO ST 13) OLD DOMINION
Tulsa Tulsa
6) Maryland 6) Iowa
11) Arizona State 11) Clemson
3) HOUSTON 3) Kansas
14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST 14) UC-IRVINE
Jacksonville Des Moines
7) Ohio State 7) WASHINGTON
10) NC State 10) WOFFORD
2) Kentucky 2) Michigan State
15) MONTANA 15) MONTANA

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Minnesota Butler Georgetown Providence
Arizona State UCF NC-Greensboro Utah State
Seton Hall Oklahoma Arkansas Florida
Clemson Temple Indiana Creighton

TOP SEED LINE: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Tennessee, Virginia, and Gonzaga

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (9): DUKE, Virginia, North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, NC State, Clemson

Big 10 (8): MICHIGAN, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio State, Minnesota

BIG 12 (8): KANSAS STATE, Kansas, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Texas, Oklahoma

SEC (7): TENNESSEE, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama

Big East (5): VILLANOVA, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Butler

American (4): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, UCF, Temple

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Canisius (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Princeton (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Northern Kentucky (HORIZON), Sam Houston (SLND), Wofford (STHN), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Robert Morris (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Bracketology: Duke holds No. 1 position

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It’s been a relatively even week, leaving us with the same Field of 68 that we had on Monday.

Minor Seed List adjustments have been made to reflect valuable road wins by teams such as Louisville and LSU.  The same principle applies for teams in the middle of the bracket like St. John’s.  The Red Storm certainly helped themselves by winning at Marquette.

As we enter the stretch run, bubble teams will solidify their standing, remove themselves from consideration, or put themselves into a stressful Championship Week scenario.

BRACKET UPDATE: February 7, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
SOUTH REGION TCU vs. VCU
MIDWEST REGION Seton Hall vs. Temple
EAST REGION Norfolk State vs. Robert Morris
MIDWEST REGION Rider vs. Prairie View

EAST Washington, DC   SOUTH – Louisville                       
Columbia Columbia
1) DUKE 1) TENNESSEE
16) NORFOLK ST / R. MORRIS  16) BUCKNELL
8) Buffalo 8) Baylor
9) Ohio State 9) St. John’s
Tulsa Salt Lake City
5) LSU 5) Iowa
12) BELMONT 12) LIPSCOMB
4) HOUSTON 4) VILLANOVA
13) VERMONT 13) OLD DOMINION
Des Moines Hartford
6) Virginia Tech 6) Florida State
11) Oklahoma 11) TCU / VCU
3) Marquette 3) Purdue
14) BOWLING GREEN 14) NORTHERN KENTUCKY
Des Moines Jacksonville
7) Auburn 7) Mississippi State
10) Syracuse 10) Indiana
2) Michigan State 2) North Carolina
15) LOYOLA-CHICAGO 15) PRINCETON
WEST – Anaheim MIDWEST – Kansas City
Salt Lake City Hartford
1) GONZAGA 1) Virginia
16) SAM HOUSTON 16) RIDER / PR. VIEW
8) Minnesota 8) Ole Miss
9) Alabama 9) Arizona State
San Jose San Jose
5) KANSAS STATE 5) Iowa State
12) HOFSTRA 12) Seton Hall / Temple
4) NEVADA 4) Wisconsin
13) NEW MEXICO ST 13) UC-IRVINE
Jacksonville Tulsa
6) Texas Tech 6) Maryland
11) DAVIDSON 11) WOFFORD
3) Louisville 3) Kansas
14) RADFORD 14) TEXAS STATE
Columbus Columbus
7) WASHINGTON 7) Cincinnati
10) NC State 10) Texas
2) MICHIGAN 2) Kentucky
15) MONTANA 15) SOUTH DAKOTA ST

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Syracuse TCU UCF Utah State
Indiana VCU Butler Florida
NC State Seton Hall Arkansas Arizona
Oklahoma Temple Clemson Creighton

TOP SEED LINE: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Tennessee, Virginia, and Gonzaga

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 10 (9): MICHIGAN, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio State, Indiana

ACC (8): DUKE, Virginia, North Carolina, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Syracuse, NC State

BIG 12 (8): BAYLOR, Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma, TCU

SEC (7): TENNESSEE, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama

Big East (4): VILLANOVA, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall

American (3): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, Temple

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Atlantic 10 (2): DAVIDSON, VCU

Mid American (2): BOWLING GREEN, Buffalo

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Rider (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Princeton (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Northern Kentucky (HORIZON), Sam Houston (SLND), Wofford (STHN), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Lehigh (PAT), Robert Morris (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Bracketology: Gonzaga regains West Region

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With the Super Bowl behind us, the march to Selection Sunday is officially here.

