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|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|03-31-18||Kansas v. Villanova -5||Top||79-95||Win||100||130 h 7 m||Show|
|03-31-18||Loyola-Chicago +5 v. Michigan||Top||57-69||Loss||-102||127 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: While a pair of No. 1 seeds (Villanova and Kansas) square off in Saturday's second game, the first game of the NCAA's semifinals features the No. 11-seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers vs. the No. 3-seeded Michigan Wolverines. The Ramblers are just the fourth No. 11 seed to advance to a Final Four and hope to become the first one to advance to the title game. Loyola's NCAA run has been "magical," winning their first three games by a grand total of four points, before the team's resounding 78-62 win over No. 9 seed Kansas State last Saturday. The Ramblers are 32-5 on the season and enter on a 14-game winning streak (21-1 over their last 22 games), going 23-9-1 ATS on the season, including 11-3 ATS during their current winning streak. Michigan did not look good in its first two NCAA wins (needed a 'miracle three' to beat Houston) but looked great in its Sweet 16 romp over Texas A&M and controlled most of the second half against FSU, although the Wolverines won just 58-54. Michigan also owns 32 wins (seven losses) on the season and comes in 24-12-2 ATS on the year. The Wolverines come in on a 13-game winning streak, going 10-2-1 ATS, as eight of their wins have come by double digits.
Loyola-Chicago: The Ramblers looked very impressive in downing Kansas State, shooting 57.4% from the floor (including 9-of-1) from beyond the arc), while holding Kansas State to just 34.8% shooting. Ben Richardson led with 23 points. He's one of four starting guards but averages a modest 7.0 & 3.9 APG. The other three, all made game-winning or game-clinching shots in Loyola's first three NCAA wins. The trio is led by MVC player-of-the-year Custer (13.2 & 4.2 APG) plus Ingram (11.3 & 6.3) and Townes (11.2 & 3.9). 6-9 freshman Krutwig starts at center, averaging 10.3 & 6.1. SF Jackson (11.0) and guard Williamson (4.9) round out the team's seven-man rotation. Loyola scores a modest 72.0 PPG (225th) but shoots an impressive 50.9% from the floor as team (3rd-best in the nation). Defensively, Loyola has allowed only 62.4 PPG on the season, ranking fifth-best in the nation.
Michigan: The Wolverines used a 9-0 run to start the 2nd half, creating some separation from the Seminoles and held off a late Florida State charge after taking a 54-44 lead with just 2:26 left in regulation. Michigan shot only 38.8% from the floor but did hold Florida State to just 31.4% shooting, including just 4-of-17) on threes beyond the arc. Charles Matthews had 17 points, to lead Michigan to the win. Matthews is one of four contributing guards and is averaging 13.0 & 5.6 on the season. Fellow starters are Abdur-Rahkman (12.8-3.9-3.3 apg) and Zavier Simpson (7.5-3.3-3.7). The 6-11 Warner leads in scoring (14.3 ) and rebounding (6.9) while 6-7 freshman Livers is only a nominal starter (he averages 3.6 & 2.3 in right around 15 MPG). Sixth-man Robinson, checks in averaging 9.5 PPG and let's not forget freshman Jordan Poole (6.2), whose 'miracle 3' beat Houston. Like Loyola, Michigan does not score all that much (74.1 PPG) but similar to the Ramblers, the Wolverines know how to play defense, allowing 63.1 PPG to rank 8th-best in the nation.
The pick: You've all been told all about Loyola's 1963 NCAA champions and how this year's team is a reminder of that over-achieving group. There are similarities but it's doubtful Porter Moser will go the entire game like the '63 team, which didn't substitute once in regulation or overtime in the title game vs. Cincinnati (can't make that up!). Both teams play excellent D and Michiagn's John Beilein is one of the nation's best. However, Porter Moser is proving he may soon belong in the discussion of top-notch coaches and his team is a worthy Final 4 participant, The Ramblers have plenty of balance with five double-digit scorers, including 6-9 freshman Krutwig in the middle to battle Warner. The team has plenty of size on the wings to shoot over the Michigan defense on the perimeter. In Clayton Custer, Donte Ingram, and Marques Townes, Moser has clutch scorers who each made key last-second baskets that allowed the Ramblers to escape the early rounds. Don't be surprised to see that happen again. Take the points and make Loyola a 10* play.
|03-28-18||Illinois-Chicago v. Liberty -6||Top||67-51||Loss||-106||11 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: The CIT Tournament flies "way under the radar" but the semifinals of this tourney will be contested tonight. The UIC Flames and Liberty Flames will square off at the Vines Center, Liberty's homecourt in Lynchburg, Va. UIC has had a nice season as the 19-15 Flames will finish this season with their first winning record since the 2012-13 season and look poised to be a contender in the Horizon League next year. Liberty made it to the Big South championship game where it was nipped by Radford at the buzzer and comes into this contest at 22-14, after two home wins.
UIC: The Flames defeated Austin Peay a week ago Wednesday, despite trailing by a 14-points early in the 2nd half. An 11-0 run was the key and after a Tai Odiase dunk gave the Flames an 80-76 lead with 1:11 left in regulation., UIC held on for an 83-81 win. Did UIC hold Austin Peay to just 2-of-16 shooing from beyond the arc, or did the Governors just shoot poorly? Leading the way for the Flames was Tarkus Ferguson ,who had 21 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and a steal. Ferguson (10.2-5.3-5.2) is joined by two others in double digits. The 6-7 Dixson (14.2 & 3.5) is the team's leading scorer (more on that in a bit) and guard Ottey adds 13.5 PPG. Odiase, the team's 6-9 center, adds 9.4 PPG and a team-high 5.7 RPG. UIC averages 75.6 PPG (12nd) on 45.3% shooting.
Liberty: Try to figure out the CIT bracket methodology. Liberty's first game was Mar 12 (a 65-52 home win over NC A&T) but then didn't play again until March 24, when it used a big second half to defeat the Central Michigan Chippewas 84-74, this past Saturday. Liberty closed the 1st half on a 9-0 run to tie the game at 39-all. Then pulled away from Central Michigan midway through the 2nd half after an 11-0 Flames run gave Liberty a 64-53 lead with 9:18 left in regulation. Liberty shot 56.1% from the floor and 44.0% (12-25) from beyond the arc in the victory. Leading the way for the Flames was Scottie James who had 20 points and nine rebounds. The 6-7 James (a transfer from Bradley) leads in scoring (13.6) and rebounding (8.9), while four guards follow, three in double digits. PG Cabbil (11.2-4.4-3.8) heads the team's quartet of guards, followed by Kemrite (10.3), Pacheco-Ortiz (10.1) and Homesley (8.1 & 4.6). Liberty averages a modest 71.4 PPG (243rd) but holds opponents to just 63.5 PPG (9th) on 41.5% shooting (50th).
The pick: Maybe this is "Chicago's year," considering Loyola is in the Final Four? Then again, winning on Liberty's homecourt will be a real challenge, as head coach Ritchie McKay’s team already owns a pair of 13-point home wins in this tourney. What's more, UIC's leading scorer, Dikembe Dixson, decided to go the Leonard Fournette/Christian McCaffrey route and sit out the postseason to instead prepare for the upcoming NBA draft. Does he think he's LBJ??? Make Liberty a 10* play.
|03-25-18||Duke -3 v. Kansas||Top||81-85||Loss||-103||10 h 44 m||Show|
The set-Up: There is more than just a small dose of normalcy on deck in the NCAA's Midwest Regional Final from CenturyLink Center in Omaha, as two of college basketball's true blue bloods, top-seeded Kansas and second-seeded Duke square off for the right to advance to the Final Four. Kansas and Duke have combined to win eight NCAA titles, including three of the last 10, and are two of the top-four winningest programs in NCAA history (rank 2nd & 4th in all-time victories). After extending its record Big 12 regular-season title streak to 14, Kansas won the Big 12 tourney and has now advanced to the Elite Eight for the third straight year, jumping out to a 20-point lead early in the second half before holding off Clemson, 80-76, on Friday night. Duke, the AP's preseason No. 1, will be trying to advance to the Final Four for the 17th time (it would a record 13th Final 4 for Coach K) after grinding out a 69-65 victory over Syracuse. The Blue Devils are back in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2015, when they won their fifth NCAA championship.
Duke: The Blue Devils beat the Orange despite shooting only 39.3 percent (including 5-of-26 from three-point range,), while getting outrebounded, 37-33. Duke starts four freshmen but don't feel too sorry for Coach K, who picked up his 1,100th career coaching victory and 94th career tournament win against Syracuse (both NCAA record). Two of the freshmen, 6-11 forward Marvin Bagley III (21.2 & 11.1), who garnered ACC Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors plus the 6-10 Wendell Carter Jr. (13.6 & 9.3) are both both projected as top-10 draft picks (most likely, HIGH top-10 picks!). Freshman guards Gary Trent Jr. (14.4 & 4.3) and Trevon Duval (10.0 & 5.6 APG) are also considered potential first rounders and senior guard Grayson Allen (15.6 & 4.7 APG) may just join his freshman teammates on draft night, as well. Bagley has been a 'rock,' scoring exactly 22 points in each of Duke's tourney wins. Allen had 15 points and a team-high eight assists in Friday night's win but was just 3-of-14 from three-point range. Duke's 84.4 PPG ranks 8th in the nation and the team's 49.4 percent shooting from the floor ranks 12th.
Kansas: The Jayhawks have made it this far despite the loss of five-star recruit Billy Preston to eligibility issues and 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike being forced to play with a left knee brace to help support a MCL injury suffered in a March 6 practice. The team's lone big man of note was forced sit out the Big 12 Tournament and then played just three minutes in a 76-60 opening-round win over Pennsylvania. However, Azubuike has averaged 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in the last two games while connecting on 11-of-14 shots despite limping noticeably at times (he's shooting 77.5 percent on the season!). Azubuike's (13.2 & 7.0) presence inside will be a key factor in trying to defend the imposing Duke front line of Bagley and Carter but Kansas will likely need to rely on its outstanding perimeter people to win The quartet of Graham (17.3 & 7.4 APG), Svi Mykhailiuk (14.8 ppg), Malik Newman (13.5 7 4.9) and Lagerald Vick (12.1 &4.9) are quite a handful and all are excellent three-point shooters, who will test Duke's 2-3 zone. Kansas averages 81.4 PPG (29th) plus ranks 11th in both FG percentage (49.5) and three-point percentage (40.5).
The pick: Here's the bottom line in a battle between Kansas (2,247 wins is second in all-time Division I victories) and Duke (fourth with 2,144 wins). This marks the sixth time Bill Self's Kansas team has been a No. 1 seed and and advanced to the Elite 8. However, Self's teams are 0-5 in their previous five tries and considering Duke is a money-making 22-12 ATS this season (including 9-3 ATS as a single-digit favorite), the Blue Devils are an 8* play.
|03-24-18||Florida State +5 v. Michigan||Top||54-58||Win||100||33 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: The West Regional Final will feature No. 3 Michigan against No. 9 Florida State. The Wolverines were hardly impressive in reaching the Sweet 16 (freshman Jordan Poole's long three at the buzzer beat Houston in the Round of 32) but set a new NCAA Tournament single-game record as eight players made at least one three-pointer in an impressive 99-72 win against seventh-seeded Texas A&M on Thursday, as Michigan its most points scored in an NCAA Tournament game since 1992. 31-7 Michigan has now won 12 straight games, including nine in a row away from home and can set a single-season program record with its 32nd victory at the Staples Center Saturday night against Florida State..The Seminoles had just one player finish in double figures against Gonzaga but Florida State was the more active and more aggressive team against the Bulldogs, blocking nine shots while holding Gonzaga to 33.9 percent shooting from the floor. The Seminoles' press was just too much for Gonzaga throughout the game and the 'Noles were efficient in transition. Florida State has reached the Elite 8 for the first time since 1993 and a win over Michigan would put them in the Final Four for the first time since 1972 (lost to Bill Walton's UCLA Bruins in the title game!).
Florida State:Terance Mann (12.9 & 5.5) led the way with 18 points in the win over Gonzaga, despite being hampered by a groin injury. Three more guards had solid efforts, as Braian Angola (12.7) and C.J. Walker (8.1) each added nine points, while Trent Forrest (4.9-4.9-4.1) provided a big spark off the bench with seven points, six rebounds and six assists. The 6-8 Cofer (12.7 & 4.9) has been the team's best frontcourt player this season but he had just seven points plus grabbed only one rebound. The 6-9 Kabengele (7.3 & 4.7) and the 7-4 Koumadje (6.7 & 4.3) have contributed on and off all season and against Gonzaga, Kabengele came off the bench to block four shots and add seven points. "We're a team that operates with the philosophy that we have to win games by committee," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton told reporters. "They're all able to contribute offensively and defensively because of that philosophy." This is Hamilton's best postseason run in his 16 years at Florida State.
The pick: Michigan and Florida State both know the winner will meet either Loyola-Chicago (an 11-seed) or Kansas State (a 9-seed) in the national semifinals, so a trip to the title game just could be in the cards for the winner of this contest. No way one can ignore Michigan's 12-game winning streak, which includes eight wins by double digits. However, the Wolverines' points were the second-most they've scored this season and second-most of any team in the NCAA Tournament this year. Plus, their 61.9 percent field-goal shooting is the best of any team in the tourney this year. Does anyone really expect them to come anywhere near that type of offensive efficiency against an FSU defense 61.3 allowing 61.3 PPG on 37.6% shooting in its three NCAA wins? Also, let's not forget that this may be Hamilton's best offensive team at FSU, as the Seminoles are averaging 80.9 PPG on 47.2 % shooting on the season. Make FSU a 10* play.
|03-24-18||Loyola-Chicago +1 v. Kansas State||Top||78-62||Win||100||30 h 13 m||Show|
The set-up: The two teams that busted up the NCAA Tournament’s South Regional bracket, the ninth-seeded Kansas State Wildcats (25-11) and the 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (31-5) will square off Saturday square off Saturday in Atlanta's Philip's Arena, with a long-awaited return to the Final Four on the line for the winner. Kansas State is in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2010 but the Wildcats have lost the last six times they've had a chance to advance to the Final Four. The school's last Final Four trip came back in 1964, one year after Loyola claimed the national title in its only Final Four trip. The Ramblers were a power in the 1960s but they hadn’t been in the NCAA Tournament since 1985, before this year’s Cinderella run. Kansas State overcame foul trouble( three players fouled out) to edge No. 5 Kentucky 61-58, while Loyola beat No. 7 seed Nevada 69-68, giving the Ramblers three NCAA wins by a grand total of just four points!
Loyola-Chicago: The Ramblers have won 13 straight, the longest streak in the nation with Gonzaga losing to Michigan, and 20 of their last 21. They closed out the win over Nevada by shooting 75 percent in the second half, as guard Marques Townes (11.2) and SF Aundre Jackson (11.2 points) made key three-pointers down the stretch. Five players are averaging in double-digits, led by Clayton Custer (13.4 & 4.2 APG), the hero of the Tennessee win, and the 6-6 Donte Ingram (11.2 & 6.3), the hero of the Mia-Fl. win. The 6-9 Krutwig (10.4 & 6.1) rounds out the double digit scorers. With Loyola clinging to a one-point lead and only 6.3 seconds remaining, Townes nailed the decisive three-pointer to help clinch a 69-68 win over Nevada. He led Loyola with 18 points, after he had scored only 15 points in Loyola's first two NCAA tournament wins. Do you get the feeling this is Loyola's year? I believe Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, Loyola's 98-year-old team chaplain who has become a celebrity during the tournament, believes just that (she may have a pipeline?).
Kansas State: The Wildcats' remarkable run through the tournament (note: It was aided by No. 16 seed Maryland-Baltimore County knocking off overall No. 1 seed Virginia) has come despite getting very little from the team's leading scorer and rebounder, the Dean Wade (16.2 & 6.2). The 6-10 center missed the first two games with a foot injury and was limited to eight minutes against Kentucky. PG Barry Brown (16.0-3.2-3.3) and 6-5 swingman Xavier Sneed (11.0 & 5.1) have stepped up to carry the load in his absence. Despite being one of three Wildcats to foul out against Kentucky, Sneed led KSU with 22 points. Brown had 13 points vs Kentucky and seized the moment with 18 seconds remaining, banking in a left-handed shot to give KSU a 60-58 lead. Brown also had 18 points in each of KSU's first two tourney wins.
The pick: It's come down to this, 9 vs. 11 in the Elite Eight for the first time in tournament history, with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Isn't that just perfect in a regional that became the first in NCAA history to have the top four seeds knocked out the very first weekend, including No. 1-ranked and overall No. 1 seed in the 2018 tourney, Virginia. Will we know the winner by halftime? Maybe? The Ramblers are 22-0 when leading at halftime and the Wildcats are 20-2 when ahead at the half. However, I will not buck Loyola (and Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt), which is 22-9-1 ATS on the season. What's more, one could make a strong case that Loyola has faced tougher challenges already in defeating Miami-Fla, Tennessee, and Nevada. Make the Ramblers an 8* play.
|03-23-18||Texas Tech +1.5 v. Purdue||Top||78-65||Win||100||84 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the No. 3-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders taking on the No. 2-seeded Purdue Boilermakers Friday in NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 East Regional action at the TD Garden in Boston. Texas Tech was jilted by Tubby Smith when he led the Red Raiders to the tournament and then left for Memphis. However, Smith's buyout money helped lure Chris Beard away from UNLV to Lubbock, where Beard had spent a decade as an assistant at Texas Tech. Beard's national profile skyrocketed two years ago when his Arkansas-Little Rock squad upset fifth-seeded Purdue in the opening round, 85-83 in double overtime. He signed a deal with UNLV but never coached a game, instead returning to Texas Tech. It has sure worked out for Texas Tech, as Beard has the program back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005 and as fate would have it, the 26-9 Red Raiders will play the 30-6 Boilermakers (30-6). Purdue head coach may not admit it but I'm sure he'd love to avenge that 2016 loss to Beard's Arkansas-Little Rock team.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have had some injury problems with leading scorer Keenan Evans (17.8 PPG) having to fight his way through a painful turf toe plus injury-prone center Zach Smith (6.1 & 3.8) has had trouble staying on the court for extended minutes. However, freshman guard Culver (11.5 & 4.9) and freshman SF Zhaire Smith (11.3 & 4.8) have matured as the season has progressed. The team's mid-season form (Tech was once 22-4) seemed to resurface in Dallas, as a healthier Evans scored 45 points in the two games at Dallas, while freshman Smith came up big vs. Florida in the second round, scoring 18 points. Zach Smith also was able to average 19 minutes in Tech's two NCAA wins, totaling 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds.Tech is not an outstanding offensive team (Red Raiders are averaging 74.9 PPG) but defensively, Tech holds opponents to 64.6 PPG (15th) on 40.3% shooting (14th). The active Red Raider defense was able to deliver key stops vs. Florida in a 69-66 win.
Purdue: The Boilermakers know about key injuries, as 7-2 senior center Isaac Haas (14.7 & 5.7) fractured his right elbow in Purdue's first-round victory over Cal State Fullerton on Friday. Luckily for the Boilermakers, they're one of the few programs in the country that can sub-in one agile 7-footer for another. 7-3 backup Matt Haarms performed well in the second-round victory over Butler, scoring seven points, grabbing six rebounds and making two blocks in a four-point win over the Bulldogs. Purdue averages 80.8 PPG (38th) on 49.4% shooting (13th), including making 42.1% on threes (second-best in the nation!). Guard Carsen Edwards leads a trio of guards with a team-high 18.2 PPG, joined by PG Mathias (12.3-4.1-4.0) and Thompson (7.4). The 6-8 Vince Edwards (14.7 & 7.2) will be asked to produce even more, with Haas sidelined.
The pick: Purdue would arguably be one of the top-four teams remaining, if Haas were available. His status is up to the engineers of Purdue to manufacture a brace that is NCAA-compliant (is that likely?). The Boilermakers have survived without Haas by hitting their open shots. The Boilermakers are 22-for-25 on uncontested shots in the NCAA tournament (88 percent), best among Sweet 16 teams. Will that continue, especially against an excellent Texas Tech D? Evans is averaging 21.2 PPG on better than 54 percent shooting over Tech's last five games, so Purdue's task will not be easy. However, I like the "coaching revenge angle" and will take Painter over Beard in this one. Make Purdue an 8* play.
|03-23-18||Clemson v. Kansas -4.5||Top||76-80||Loss||-109||80 h 16 m||Show|
The setup: Kansas is the Midwest's top seed and can't be unhappy with the regional being played at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Ne. The Jayhawks own a five-game winning streak and have won 10 of their last 11 outings. to enter this game at 29-7. Kansas opened the Big Dance with a 76-60 win over Penn and then beat No. 8-seed Seton Hall 83-79. The Clemson Tigers (a No. 5 seed) have won five of their last seven games, managing a 79-68 victory over New Mexico State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, then followed with a big 84-53 win over No. 4 Auburn. Clemson comes in at 25-9 on the year.
Clemson:Head coach Brad Brownell took note of the other coaches in the regional (Coach K, Jim Boeheim and Bill Self) and said, "Nobody is going to know who I am. It's like coaching the ACC. I don't look down at the other end when we're coaching. That's not good for my mental health." However, Brownell has Clemson in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1997, after previously coaching Wright State and UNC-Wilmington to tournament appearances. The Tigers advanced by limiting Auburn to 25.8 percent shooting and points on just 22 of 70 possessions in an 84-53 second-round mismatch. Clemson ranks 2th in points allowe (65.5 per) and 17th in defensive FG perecentage at 40.4%, The loss of guard Deonte Grantham (14.2 & 6.9) was huge but a trio of 6-3 guards have come through in Marcquise Reed (15.9 & 4.7), Gabe DeVoe (13.7 & 4.6) and Shelton Mitchell (12.2 & APG). The 6-9 Thomas (10.9 & 8.9) is really the only key frontcourt contributor. Gabe DeVoe has stepped up with back-to-back 22-point efforts in Clemson's two wins.
Kansas: The Jayhawks have outlasted Penn and Seton Hall in the first two rounds and are glad to have 7-0 center Udoka Azubuike back. He sat out the Jayhawks' championship run in the Big 12 Tournament with an MCL strain but played 22 minutes against Seton Hall and contributed 10 points and seven rebounds. Azubuike leads the nation in field goal percentage, making 77.5 percent of his attempts, while averaging 13.2 PPG and 6.9 RPG. His presence is vital, as Self's other four starters are all guards. Devonté Graham (17.4-4.0-7.5) was the Big 12's POY and is joined by Mykhailiuk (15.0 & 3.9), Newman (13.4 & 4.8) and Vick (12.1 & 4.8). Newman led the way with 28 points against Seton Hall, upping his average to 22.0 PPG in Kansas' five tourney games (Big 12 and Big Dance).
The pick: Shorthanded Auburn was clearly not the same team without the services of its top big, 6-7 soph Anfernee McLemore and Auburn missed 18 straight shots at one point against Clemson. Really think that will happen to Kansas? Kansas averages 81.4 PPG (29th) on 49.6% shooting (12th) and is now healthy with the return of Azubuike. Also, I sure expect Graham to bounce back with a difference-making offensive showing after going just 1 of 7 from the floor vs. Seton Hall. Kansas has won and covered in this round of the tourney the last two years, with comfy ATS wins over Purdue (98-66 last year) and Maryland (79-63 in 2016). Make it three straight years, as Kansas is a 10* play.
|03-22-18||Florida State +6 v. Gonzaga||Top||75-60||Win||100||59 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: Sweet 16 action in the West Regional features the No. 9 seed Florida State Seminoles and the No. 4 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Seminoles ended the season by losing six of their final 10 down the stretch but their 20-11 mark was good enough to earn them a second straight tournament appearance and a sixth overall under head coach Leonard Hamilton. FSU picked up its 21st victory of the season on Friday, getting past a shorthanded Missouri team and then the Seminoles shocked No. 1 Xavier on Sunday, closing the game with an 18-4 run to win 75-70 and give them 22 wins on the season. Gonzaga ended its regular season 30-4 and with the AP's No. 8 ranking but the Bulldogs drew only a No. 4 seed (more on that later). Gonzaga opened with a less than impressive four-point win over UNC-Greensboro but then made 53.4 percent of its shots in a 90-84 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Bulldogs are in the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight season, the longest such streak in the country. If Gonzaga reaches the Final Four, it will set a Division I record for victories in a four-year span.
Florida State: The Seminoles opened the season having lost four starters off last year's 26-win team and little was expected. However, FSU began the season 9-0 before a one-point loss to Oklahoma State. FSU features a balanced scoring attack with four guards contributing. Angola (12.8 & 3.9) and Mann (12.7 & 5.5) are the highest perimeter scorers, joined by Walker (8.1) and Forrest (7.9 & 4.9-4.1). The 6-8 Cofer (13.1 & 5.0) has had a breakout senior year and works up front with the 7-4 Koumadje (6.9 & 4.6) and 6-9 freshman Kabengele (7.3 & 4.8). Angola was the Seminoles top gun against Xavier, scoring 16 points. Forrest had 13 points, five rebounds and four steals. Mann and Cofer had 10 ten points apiece plus Kabengele added nine points. Junior guard PJ Savoy (6.6) gave Florida State 11 points! The Seminoles have solid depth and can scorewith most teams, averaging 81.1 PPG (34th).
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs average 84.2 PPG (10th), on pace to be the highest scoring average in school history. The Bulldogs are outscoring opponents by 16.7 PPG this season, the second-highest scoring differential in Division I. Gonzaga has very good balance, with the 6-9 Williams (13.6 & 8.4) leading the way. He's got plenty of help up front with the 6-10 Tillie (12.9 & 5.9) and the 6-8 Hachimura (11.4 & 4.6). Freshman guard Norvell Jr.(12.7) carried the Bulldogs with 28 points and 12 rebounds against Ohio State and is joined in the backcourt by PG Perkins (12.4 & 5.3 APG) and Melson (9.3).
The pick: The Bulldogs have captured 21 of their last 22 outings, with the only loss coming in a hard-fought 74-71 home loss vs. WCC rival Saint Mary’s back in mid January. However, WCC is not the most challenging league, hence Gonzaga's No. 4 seed. In year's past. FSU could not match Gonzaga point-for-point in years past but that's not the case here in 2018. FSU owns a tall, athletic and deep bench, which has actually outscored its starters over the last four games! Note that 11 different players saw action in the first eight minutes last Sunday in the upset over Xavier and that the Seminoles have averaged 43.5 bench PPG, 12.5 more than any other team in the field. Chalk up another upset here, as FSU is an 8* play.
|03-22-18||Texas A&M v. Michigan -3||Top||72-99||Win||100||57 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: The West Regional from Staples Center in Los Angeles also features the No. 3 seed Michigan Wolverines and the No. 7 seed Texas A&M Aggies. Michigan played terrific basketball at the end of the regular season and surprisingly won a second straight Big Ten tourney title. However, while Michigan was able to handcuff Montana in a first round NCAA tourney win (held the Grizzlies to 47 points), the Wolverines needed a 'miracle' three-pointer by Jordan Poole to edge Houston 64-63 in the second round. Texas A&M bested a good Providence team in the first round and then shocked North Carolina (No. 2 seed) 86-65 in Charlotte, no less.
Texas A&M: The Aggies reached the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons, overcoming an 0-5 start in SEC play to finish 9-9 and tied for seventh with Mississippi State. A&M then lost on a buzzer-beater to Alabama in the team's conference tournament opener but still got a 7-seed with a 20-12 record (A&M opened the 2017-18 season at 11-1). 6-10 center Tyler Davis leads in scoring (14.6) and is second in rebounding (9.0). Guard Admon Gilder (12.4 & 4.1) and the 6-9 DJ Hogg (11.2 & 5.3) were both key members of the Texas A&M team that reached the Sweet 16 two years ago. The 6-10 Williams adds 10.3 RPG and a team-high 9.3 RPG, while guards Starks (10.1) and Wilson (9.0) and no slouches. Just ask the Tar Heels about Starks, who led A&M with 21 points on 7 of 15 shooting with a team-high five assists. The Aggies overwhelmed North Carolina, connecting on 10-of-24 three-pointers as part of an impressive 31 of 60 (51.7%) showing from the floor.
Michigan: After the team's grind-it-out 61-47 win over Montana, when Michigan allowed the third-fewest points in its NCAA Tournament history, the one-point win over Houston was a 'gift.' The 6-11 Wagner leads Michigan in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (7.1) and is joined in the starting lineup up front by the 6-7 Livers, although he contributes little with 3.7 & 2.3. Beilein starts three guards in Matthews (12.8 & 5.5), Abur-Rahkman (12.6-3.9-3.3) and Simpson (7.3 & 3.6 APG). A fourth guard, Robinson (9.5), is a major contributor to the rotation. Beilein-coached teams always play great D and this one is no different, as Michigan is allowing 63.1 PPG (8th).
The pick: A Texas A&M versus Michigan matchup in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 was not a farfetched notion back in December but it's a surprise now, as A&M didn't look like much of an NCAA tourney team, until its first two games of this year's Big Dance. Now, we've got a ballgame. The Aggies are surely oozing confidence following their romp over defending champ North Carolina. However, expect the Aggies to have trouble finding their rhythm on offense against Beilein's tough D. Sure, Michigan "got lucky": vs. Houston but the team comes in having won 11 straight, while going 9-2 ATS. This pointspread is 'doable,' as 29 of Michigan's 31 victories have come by three points or more. Make Michigan an 8* play.
|03-22-18||Loyola-Chicago +1.5 v. Nevada||Top||69-68||Win||100||56 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: The 30-5 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers and the 29-7 Nevada Wolf Pack will square off at Phillips Arena (South Regional) on Thursday in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The Ramblers are one of two double-digit seeds to have advanced to the Sweet 16 this year, joining Syracuse (also an 11-seed). Many opined that they have never seen such craziness as this this year's tourney. However, three double-digit seeds have reached the Sweet 16 in 12 separate seasons, four double-digit seeds reached the Sweet in 2011 ans a record five double-digit seeds reached the Sweet 16 in 1999. Bottom line, the 2018 tourney is hardly unprecedented. Then again, this matchup features something special. It seems as if Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt (a 98-year-old nun) has helped deliver two buzzer-beating wins for Loyola, while Mariah Musselman, the precocious daughter of the Wolf Pack's exuberant coach Eric, has been Nevada's biggest cheerleader during its run to the Sweet 16, after two come-from-behind wins. Loyola-Chicago: 6-6 swingman Donte Ingram's11.5 & 6.4) buzzer-beat Miami-Fl. on Thursday and then Clayton Custer (13.3 & 4.2 APG), the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, hit the game-winner against third-seeded Tennessee on Saturday. Joining that duo in double digit scoring are SF Jackson (11.1), guard Townes (11.0) and the 6-9 Krutwig, the MVC Freshman of the Year, who checks in at 10.4 & 6.1. The Ramblers shot a blistering 50.6% as a team (3rd in the nation) but average a more modest 71.9 PPG (230th). Defensively, Loyola-Chicago is holding opponents to an average of 62.2 PPG (5th). Nevada: The Wolf Pack overcame a 14-point deficit last Friday to beat No. 10 Texas in overtime 87-83. Then on Sunday, Nevada climbed out of a 22-point hole with about 11 1/2 minutes left to beat No. 2-seed Cincinnati 75-73. The 6-7 Cody Martin led Nevada in the win over Cincinnati, scoring 25 points with six rebounds and seven assists Cody averages 13.9-6.3-4.7 on the season but his 6-7 twin, Caleb, leads the team with 18.8 PPG (5.4 RPG). The 6-7 Jordan Caroline (17.7 & 8.7) and Kendall Stephens, a Purdue transfer, adds 13.4 PPG. Nevada averages 83.0 PPG (16th) but allows 73.2. PPG (193rd).
The pick: It’s been awhile since either school has lasted this long in March. Gene Sullivan’s Loyola team 1985 was led by Alfredrick Hughes and in Nevada’s case it was a Sweet 16 run for Trent Johnson’s best team, featuring Kirk Snyder back in 2004. Some have said that this year's Ramblers remind them a little of past Utah and Saint Louis NCAA qualifiers. That's because there is a link to those past Rick Majerus teams in head coach Porter Moser, who worked as a Majerus aide with the Billikens and whose current team has taken on the best of those Majerus characteristics. Mainly, it’s a commitment to lockdown defense and a patient offense that has not lost its poise in late-game situations in its first two games. However, Nevada offers a unique challenge, with the 6-7 Martin twins and the 6-7 Caroline can create a hellish matchup for slower foes on the blocks. Then again, the Ramblers have won 12 straight and 19 out of their last 20, not to mention the team's money-making 21-9-1 ATS mark on the season. Make Loyola a 10* play.
|03-21-18||Northern Colorado v. San Diego -2||Top||86-75||Loss||-106||14 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: It's CIT college hoops play from the Jenny Craig Pavilion when the 23-12 Northern Colorado Bears visit the 20-13 San Diego Toreros. The Bears come in off an 81-72 home win versus the Drake Bulldogs that advanced them to the quarterfinals of the CIT. As for the Toreros, they've needed two games to advance this far, although both have been at home.
Northern Colorado: The Bears can score, averaging 80.5 PPG (41st) and they advanced with another good offensive effort in the win over Drake. Guard Andre Spight, the team's leading scorer on the season at 21.9 PPG, led with 21 points, connecting on 6-of-11 from three-point range. The 6-9 Tanner Morgan (6.5 & 5.8), the only non-guard among the team's top-seven scorers, added 19 points and eight rebounds. Jordan Davis, second to Spight on the season at 15.7 PPG, delivered a triple-double (12-11-10). The Bears connected of 49.1% as a team but will need to replicate that effort on the road (no easy task).
San Diego: The Toreros don't score as well as the Bears, averaging a modest 70.0 PPG but they do play some of the best defense in college basketball, holding opponents to just 66,6 PPG (33rd) on 41.2% shooting (37th). San Diego needed its defense in a tight 67-64 win over Portland State to advance to this game. The Toreros rallied from a nine-point deficit at the half. The team's top playef, the 6-7 Isaiah Pineiro (15.4 & 6.1) did not a great game, scoring 12 points and grabbing six rebounds. However, guards Carter (12.5) and Williams (9.0) each scored 16 points. The 6-7 Neubauer (6.9 & 3.5) added 13 points, including 3-of-6 from long range. PG Wright (13.1 & 5.4 APG), like Pineiro, was a modest contributor (7-6-4).
The pick: I'd agree that Northern Colorado may be the slightly better team but the Bears played their final three games of the regular season on the road, then played three tough games on a neutral site in the Big Sky tourney (lost in OT to Montana for an NCAA berth). The team then made a pit stop at home in beating Drake on Mar. 18 in the CIT but now heads back out on the road. The team has played just once at home for a month. San Diego is a strong defensive team (see above), and is also holding opponents to just 30.2% on threes (3rd-best in the nation). The Toreros advanced past Portland St. despite so-so-efforts from their top-two players (Pineiro & Wright). I'll back them here, expecting better efforts form that duo as San Diego gets a third straight home game in this tourney. By the way, San Diego stood toe-to-toe- in this venue against WCC powers Gonzaga (lost 77-72) and St Mary's (lost 65-62).. Make San Diego a 10* play.
|03-20-18||Penn State v. Marquette -2||Top||85-80||Loss||-115||10 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: Three of the NIT's four No. 1 seeds are out (only St Mary's remains), as Penn State (a No. 4 seed) will visit the Bradley Center in Milwaukee to take on Marquette (a No. 2 seed). The Nittany Lions opened this tourney with a win over Temple at home and then knocked off top-seeded Notre Dame with a 73-63 victory Saturday at South Bend. Marquette is home for a third straight NIT game, opening with a 67-60 win over Harvard and then playing a much different type of game in eliminating Oregon, 101-92! Both schools were in Madison Square Garden for their respective conference tournaments earlier this month and the winner of this game will punch a "return trip ticket," to New York for a meeting with the winner of the Louisville/Mississippi State game (also played tonight) in the NIT semifinals on March 27. The schools teams have not met since Marquette defeated Penn State 87-79 in the semifinals of the 1995 NIT at Madison Square Garden.
Penn State: Sophomore guard Tony Carr rebounded from a career low-tying two-point performance on 1-of-12 shooting against Temple to post his 15th 20-point game this season by scoring 24 points in the win at Notre Dame. Carr leads in scoring (19.5) and assists (4.7), as all five starters average in double digits. Garner (11.1) and Reaves (10.6 & 5.4) share the backcourt with Carr, while a pair of 6-9 players, Stevens (14.7 & 6.1) and Watkins (12.1 & 8.9) have been the starters up front. The problem being, that Watkins has been lost for the season with a knee injury and hasn't played since Feb. 21 (he has missed six straight games). That means more starts for 6-9 freshman John Harrar, who had six rebounds, four points and two blocked shots in 23 minutes against Notre Dame but is averaging only 1.2 & 1.2 on the season.
Marquette: After totaling a modest 67 points in a win over Harvard, the Golden Eagles scored 58 points before halftime against the Ducks en route to their best offensive showing of the season. Andrew Rowsey led the charge with 29 points and nine assists. A trio of guards lead the charge for Marquette. Howard leads in points (20.4), with Rowsey right behind him (20.2), while leading the team in assists (4.7). Hauser is a third guard (14.1 & 5.8), with that trio propelling Marquette to average 81.4 PPG (30th). SF Anim (7.7 & 3.0), the 6-7 Cain (4.5 & 3.3) and the 610 Heldt (4.1 & 4.8) patrol the frontcourt. Marquette is a highly efficient offensive team, shooting 47.6% overall (37th), including 41.7% on threes (3rd).
The pick: Penn State is off a big win in South Bend over Notre Dame and figures to be somewhat flat here, plus playing without leading rebounder Watkins has to catch up to them. Marquette has an offense to "run anybody out of the gym" (just ask Oregon) and I'll make the Golden Eagles a 10* play in this one.
|03-18-18||Florida State +6 v. Xavier||Top||75-70||Win||100||32 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The Xavier Musketeers have been an NCAA-tourney regular for quite some time now but here in 2018, earned the school's first-ever No. 1 (West Regional). Xavier (29-5) looked every bit like a No. 1 seed on Friday, setting a program record for most points in a NCAA Tournament game with its 102-83 victory over Texas Southern. The Seminoles ended the season by losing six of their final 10 down the stretch, but their 20-11 mark was good enough to earn them a second straight tournament appearance and a sixth overall under head coach Leonard Hamilton. FSU picked up its 21st victory of the season on Friday, getting 42 points from its bench and holding a shorthanded Missouri team to 32.7 percent from the floor in a 67-54 win
Florida State: The Seminoles opened the season having lost four starters off last year's 26-win team and little was expected. However, FSU began the season 9-0 before a one-point loss to Oklahoma State. FSU features a balanced scoring attack with four guards contributing. Terance Mann (12.8 & 5.6) was the team's highest perimeter scorer, joined dby Angola (12.7), Walker (8.3) and Forrest (7.7 & 4.9 APG). The 6-8 Cofer (13.1 & 5.1) has had a breakout senior year and works up front with the 7-4 Koumadje (7.1 & 4.8) and 6-9 freshman Kabengele (7.3 & 4.7). Ten players scored during the Seminoles' 42-point first half, and all three of Florida State's double-digit scorers Friday came off the bench. Kabengele (team-high 14 points and career-high tying 12 rebounds), sophomore guard Trent Forrest (10 points, six rebounds, eight assists, two blocks and three steals) and junior guard PJ Savoy (12 points) led the change from Florida State's bench. Second-leading scorer Terance Mann needed to be helped back to the locker room in the second half after aggravating a first-half groin injury and is questionable for Sunday.