Today’s bracket finds a new, but familiar face reigning over the West Region: Gonzaga.  Can the Zags hold on? That’s the million dollar question in Spokane.

The race is far from over.

We have several heavy hitters in play for all four No. 1 seed positions. Teams such as Duke, Tennessee, Virginia, Michigan, Michigan State, Kentucky and North Carolina. All have opportunities for resume building wins over the next month. That’s not a knock on Gonzaga, who sits at No. 2 on the NCAA’s NET Ratings this morning.

February is moving month in college basketball. The next three weeks will set the stage for March and Championship Week. Results will define whose in play for this year’s final at-large spots.

BRACKET UPDATE: February 4, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
SOUTH REGION TCU vs. VCU
MIDWEST REGION Seton Hall vs. Temple
EAST REGION Norfolk State vs. Robert Morris
MIDWEST REGION Rider vs. Prairie View

EAST Washington, DC   SOUTH – Louisville                       
Columbia Columbia
1) DUKE 1) TENNESSEE
16) NORFOLK ST / R. MORRIS  16) LEHIGH
8) Minnesota 8) Buffalo
9) Arizona State 9) NC State
Jacksonville San Jose
5) Texas Tech 5) Virginia Tech
12) BELMONT 12) LIPSCOMB
4) VILLANOVA 4) Wisconsin
13) OLD DOMINION 13) VERMONT
Tulsa Des Moines
6) LSU 6) Maryland
11) St. John’s 11) TCU / VCU
3) Kansas 3) Marquette
14) BOWLING GREEN 14) RADFORD
Des Moines Jacksonville
7) Cincinnati 7) Mississippi State
10) Alabama 10) Oklahoma
2) Michigan State 2) North Carolina
15) LOYOLA-CHICAGO 15) PRINCETON
WEST – Anaheim MIDWEST – Kansas City
Salt Lake City Hartford
1) GONZAGA 1) Virginia
16) SAM HOUSTON 16) RIDER / PR. VIEW
8) Ole Miss 8) Auburn
9) Syracuse 9) Ohio State
Salt Lake City San Jose
5) Iowa 5) Iowa State
12) HOFSTRA 12) Seton Hall / Temple
4) Louisville 4) NEVADA
13) UC-IRVINE 13) NEW MEXICO ST
Tulsa Hartford
6) Kansas State 6) Florida State
11) DAVIDSON 11) WOFFORD
3) HOUSTON 3) Purdue
14) GEORGIA STATE 14) NORTHERN KENTUCKY
Columbus Columbus
7) WASHINGTON 7) BAYLOR
10) Texas 10) Indiana
2) MICHIGAN 2) Kentucky
15) MONTANA 15) SOUTH DAKOTA ST

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Oklahoma TCU Florida Arizona
Indiana VCU UCF Arkansas
Texas Seton Hall Nebraska Creighton
St. John’s Temple Butler Clemson

TOP SEED LINE: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Tennessee, Virginia, and Gonzaga

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 10 (9): MICHIGAN, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio State, Indiana

ACC (8): DUKE, Virginia, North Carolina, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Florida State, NC State, Syracuse

BIG 12 (8): BAYLOR, Kansas, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, TCU

SEC (7): TENNESSEE, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama

Big East (4): VILLANOVA, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall

American (3): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, Temple

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Atlantic 10 (2): DAVIDSON, VCU

Mid American (2): BOWLING GREEN, Buffalo

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Rider (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Georgia State (SBELT), Princeton (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Northern Kentucky (HORIZON), Sam Houston (SLND), Wofford (STHN), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Lehigh (PAT), Robert Morris (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Best Bets: Where do you want your action in college basketball this weekend?

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Here is everything you need to know when betting the biggest games this weekend.

As always, this is coming out before the Vegas lines for Saturday’s games, so we are using projections from KenPom, Torvik and Haslametrics to walk through how the game will play out. 

No. 16 TEXAS TECH at No. 11 KANSAS, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM: Kansas 66, Texas Tech 63
  • HASLAMETRICS: Kansas 67, Texas Tech 64
  • TORVIK: Kansas 67, Texas Tech 64

This matchup is a tough one to parse.

On the one hand, Kansas has been in a funk offensively that centers around the fact that they don’t have enough perimeter shooting, Marcus Garrett has been a non-factor offensively and teams can throw two bodies at Dedric Lawson with reckless abandon. But the crux of the issue stems from KU’s size. They’ve been forced to play small without Udoka Azubuike and they’ve struggled on the defensive end of the floor without being able to matchup with the size of teams that go big while being unable to take advantage of the mismatch offensively.