Xavier: The Musketeers have three double digit scores on the season but six others contribute between 4.8 and 8.7 PPG. Xavier is averaging 84.8 PPG (7th) on 49.3% shooting (15th). The 6-6 Trevor Bluiett (19.6 & 5.6) is joined by fellow seniors JP Macura (12.7 & 4.5) and the 6-10 Kanter (10.8 & 4.5) in averaging double digits. Bluiett, who ranks second in Musketeers' history with 2,253 career points and buried three 3-pointers to run his season total to a school-record tying 104, topped the 20-point mark for the 20th time with 26 versus the Tigers. Macura moved into 19th place on the program's all-time scoring list and halted a four-game stretch where he failed to top his season scoring average Friday, going 11-of-16 from the floor to finish with a career-high 29 points. Kerem Kanter (10.8) tied his career high with 24 points despite playing only 20 minutes Friday (note: over the last 22 games, he has reached double figures in every game in which he has played more than 12 minutes!).
The pick: The Musketeers can tie their school record for wins in a season with a victory on Sunday over the Seminoles.In last year's tourney, Xavier stunned third-seeded Florida State last year in the NCAA Tournament, shooting 55.6 percent from the floor in a 91-66 rout of the Seminoles behind 29 points from Trevon Bluiett. Now, a year to the day after that upset, the Seminoles get their chance at payback. This is likely Hamilton's best offensive team, as FSU is averaging 81.3 PPG (31st) on 47.3% shooting (46th). If Mann is out or less than 100 percent, FSU will miss him. However, the Seminoles have solid depth and can score with Xavier. "All season, our identity was the quality of our depth. We knew they were a little short on the bench, so we needed to attack them … we used that to our advantage," freshman forward Mfiondu Kabengele told reporters after the win over Missouri. Revenge works when the matchups are right. Take the points and make FSU a 10* play.
|03-18-18||Maryland-Baltimore County +10.5 v. Kansas State||Top||43-50||Win||100||11 h 6 m||Show|
Maryland-Baltimore County: Graduate student guard Jairus Lyles was simply unstoppable for the Retrievers, scoring 23 of his game-high 28 while playing through leg cramps in the second frame. He tops UMBC in scoring at 20.4 PPG (adds 5.5 RPG and 3,5 APG) and is joined by three other double digit scorers. Guard Maura (11.3 & 5.2 APG) is the second-leading scorer and top assist man, while two forwards, the 6-6 Sherburne (11.0 & 3.9) and the 6-5 Lamar (10.5 & 5.9) complement the team's two guards. Lyles was the unquestioned star against UVa but it was a true team effort. Sherburne had 14 points, Arkel Lamar 12 and K.J. Maura had 10. UMBC had 16 assists on 26 made field goals while outrebounding Virginia 33-22.
Kansas Sttae: The Wildcats are awaiting the Retrievers. They've been led this season led by the 6-10 Wade (16.5 & 6.3) and guard Brown (16.0-3.2-3.4). Barry Brown led the Wildcats with 18 points and played strong defense on Marcus Foster, holding the star Bluejays guard to just five points on 2-of-11 shooting. However, Kansas State had to play without All-Big 12 First Team selection Dean Wade, who suffered a stress fracture in his left foot in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals. Without Wade's team-high 16.5 PPG, the team's defense stepped up, holding the Bluejays to a season low-tying 59 points on 33.8 percent shooting from the floor and 26.5 percent from the three-point line. Freshman guard Mike McGuirl stepped up offensively in Wade's absence, scoring a career-high 17 on 6-of-10 shooting and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc.
The pick: Wade hasn't been ruled out for Sunday but he will be limited if he does play. KSU can't expect McGuirl to come through with another 17-point effort, as he's played in just nine games and averaged 3.3 PPG in less than 10 minutes per. Cinderella teams typically falter off a huge upset but UMBC is livin' large! The Retrievers finished second in the America East regular season and earned their NCAA berth berth with an incredible last-second three by Lyles in the tournament championship win at Vermont. Then the team broke an 0-for-135 drought by No. 16 seeds over a No. 1 seed, so what's the big deal here? Kansas State is a solid team but surely is nothing special and what's more, its leading scorer may not play. Throw in the fact that Kansas State is also just 2-8 ATS in its last 10 non-conference games and why not take UMBC and the points" Make UMBC an 8* play.
|03-18-18||Clemson v. Auburn -1||Top||84-53||Loss||-115||11 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: A Clemson/Auburn matchup would be a really big deal in football (Tigers vs. Tigers). However, the two schools square off Sunday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16 out of the Midwest Region. Clemson hadn’t won an NCAA tournament game since a First Four victory over UAB in 2011 and it hadn’t reached the second round since making a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in 1997. However, Clemson took down New Mexico State 79-68 on Friday. Auburn is in the Big Dance for the first time since 2003, when it made a run to the Sweet Sixteen as a No. 10 seed. Auburn survived a scare in a 62-58 win over College of Charleston in its opener on Friday, setting up this Tigers vs. Tigers matchup on the hardwood, with the winner becoming a Sweet 16 team.
Clemson: Guards Shelton Mitchell scored 23 points and Gabe DeVoe added 22 in the Tigers' 79-68 first-round victory over New Mexico State. However, fellow guard Redd (15.9-4.7-3.4) leads Clemson in scoring on the season. DeVoe (13.5 & 4.6) and Mitchell (12.3-2.9-3.1) are right behind him. Clemson now relies even more on its guard paly, as the 6-8 Grantham (14.2 & 6.9) was lost for the season back in late January. The 6-9 Thomas (10.6 & 8.) is now joined in the starting frontcourt by the 6-8 Skara, who adds just 3.0 & 2.6. Clemson's D is among the best, allowing 65.9 PPG (29th) on 41.0% shooting (33rd).
Auburn: These Tigers won the SEC regular-season title but stumbled a bit down the stretch, losing three of their last five going into the conference tournament, where they fell to Alabama in their first game. Their offensive struggles continued against the Cougars, as they shot below 40 percent for the fourth straight contest. Leading scorer Mustapha Heron (16.6 & 5.5) scored 16 points and SF Desean Murray (10.4, & 6.8) recorded a characteristic 11 points along with seven rebounds. However, Bryce Brown, who checks in right behind Heron at 16.0 PPG, struggled in going 3-for-10 from three-point range. Auburn shot just 35.6 percent from the floor plus was an ugly 15-of-32 on FTs, but still advanced. Helping the cause was Auburn forcing Charleston into a season-high 21 turnovers, about double its average.
The pick: Both teams are short on size after losing starting big men to injury during the season. Clemson’s Grantham tore his ACL in January while Auburn’s Anfernee McLemore (7.4 & 5,3) broke his left leg the following month. Both have persevered with strong guard play. The win over Charleston gave Auburn eight straight NCAA opening round wins. That's tied with Syracuse for the fourth-longest streak, as only North Carolina (16), Kansas (11) and Gonzaga (10) have more. Is it time to advance a step further this time around? My vote (bet) is Y-E-S, as Auburn is averaging 82.7 PPG (18th). Party like it's 2003 and make Auburn an 8* play.
|03-17-18||Houston v. Michigan -3||Top||63-64||Loss||-109||25 h 13 m||Show|
The set-up: Michigan came into this tourney as a No. 3 seed, after winning a second straight Big Ten tourney title in Madison Garden. The Wolverines allowed the third-fewest points in their NCAA Tournament history in a 61-47 win over No. 14 seed Montana on Thursday to move to 29-7 on the season. They will now try to reach 30 wins for the first time since 2012-13, by putting the defensive clamps on the sixth-seed Houston Cougars in a second round game of the West Regional on Saturday in Wichita, Kn. 27-7. Houston rode Rob Gray's hot hand to a thrilling 67-65 win against 11th-seeded San Diego State on Thursday, earning the school's first NCAA Tournament victory in 34 years.
Houston: Head coach Kelvin Sampson is one of just 14 coaches to take four schools (Washington State, Oklahoma, Indiana, Houston) to the NCAA Tournament, as.Houston has produced one of its best seasons in decades. Gray exploded for a career-high 39 points against the Aztecs, including the go-ahead layup with 1.1 seconds remaining in the game. He hopes to lead the Cougars to their first Sweet 16 appearance since the days of Phi Slamma Jamma in 1983-84. Gray leads the Cougars with 19.2 points and 4.4 assists, while senior forward Devin Davis adds 10.7 points and a team-best 6.2 rebounds. Junior Corey Davis Jr. contributes 13.4 points while shooting 43.0 percent from the three-point line and sophomore Armoni Brooks - the American Athletic Conference's Sixth Man of the Year - adds 9.5 points and shoots 42.1 percent beyond the arc.
Michigan: The Wolverines are coming off a grind-it-out 61-47 win on Thursday over Montana, a game which saw the Wolverines take control after falling behind 10-0 to start. "I love the way they stayed composed during that time," Michigan head coach John Beilein said. "The first four-minute timeout, the first one, it didn't look good for Michigan at that time. I told them all we need is one basket here, and then let's win the next four minutes. And we did that. And let's win the next four minutes, and we did that. And all of a sudden we're ahead at the half." The 6-11 Wagner leads Michigan in scoring (14.3) and rebounding (7.1) and is joined in the starting lineup up front by the 6-7 Livers, although he contributes little with 3.8 & 2.3. Beilein starts three guards in Matthews (12.8 & 5.6), Abur-Rahkman (12.6-3.9-3.3) and Simpson (7.4 & 3.6 APG). A fourth guard, Robinson (9.5), is a major contributor to the rotation.
the pick: This game is a battle between not only two scorching hot teams (Michigan has won 10 straight and Houston 11 of 13), but also between two of the stiffest defensively in the country. Michigan allows 63.1 PPG (8th) and enters the game No. 3 in the country in defensive efficiency, while Houston allows 64.9 PPG (19th) and is No. 15 in defensive efficiency. Michigan's sophomore guard Zavier Simpson will be matched defensively against Houston's senior guard Rob Gray. These are two tenacious players who haven't backed down from anyone this season and the winner of this matchup could determine the game's winner. I'm pretty much sold on the Wolverines, who have gone 9-1 ATS during their 10-game winning streak and note that Beilein has led the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 in three of their previous four tournament appearances. Make that four in five. Michigan is the 8* play.
|03-17-18||Florida +2 v. Texas Tech||Top||66-69||Loss||-106||24 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up:The Florida Gators scored 25 points off 18 turnovers en route to Ta 77-62 first-round triumph over St. Bonaventure on Thursday. Florida is the East's No. 6 seed and will take its 21-12 record into Saturday's second round game against the 25-9 and third-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders. Tech was 22-4 before star guard Keenan Evans suffered a toe injury in a Feb. 17 loss to Baylor. The Red Raiders lost their final four games of February but after rallying to beat Stephen F. Austin 70-60 , Texas Tech is 25-9 (most wins since a school-record 30-2 season in 1995-96). There's not much to separate the Red Raiders and Gators, as both finished the regular season in the top-25 (Texas Tech at No. 14 and Florida at No. 23) and clawed their way near the top of their highly-rated conferences.Texas Tech tied for second in the Big 12 and Florida finished third in the SEC.
Florida: The Gators could use another strong defensive performance when they face the Red Raiders. "That's what got us going," senior guard Chris Chiozza told reporters. "We got some stops early in the second half and we got out running and got some easy baskets in transition, and we just kind of built momentum from there and was able to maintain it for most of the second half." Chiozza and junior guard KeVaughn Allen were credited for slowing the Bonnies' talented guards. A third guard, junior Jalen Hudson leads four Gators in double figures with 15.3 PPG, while graduate transfer Egor Koulechov, the fourth guard in the starting lineup, adds 13.8 PPG plus a team-high 6.5 rebounds. Chiozza (11.1 PPG and a team-high 6.2 APG) and Allen both average 11.1 PPG. The 6-9 Hayes (4.8 & 5.0) is the lone frontcourt starter, backed up by the 6-8 Stone (8.9 & 4.2).
Texas Tech: Keenan Evans led the team in scoring on the season at 17.7 PPG and has averaged 21.0 points in the Red Raiders’ four games in March. He led the team with 25 points against SF Austin and is joined by freshmen Jarrett Culver (11.5 & 4.7) and Zhaire Smith (11.1 & 4.7) in double figures on the season. Tech is an outstanding defensive team, allowing 64.6 PPG (15th) on 40.3% shooting (14th). The Red Raiders are plus-4.4 in rebound margin and have eight players averaging at least three rebounds per game. and force 15.1 turnovers.
The pick: Texas Tech is trying to reach the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2005, while Florida has won two national championships, as well as making seven trips to the Elite Eight in that span. As Evans goes, so go the Red Raiders. Tech is 12-1 this season when Evans scores at least 20 points. However, Texas Tech had its hands full getting past the Lumberjacks, who led by as many as eight points early in the second half and stayed in front or tied until Texas Tech finished the game on a 13-2 run in the final four minutes. I don't believe Tech will be so lucky in this one. Make Florida an 8* play.
|03-17-18||Buffalo v. Kentucky -5.5||Top||75-95||Win||100||21 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: The Kentucky Wildcats opened the season as the AP's No. 5 team but with a 10-8 SEC record, came into the conference tourney as just the fourth seed. However, the Wildcats cruised past Georgia 62-49 to notch their 11th consecutive win against the Bulldogs and then delivered an 86-63 victory over Alabama in the semifinals, their sixth victory in the last seven games (after losing four straight). Kentucky then took out Tennessee 77-72 in the championship game to win its fourth straight SEC tourney title. The Wildcats picked up their 25th win of the season (against 10 losses) in Thursday's first-round 78-73 win over a game Davidson team in 5 vs.12 matchup. Kentucky expected to meet the No. 4 Arizona Wildcats in the second round but instead will face the 13th-seeded Buffalo Bulls (out of the MAC), who shocked Arizona by winning 89-68. The Bulls have won seven in a row and come in with a record of 27-8.
Buffalo: The 13th-seeded Buffalo pulled off Thursday's biggest upset, outscoring Arizona 49-30 in the second half on its way to a 21-point win. Buffalo (27-8) shredded Arizona's defense with its quickness, getting to the lane for shots at the rim and kickouts to shooters (Buffalo connected on 54.8% of its shots). Defensively, the Bulls pressured Arizona's guards and collapsed around its big men in the lane, forcing the Wildcats to the perimeter. Arizona couldn't convert, going 2 for 18 from beyond the arc, compared to the Bulls knocking down 15 of 30. PG Clark led with 25 points and seven assists. He's one of four Buffalo players averaging 15.0-plus PPG on the season (15.0-3.6-5.4). He's joined by fellow guards Massinburg (16.9 & 7.3) and Harris (15.6 & 6.0) plus the 6-8 Perkins (16.5 & 6.1). Buffalo is averaging 84.9 PPG (6th).
Kentucky: John Calipari's team is again, packed with freshman. 6-9 freshman Kevin Knox shared the conference freshman of the year honors with Alabama's Sexton, and leads the etam at 15.9 PPG (adds 5.4 RPG). Freshman PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (14.0-4.1-5.1) is the team's second-leading scorer, followed by 6-7 freshman Washington (10.6 & 5.4) plus freshman guards Diallo (9.9) and Green (9.5). This year's team is not as high-scoring as Calipari teams of the past and beat Davidson without making a single three-point shot (can't make that up!). That snapped a streak of 1,047 games (which had been best in the nation) with a three-pointer, a mark that began way back in 1988. However, Kentucky shot 51.0% overall in the game, led by Knox's 25 points and Gilgeous-Alexander's 19. Defensively, Kentucky is allowing opponents to shoot just 30.0% on threes, 4th-best in the nation
The pick: This is a matchup of one of CBB's "blue-bloods" and a no-name MAC entry. Buffalo can play (just ask Arizona) but Calipari's team is hitting its stride, entering having won eight of its last nine. Buffalo's great win over Arizona will have to do for one of the NCAA's latest 'Cinderella' teams. Kentucky opened as the AP's No. 5 team, while Buffalo was coming off a 17-15 season. Could anyone ever had imagined back in November that these two would meet in the second round of an NCAA tourney game and that Kentucky would only be about a 'TD' favorite? Make Kentucky a 10* play.
|03-17-18||Rhode Island v. Duke -9.5||Top||62-87||Win||100||18 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: The No. 7 Rhode Island Rams won one of the more exciting games on Thursday, edging No. 10 Oklahoma and freshman sensation Trae Young 83-78 in OT. E.C. Matthews led with 16 points and Jared Terrell, the team's leading scorer this season, added 13 points and five assists. Down the stretch, some clutch defense allowed the Rams to win an NCAA tourney game for the second straight season under head coach Dan Hurley. A win on Saturday would allow Rhode Island to advance to the school's first Sweet 16 berth in 20 years. However, for that to happen, the seventh-seeded Rams will need to get past the second-seeded Blue Devils who just took care of Iona 89-67. The Blue Devils outrebounded Iona 39-29 and outscored the Gaels in the paint 46-30.
Rhode Island: Freshman Fatts Russell, who is averaging just 7.0 PPG this season, came off the bench to shine opposite the Sooners' Trae Young. He finished with 15 points in 21 minutes. The 6-9 Cyril Langevine (6.2 & 5.9) posted his fifth double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds, also coming off the bench. Dan Hurley's team is well-rounded and its starting-five delivers excellent balance. Guard Jared Terrell is the leading scorer (17.0), followed by Matthews (13.2 & 4.0). PG Dowtin adds 9.6 PPG and 5.5 APG plus a fourth guard, Stanford Robinson (9.0 & 5.7) is a defensive specialist. The 6-8 Berry (8.9 & 3.9) is the fifth starter. The Rams play outstanding defense, allowing 68.2 PPG (68th).
Duke: Not many teams have been able to slow Marvin Bagley down this season and Iona was no different, as he scored 22 points. Three others scored at least 16 points, led by PG Duval's 19 (he also had eight assists). The freshman PG averages 10.2 & 5.6 APG on the season. Senior Grayson Allen (15.7-3.5-4.6) and freshman Gary Trent Jr. (14.3 & 4.2) each had 16. The 6-9 Carter, who averages 13.6 & 9.3 was held to just 9 & 8. Duke shot 53.7 percent from the floor and will test Rhode Island's defense, as the Blue Devils are averaging 84.8 PPG (7th) on 49.5% shooting (14th).
The pick: Duke has won each of the previous four meetings between the two schools, including twice in the tournament (1978 and 1988). The team's met just last year in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament, as Duke won 75-65. The Rams are a modest 5-4 SU (3-6 ATS) since losing at St. Bonny's (loss ended a school-record 16-game winning streak) , while the Blue Devils are 8-2 SU & ATS their last 10. Is beating Oklahoma (Sooners ended the season on a 4-12 SU & 3-13 ATS run) really a big deal? I think not. Make Duke a 10* play
|03-16-18||Florida State -1 v. Missouri||Top||67-54||Win||100||79 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: Despite the loss of heralded freshman Michael Porter Jr. (Blue Ribbon's Newcomer of the Year) to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 with a 20-12 overall record. The Tigers are the eighth-seed in the Wst region and will face the No. 9 seed Florida State Seminoles on Friday night a first round game played at Nashville, Tn. The Seminoles ended the season by losing six of their final 10 down the stretch, but their 20-11 mark was good enough to earn them a second straight tournament appearance and a sixth overall under head coach Leonard Hamilton.
Florida State: The Seminoles opened the season having lost four starters off last year's 26-win team and little was expected. However, FSU began the season 9-0 before a one-point loss to Oklahoma State. FSU features a balanced scoring attack with three players averaging between 13.2 and 12.9 points, a trio led by guard Terance Mann (13.2 & 5.7). The others are teh 6-8 Cofer (13.1 & 5.1) and guard Angola (19.-3.8-3.0), Three more players contribute between 7.6 and 8.5 PPG plus big men like the 7-4 Koumadje (7. 4 & 4.7) and the 6-9 Kabengele (7.1 & 4.5) add muscle up front. This is likely Hamilton's best offensive team, as FSU is averaging 81.8 PPG (29th) on 47.4% shooting (43rd).