Texas Tech is the third-best defense nationally, according to KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, so that does not bode well for Kansas. But the Red Raiders really struggle to score at times, and they — like Kansas — tend to play four guards with Jarrett Culver at the four.

The result is a fascinating matchup between a potential top five pick in Culver and one of the best defensive players in the country in Garrett. We’ll also get to see Tariq Owens, an athletic marvel and one of college basketball’s best shot-blockers, going head-to-head with the all-american Lawson.

PICKS: If the line is Kansas (-3), I think that I would probably lean Kansas, although I don’t love it. The Jayhawks have struggled this season, but they are still undefeated at home and on neutral courts. Their real struggles have come on the road, where they are just 1-5 this season. I know Texas Tech won in the Phog last year, and I firmly believe that the Red Raiders are a top 15 team with a top ten coach in the sport, but I can’t pick against Bill Self in this spot, not when he has a team that’s lost two in a row and three of four.

that said, I think the under might be the best that I like more here, depending on where the line opens. If it is in the low-to-mid 130s, hammer the under.

No. 9 NORTH CAROLINA at No. 15 LOUISVILLE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM: Louisville 79, North Carolina 77
  • HASLAMETRICS: Louisville 82, North Carolina 80
  • TORVIK: Louisville 81, North Carolina 78

The game of the weekend, in large part due to the fact that just three weeks ago, Louisville went into Chapel Hill and beat down the Tar Heels, handing Roy Williams the worst loss that he’s ever suffered at home as the head coach at UNC.

Neither team has lost since then, meaning that this is now a matchup between the two teams in the ACC that have been keeping pace with Duke and Virginia at the top of the league. The question I have heading into this game is how North Carolina decides to lineup. Louisville’s preferred lineup features Malik Williams at the five with Dwayne Sutton and Jordan Nwora — a pair of athletic, versatile combo-forwards — flanking him on the frontline. This will be a problem for the Tar Heels if they opt to roll out their typical, two-big look. Sutton, in particular, was sensational in the first meeting, finishing with 17 points, nine boards, seven assists and four steals in his breakout game.

If I was coaching North Carolina, I would play Luke Maye at the five with Cam Johnson and Nassir Little joining him, matching up with the versatility Louisville will have on display. But I also would have been doing this since the first day of the season, so the assumption of rational coaching probably shouldn’t come into play here.

North Carolina tends to go as Coby White goes. Roy Williams’ offense is heavily reliant on point guard play, and as a volume scorer that is A) a freshman and B) not all that adept at making teammates better at this point in his career, it makes sense. He can be somewhat streaky, and when he’s bad, UNC is beatable.

Louisville does have some really good on-ball defenders, specifically Khwan Fore and Darius Perry, so if they can once again do a job on White — he had four points, four turnovers, and three fouls in 19 minutes in the first meeting — I think Louisville wins.

PICKS: I do think that this game will be close. If the line opens at Louisville (-1) I would lean the Cardinals here. If it opens at Louisville (-5), then I’d probably want to be on UNC’s side, although I would feel less good about that bet.

No. 7 KENTUCKY at FLORIDA, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM: Kentucky 64, Florida 62
  • HASLAMETRICS: Kentucky 62, Florida 61
  • TORVIK: Kentucky 63, Florida 62

I might be a bad person to speak on this, but I am just not sold on Florida this year. The metrics love them because they’ve lost a lot of close games, but they’ve still lost those games. And now they are playing without Keith Stone while Jalen Hudson has been about as effective as Henry Hudson this season.

Kentucky, on the other hand, is absolutely rolling. Tyler Herro and Ashton Hagans have emerged, Reid Travis is starting to understand what his role is and P.J. Washington has been arguably the best player in college basketball over the course of the last ten days.

PICKS: I have no idea what this line is going to look like when it opens. The metrics are all projecting a close, low-scoring game, but this is also Kentucky. I thought they would open up as three or four point favorites against Kansas and the line opened at six.

I do think Kentucky wins this game, but I don’t expect it to be a blowout. Florida may start three freshmen, but they are tough and competitive and the O-Dome is never an easy place to play. I’d take Kentucky up to about (-4), but given that these are two of the top ten defenses in American and that neither of them are playing all that fast this year, the better bet may end up being the under if the total opens in the 130s.