Missouri: The 6-10 Porter is still considered an NBA lottery pick and returned from back surgery in time to appear in the SEC Tournament in last Thursday's 62-60 loss to Georgia (he scored 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting). However, Missouri will have to play without suspended 6-7 forward Jordan Barnett, the team's second-leading scorer (13.7 points per game) who was arrested for DWI on Saturday. "He's suspended as we speak. He won't play Friday," first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin told reporters Sunday before adding that Barnett could potentially return if the Tigers advance to the second round. Senior Kassius Robertson leads the team with 16.2 PPG while freshman Jontay Porter - Michael's 6-11 brother - is the top rebounder (6.8) and averaged 21 points on 69 percent shooting over his last three contests (10.1 PPG on the season).
The pick: Cuonzo Martin has done an excellent job at Missouri in his first year at the school but the Tigers last won a game in the Round of 64 game back in 2010 (Tigers are 0-4 ATS in their last four NCAA Tournament games). Barnett (also 5.9 RPG) will be missed and Michael Porter's game is far from 100 percent. Missouri is the far better defensive team (68.1 PPG allowed ranks 67th) but despite its recent troubles, I believe FSU can (and will) outscore Missouri. Make FS a 10* play.
|03-16-18||Georgia State +14 v. Cincinnati||Top||53-68||Loss||-107||71 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The second-seeded 30-4 Cincinnati Bearcats enter the NCAA Tournament with seven straight wins, including a 56-55 triumph over Houston in Sunday’s AAC conference title game. Cincy enters the Big Dance with back-to-back 30-victory seasons, the first time in school history that has happened. Cincy opens NCAA tourney play with the 24-10 and 15th-seeded Georgia State Panthers. Georgia State captured its second Sun Belt Conference title in the past four seasons with Sunday's 74-61 victory over Texas-Arlington.
Georgia State: After losing four of five late in the season, the Panthers enter the Big Dance on a four-game winning streak. Sophomore guard D’Marcus Simonds, the Sun Belt player of the year, averages 21.1 PPG on the season. Senior guard Isaiah Williams, who scored 21 points in the semifinal victory over Georgia Southern as Simonds was saddled with foul trouble, is 9-of-18 from three-point range in his past four games. However, he is averaging only 7.3 PPG on the season. Fellow guard Mitchell checks in at 12.2 PPG plus two 6-5 forwards, Thomas (10.7 & 4,3) and Benlevi (9.6 & 6.5), join the 6-8 Sessions (7.7 & 6.1) up front.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats were known for their defense under Huggins and the same is true under Mick Cronin. Cincy ranks second in points allowed (57.1) and in defensive FG percentage (37.0) 6-8 senior forward Gary Clark averaged 16.3 points per game during the AAC Tournament, shooting 57.7 percent from the floor in three games and leads team with 13.0 PPG and 8.5 RPG on the season. The 6-9 Kyle Washington (11.3 & 5.4) has reached double figures in 10 of his past 13 games, averaging 12.2 points during that stretch while shooting 52.8 percent from the floor. The Bearcats feature a solid guard trio in Evans (12.9-4.6-3.2), Cumberland (10.9-3.4-2.9) and Broome (8.2).
The pick: The Bearcats have limited 23 of their opponents to less than 40 percent shooting from the floor and in 23 games, have held opponents to 60 or fewer points this season. However, Georgia State is no slouch on defense, holding opponents to 67.3 PPG (51st) on 39.3% shooting (6th). It's hard not to notice that the Bearcats were back to playing games in the 50s and 60s in the AAC tourney, content to let the defense dictate tempo. Meanwhile, the team's top-score entering the tourney, Jacob Evans, was in a shooting slump in Orlando, making just 25% from the floor in three games. Georgia State has won its NCAA opener in its past two tournament appearances, beating Wisconsin in 2001 and Baylor in 2015. Another upset here? Not likely but take the big points and make the Panthers an 8* play.
|03-16-18||Marshall v. Wichita State -11||Top||81-75||Loss||-110||70 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: 25-7 Wichita State lost to Houston 77-74 in the American Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals Saturday but begins its journey in the NCAA Tournament as a No.4 seed and will meet No. 13 Marshall on Friday in the first round of the East Region in San Diego. The Shockers are coached by former Marshall assistant Gregg Marshall, marking the first time in NCAA Tournament history that a school's name matches the opposing coach's last name. Wichita State boasts a veteran team which reached the Sweet 16 in 2015 and 2016, before losing to Kentucky in the second round in 2017. As for teh The Thundering Herd, they upset Western Kentucky 67-66 on Saturday to win the C-USA Tournament and will ride a four-game winning streak into their first NCAA Tournament since 1987 with a record of 24-10.
Marshall: Head coach Dan D’Antoni, brother of Houston Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni, told reporters. “It’s been a long time coming and Marshall basketball kind of fell off.'' PG Jon Elmore led C-USA in scoring (22.8 points) and assists (6.9). Fellow guard C.J. Burks averaged 20.5 PPG, helping the Thundering Herd average a conference-best 84.4 PPG (12th nationally). That said, no one should overlook 6-8 Ajdin Penava (15.5 & 8.6), who was named C-USA Tournament MVP after averaging 17 points and 8.3 rebounds in the three games. However, an issue for Marshall is the fact that it allows 78.8 PPG, ranking 321st of 351 Division I teams.
Wichita State: Sophomore guard Landry Shamet averages a team-best 15,0 PPG and an AAC-best 5.1 assists. 6-8 senior forward Shaquille Morris has been a force in the middle, averaging 14.0 points and 5.5 rebounds, both career highs. He comes into the Big Dance averaging 16.8 points over his last nine games. 6-9 senior forward Darral Willis Jr. (10.4 & 6.0) and senior guard Conner Frankamp (10.1 points) are also playing their final NCAA Tournaments. 6-8 junior forward Markis McDuffie is averaging 8.5 & 3.2, guard Reaves 8.3 PPG and the 6-7 Kelly, 5.7 PPG but a team-high 7.5 RPG.
The pick: Marshall can score but so can the efficient Shockers, who average 83.0 PPG (19th), on 47.8% shooting (33rd). Wichita State got shipped 1,363 miles away to San Diego but the Shockers are deep AND experienced. Marshall's first NCAA trip since 1987 ends after one game. Lay the points and make Wichita State an 8* play.
|03-16-18||Providence +3.5 v. Texas A&M||Top||69-73||Loss||-108||69 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: The Providence Friars (No. 10 seed) are in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive season and will meet No. 7 seed Texas A&M in the West Region on Friday in Charlotte, N.C. Providence finished in a three-way tie for third in the Big East (10-8), before playing in three straight overtime games in the conference tournament, including a loss to Villanova in the championship game on Saturday. The Aggies reached the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons, overcoming an 0-5 start in SEC play to finish 9-9 and tied for seventh with Mississippi State. A&M then lost on a buzzer-beater to Alabama in the team's conference tournament opener but still got a 7-seed with a 20-12 record (A&M opened the 2017-18 season at 11-1).
Providence: The 21-13 Friars feature three double digit scorers in 6-8 senior Rodney Bullock (14.0 & 5.8), 6-7 sophomore guard Alpha Diallo (13.0 & 6.6) and senior PG Kyron Cartwright (11.8 & 5.4 APG). Diallo is coming off his sixth double-double of the season, posting 22 points and 10 rebounds in the overtime loss to Villanova. He played well while the Friars went 3-3 against Villanova and Xavier this season, a positive sign considering those conference foes earned top seeds for this tournament.Providence averages 73.7 PPG but also allows 72.7.
Texas A&M; Tyler Davis, the team's 6-10 center led in scoring () and was second in rebounding this season (8.8) but he was held to single digits in the loss to Alabama on Thursday, although for just the fifth time thi season. Guard Admon Gilder (12.2 & 4.2) and the 6-9 DJ Hogg (11.3 & 5.2) were all key members of the Texas A&M team that reached the Sweet 16 two years ago. The 6-10 Williams adds 10.3 RPG and a team-high 9.0 RPG, while guard Starks chips in 9.0 PPG.
The pick: The Aggies' good size of Davis (6-10), Hogg (6-9) and Williams (6-10) could pose problems for Providence but after that 11-1 start, A&M has gone just 9-11 SU and 8-12 ATS in its last 20 games. A&M was part of an SEC-record eight teams to make the NCAA Tournament but none were seeded higher than No. 3 Tennessee in the South Region. A&M can be had and Providence sure got battle-tested with three consecutive OT games in the Big East tourney, including overcoming a 17-point deficit in knocking off No. 1 seeded Xavier, then nearly erased an 11-point deficit in a hard-fought 76-66 OT loss to Villanova in the title game. SEC favorites are only 13-18-2 ATS in the Big Dance since 2013, while Ed Cooley’s Friars team went a money-making 9-2 ATS its last 11 as a single-digit underdog! Make Providence an 8* play.
|03-15-18||San Diego State +4 v. Houston||Top||65-67||Win||100||70 h 6 m||Show|
|03-15-18||Stephen F Austin +11.5 v. Texas Tech||Top||60-70||Win||100||70 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: An injury to its best player cost Texas Tech a chance to win the Big 12 regular-season and/or the conference tourney tournament title but the Red Raiders did earn a favorable NCAA Tournament draw. Texas Tech earned a No. 3 seed in the East region and will get to play in Dallas on Thursday and again on Saturday, if it advances. Texas Tech enters the tourney 24-9 on the season and ranked 14th in the final regular season poll by the AP. The Red Raiders will face 14th-seeded and in-state foe Stephen F. Austin on Thursday. The Lumberjacks enter the NCAA Tournament, the school's fourth appearance in the last five years, with 10 wins in the their last 11 games, including a 59-55 upset win over top-seeded Southeast Louisiana in the Southland championship game, as the league's third-seed.
SF Austin: Forward T.J. Holyfield closed the Southland Tournament with consecutive double-doubles and has averaged 13.0 points and a team-best 6.4 rebounds per game. Guards Shannon Bogues (15.4 points) and Kevon Harris (14.6 & 5.4) also average double figures with the Harris shooting a team-best 43.2 percent from three-point range, which ranked second in the Southland. This is a good offensive team, averaging 81.1 PPG (3th) on 48.8% shooting (20th). The Lumberjacks also can play a little D, allowing 68.1 PPG (69th).
Texas Tech: Chris Beard’s Red Raiders finished second in the Big 12 behind perennial champion Kansas and beat Texas 73-69 in their Big 12 Tournament opener before falling to third-seeded West Virginia 66-63 in the semifinals. It's the school's first 20-win season in 11 years and its most wins since a school-record 30-2 season in 1995-96. It also will be the second NCAA Tournament appearance in the last decade for the Red Raiders. The Red Raiders started 14-1 and were 22-4 a little more than a month later when they climbed to No. 6 in the national polls – the high-water mark in program history. However, Keenan Evans suffered a toe injury in a Feb. 17 loss to Baylor and totaled only 12 points in the school’s final four games in February, including a Feb. 26 contest at West Virginia where he sat out entirely, contributing heavily to Texas Tech’s four-game tailspin entering March. Evans led the team in scoring on the season at 17.5 PPG and has averaged 20.3 points in the Red Raiders’ three games since. He is joined by freshmen Jarrett Culver (11.7 & 4.8) and Zhaire Smith (11.2 & 4.7) in double figures on the season. Tech is an outstanding defensive team, allowing 64.3 PPG (18th) on 40.3% shooting (15th).
The pick: I noted at the top that Tech is happy to be playing in Dallas but I must add that Stephen F Austin is actually about 200 miles closer to the Metroplex from its Nacodoches base. Texas Tech has won eight of the nine meetings over the last 21 years but the two schools haven’t met since 2011. SF Austin more than held its own in three close games at SEC venues (close losses at Miss. State & Mizzou plus a win at LSU). Throw in the fact that in two of their last three NCAA tourney appearances, the Lumberjacks have notched first-round upsets as a 13th and 12th seed, respectively, beating West Virginia (70-56 in 2016) and VCU (77-75 in 2014). SF Austin is the very definition of a 'live dog!' Take the points and make them a 10* play.
|03-15-18||NC State +2.5 v. Seton Hall||Top||83-94||Loss||-107||67 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: It's an 8-9 matchup in the first-round of the Midwest Region from Wichita, Kn. on Thursday, as eighth-seeded Seton Hall (21-11) takes on ninth-seeded North Carolina State (21-11). The Wolfpack and Pirates each had successful regular seasons but both are coming off early losses in their conference tournaments, with N.C. State losing to Boston College 91-87 in its first ACC tournament game and Seton Hall being upset by Butler 75-74 in its opening game at the Big East Conference tournament. Seton Hall has lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons and hasn't won a tournament game since 2004. N.C. State is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years.
NC State: the Wolpack were coming off back-to-back 16 and 15-win seasons and were picked 12th in an ACC preseason poll. However, the team figured things out in its first season under coach Kevin Keatts. Guard Allerik Freeman was a graduate transfer and was the team's leading scorer at 15.4 PPG. 7-0 center Omer Yurtseven (13.8 & 6.8) and guatrd Tori Dorin (13.8 & 6.1) check in as double digit scorers as well, while five others averaged between 5.4 and 8.8 PPG (that group includes PG Johnson, who is averaging 7.4). NC State pushes the pace, averaging 81.2 PPG (32nd) on 47.0% shooting (59th).
Seton Hall: The Pirates are a veteran team that features four senior starters, including Khadeen Carrington (14.9 & 4.5 APG) and leading scorer Desi Rodriguez who averages 17.8 points and 4.9 rebounds. And then there's senior center Angel Delgado (13.3 & 11.6), the Big East's all-time leader in rebounds and just the second player in history to lead the Big East in rebounding in three different seasons. But don't forget sophomore guard Myles Powell who was named the Big East Most Improved Player after averaging 15.4 points per game, second-most on the team.Seton Hall is a solid offensive team, as well (79.0 PPG ranks 57th).
The pick: Seton Hall's loss in the Big East quarterfinal was a heartbreaker, as Carrington converted a three-point play with 11 seconds to play, giving the Pirates a one-point lead, However, Butler's Tyler Wideman scored on a putback with four seconds remaining to give the Bulldogs the win. One wonders just how the Pirates will play here. Uptempo NC State wants an open court game and I think the Wolfpack will win a contest like that. Keatts was a high school coach just a few years ago but has led his team to the NCAA tourney, something Mark Gottfried couldn’t do with Dallas Mavericks star Dennis Smith Jr. on the roster last year. Also, the Wolfpack have notched noteworthy wins over Arizona, Duke, Clemson & North Carolina,. Make NC State an 8* play.
|03-15-18||South Dakota State +8 v. Ohio State||Top||73-81||Push||0||66 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Ohio State (No. 5 seed) against South Dakota State (No. 12 seed) meet in a first-round West Regional matchup Thursday in Boise, Idaho. Yes, Ohio State owns the higher seed and the more recognizable name but South Dakota State has more recent NCAA Tournament experience on its ledger entering this contest. The Buckeyes earned an at-large bid out of the Big Ten with their 24-8 record and will be making their 28th Big Dance appearance overall but their first since 2015 under former coach Thad Matta. Meanwhile, the 28-6 Jackrabbits captured an automatic NCAA bid by winning the Summit League tourney, afterfinishing first in the conference with a 13-1 league record during the regular season. It will be the third straight NCAA Tournament appearance for the Jackrabbits and fifth in the last seven seasons for the program which moved up to the Division I level in just 2005.
South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits are guided by second-year coach T.J. Otzelberger, won their 11th straight game with a 97-87 victory over South Dakota in the Summit League championship game. 6-9 junior forward Mike Daum is the team's best player, leading in scoring (23.8) and rebounding (10.4). Freshman guard David Jenkins Jr. (16.1) and 6-7 Reed Tellinghuisen (12.0 & 4.7) also average in double figures for South Dakota State, while a third guard King, averaged 9.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG. South Dakota State ranks sixth nationally in averaging 84.9 PPG and and shoots 40.3 percent as a team from three-point range (12th nationally).
Ohio State: The Buckeyes have had a stronger-than-expected season under new coach Chris Holtmann (via Butler), finishing in a tie for second in the Big Ten at 15-3 before getting upended by Penn State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament. That 69-68 loss March 2 in New York was the third defeat in five games for Ohio State, which boasts four double-digit scorers, led by 6-7 junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, the Big Ten’s Player of the Year, who averages 19.4 points and 8.8 rebounds. SF Jae’Sean Tate (12.5 & 6.2) points), point guard C.J. Jackson (12.2-3.8-3.9) and freshman forward Kaleb Wesson (10.8 & 5.2) also average double digits.
The pick: The Ohio State roster only features seven combined games of NCAA Tournament experience and two combined starts, both by Tate. However, Holtmann guided Butler to the Big Dance in each of his three seasons as the Bulldogs’ coach. Meanwhile, the Jackrabbits are in the NCAA field for the third consecutive year and fifth time in the past seven seasons. They've won 19 of their last 20 games but are looking for their first NCAA Tournament win (South Dakota State is 0-4 all-time in NCAA Tournament play). We all know that a No. 12 seed has beaten a No. 5 seed in nine of the last 10 NCAA Tournaments and 12s have won 11 of the last 24 such first-round matchups overall. The Jackrabbits have covered as an underdog in pre-conference games away from home vs. Iowa, Buffalo, Ole Miss & Wichita State, while narrowly failing to cover as a 4 1/2-point underdog in 112-103 double OT loss at Colorado. The Jackrabbits have covered three consecutive as an underdog in the Round of 64. After suffering first-round losses to Gonzaga and Maryland as a 16th and 12th seeds, respectively, the last two seasons, "the third time may just be the charm." Take the points and make South Dakota State an 8* play.
|03-15-18||Oklahoma +2 v. Rhode Island||Top||78-83||Loss||-104||63 h 42 m||Show|
The set-up: Oklahoma was a highly-controversial selection by the NCAA Tournament, as after a great 2017 part to the current season (Sooners were 12-1 as of Jan. 3, including three wins over ranked teams), Oklahoma went 6-12 (4-11 last 15 after getting bounced from the Big 12 Tournament in the first round) the rest of the way. However, the 18-13 Sooners not only made the field but garnered a No. 10 seed. Oklahoma will meet No. 7 Rhode Island on Thursday in the Midwest Region in Pittsburgh. The 25-7 Rams were the Atlantic 10 regular-season champions (15-3) but were unable to capture a second straight Atlantic 10 Tournament title, losing 58-57 last Sunday to Davidson.
Oklahoma: Freshman Trae Young led the nation in scoring (27.4) and assists (8.8) for this Lon Kruger-coached team that averaged 85.2 PPG (4th). However, while everyone knows what Young can do, it's the rest of the team that will decide if the Sooners can advance out of the first round. Junior guard Christian James (12.1 & 4.3) had been solid with seven straight games in double figures before going scoreless in the Sooner's 71-60 loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament. 6-9 freshman Brady Manek (10.4 & 5.1) is the only other player averaging in double figures for Kruger but he has only scored more than nine points once in the past seven games.
Rhode Island: Redshirt senior E.C. Matthews recorded 20 points and eight rebounds but the Rams lost their second low-scoring game to Davidson in the last two weeks in the Atlantic 10 final. Dan Hurley's team is well-rounded and its starting-five delivers excellent balance. Guard Jared Terrell is the leading scorer (17.2), followed by Matthews (13.1). PG Dowtin adds 9.7 PPG and 5.5 APG plus a fourth guard, Stanford Robinson (9.1 & 5.7) is a defensive specialist. The 6-8 Berry (9.0 & 3.9) is the fifth starter and the 6-9 Langevine (5.9 & 5.7) makes solid contributions off the bench. Rhode Island averages almost 10 points less than Oklahoma at 76.2 PPG. However, the Rams play outstanding defense, allowing 67.9 PPG (61st).