No. 21 MARYLAND at No. 24 WISCONSIN, Fri. 9:00 p.m. (FS1)

  • KENPOM: Wisconsin 68, Maryland 62
  • HASLAMETRICS: Wisconsin 67, Maryland 62
  • TORVIK: Wisconsin 67, Maryland 62

I think Wisconsin wins this game. They are playing at home, the Kohl Center has historically been one of the toughest places in the country to win and, frankly, the Badgers are just the better basketball team. I don’t think Bruno Fernando gets the best of Ethan Happ (but it’ll be fun to see him try) and Brad Davison strikes me as precisely the kind of pest that will keep Anthony Cowan from getting into a rhythm.

PICKS: This is a Friday night game, so the lines are already out. It makes sense that Wisconsin would be favored by five since that is more or less what all the metrics are projecting. They are also projecting that this game ends up under 130, and the total opened at 133.5 The Badgers are very, very slow. Maryland is just very slow. Throw in the fact that Wisconsin has a top five defense and that they have failed to reached 16 points in the first half twice in league play — including at Maryland — and the under seems like the best bet you can get.

No. 12 VIRGINIA TECH at No. 23 N.C. STATE, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (ACCNET)

  • KENPOM: Virginia Tech 78, N.C. State 77
  • HASLAMETRICS: Virginia Tech 79, N.C. State 76
  • TORVIK: Virginia Tech 79, N.C. State 78

This is a fascinating game matchup. N.C. State loves to press, loves to run and is as good at forcing turnovers as anyone in college basketball. That works against some teams. I don’t think it will work against a Virginia Tech team that essentially starts three point guards — Justin Robinson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Wabissa Bede — and is the second-best three-point shooting team in college basketball.

PICKS: I know they’re on the road and I know the Wolfpack just took Virginia to overtime, but if this ends up as a pick-em or with the Hokies getting points I will be all over that line.

TEXAS at No. 20 IOWA STATE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • KENPOM: Iowa State 74, Texas 66
  • HASLAMETRICS: Iowa State 75, Texas 65
  • TORVIK: Iowa State 75, Texas 67

Texas, coming off of an impressive win at home against Kansas, now heads on the road to take on the Cyclones in Hilton Coliseum.

Isn’t life in the Big 12 fun?

Texas will grind you down defensively, but they’ve actually shown to be pretty capable of playing small this season even it their win over Kansas came because they played big. And while this group is now just 1-4 on the road with the one win coming against a Dean Wade-less Kansas State team, their three Big 12 road losses were by an average of three points. That includes a loss at Kansas.

PICKS: Iowa State is might just be the best team in the Big 12, and I do think that they win this game, but if the line creeps up towards the Cyclones (-10), then I would probably lean the Longhorns. Their record doesn’t quite show how good they have been against a monstrous schedule.

No. 22 MISSISSIPPI STATE at OLE MISS, Sat. 3:30 p.m. (SECNET)

  • KENPOM: Ole Miss 76, Mississippi State 75
  • HASLAMETRICS: Mississippi State 77, Ole Miss 77
  • TORVIK: Ole Miss 77, Mississippi State 74

I felt like I had to mention this game in a weekend preview because it is a rivalry game between two good teams in the SEC, but I honestly want no part of betting it. I do not think Ole Miss is all that good, and while I feel a little bit better about the Bulldogs, Mississippi State also lost at home to this Ole Miss team in January.

PICKS: If this game ends up a pick-em, I would lean towards the home team, but I will have my action elsewhere this weekend.

ST. JOHN’S at No. 2 DUKE, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM: Duke 90, St. John’s 71
  • HASLAMETRICS: Duke 96, St. John’s 71
  • TORVIK: Duke 93, St. John’s 73

The thing about this St. John’s team is that they are not all that well-coached and they have not been all that good in the Big East this year. Think about it like this: The Big East has just two teams that are above .500 in league play and the Johnnies are not one of them. They are well and truly on the bubble right now.

PICKS: 20 points is a lot of points to cover, but I just cannot see this St. John’s team finding a way to hang with Duke. They basically do the same thing that Duke does — create mismatches, play with versatile athletes, win on talent — but they’re just not as good as the Blue Devils.

Throw in the fact that Shamorie Ponds is going to have to deal with Tre Jones, and I’ll ride Duke to cover.

INDIANA at No. 6 MICHIGAN STATE, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM: Michigan State 79, Indiana 62
  • HASLAMETRICS: Michigan State 82, Indiana 62
  • TORVIK: Michigan State 80, Indiana 63

Indiana is an absolute train wreck this season. The Hoosiers have lost seven straight games, their star player looks like he has checked out and the lack of confidence with this group is palpable. Michigan State, on the other hand, has been rolling. They are now rated above Michigan on KenPom and look like they are hitting their stride.