The pick: Young certainly helped the Sooners get this berth, as they are the only team in the field, excluding First Four teams, to make it with fewer than 19 victories. Sure, Oklahoma is a controversial pick and not only did the Sooners go 4-11 SU down the stretch, they were also a money-burning 3-12 ATS in that stretch. However, let's not ignore the Ram's real struggles after the team's school-record 16-game win streak was snapped by St. Bonny on Feb. 16. Rhode Island was just 4-4 SU including that loss to the Bonnies, going 2-6 ATS. Rhode Island faltered in the final three minutes of a pair of losses to Davidson in March (by two points and one point) and that hardly bodes well here vs. an Oklahoma team which will be playing with a YUGE chip on its shoulders. Make Oklahoma an 8* play.
|03-13-18||Long Island +4.5 v. Radford||Top||61-71||Loss||-100||21 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: The first game of the 2018 NCAA Tourney tips off Tuesday at 6:40 ET from Dayton Ohio, when 18-16 LIU-Brooklyn (NEC) squares off against 22-12 Radford, champs of the Big South. It is a meeting of programs searching for their first NCAA Tournament victory, with the winner moving on to face the East's top seed, Viillanova, Thursday at Pittsburgh.The LIU Blackbirds are on a five-game win streak that includes a 71-61 Northeast Conference championship game upset over Wagner (regular season champ) on its homecourt as a 9 1/2-point underdog. The co-16th seeded Radford Highlanders come in having won their last seven contests, including the Big South title game which they won 55-52 on a three-pointer at the buzzer .
LIU-Brooklyn:The Blackbirds are in the field for the seventh time but for the first time since making it three straight years (2011-13). The team is coached by Derek Kellogg, who is in his first season after spending nine years at UMass, where he took the Minutemen to the Big Dance once. LIU uses a four-guard lineup and all average in double digits, led by the NEC’s second-leading scorer, Joel Hernandez (20.9). He has been the team's go-to player all season and scored 32 points explosion in the championship game victory over Wagner. Senior guard Hernandez also contributes 5.9 RPG and is joined in double digits by fellow guards Clark (17.4), Agosto (11.7-4.1-4.1) and Batts (10.0 & 4.3). Junior guard Raiquan Clark also leads the team in rebounding at 7.1 per game. The 6-8 Van Sauers has been the fifth starter but he contributes only 2.0 & 2.3. However, the 6-7 Coleman adds 6.5 & 6.5 off the bench.
Radford: Freshman PG Carlik Jones drained a long three-pointer at the buzzer to beat Liberty 55-52, giving Radford its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2009. Clark (11.8 & 3.0 APG) is joined by just one other double digit scorer, the Highlanders' 6-5 small forward Ed Polite Jr, who leads the team in scoring (13.5) and rebounding (7.1). However, Polite has made just 5-for-20 from the floor over the last two games. Jones averaged 14.5 PPG in the Big South Tournament (13-5-6 in the title game), while sophomore forward Devonnte Holland contributed 11 points and seven rebounds in the championship game and sophomore guard Travis Fields Jr. averaged 11.5 PPG in the team's last two contests..
The pick: It's an interesting matchup of head coaches, Derek Kellogg of LIU (see above) and Mike Jones, in his seventh season with the Highlanders. He spent time as an assistant under Shaka Smart at VCU and was the architect of the vaunted VCU "Havoc defense" (he was on the bench when VCU made its Final Four run in 2011). Radford's defense is one of the nation's best, allowing 64.4 PPG (14th). However, LIU is embracing its long-shot Cinderella story, with Blackbirds entering the tournament with the second-most losses of any team (Texas Southern is 15-19). No doubt LIU faces a tough Radford defense but the Blackbirds have excellent scorers in Hernandez and Clark, plus those two get some pretty solid support (LIU averages 77.5 PPG). Meanwhile, the Highlanders are a workman-like team that is hardly very efficient on the offensive end, averaging only 67.4 PPG (314th) on 42.6% shooting (279th). We could have another buzzer-beater, as this matchup has all the makings for a close game. Take the points and make LIU a 10* play.
|03-11-18||Houston v. Cincinnati -4.5||Top||55-56||Loss||-105||7 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the top-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats (29-4) facing the third-seeded Houston Cougars (26-6) in the American Athletic Conference Tournament final in Orlando. The Bearcats are currently ranked No. 8 in the AP poll and the Cougars are ranked 21st. The Bearcats have defeated SMU (61-51) and Memphis (70-60) in their first two games of this event, while the Cougars knocked off UCF 84-56, before riding Rob Gray's 33 points to a 77-74 win over Wichita State (league's No. 2 seed and the AP's 11th-ranked team) on Saturday. This marks Houston's first trip to the AAC title game but the Cougars know they can beat the Bearcats, as they did it as recently as Feb. 15, when Houston Cincinnati's snapped national-best snapped winning streak at 16 games in a 67-62 home victory.
Houston: The Cougars only had seven turnovers in Saturday's win and that proved to be the difference, along with 7-of-15 combined three-point shooting by Gray and Corey Davis Jr. The other three starters for Houston combined for only 13 points, although the 6-6 Nura Zanna (just 2.8 & 3.9 on the season) did register a team-high nine rebounds off the bench. Gray has reached the 30-point plateau in two of his last three games and is averaging 24.7 points over his last six outings. He leads four double digits scorers (18.6-3.3-4.6), joined by guards Corey Davis (13.5) and Brooks (10.1) plus 6-6 forward Devin Davis (10.7 & 6.2). Houston's starting 6-8 forward Breaon Brady (4.5 & 4.4) has gone 10 straight games without attempting more than three shots.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats committed only three turnovers against Memphis, which was critical because the team shot barely above 40 percent from the floor for the second straight game. The 6-8 Gary Clark has averaged 14.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in the tourney and averages 12.8 PPG and a team-high 8.4 RPG on the season. Guard Jarron Cumberland added 18 points versus Memphis after going scoreless against SMU but is one of four Bearcats averaging double digits at 11.0. The other two are guard Evans (12.9-4.5-3.2) and the 6-9 Washington (11.3 & 5.4). Cincy's offense has been off so far in this tourney but Mick Cronin's team always brings its defense. The Bearcats are allowing 57.2 PPG (2nd to UVa) on the season, after allowing an average of 55.5 PPG in wins over SMU and Memphis.
The pick: Both Cincy and Houston are comfortably in the field of 68 (announced later today) but the Bearcats have a chance to make a final statement toward earning a No. 1 seed. Cincinnati has won six in a row since that loss at Houston (that's 22 wins in its last 24 games!) and with only four losses all season, is certainly in the mix to be on the top line when the field is announced. Cincinnati is looking not only to avenge its loss at Houston on Feb. 15 but also the one in last year's tourney final (against SMU), as the Bearcats hope to secure their first league postseason crown since winning the C-USA tournament back in 2004. Wichita State led Houston by three points with 1:45 left on Saturday, before the Cougars scored the game's final five points for the win. No such luck here for Houston. Make Cincy an 8* play.
|03-11-18||Kentucky +1 v. Tennessee||Top||77-72||Win||100||5 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The 23-10 Kentucky Wildcats opened the season as the AP's No. 5 team but with a 10-8 SEC record, came into the conference tourney as just the fourth seed. However, the Wildcats cruised past Georgia 62-49 on Friday to notch their 11th consecutive win against the Bulldogs and then on Saturday, delivered an 86-63 victory over Alabama in the semifinals, their sixth victory in the last seven games (after losing four straight). Kentucky is playing some of its best basketball of the season at the right time and looks to record a fourth consecutive SEC Tournament Championship when it takes on second-seeded 25-9 Tennessee on Sunday in St. Louis. The shots just kept falling for No. 13 Tennessee in the first half of its 84-66 semifinal rout of Arkansas on Saturday. Tennessee hit 11 of its first 12 shots and shot 76 percent overall, in racing out to a commanding 48-29 halftime lead over Arkansas, as the Volunteers won their sixth straight game. Tennessee swept two regular-season meetings with Kentucky, most recently pulling out a 61-59 victory at Rupp Arena on Feb. 6
Kentucky: John Calipari's team is again, packed with freshman. However, it was sophomore Wenyen Gabriel who drained all seven attempts from three-point range on Saturday en route to scoring a career high-matching 23 points in leading the way after the 6-9 forward arrived Saturday averaging just 6.1 PPG. Freshman PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (13.4 & 5.1 APG) is averaging 17 points and 8.5 assists in the SEC Tournament, while 6-7 freshman P.J. Washington (10.8 & 5.5) has contributed 16 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in this event. 6-9 freshman Kevin Knox, who shared the conference freshman of the year honors with Alabama's Sexton, is Kentucky's leading scorer at 15.5 PPG (adds 5.3 RPG). Diallo (10.3) and Green (9.6) are two more freshman contributors but the 6-9 Jarred Vanderbilt, yet another freshman who leads the team with 7.9 rebounds per game, has been sidelined with an ankle injury and has missed both SEC tourney games.
Tennessee: The Vols just edged Mississippi State in the quarterfinals before rolling past Arkansas, reaching their first SEC final since 2009. Tennessee features three double digit scorers on teh season, in teh 6-7 Williams (15.4 & 6.0), 6-5 SF Schofield (13.5 & 6.2) and guard Turner (10.7). The Vols have been a balanced group offensively and received big games from a pair of players outside their top four scorers in the semifinals. Sophomore guard Jordan Bone (7.1) scored 19 on 8-of-11 shooting after 10 straight games in single digits and 6-11 forward Kyle Alexander (5.6 & 5.7) scored 12 against Arkansas after totaling 13 in his previous five contests. Schofield is averaging 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in the tournament while SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams is contributing 11 and eight, respectively, but is just 5-of-17 from the floor.
The pick: This isn't one of Calipari's higher scoring teams (Wildcats average 76.7 PPG to rank 91st) but it is holding opponents to just 40.7% on FGs (24th), including only 29.7% on threes (3rd in the nation!). Kentucky has now won 11 straight games in the SEC Tournament, with the Wildcats' last lost in the tournament coming against Florida back in 2014. "They're growing up," head coach John Calipari said. "The best thing that happened to my team, not me personally, was the four losses in a row. Me, I was ready to jump off a bridge." Meanwhile, Tennessee was picked to finish 13th in the 14-team SEC by the media in the preseason but instead, the Volunteers shared the regular-season SEC title with Auburn and are now headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014. Double revenge works here (note: the 59 points Kentucky scored against Tennessee in that Feb. 6 home loss were a season-low for the Wildcats), so make Kentucky a 10* play.
|03-10-18||Marshall v. Western Kentucky -6||Top||67-66||Loss||-110||13 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The C-USA Tourney was left wide-open after regular season champ MTSU was upset on Thursday. The 24-9 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (at 14-2 are the 3rd seed) take the floor tonight in Frisco, Texas to take on the 23-10 Marshall Thundering Herd (at 12-6 are the 4th seed) in the C-USA championship game. Western Ky. advanced with a 57-49 win versus Old Dominion on Friday and Marshall advanced to the title game by upending a stubborn Southern Miss team, 85-75 (Southern Miss had upset MTSU 71-68 in OT on Thursday).
Marshall: The Thundering Herd took a 20 point lead into the break vs. Southern Miss and won by 10. PG Jon Elmore (22.6-6.1-7.0) led Marshall with 26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists against Southern Miss. 6-9 freshman Jannson Williams (5.3 & 3.1) followed with 17 points and five rebounds, while Marshall's two other double digit scorers on the season, guard CJ Burks (21.0-4.2-3.1) and the 6-9 Penava (15.5 & 8.5), added 13 and 12 points, respectively. Led by the high-scoring trio of Elmore, Burks and Penava (see above), Marshall averages 84.8 PPG (8th) but the Thundering Herd allow 79.2 PPG, which ranks 325th of 351 Division I teams.
Western Kentucky: The 6-7 Justin Johnson carried the Hilltoppers with 19 points and 13 rebounds on 7-12 shooting in the win over Old Dominion, the league's No. 2 seed. Western Ky. owns great balance, as all five starters average in double digits. Johnson leads in scoring (15.2) and rebounding (9.5), followed by guards Thompson (14.1-4.4-4.8), Hollingsworth(13.5) and Bearden (11.6 & 3.5 APG) plus the 6-9 Coleby (11.2 & 7.8). Marshall shoots very well as a team, connecting on 49.8% from the floor (9th in the nation)..
The pick: Western Kentucky routed UAB by scoring 98 points, then beat C-USA's second seed (ODU) by holding the Monarchs to 49 points on 36.5 percent shooting. During the regular sesson. Western Ky's balanced attack handled Marshall's "three-man gang," with a 112-87 win on the road and an 85-74 win at home. The neutral-site location will not change the result, here. Make Western Kentucky a 10* play.
|03-10-18||Yale v. Pennsylvania -5.5||Top||57-80||Win||100||7 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The Ivy League finally "joined the party" with its first-ever conference tourney last year. "The Ancient 8" are back for round two in 2018, as the Ivy League Tournament tips off Saturday at the Palestra, in Philadelphia. 22-8 Penn tied Harvard atop the Ivy League at 12-2 during the regular season but Harvard claimed the No. 1 seed. That means the second-seeded Quakers draw the third-seeded Yale Bulldogs, who may be just 16-14 overall (9-5 in Ivy play) but they also come in having won seven of their last eight games, including an 80-79 home win over Penn on March 2.
Yale: The Bulldogs have five players (four starters and one reserve) contributing between 9.2 and 15.,5 PPG. The 6-7 Oni (15.5-6.1-3.7) is the best of the bunch, followed by fellow starters Copeland (11.4) and Phills (9.8 & 4.3) in the backcourt, plus the 6-7 Reynolds (10.7 & 5.5) up front. 6-10 freshman Atkinson comes off the bench to add 9.2 & 4.6.
Pennsylvania: The Quakers feature four double digit scorers in guards Betley (14.7 & 5.0), Foreman (10.4-4.3-3.6) and Wood (10.1) plus the 6-8 Brodeur (12.6 & 6.9). The Quakers' lone loss in their last six outings was that one point loss at Yale. Penn capped its season with a win over Brown last Saturday, as Betley scored 30 points. Penn is a solid offensive team (76.6 PPG) and a solid defensive one (allows 69.2 PPG).
The pick: Yale was the preseason favorite in the Ivy League and comes in hot. The Bulldogs have averaged 75.2 PPG on the season but have topped 80 points in each of their last four contests (all wins), averaging 84.8 PPG. However, I believe Penn has proven to be the better team this season and in this quick turnaround from a one-point loss at Yale, will use the advantage of playing on its homecourt (11-3 SU on the season, including a 59-50 win over Yale) to win, cover and advance to the championship game on Sunday. Make Penn an 8* play.
|03-10-18||Alabama v. Kentucky -3.5||Top||63-86||Win||100||5 h 11 m||Show|
The set-up: The 22-10 Kentucky Wildcats opened the season as the AP's No. 5 team but with a 10-8 SEC record, came into the conference tourney as just the fourth seed. However, the Wildcats cruised past Georgia 62-49 on Friday to notch their 11th consecutive win against the Bulldogs and stay on track for the school's fourth consecutive SEC Tournament title. Up next will be the 19-14 Alabama Crimson Tide, who erased a 10-point halftime deficit to shock top-seeded Auburn 81-63 on Friday (the Tide were a modest 8-10 in SEC play, entering the tourney as the 9th seed).
Alabama: Collin Sexton, who was named the SEC Co-Freshman of the Year earlier in the week, continued where he left off after hitting the game-winning floater to beat eighth-seeded Texas A&M on Thursday, by pouring in 31 points in the win over Auburn. Sexton (19.0-3.7-3.6) connected on six 3-pointers and grabbed seven rebounds against Auburn to become the first Crimson Tide player to score over 30 points in an SEC Tournament game since Rod Grizzard in 2002. Dazon Ingram (10.1 & 5.7) added 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists as Alabama exploded for 50 points in the second half to advance to its second conference semifinal in as many years. Donta Hall contributed 11 points and six rebounds but left with 6:41 left in the second half with a head injury. The junior forward is questionable for Saturday's clash, which is not good news for Alabama fans, as he's the team's second-leading scorer (10.9) and leading rebounder (6.8)..
Kentucky: Calipari's team is again, packed with freshman.The 6-7 P.J. Washington (10.7 & 5.4) led the way against Georgia with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor to go along with seven rebounds. PG Gilgeous-Alexander (13.2 & 5.0 APG) scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half and dished out nine assists while the 6-9 Kevin Knox, who shared the conference freshman of the year honors with Sexton and is Kentucky's leading scorer at 15.7 PPG, also added 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds. The 6-9 Jarred Vanderbilt, yet another freshman who leads the team with 7.9 rebounds per game, was sidelined with an ankle injury and is listed as day-to-day going forward.
The pick: This isn't one of Calipari's higher scoring teams (Wildcats average 76.4 PPG to rank 93rd) but it is holding opponents to just 40.8% on FGs (28th), including only 29.6% on threes (3rd in the nation!). Alabama's shocker bver the top-seeded Auburn Tigers likely cemented the Crimson Tide's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011-12. Kentucky has beaten Alabama 16 of the last 18 times (including NINE straight time) and ousted them in semifinals of this tourney last year, 79-74. With Alabama off that YUGE upset over hated Auburn plus playing its third game in three days, Kentucky's 10th straight win over Alabama and its 13th win in its last 14 SEC Tournament games, won't be as close as last year's semifinal win over the Tide. Make Kentucky an 8* play.
|03-09-18||Texas State +11.5 v. UL-Lafayette||Top||54-80||Loss||-100||6 h 43 m||Show|
The set-up: It's early afternoon college basketball action Friday from Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, when the 9th-seeded Texas State Bobcats and the top-seeded Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns square off in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Men’s Championship. The Bobcats improved to 15-17 (7-11 Sun Belt) on the season after defeating the 8th-seed Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 73-66, this past Wednesday in the 1st round of the tourney. The Ragin’ Cajuns finished their regular season with an overall record of 26-5 and earned the top-seed in the Sun Belt Tourney with a conference record of 16-2.
Texas State: The held a 32-28 lead at halftime against the Chanticleers and the, after opening a 52-36 lead, eased to a seven-point win. Texas State shot just 38.6% from the floor (including 25.9% on threes) but the Bobcats were outstanding at the charity stripe, making 22 of 26 of their free-throws. 6-5 guard Pearson led the way for the Bobcats with 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and a steal. He's the team's leading scorer on the season (15.2-6.0-2.4) for a team which averages only 66.8 PPG (318th). Five others chip in between 5.8 and 9.0 PPG, including the team's best inside player, the 6-8 King (9.0 & 6.0) and PG Nottingham (7.8 & 2.6 APG). Defensively, Texas State is holding opponents to an average of just 65.4 PPG, which ranks 25th in the nation.
UL-Lafayette: The Ragin’ Cajuns were outstanding throughout the year and picked up a nice win against Iowa at the beginning of the season. Unlike Texas State, ULL averages 84.0 PPG (14th). Guard Bartley (17.4) and the 6-8 Gant (14.7 & 6.2) lead the way for four double digit scorers, with the offense being run by PG Stroman (6.5 & 6.3 APG).
The pick: ULL won at Texas State 80-55, during a streak of 10 consecutive wins SU & ATS. However, after losing to Georgia State on Feb. 18, the Rajin' Cajuns ripped off six straight wins before falling in the team's regular season finale (at home, no less!), 72-61 in OT vs. Littlle Rock, the Sun Belt's worst team (4-14 in SBC play). Meanwhile, Texas State's win over Coastal Carolina snapped a nine-game losing streak but while the Bobcats don't score much, the team's style of play helps keep most games low scoring (remember, Texas St. allows just 65.4 PPG). I guess a bounce-back should be expected by ULL but this is a lot of points and ULL knows it must win this tourney or head off to the NIT (no at-large bids come out of the Sun Belt). ULL has bigger fish to fry and will advance but not cover vs. Texas State. Make Texas State a 10* play.
|03-08-18||Duquesne +2 v. Richmond||Top||68-81||Loss||-102||11 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: It's A-10 conference tournament second round action on Thursday from Capital One arena in Washington DC, as the 16-15 Duquesne Dukes take on the 11-19 Richmond Spiders. Duquesne had the better overall record but the Spiders went 9-9 in A-10 games (Dukes were just 7-11), so Richmond comes in as the seven-seed while Duquesne is the 10-seed. The Dukes finished their non-A10 schedule with a 9-4 mark but after opening 3-0 in A-10 play, finished by losing nine of their 11 league games. The Spiders started the year 2-10 (only wins over UAB and James Madison) but after a 1-3 start in A-10 play, won five straight and six of seven. Richmond did lose five straight in league play but finished with back-to-back wins to wind up at .500.