PICKS: I love the Spartans. For starters, they are actually a better team without Josh Langford. As good as Langford is, he does not fit the role that he is asked to play as well as Aaron Henry and Kyle Ahrens. The latter two are better athletes and better defenders that can shoot but that don’t see the ball stick in their hands. Langford was ruled out for the year on Wednesday.

The Spartans are also coming off of a mollywhopping at Purdue in a game that was played on an island on big CBS on a Sunday afternoon with no football. Everyone watched it, which means that hopefully public money will move the line in our favor.

Go Green.

Bracketology: Showdowns ahead in No. 1 seed race

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The developing bubble is a garbled mess, so let’s stay positive and focus on the No. 1 seed race, which has seven serious contenders at the moment: Duke, Tennessee, Virginia, Michigan, Michigan State, Gonzaga, and Kentucky.

Between now and Selection Sunday, battles will rage.

Virginia and Duke play again on February 9 (Duke was the first meeting by two points in Durham).

Kentucky and Tennessee play twice – February 16 and March 2.

Same for Michigan State and Michigan – February 24 and March 9.

Which brings us to Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs are expected to cruise through their West Coast Conference campaign; another 30-win season a realistic outcome.

Should that occur, it will be difficult for the Selection Committee to keep Gonzaga off the No. 1 seed line out West (especially given their high NET rating).

If that’s the case, it becomes a six team race for three No.1 seed positions with showdowns ahead. Feels like March is right around the corner.

BRACKET UPDATED: January 31, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Temple vs. Florida
SOUTH REGION VCU vs. Nebraska
EAST REGION Norfolk State vs. Prairie View
MIDWEST REGION Sam Houston vs. Robert Morris

EAST Washington, DC             SOUTH – Louisville
Columbia Columbia
1) DUKE 1) TENNESSEE
16) NORFOLK ST / PV-AM  16) RIDER
8) Missisippi State 8) WASHINGTON
9) BAYLOR 9) Syracuse
Salt Lake City San Jose
5) Wisconsin 5) Virginia Tech
12) Temple / Florida 12) DAVIDSON
4) VILLANOVA 4) Maryland
13) VERMONT 13) MURRAY STATE
Des Moines Des Moines
6) BUFFALO 6) LSU
11) St. John’s 11) VCU / Nebraska
3) Purdue 3) Marquette
14) TEXAS STATE 14) NORTH TEXAS
Jacksonville Jacksonville
7) NC State 7) Minnesota
10) Ohio State 10) TCU
2) Kentucky 2) North Carolina
15) LOYOLA-CHICAGO 15) RADFORD
WEST – Anaheim MIDWEST – Kansas City
Columbus Hartford
1) MICHIGAN 1) Virginia
16) LEHIGH 16) ROB MORRIS / SAM HOUSTON
8) Oklahoma 8) Ole Miss
9) Auburn 9) Texas
San Jose Tulsa
5) Texas Tech 5) Iowa State
12) LIPSCOMB 12) HOFSTRA
4) NEVADA 4) HOUSTON
13) NEW MEXICO ST 13) YALE
Hartford Tulsa
6) Iowa 6) Florida State
11) WOFFORD 11) Seton Hall
3) Louisville 3) Kansas
14) NORTHERN KENTUCKY 14) UC-IRVINE
Salt Lake City Columbus
7) Kansas State 7) Cincinnati
10) Arizona State 10) Alabama
2) GONZAGA 2) Michigan State
15) SOUTH DAKOTA ST 15) MONTANA

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
TCU Nebraska UCF Butler
Ohio State VCU Indiana Creighton
St. John’s Temple Arizona Pittsburgh
Seton Hall Florida Clemson Providence

TOP SEED LINE: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Tennessee, Virginia, and Michigan

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 10 (9): MICHIGAN, Michigan State, Purdue, Maryland, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State, Nebraska

BIG 12 (8): BAYLOR, Kansas, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, TCU

ACC (8): DUKE, Virginia, North Carolina, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Florida State, NC State, Syracuse

SEC (8): TENNESSEE, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn, Alabama, Florida

Big East (4): VILLANOVA, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall

American (3): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, Temple

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Atlantic 10 (2): DAVIDSON, VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Rider (MAAC), North Texas (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Northern Kentucky (HORIZON), Sam Houston (SLND), Wofford (STHN), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Murray State (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Lehigh (PAT), Robert Morris (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)