Duquesne: The Dukes use a four-guard lineup with all averaging in double figures. 6-5 freshman Williams leads in scoring (14.5) and rebounding (8.9), joined by Lewis (14.4), Castro-Caneddy (13.2) and Smith (12.5). The Dukes don't score all that well (72.2 PPG ranks 215th) but they do hold opponents to 69.8 PPG (108th).
Richmond: The Spiders don't score much either (71.3 PPG ranks 244th) but allow about six points more than the Dukes (75.6 PPG ranks 251st). The 6-10 Golden (16.0 & 6.60 is the etam's leading scorer but is joined by four guards who all average in double digits. That quarter includes the team's top rebounder in Buckingham (7.1 RPG) and top playmaker, Gilyard (4.1 APG).
The pick: The teams met just once during the regular season, with Richmond winning on the road, 77-73 in OT on Jan. 24th. Richmond connected on 49.1% from the floor in that win, something I don't expect will be repeated. History favors Richmond in this matchup (Spiders are 17-4 ATS the last 21 matchups) but my gut is saying Duquesne. Make the Dukes a 10* play.
|03-07-18||Oklahoma v. Oklahoma State||Top||60-71||Loss||-103||20 h 8 m||Show|
The set-up: Oklahoma limped to the finish line in Big 12 play, losing seven of their last nine games to finish 18-12 overall, including 8-10 in league play. Amazingly, most bracketologists have the Sooners safely in the NCAA Tournament despite the late swoon. I'm not sure I get it. The Sooners will meet 18-13 Oklahoma State (also 8-10 in Big 12 play) in this first-round Big 12 Tourney but their " Bedlam rivals" surged to the finish line by winning three of their last four, including upsets of Texas Tech (79-71) and Kansas (82-64) when each of those opponents were ranked No. 6 in the AP poll at the time of those games!.
Oklahoma: Trae Young leads the nation in both scoring (27.5) and assists (8.9) but he suffered an injured left hip in a 87-64 loss at Baylor on Feb. 27. He missed most of practice last Thursday but returned to play 32 minutes in a 81-60 victory over Iowa State on Friday, finishing with 15 points on just 5-of-19 shooting and dishing off six assists to go with three steals and two turnovers. "I never want to sit out anything," Young told the Tulsa World after watching the Sooners' practice on Sunday. "It's tough sitting out today, but it's best for me and my body, and it'll be better for me for Wednesday, too." Junior guard Christian James (12.5 & 4.4) and 6-9 freshman forward Brady Manek (10.4 & 5.2) also average in double digits for the Sooners, who rank fourth nationally in scoring (86.0) and have scored 90 points in 12 contests. However, Oklahoma ranks last in the Big 12 and 337th out of 351 Division I teams in scoring defense, allowing an average of 82.0 PPG.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys celebrated Senior Night with a court-storming upset of Kansas, sweeping the regular-season series with the Big 12-champion Jayhawks and all but cementing an NCAA berth. Senior guard Kendall Smith, who began his career at UNLV and then played two years at Cal State Northridge before moving on to Stillwater, finished with 25 points. He ranks second on the team in scoring (12.9) and has totaled 21 or more points in three of the last five games. 6-6 senior swingman Jeffrey Carroll leads the team in scoring (15.1) and is second in rebounding (5.9), while six other Cowboys average between 5.4 and 10.0 PPG. That group includes the 6-8 Solomon (8.3), who also leads the team in rebounding at 6.4 per.
The pick: This marks the 236th meeting between the two schools, with Oklahoma having won eight of the last 11. Despite what the bracketologists are saying, the Sooners have to be thinking that a loss here, which would make them 2-8 their last 10, could cost them an at-large bid. Also, Young could be a man on a mission after getting snubbed by Big 12 coaches for conference-player-of-the-year honors which went to Kansas senior Devonte' Graham. Make Oklahoma an 8* play.
|03-07-18||Louisville v. Florida State||Top||82-74||Loss||-110||13 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: The 19-12 Louisville Cardinals and the 20-10 Florida State Seminoles are the 9th and 8th-seed teams, respectively, in the ACC tourney. Their records were good enough to earn them a bye into the second round (Cards and Seminoles were both 9-9 in league play) and they will square off at high noon ET on Wednesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The teams split the season series this year, with each winning on the road. The winner of this contest may not stay around for long in this tourney, as up next will be the top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers on Thursday.
Louisville: The Cardinals started the year 10-3 but their three losses entering conference play came against the better competition, including Kentucky, Seton Hall and Purdue. The Cards got off to a strong 5-1 start to the ACC season but fell back to earth after losing four of five, then losing four of five again to close out the regular season. 6-7 junior swingman Deng Adel was an honorable mention All-ACC selection. He is riding a streak of 22 straight double-digit scoring outings and checks in averaging . The 6-10 Ray Spalding (12.0 & 8.8) is also an honorable mention All-ACC performer. PG Quentin Snider (12.2 & 4.0 APG) is the team's third double digit scorer.
Florida State: The Seminoles got off to a strong start of their own, opening 9-0 and were 11-1 to enter conference play with a win over Florida on the road (their lone defeat coming against Oklahoma State). However, consistency was an issue for FSU, as the Seminoles never got more than one game above .500 in ACC play, despite posting a three-game winning streak in late January. Terance Mann (13.3 & 5.7) is one of three double digit scorers for FSU and earned honorable mention All-ACC honors this season. He's joined by fellow guard Angola (13.0) but note that three other backcourt palyers chip in between 7.5 and 8.7 PPG. The 6-8 Cofer (13.2 & 5.2) had a breakout senior season and is joined up front with some real size in the 7-4 Koumadje (7.5 & 4.7) and the 6-9 Kabengele (7.0 & 4.4).
The pick: This may be Leonard Hamilton's best offensive team ever in his stay at FSU, as the Seminoles have scored 80 or more points 17 times this season are averaging 82.0 PPG (29th). Louisville's No. 9 seed is the school's lowest in a conference tournament since its No. 11 seed in the 2006 Big East Tournament. The year began badly for Louisville (remember a coach named Rick Pitino?) and it ends with a thud, right here. Make FSU a 10* play.
|03-06-18||Long Island +8 v. Wagner||Top||71-61||Win||100||11 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up; Tuesday night it's the championship game of the Northeast Conference from the Spiro Sports Center in Staten Island, N.Y. The Wagner Seahawks are the host team by virtue of their 14-4 regular season mark (tops in the NEC) and will welcome the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds, who at 10-8 were the No. 4 seed in this tourney. These teams have split the regular season series, with the home team taking each game. LIU-Brooklyn won 69-67 back on Jan. 13 and Wagner returned the favor at this venue on Feb. 17, winning 78-74.
LIU-Brooklyn: The Blackbirds are just 17-16 overall but a win tonight will earn them an automatic invitation to the Big Dance. In their last game, the Blackbirds led 71-64 with 5:30 remaining before Fairleigh Dickinson mounted an 11-0 run to lead 75-71 with 1:58 left. It was the Knights' first lead since midway through the first half. LIU's Julian Batts hit a wide-open three to tie 76-76 and set up the final minute. Missed free throws hurt Fairleigh Dickinson (19 of 27) and it which missed four of its last six. After Kaleb Bishop missed two with nine seconds remaining, Jashaun Agosto drove the length of the court and was fouled at the rim, setting up the winning free throws of a 78-77 LIU win. The Blackbirds feature a four-guard lineup and all average in double figures. Raiquan Clark scored 28 points, Joel Hernandez added 25 in the win over Fairleigh Dickinson, while Agosto made both free throws in his only trip to the line with 3.6 seconds on the clock. Hernandez (20.5 & 5.8) is the leading scorer, followed by Clark (17.3 & 7.1), Agosto (11.0-4.1-4.2) and Batts (10.1- & 4.2).
Wagner: The Seahawks have won five of their last six games and enter this game 23-8 on the season. JoJo Cooper scored 20 points with six assists, Romone Saunders added 18 points and top-seeded Wagner beat No. 7 seed Robert Morris 75-64 in Saturday's Northeast Conference semifinal. Blake Francis added 15 points with three 3-pointers for Wagner, which shot 51 percent from the floor and held the Colonials (16-17) to 39 percent. Like LIU, Wagner's top players are all guards. Francis leads the way averaging 17.4 PPG, followed by PG Cooper (14.6-5.3-6.2) and Saunders (14.4 & 6.4).
The pick: Wagner is playing at home but note that LIU lost at this venue less than a month ago, by just four points. LIU has won four in a row since that contest and the Blackbirds are making their first championship appearance since 2013. I realize that Wagner is a perfect 16-0 SU at home on the season but the pressure is always high on regular season champs from leagues like the NEC, as those teams "must win" their respective conference tourneys, or find themselves in the NIT. That is the case here and with LIU beating Wagner by two points at home and then losing to them by just four points in the rematch (at this venue), I see the Blackbirds making the Seahawks 'sweat' until the final buzzer. Take the points and make LIU a 10* play.
|03-05-18||BYU v. St. Mary's -5||Top||85-72||Loss||-105||15 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 22 Saint Mary's nearly saw it's NCAA Tournament bubble burst in Saturday's WCC tournament quarterfinals in Las Vegas. The 28-4 Gaels needed to rally from a 15-point first half deficit to edge Pepperdine, 69-66 (Waves were the WCC's 10th-seed and finished their injury-plagued season with a 6-26 record). The second-seeded Gaels now move on to a semifinal matchup Monday with third-seed BYU, who squandered a 17-point lead and was tied with San Diego with three minutes to go before surging to an 85-79 victory (Cougars are 23-9). A St. Mary's win will almost assuredly set up a championship game showdown with the WCC's No. 1 seed Gonzaga, which is currently ranked 7th in the latest AP poll.
BYU: The Cougars lost 81-50 to Saint Mary's in last year's WCC Tourney semifinals and enter tonight's matchup on a five-game losing streak to the Gaels, including a 74-64 overtime loss in Provo back on Dec. 30. "I think our guys would be excited (to play Saint Mary's again) because we played them tough both games, for the majority of the games," BYU head coach Dave Rose told the Salt Lake Tribune. "You look forward to the opportunity to change the outcome." The one-two punch of junior guard Elijah Bryant (17.9 & 6.4) and 6-8 sophomore forward Yoeli Childs (17.5 & 8.7), who combined for 49 points in the win over San Diego, lead the Cougars with sophomore point guard TJ Haws (12.0 & 4,2 APG) also averaging in double figures. However, no other Cougar averages more than 6.0 PPG.
St. Mary's: Pepperdine jumped out to a 19-4 lead on the Gaels and led 62-57 with 4:17 to go but forward Calvin Hermanson came to the rescue, sinking three consecutive three-pointers over a two-minute span. "It wasn't pretty but we will take the win," Saint Mary's head coach Randy Bennett told reporters. WCC Player of the Year, the 6-11 Jock Landale, leads the Gaels in scoring (21.3) and rebounding (10.3). The 6-6 Hermanson adds 11.0 PPG (on 44.4 percent shooting from three-point range) and PG Naar is the team's third double digit scorer (10.4) while averaging a healthy 8.0 APG to rank 2nd nationally to Oklahoma's Trae Young. Two other starters, guards Ford (9.9) and Krebs (8.0 & 4.2), just miss double digit territory.
The pick: After getting 'scared' by Pepperdine, I expect St. Mary's to bring its "A-game" to this contest. The Gaels shoot a nation's best 51.5% from the floor as a team (are 10th from three-point range at 40.8%) and defensively, have held opponents to a modest 63.8 PPG (11th). Landale presents a big problem for a many teams but he has been especially troublesome for BYU. Landale had 31 points and 13 rebounds in the overtime win in Provo and finished with 32 points and 14 rebounds in a 75-62 victory over the Cougars on Jan. 25 at home. The Gaels get their showdown with Gonzaga with an easy win over BYU. Make St. Mary's a 10* play.
|03-04-18||Cincinnati v. Wichita State -2.5||Top||62-61||Loss||-105||4 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 10 Cincinnati (26-4 / 15-2 AAC) will travel to No. 11 Wichita State (24-5 / 14-3) on Sunday and this showdown between the Bearcats and Shockers at Charles Koch Arena with the American Athletic Conference regular-season title at stake, is being billed as The Game of the Year in the American Athletic Conference! Cincinnati sits in first place in the AAC, one game ahead of Wichita State, but the Shockers can earn a share of the league title in its first year since coming over from the Missouri Valley Conference with a win. What's more, after winning the first matchup 76-72 last month, the Shockers also can earn the No. 1 seed in the AAC tournament if they can top the Bearcats on Sunday. Cincinnati had won a national-best 39 straight home games before Wichita State notched its key road victory back on Feb. 18th.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats have won three in a row since the loss to Wichita State, including Thursday's 78-49 rout at Tulane. Cincy ranks second in the nation in points allowed (57.2 PPG) and in opponents FG percentage (36.9%), something which was on display as Tulane was held under 50 points on 31.4 percent shooting (including going 3 of 14 from three-point range). The 6-9 Kyle Washington led the way with 16 points but at 11.2 & 5.3, he's Cincy's third-leading scorer. PG Evans (13.3-4.4-3.4) and the 6-8 Clark (12.8 & 8.3) are the top-two. Guard Cumberland (11.1) is thete's fourth double digit scorer. With a defense allowing under 60 PPG, Cincy's 76.1 PPG on offense (102nd), has been more than enough.
Wichita State: The Shockers got off to a hot start to their first year in the conference, winning their first five AAC games. They then managed to bounce back from an up-and-down stretch midway through the season that saw them lose three of five games, as they've since won seven in a row, including a hard-fought 75-71 overtime win at Central Florida on Thursday. Wichita State a middle-of-the-pack defensive team (71.7 PPG allowed ranks 143rd) but the team averages 83.9 PPG (15th), after having scored at least 75 points in 10 straight games. PG Landry Shamet (14.5 & 5.2 APG) leads four players averaging between 10 and 15 points on the season, while nine of the team's top 10 scorers average at least one assist per game. The 6-8 Shaquille Morris averages 14.2 & 5,4 but has scored at least 19 points in seven of his last 10 games. The 6-9 Willis (10.7 & 6.0) and guard Frankamp (10.40 round out the team's top-four scorers.
The pick: Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall said beating Cincinnati for a second time and earning a share of the AAC regular-season title would be a well-deserved reward for his senior-laden team. "It would mean that this two and a half months we proved to be one of the best, if not the best team in the league," he said. "That's good, especially like I said, that we moved up a couple of weight classes and these guys met the challenge." The "revenge angle" is on Cincy' side but Wichita State was able to shoot 52.9 percent in its road win at Cincy (when does that happen?) and now get the Bearcats on their home floor, where the Shockers average 90.0 PPG. Revenge DOES NOT work here. Make Wichita State a 10* play.
|03-03-18||North Carolina +7 v. Duke||Top||64-74||Loss||-105||21 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 5 Duke (24-6 / 12-5 in ACC) will host No. 9 North Carolina (22-8 / 11-6 in ACC) at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the two long-time rivals' annual regular season finale. Virginia has run away with the ACC's regular season title but these two legendary Tobacco Road rivals will meet Saturday night (it marks the 246th meeting between the two schools) with the second seed in next week’s ACC tournament on the line. Duke saw its five-game winning streak come to an end with a 64-63 loss at Virginia Tech on Monday and the Tar Heels had won six straight contests before Miami (Fla.) beat them at the buzzer, 91-88 on Tuesday.
North Carolina: This game is of even more importance to the Heels, as they can finish as low as the sixth-seed with a loss. Carolina knocked off the Blue Devils 82-78 back on Feb. 8 at home with just two turnovers overall and Duke held North Carolina to just 39 percent shooting in that contest, then followed up that effort up with five more wins while allowing just 55.6 PPG before Virginia Tech forced 18 turnovers to help it rally from a six-point halftime deficit for the 91-88 victory. Berry matched his career high with 31 points in the loss to Miami and took over the team lead at 18.2 PPG. Senior swingman Theo Pinson (9.9 & 6.0) leads the team in assists (4.8) and has played a big role in the Tar Heels’ recent success by averaging 17.5 points over the last four games. 6-8 junior forward Luke Maye (17.9 PPG & team-high 10.2 RPG) has cooled off of late, averaging 12.5 and 8.5 respectively in four games since scoring a career-high 33 with 17 boards against North Carolina State. The 6-8 Johnson (13.1 & 4.0) and guard Williams (11.2) round out the defending champs' double digit scorers.
Duke: Coach K starts four freshman along with senior Grayson Allen. Allen (15.4 & 4.5 APG) has scored at least 20 points in four of the last six games but freshman backcourt mate Gary Trent Jr. (14.3 & 4.1) is just 9-for-36 from the floor over his past four contests. 6-11 freshman standout Marvin Bagley III has connected on 13-of-18 from the floor and averaged 15.5 points in two outings since returning from a four-game absence with a knee injury. He averages 20.7 & 11.1 on the season and is joined by 6-10 freshman Wendell Carter Jr., who averages 14.3 & 9.5. Duke's fourth freshman is PG Duval (10.5 & 5.3 APG).
The pick: Yes, Duke is in "revenge mode" but as noted, this game has more meaning (consequences) for the Tar Heels. I will also note that Duke is 79-56 under Krzyzewski in games with both teams ranked in the top-10. That said, this is a big pointspread in a game with so much on the line for North Carolina. Take the points and make the Tar Heels an 8* play.
|03-03-18||California +20.5 v. Arizona||Top||54-66||Win||100||19 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: What a difference a few hours can make. Arizona fans were unsure of what the future held for the 19th-ranked Wildcats and the program moving forward on Thursday morning. Head coach Sean Miller had not been with the team since a report broke late last week alleging the ninth-year Arizona coach was recorded by FBI wiretaps discussing a $100,000 payment to star freshman Deandre Ayton with an employee of a sports agency, Christian Dawkins. However, Miller read a statement on Thursday afternoon in front of the local media refuting the claims made in the report and announced he would be returning to coach his team against Stanford that evening as it looked to secure a share of the Pac-12 Conference regular-season title. The 75-67 win over Stanford as the 23-7 Wildcats (13-4 in Pac 12) secured a share of the Pac-12 title and the top seed in next week’s conference tournament. They will welcome the Cal Golden Bears to the McKale Center on Saturday, a team that has lost six straight to fall to 8-22 overall, including a Pac 12-worst 2-15.
California: The no-so Golden Bears own the league’s worst offense (68.5 PPG) and defense (78.0 PPG). Other than that, things are going well for Cal. The Bears lost 84-53 at Arizona State on Thursday, in a truly ugly effort. Cal committed 17 turnovers and missed all of it 18 shots from three-point range. Junior guard Don Coleman had 16 points in the loss and averages 14.9 PPG to lead the Bears, who have set the school’s all-time record with 22 losses. That said, the Bears do have several building blocks in place for next season, with eight freshman on this team. 6-7 forward Justice Sueing being the most prominent. He is averaging and has scored in double figures in 22 games this season, while averaging a team-high 15.7 PPG in Pac 12 games.
Arizona: With its head coach back on the bench and its second-leading scorer (Trier at 19.5 PPG) back in the lineup, No. 19 Arizona suddenly looks like a national title contender again. Trier returned after missing three games and scored 18 points against Stanford, helping Arizona exhale following a rough few days. “I think we can flip the story,” center Dusan Ristic told reporters. “Two days ago, everybody was against us, the whole nation. And I think we’re gonna use that as motivation. From this point on, the whole thing made us stronger, much tougher as a team and I think we’re going to try to do something special now.” The 7-0 Ristic (12.1 & 6.9) scored a team-high 21 points on 10-for-15 shooting in the win over Stanford and is averaging 14.8 points and 7.2 rebounds over his last 13 games. The senior has proven to be a perfect complement to 7-1 freshman Deandre Ayton. Ayton is a leading contender for Pac-12 player of the year averaging 19.7 points and 11.1 rebounds with 59 blocks.
|03-03-18||Louisville v. NC State -3||Top||69-76||Win||100||19 h 59 m||Show|
The set-up: Louisville is 19-11 (9-8 ACC) and NC State is 20-10 (10-7 in ACC) when the two schools meet tonight in Raleigh. Both are coming off losses but Louisville will almost assuredly have the tougher time bouncing back. The Cardinals had possession and a one-point lead over No. 1 Virginia with 0.9 seconds remaining on Thursday but turned the ball over on an inbound play (Deng Adel moved his feet and was called for traveling while inbounding the ball on the baseline) and then watched as Virginia's De'Andre Hunter drained a 30-footer off the backboard for a 67-66 UVa victory. Interim head coach David Padgett called it the "toughest loss I've ever had." NC State is coming off a 78-75 loss at Georgia Tech, where the Wolfpack were perhaps guilty of looking past a Yellow Jackets team that didn't win a game in February.
Louisville: The Cardinals led the No. 1 Cavs by as many as 13 points but despite the loss, did wind up scoring more points (66) against Virginia's top-ranked defense than any other ACC team this season. Two missed free throws in the final minute and the late turnover led to the loss. Adel, who had that fateful turnover, did have a team-high 18 points plus added six rebounds and four assists. Ray Spalding had 16 points and nine rebounds, while Quentin Snider added 13 points. The 6-7 Adel (15.4 & 5.3) leads the team in scoring, the 6-10 Spalding (12.0 & 8.9) leads in rebounding and PG Snider(12.2 & 3.9 APG) leads in assists.
NC State: The Wolfpack led the Yellow Jackets by seven points at the half but Georgia Tech's Ben Lammers scored eight straight points late for Ga. Tech while Braxton Beverley (.9 & 4.1 APG) missed a pair of game-tying threes in the dying seconds as the Wolfpack saw their four-game win streak come to an end. Allerik Freeman (15.2 & 4.0) led NC State with 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting, 6-5 guard Torin Dorn (13.7 & 6.2) added 18 and 7-0 center Omer Yurtseven (13.7 & 6.9) had 17 points and nine rebounds. PG Markell Johnson (8.7 PPG), who leads the ACC and is third in the nation with 7.6 assists per game, had an uncharacteristically poor game with five turnovers in only 18 minutes.
The pick: Louisville has lost six of its last nine games as it travels to PNC Arena for its regular season finale. NC State's first-year head coach Kevin Keatts, after getting UNCW to the NCAAs the past two seasons, has "worked wonders' with the Wolfpack this season (NC St was coming off a 15-17 / 4-14 ACC mark) and his four-guard lineup will be a tough matchup for the bigger but slower Cards. Note that NC State is 15-3 at home this season with wins against Duke and Clemson (has outscored opponents, 87.6-to-72.1 PPG). Make NC State an 8* play.
|03-03-18||Boston College v. Florida State -7.5||Top||76-85||Win||100||15 h 59 m||Show|
|03-03-18||Kentucky +4 v. Florida||Top||67-80||Loss||-110||13 h 60 m||Show|
The set-up: A double-bye to the quarterfinals in the SEC Tournament is on the line Saturday when No. 23 Kentucky (21-9) heads to Gainesville for a rematch with 19-11 Florida in the regular-season finale for both teams. Owners of a double bye in the 14-team SEC field need only win three games in three days to claim the tournament title and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. League leaders Auburn and Tennessee have already secured double byes, leaving Kentucky, Florida and Arkansas to fight it out for the two remaining spots. Those three teams are in a three-way tie for third place at 10-7. The winner between Kentucky and Florida gets a double bye, although the Wildcats could still secure one should Missouri beat Arkansas on Saturday because the Wildcats beat the Razorbacks earlier this season.
Kentucky: The Wildcats find themselves in the rare position of not being able to win the SEC title in this regular season finale. After all, Kentucky began the year as the AP's No. 5 ranked team. Kentucky has sure had its ups and downs but the Wildcats have regrouped and are clicking at the right time heading into the SEC Tournament. They have won four straight with a 16-point average margin of victory, as the Wildcats have topped 80 points in each game, with their high-water mark in SEC play coming Wednesday in a 96-78 romp past Ole Miss in their final home game of the season. Five Wildcats have scored in double figures in each of the four games of the winning streak, led by freshman forward Kevin Knox, who had a game-high 22 points against Ole Miss for his third straight 20-point outing. Freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander came close to a triple-double against the Rebels with 17 points, a career-high 10 assists and a career-high-tying seven rebounds. The 6-7 Knox (15.8 & 5.4) leads the team in scoring and PG Gilgeous-Alexander (13.0 & 4.9 APG) has run the show. Guard Diallo (10.7 & 3.7) and the 6-7 Washington (10.2 & 5.3) round out the double digit scorers. Calipari teams are typically known for their three-point shooting but this year's squad thrived on stopping opponents form behind the arc, allowing opponents to make just 29.3% of their threes (3rd-best in the nation).
Florida: The Gators come in off back-to-back victories over No. 14 Auburn and Alabama, putting themselves solidly back in the NCAA Tournament picture. Florida's defense surrendering just 18 first-half points to the Crimson Tide in its 73-52 win on Tuesday. Guard Chris Chiozza figures to celebrate Senior Day with a school record as he needs one more assist to become Florida’s all-time leader, snapping the tie with Erving Walker for the UF record (547). Grad transfer Egor Koulechov scored 15 points in the win over Alabama and junior guard Jalen Hudson came up big against Alabama by scoring 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting for his first 20-point game since Jan. 17. However, he still leads the team in s scoring at 15.4 PPG. PG Chiozza leads the team in assists (6.1) and adds 11.1 PPG. Koulechov averages 13.7 & 6.6 and Allen 11.3, giving Florida four double digit scorers but all play on the perimeter. Despite its lack in size, Florida's played solid defense, allowing 69.2 PPG (94th).
The pick: The loss of the 6-11 John Egbunu to a torn ACL has hurt Florida and it is not yet known if he plans to petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. Often, the word revenge is overused in handicapping but I believe it applies here. Florida does not have the inside presence to stop Kentucky's frontcourt players in this one plus the Wildcats will be looking to avenge their 66-64 loss to the Gators back on Jan. 20, one that ended the team's 30-game home winning streak against SEC opponents! Make Kentucky a 10* play.
|03-02-18||Ball State v. Northern Illinois +3.5||Top||65-66||Win||100||12 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the final game of the regular season for MAC teams Ball State and Northern Illinois. The Cardinals will look to rebound from back-to-back losses, including a 75-51 road loss to Central Michigan in their last outing. However, Ball State is 19-11 overall, including 10-7 in league play, good enough for 2nd-place tie in the MAC West standing s with Eastern Michigan. Meanwhile, the Huskies limp in having lost 12 of their last 16 games following a 97-67 loss to Toledo (the Mac West's top team at 13-4) in their last outing. Northern Illinois is 12-18 overall, including a 5-12 league mark which leaves them in last-place in the MAC West.
Ball State: PG Persons (14.6-3.3-4.3) leads in scoring and assists plus two "big men," the 6-8 Teague (11.8 & 7.4) and teh 6-9 Moses (11.5 & 8.4) give Ball State a solid inside presence. The 6-7 Mallers (9.8 & 4.7) and guard Sellers (9.6 & 4.7) round out a starting-five in which all have played in every game this season for Ball State. The Cardinals average a respectable 75.7 PPG (125th) but allow 74.0 PPG, which ranks 217th.
Northern Illinois: The Huskies are a guard-oriented team, with Eugene German (20.7) leading the way. Levi Bradley (14.3 & 5.1) and Dante Thorpe (10.8) round out the team's double digit scorers. Similar to Ball State, Northern Illinois scores 73.1 PPG and allows 76.0 PPG.
The pick: Ball State could find itself in one of the lesser postseason tourneys but the MAC doesn't get much respect, so even a 20-plus win season could leave them at home after the MAC tourney. The Cardinals have not had much success against the Huskies in recent years, going just 2-7-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings between these two schools. As for NIU, it lost 97-67 at home to Toledo in its last outing but note that not only are the Huskies still 10-4 SU at home this season but they are also capable of bouncing back off a humbling loss. Note that NIU is 7-2 ATS in its last nine following a loss of 20 or more points . Make Northern Illinois a 10* play.
|03-01-18||Western Kentucky v. Middle Tennessee -4||Top||64-82||Win||100||12 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 24 Middle Tennessee State entered the AP's top-25 two weeks ago, for the first time in school history. The 23-5 (15-1 in C-USA) Blue Raiders can clinch their second straight Conference USA regular-season title when they host second-place Western Kentucky (22-7, including 14-2 in C-USA play) Thursday night in Murfreesboro. The Blue Raiders have vaulted into the national rankings on the strength of a 10-game winning streak that began with a 66-62 raod win over the Hilltoppers back on Jan. 20. Western Kentucky comes in having won six in a row while averaging 87.7 PPG and trails Middle Tennessee by one game with two to play.
Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers capped their home slate with an 88-66 triumph over Old Dominion on Saturday behind 20 points from Taveion Hollingsworth, as head coach Rick Stansbury's team has shot at least 55 percent from the floor in five straight games (it's the program's longest such stretch since 1979!). The 6-7 Justin Johnson had 19 points and 11 rebounds in the win over the Monarchs, his 10th double-double of the season. He is tied for the team lead in scoring at 14.8 PPG (also a team-high 9.4 RPG) with fellow senior, PG Darius Thompson (4.7 RPG & 4.9 APG). Hollingsworth (13.6), a freshman guard, has hit the 20-point mark in four of his last seven games and is shooting 50 percent for the season after going 8-for-13 on Saturday. The 6-9 Dwight Coleby (11.9 & 8.1) ranks second on the team to Johnson with nine double-doubles.
Middle Tennessee State: "We're proud of our ranking, proud of it for our fans and most proud for our players," chead oach Kermit Davis told reporters after Saturday's 79-54 win over UAB. "We talked about it on Monday that with more success comes more motivation and it drives you. I think it drives our team. We looked like a Top 25 team tonight and that was good to see." The 6-7 Nick King (21.5 & 8.3) led the way on Saturday with 22 points and he ranks second in the conference in scoring (21.5), including 24.8 over the last four games. Guard Giddy Potts (13.1 & 4.3) buried 5-of-9 from three-point range in the win and is posting an average of 16.2 points over a five-game stretch. Guard Antwain Johnson (10.2) is 19-for-30 from long range over a span of seven contests after going 17-for-57 to start the season. The 6-10 Walters (10.1 & 5.1) is the team's fourth double digit scorer.
The pick: MTSU has won 31 of its last 33 in C-USA play and is now generating legitimate Big Dance at-large talk. That said, the Blue Raiders would be well-advised to win the conference tourney. Kermit Davis’ bunch won first showdown by four on road at WKU (back on Jan. 20) but will need a little bigger margin here, to "get the cash." Considering MTSU is 10-1 SU at home, outscoring opponents 77.4-to-60.8 PPG, I'll lay the modest points and make MTSU an 8* play.
|03-01-18||Tulsa v. East Carolina +9||Top||72-58||Loss||-107||11 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: The East Carolina Pirates are 10-17 overall and just 4-12 in American Athletic Conference. They get set to welcome the 17-11 Golden Hurricane (10-6 in AAC) to Greenville for the team's home finale on Thursday. The Pirates enter having lost three in a row and most recently absorbed a 109-58 pummeling at the hands of No. 25 Houston. Tulsa looks to bounce back after its six-game winning streak was ended with an 82-74 loss this past Sunday at No. 10 Cincinnati.
|03-01-18||Northwestern +5.5 v. Penn State||Top||57-65||Loss||-106||11 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The second round of the Big Ten tournament will take place Thursday at Madison Square Garden. Seventh-seeded Penn State (19-12 / Big Ten) will take on No. 10 Northwestern (15-16 / Big Ten). The Nittany Lions wrapped up the regular season with three consecutive losses to fall out of the NCAA Tournament picture and now hope to make a deep run in this tourney, as that is their only path to play their way back into contention for an at-large bid. Of course, Penn State could just win the tourney, which would give them an automatic bid. Penn State's opponent is Northwestern, who enter the tourney having dropped six consecutive games. The Wildcats' only chance at making the Big Dance would be to win this tourney, meaning the Wildcats have no chance at all of 'dancing' in 2018.
Northwestern: The Wildcats returned most of their core players from the team that earned the first NCAA Tournament berth in program history last year but they have struggled under the weight of expectations. Their goal in this tourney would be to avoid their first losing season since 2014-15 but that would take at least two wins. "Our confidence is low right now," Northwestern head coach Chris Collins told reporters. "Let's play tough, let's play together and try to see if we can find a way to win a game on Thursday." Senior guard Scottie Lindsey matched a program record with nine three-pointers en route to a career-high 32 points in the Sunday's 77-70 loss to Iowa. Lindsey leads the team in scoring at 15.3 PPG but the 6-7 Vic Law, who is averaging 12.0 & 5.8, will miss the Big Ten Tournament with a toe problem. Senior PG Bryant McIntosh (12.0 & 5.1 APG) will play through a shoulder injury, which caused him to miss two games in February, plus the team's fourth double digit scorer is the 6-8 Dererk Pardon (11.2 & 7.1) and he earned All-Big Ten honorable mentions from the media.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions eased past the Wildcats 78-63 in the first meeting of the season before suffering a 70-61 setback on Jan. 20. Penn State expects (hopes?) to advance to the quarterfinals of this tourney for the first time since 2015. 6-5 sophomore guard Tony Carr (19.9-4.5-4.8) was a consensus All-Big Ten first team selection after leading the conference with 20.1 points to go along with 4.9 assists per game. Head coach Pat Chambers uses an "Iron-5," with all getting 26-plus minutes of playing time and all averaging in double digits. The 6-8 Lamar Stevens has scored 43 points in the two meetings with Northwestern this season, including a career-high 30 in the win over the Wildcats on Jan. 5. He averages 15.2 & 6.3 and is joined by the 6-9 Watkins (12.1 & 8.9) up front, while Garner (10.3) and Reaves (10.3-4.8-3.3) join Carr on the perimeter.
The pick: One could reasonably argue that Northwestern enters the tournament in the worst form in the conference (six straight losses coming in) but Penn State comes in off three straight losses, as well. Just don't see Penn State being favored by this much, as Northwestern still has a nucleus of guys left over from last year's magical season. Take the points and make Northwestern an 8* play.
|02-28-18||Butler v. St. John's +3||Top||68-75||Win||100||13 h 14 m||Show|
The set set-up: The 19-10 Butler Bulldogs (9-7 in Big East) will visit the Carnesecca Arena in Queens to take on the host 14-15 St. John's Red Storm (3-13 in Big East). Butler knocked off Providence on Feb. 17 and then routed No. 24 Creighton 93-70 three days later, which may have all but clinched an NCAA at-large berth for the Bulldogs. St John's is 11-2 in non-conference play (which includes an upset of Duke) but the team's 3-13 conference mark has done in the Red Storm.
Butler: Butler shoots (47.8% ranks 40th) and scores (80.3 PPG ranks 50th) well. Senior forward Kelan Martin (20.9 & 6.4) is finishing his career on a high note while averaging 26.2 points over the last six contests to push his Big East-leading mark to 23.3 in league games. Junior guard Paul Jorgensen (10.8) played a big part in the last two wins for the Bulldogs, averaging 14.5 points and draining 12-of-18 from the floor. Sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin (15.4 & 5,4) is the team's second-leading scorer but is coming off a 3-for-11 shooting performance.
St. John's: The Red Storm opened Big East play 0-11 but have been a much better team the last month with shocking wins over Duke and Villanova. Still, they sit at the bottom of the league standings after losing their last two contests to Marquette and Seton Hall. Sophomore guard Shamorie Ponds leads the Big East in scoring overall (21.6) and has been especially productive during the Red Storm’s revival, averaging 29.1 points over the last seven contests. He adds 5.1 RPG and 4.9 APG, similar to his backcourt partner, Simon (11.5-7.1-5.0), who also rebounds and 'dishes' with authority. The 6-7 Clark (11.9 & 4.7) is the team's best frontcourt player. Justin Simon is shooting better than 50 percent from the floor the last four games, while Clark is scoring 18.3 PPG over the last three while connecting on 21-of-40 from the floor.
The pick: Butler destroyed St. John's 70-45 at home back on Jan. 27 and has won six of the last seven matchups between the two schools. However, Butler has lost four of its last six road games. Meanwhile, the Red Storm have played Creighton and Xavier close at home, upset Duke (at MSG) and won at Villanova by four points as a 16 1/2-point dog. Make St. John's an 8* play against a Butler team which is likely looking more towards the Big East tourney and an expected NCAA bid.
|02-28-18||Temple v. Connecticut +2.5||Top||66-72||Win||100||11 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: It's AAC college hoops from Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Ct. when the 16-12 Temple Owls (8-8 in AAC) visit the 13-16 UConn Huskies (6-10 in AAC). Temple has won eight of its last 11 games and still has an outside shot of playing its way into the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, UConn has lost seven of nine and is closing in on finishing with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in 31 years.
Temple: The Owls rolled to an easy 75-56 win over Central Florida on Sunday but a crushing 21-point home loss to Houston on Feb. 18 will put added emphasis on the American Athletic Conference tourney for Temple. Freshman guard Nate Pierre-Louis (8.0) has endured plenty of highs and lows in his first season, but Temple's sixth man supplied 11 points off the bench Sunday to reach double figures for the sixth time in eight games. 6-8 guard Rose (15.0 & 4.4) leads the team in scoring with fellow guard Alston (13.2) and the 6-10 Enechionyia (10.9 & 6.1) joining him in double figures.The Owls are not a high scoring team, averaging only 70.1 PPG (263rd) on 42.8% shooting (282nd).
UConn: The Huskies fell into a 23-point hole midway through the second half of Sunday's 83-79 loss to Memphis, before making a late run behind Jalen Adams, who scored 21 of his 25 points after the break. When these teams met back in Philly last month, the Owls demolished the Huskies in a 28-point romp that marked the start of a UConn tailspin which has seen them lose seven of nine. Adams (18.1-4.2-4.5) was limited to just seven points last month versus Temple. Joining Adams in double digits are fellow guard Vital (15.0 & 5.2) and the 6-8 Larrier (13.8 & 4.5).
The pick: Temple is the better team and just could be getting hot at the right time but the Owls are just 4-7 SU on the road and UConn is still capable of 'barking quite loudly' as a home dog against a Temple team which averages a modest 67.1 PPG on the road. Make UConn a 10* play.
|02-27-18||Boise State +3 v. San Diego State||Top||64-72||Loss||-106||15 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The 22-6 Boise State Broncos are 12-4 in the MWC and will finish second in the league to 14-2 Nevada. The Broncos will play their second-to-last regular season game tonight at Viejas Arena against the host San Diego State Aztecs who are 17-10, including 9-7 in MWC play. Boise State comes in off back-to-back wins, after losing at Utah State and home to Nevada in its prevuious two. As for SDSU, the Aztecs have won their last four games.
Boise State: The Broncos took out Colorado State last Wednesday, led by 6-7 guard Chandler Hutchison's 27 points. Hutchinson leads the etam in scoring (19.9), rebounding (7.60 and assists (3.5). He's joined in double digits by guard Jessup (11.6 & 4.9)a nd the 6-9 Sengfelder (11.5 & 6.5). Boise averages 78.4 PPG (69th) and allows 67.7 PPG (62nd).
San Diego State: The Aztecs score 77.5 PPG (81st) and allow 68.0 PPG (65th). They have no player like Hutchinson, a legitimate POY candidate in the MWC, but do have seven players averaging between 7.7 and 12.7 PPG. That group is led by the 6-10 Pope (12.7 & 7.1) and PG Watson (12.5 & 3.9 APG).
The pick: San Diego State has been playing pretty well lately and is 11-2 SU & 9-2 A TS at home. Note that Boise just edged SDSU 83-80 back in Boise, so this is by no means an easy "W." However, the Broncos are currently on Joe Lundardi’s "Next Four Out List" and have no margin of error down the stretch if they hope to earn an at-large bid (assuming Nevada wins MWC tourney). After consecutive shaky outings, Boise has allowed just 106 points in back-to-back wins, scoring at least 76 in both games. Make Boise State an 8* play.
|02-27-18||Florida +2.5 v. Alabama||Top||73-52||Win||100||11 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide meet Tuesday night in SEC action at the Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa. Both schools come in having lost six of their last 10, with the Gators checking in at 18-11 (9-7 in SEC) and the Tide at 17-12 (8-8 in SEC). Setting the conference standings, Florida is in a four-way tie for third place, while Alabama is a game behind that group, tied with Missouri for seventh.
Florida: The Gators' days of being in the top-25 have long ago disappeared but beating first-place Auburn 72-66 on Saturday boosted their postseason resume, as well as their chances of securing a top-four seed and a double-bye in the upcoming SEC tournament. The Gators had lost three straight before besting the Tigers behind. Florida has heavily relied on its three-point shooting, as the team's top four scorers are all guards who like to shoot from the outside. Jalen Hudson (15.0 & 4.0) and Egor Koulechov (13.7 & 6.7) have been the team’s most consistent scorers and most prolific three-point shooters. PG Chris Chiozza (11.3-4.4-6.2) is the catalyst and leads the team with 54 steals. The Gators
Alabama: Many still have the Crimson Tide in the "Big Dance" (I'm not convinced) but they are one of the SEC’s top defensive teams and own one of the nation’s best freshmen in guard Collin Sexton (18.2-3.6-3.5). Fellow freshman John Petty (10.8) and sophomore Dazon Ingram (10.0 & 5.6) give Alabama a trio of talented guards who can match up well with Florida’s strong backcourt. The 6-9 Donta Hall (11.1 & 7.1) works hard inside and feasts on easy baskets in the paint, shooting 74.2 percent.
The pick: The Crimson Tide easily handled the Gators in the first meeting of the season, posting a 68-50 road victory back on Feb. 3. However, while Alabama has won two of the last three meetings, Florida has captured 12 of the last 14 and hasn’t lost two straight in the all-time series since 1998. Revenge works. Make Florida a 10* play.
|02-25-18||Florida State +3 v. NC State||Top||72-92||Loss||-107||11 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: Florida State and North Carolina State each have just three games left before the ACC tourney, as they prepare to clash on Sunday in Raleigh. The 19-8 Seminoles (8-7 in ACC) come in rested with a full week off since beating Pittsburgh 88-75 to extend their winning streak to two and with a No. 25 ranking in the latest AP poll. Meanwhile, the unranked but surprising Wolfpack won their third in a row Tuesday, defeating Boston College 82-66. NC State is 19-9 and at 9-6, one game better than FSU in league play.
Florida State: The Seminoles are a strong offensive team (83.0 PPG ranks 23rd) and that's been on display in back-to-back wins over No. 15 Clemson and Pitt. FSU connected on a combined 52.7 percent from the floor and averaged 84.5 points in those two wins. Guard Terance Mann is one of only four players in the ACC leading his team in both scoring (career-high 14.0) and rebounding (5.8) but he only had four points and two rebounds in the win over Pittsburgh after sitting out the entire first half for what Hamilton called a "small indiscretion." PJ Savoy (18 points, 5-for-7 on three-pointers) and MJ Walker (14) combined for 32 points in rare starting roles against Pitt with Mann and Braian Angola (12.7 & 4.0) on the bench. The 6-8 Cofer (13.4 & 5.4) has been the team's most productive frontcourt player but both the 7-4 Koumadje (8.0 & 4.9) and the Kabengele (7.1 & 4.8) are solid contributors.
NC State: Guard Allerik Freeman (14.8 & 4.2) has emerged as the go-to guy for the Wolfpack, leading the team in scoring in each game during the current winning streak, including a 20-point outing the last time out against Boston College. Freshman Braxton Beverly (10.0 & 3.9 APG) is a threat from long range and in the last six games has hit 17-of-28 from three-point land while failing to register even a single turnover in 97 minutes the last three contests. The 7-0 Yurtsen (13.6 & 6.8) is the team's best big man and PG Johnson (8.8 & 7.8 APG) is the floor leader.
The pick: This is the only scheduled meeting between the teams this season and it's a big one for both. NC State is 7-1 when it has less turnovers than its opponents but the Seminoles have been protecting the ball during the win streak, averaging just three second-half turnovers and a total of three points off of turnovers in the second halves of its last two games. Florida State needs one more victory to record its third straight season with at least 20 and has won its last three meetings with NC State. Make it four in row in the series and four straight 20-win seasons for the Seminoles. Make FSU a 10* play.
|02-25-18||Colorado State +17.5 v. Nevada||Top||83-92||Win||100||9 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: The Colorado State Rams are 11-18 overall and just 4-12 in MWC play, as they head to Reno, Nv. to take on the Nevada Wolf Pack. Nevada is 24-5 (13-2 in MWC play) and is ranked No. 20 in the AP poll. The Wolf Pack are clearly the class of the conference and with a win at home on Sunday, can clinch at least a share of the school's second consecutive Mountain West regular-season championship and also would claim the No. 1 seed for the upcoming conference tournament.
Colorado State: The Rams are locked into the No. 10 spot for the Mountain West Tournament and will play the seventh place finisher, which could be any of five teams, in the first round on March 7 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The Rams will be without head coach Larry Eustachy (administrative leave) for the sixth straight game and enter having won just one of their last 10 games. The school is reportedly trying to work out an exit strategy for Eustachy and will be playing for their second interim head coach (Jase Herl). Junior guard Prentiss Nixon leads the team in scoring (15.3) but had just nine points in the team's 87-54 home loss to Boise State. Nixon is just 1-of-18 from the floor over the last two games, including 0-of-8 from three-point range,
Nevada: The Wolf Pack will be honoring three seniors before the contest in the final home game of the season. Head coach Eric Musselman said there's another reason it could be a special day. "You don't get to cut down nets in your own building very often," Musselman told the Reno Gazette Journal. A victory over the Rams would give Nevada a two-game advantage in the loss column over second-place Boise State (22-6, 12-4) with two games to go, and the Wolf Pack own the tiebreaker by virtue of a regular-season sweep of the Broncos. That said, all is not right with Nevada. The Wolf Pack are down to seven scholarship players after starting PG Larry Drew (8.1 & 4.3 APG) was lost for the season with a torn Achilles last week. Senior guard Kendall Stephens (13.8 PPG and a 45.2 percent shooter from three-point range) had a career-high 30 points, including seven three-pointers, in Wednesday's 80-67 win over San Jose State but injured his shooting thumb late in the game. Word is, he will play with a splint the rest of the year." Three other players are averaging double figures including Mountain West Player of the Year candidate Caleb Martin (19.2 & 5.1), reigning MW tourney MVP Jordan Caroline (17.0 & 8.7) and Cody Martin (13.5 & 6.4), twin brother of Caleb.
The pick: The Rams may be banged up more mentally than physically and the 87-54 loss to Boise was the team's worst in nine years! Sure, Nevada can clinch the MWC's No. 1 seed with a win here but is there really any reason to blow out the sad-sack Rams? Take the YUGE points and make CSU an 8* play.
|02-24-18||Appalachian State v. Arkansas-Little Rock +2||Top||69-67||Push||0||11 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: I'm zeroing in on a meaningless game in the Sun Belt Conference on Saturday, as the 12-17 Appalachian State Mountaineers (7-9 in SBC play) play the 6-22 Little Rock Trojans (3-12 in SBC) tonight at the Jack Stephens Center.
Appalachian State: The Mountaineers fought back from a 56-45 deficit with 8:45 left to force overtime, this past Thursday but fell 82-79 in OT to the Arkansas State Red Wolves. The Mountaineers average a so-so 76.3 PPG (100th) but shoot poorly, converting on just 43.5% from the floor (239th). A pair of guards are the team's lone double digit scorers, featuring junior Shabazz (19.2) and freshman Forrest (13.3). The 6-8 Johnson is the team's leading rebounder at 8.5 RPG (adds 7.2 pPG).
Little Rock: The Trojans are in the SBC basement and are coming off 65-60 Thursday loss to the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Little Rock never held the lead at any time in the game, although the Trojans did fight back some in the second half. Sophomore guard Andre Jones (12.3) is the team's lone double digit scorer, as no other player averages more than 7.5 PPG. That means it should be no surprise that the Trojans' average of 64.0 PPG ranks 341st in the nation.
The pick: So why Little Rock? Appalachian State has nothing much to play for either and how can one lay ANY amount of points with a team that is just 3-11 SU on the road. The first time around (in Boone, N.C.), the Trojans played the Mountaineers tough, losing just 72-67 in OT. This time around (at home), the Trojans walk off with a rare "W." Make Little Rock a 10* play.
|02-24-18||Kansas +2 v. Texas Tech||Top||74-72||Win||100||9 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: For the better part of the last month, Texas Tech has stood atop the Big 12, arguably the deepest conference in the nation, only to have an ill-timed toe injury to the team's leading scorer and playmaker Keenan Evans have the Red Raiders on the verge of giving up control of the Big 12 to Kansas. Evans is unlikely to be anywhere close to 100 percent on Saturday, when No. 6 Texas Tech hosts No. 8 Kansas in Lubbock. The 22-6 Jayhawks (11-4 in Big 12) have won 13 straight Big 12 regular-season championships, which makes big games in late February nothing new. Meanwhile, Texas Tech finds itself in uncharted territory. The 22-6 Red Raiders (10-5) in Big 12) have never won a Big 12 title in men's basketball and they're just three seasons removed from a 3-15 mark in conference play.
Kansas: Devonte' Graham's (17.6 & 7.2 APG) 10-game streak in which he played every minute of every game came to an end Monday but not before he lifted his scoring average in conference action to 19 points per game - second in the Big 12) with 23 points in 35 minutes of action. The 7-0 Udoka Azubuike (14.0 & 7.1) leads the country in field-goal percentage (77.1), but was limited to 18 minutes due to foul trouble. However, he went 5-for-6 from the floor to improve to 25-for-28 (89.3%) over his last four outings. Kansas is averaging 82.2 PPG (38th) on 47.4% shooting (46th).
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders fell a full game back in Wednesday's 79-71 defeat at Oklahoma State, as Evans scored only two points and one of the nation's top defenses (63.1 PPG ranks 8th) gave up its second-highest scoring output of the season, along with a season-high 52.2-percent mark from the floor. With Evans (17.6) limited in each of the last two contests, Zhaire Smith (11.1) has stepped up his play, leading the team in scoring each time while averaging 16.5 points on 66.7 percent shooting. Fellow freshman guard Jarrett Culver (10.9) snapped out of a three-game shooting slump during which he went 8-for-34 from the floor, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting and six rebounds. Senior guard Justin Gray (5.3), who is the only Red Raider to start all 28 games this season, has also filled some of the offensive void left behind by Evans over the last two games, providing 23 points while also corralling 13 rebounds.
The pick: Kansas and UCLA are the only two programs to win 13 straight conference championships in NCAA Division I men's basketball history but with a win on Saturday, the Jayhawks will clinch at least a share of the school's 14th straight conference title and set an NCAA record. Texas Tech has won 17 straight at home and defeated Kansas 85-73 in Lawrence on Jan. 2. However, Kansas once again finds itself in familiar territory, on teh verge of clinching yet another Big 12 title. With "revenge" also on its side, Kansas is an 8* play.
|02-24-18||Notre Dame v. Wake Forest||Top||76-71||Win||100||8 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: It's ACC hoops from Winston-Salem as the 16-12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-9 in the ACC) visit the 11-17 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-12 in ACC). Notre Dame has alternated wins and losses in each of its last four games, following a crushing 77-74 home loss to Miami in its last outing. Trailing by seven at the break, the Fighting Irish used an early second-half surge to give them a 62-57 lead, but Miami used a 13-0 run late in the game, delivering a severe blow to ND's already slim tournament chances. It has been a struggle for most of the season for Wake Forest (see record above) but the Demon Deacons have won two of three, after Wednesday's 63-57 victory over Pittsburgh.
Notre Dame: A promising season for Notre Dame has been derailed by injuries as the team has lost 28 combined man games from three of its top six players; ACC Preseason Player of the Year Bonzie Colson (14), senior guard Matt Farrell (5) and freshman forward D.J. Harvey (9). The Irish were also without starter Rex Pflueger in the Miami game after he injured his back Feb. 17 but the junior guard is expected to return the lineup against Wake Forest. Sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs (15.8 PPG & 5.5 APG) has had a breakout season in wake of all the injuries and has hit double-digits in scoring in 16 straight games, while Farrell has been red-hot since returning to the lineup Feb. 3, averaging 20.8 points per game in six contests (is averaging 17.0 PPG & 5.5 APG on the season).
Wake Forest: Guards Crawford (16.9 & 5.0 APG) and Woods (12.6) plus the 7-1 Moore (11.7 & 9.5) are Wake's lone three double digit scorers. Crawford's 14-point performance in the win over Pitt marked the 27th time in 28 games that he has reached double-digits. Junior center Doral Moore stuffed the stat sheet against the Panthers with 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, narrowly missing his fifth straight double-double and having his double-digit rebounding streak snapped at 10 games. The Demon Deacons played some of their best defense of the year Wednesday as Pitt's 57 points were the lowest for a Wake opponent in conference play this season.
The pick: Notre Dame's NCAA hopes are likely all but 'dead,' but Wake Forest is 3-11 ATS in its last 14 games overall, while Notre Dame is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings between these two schools. Make Notre Dame an 8* play.
|02-24-18||Marquette -3.5 v. DePaul||Top||62-70||Loss||-105||5 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Big East college hoops from WinTrust Arena in Chicago as the 16-11 Marquette Golden Eagles (7-8 in Big East) take on the host 10-17 DePaul Blue Demons (3-12 in Big East). Marquette is off an 85-73 win over St. John's in its last outing, giving the team three wins in its last four. DePaul suffered a 93-62 loss to Villanova in its last outing, falling for the sixth time in its last seven games (remain in the Big East basement). Marquette knocked off DePaul 70-52 last month in Milwaukee.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles rely on a three-headed scoring attack from the backcourt, as guards Markus Howard (21.3), Andrew Rowsey (19.5 & 4.5 APG) and Sam Hauser (14.6 & 5.9 combine for more than 55 points per game. The problem here could be, Howard injured his hip against Creighton and missed the St. John's game. The sophomore guard could also sit out Saturday's contest, which would put more pressure on Rowsey, who is averaging 22.3 points and 7.3 assists over his last four games, and Hauser, who is 14-of-21 from three-point range over that span.
DePaul: The Blue Demons are just playing out the string (again!), The team's 31-point loss to Villanova made it three straight losses and six of seven. A seemingly disinterested (or incapable) DePaul squad attempted only one foul shot and turned it over 20 times. 6-6 guard. Max Strus (17.0 & 5.5) scored 21 points and 6-11 center Marin Maric (14.0 & 6.3) chipped in 12 but the bench didn't give the Blue Demons much help, combining for eight points on 4-of-16 shooting.
The pick: Some feel as if Marquette still has a shot at earning an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament but the team would need to win out in the regular season and then make some noise in the Big East tourney for that to happen. That means a win here is a MUST! The Golden Eagles are quietly one of the most consistent offensive teams in the nation, having scored at least 70 points in every game since Dec. 2. Marquette averages 82,2 PPG (38th) on 47.4% shooting (46th) and teh Blue Demons s don't have the talent or will to compete. Make Marquette an 8* play
|02-23-18||Wright State -5.5 v. IUPU-Indianapolis||Top||56-66||Loss||-118||4 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: After a rare down season in 2014-15 when the Raiders won just 11 games, Wright Stare checks in at 21-8 so far in 2017-18, following seasons of 22 and 20 wins. The Raiders have won 14 of their last 17 games, after a 72-65 home win over Cleveland State on Monday. Wright State is 13-3 in Horizon play ((tied for first with Northern Kentucky) and will finish its regular season with road games at IUPUI tonight and then at UIC on Sunday. The Jaguars have won three of their last four but are just 10-17 overall (7-9 in Horizon play).
Wright State: Grant Benzinger had 20 points in Monday's win and leads the team in scoring at 14.5 PPG. Love, a 6-9 freshman, adds 12.6 PPG and a team-high 9.6 RPG plus five others get regular minutes while averaging between 5.1 and 10.1 PPG. Head coach Scott Nagy is in his second season and Wright State plays very solid defense, allowing 65.7 PPG (29th) while holding opponents to 41.6% shooting (53rd).
IUPUI: The Jaguars beat Oakland on Monday but as noted above, are going nowhere this season. Brennan is a 6-6 forward who leads the team in scoring at 12.8 PPG and a pair of guards join him in double digits, They are Patterson (10.9) and Henderson (11.7). Offense is not a strength for this team, which averages 69.3 PPG (283rd).
The pick: The Jaguars will have their work cut out for them scoring much against Wright State. In the season's first meeting, the Raiders took an eight-point decision, holding the Jaguars to 52 points on 35.3 % shooting. Wright State is 6-2 ATS in its last six road games and moves one game closer to capturing the Horixzon's regular season title with a comfortable win in this one. Make Wright State an 8* play.
|02-22-18||Arizona State v. Oregon -3||Top||68-75||Win||100||16 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The Arizona State Sun Devils will look to rebound after having their three-game winning streak was snapped in a 77-70 loss at home to Arizona in their last outing. ASU opened the season unranked but rose as high as No. 3 in the AP poll after beginning the season 12-0 in non-conference play. However, the Sun Devils lost their Pac 12 opener Dec. 30 at Arizona and currently check in at 19-7, including 7-7 in Pac 12 games (team is no longer ranked). ASU travels to Eugene, Oregon Thursday night for a contest with the 17-10 Oregon Ducks (also 7-7 in Pac 12 play), who will also be looking to bounce back from back-to-back losses, including an 86-78 setback at the hands of UCLA in their last outing.
Arizona State: Tra Holder led ASU with 20 points in the loss to Arizona, something he's done all season. He leads the etam in scoring at 19.3 PPG. Fellow guards Evans (16.8) and Justice (12.4) are also in double digits but Arizona State has gone without meaningful offensive support from its forwards most of this season. The exception has been 6-8 freshman White (11.6 & 7.40. Head coach Bobby Hurley has moved 6-9 freshman Vitaliy Shibel into the starting lineup in place of 6-7 sophomore Mickey Mitchell since the team last faced Oregon but Shibel has been even less effective, combining for two points in 46 minutes over the past five games.
Oregon: The Ducks lost four starters off last year's 33-win team which made it all the way to the Final 4. PG Payton Pritchard is the lone returning starter and he's been getting better as the season winds down. He is averaging 17.8 points over the past four games to inch his scoring average up to a team-high 14.9 PPG (also lead the team with 4.9 APG). Then there is 6-7 senior forward MiKyle McIntosh (10.6 & 6.3), who just had his best week of the season, combining for 42 points on 17-for-28 shooting in the losses to USC and UCLA. 6-7 freshman Troy Brown averages 11.9 & 6.9 and guard Elijah Brown, 12.8 PPG.
The pick: Arizona State is sinking since league play began. The Sun Devils are 3-10-2 ATS in their last 15 conference matchups, while the Ducks are 27-13 ATS in their last 40 conference games. Oregon comes in off four straight comfortable wins and covers at home and it's putting it mildly to say Oregon is a good home team. The Ducks are 123-16 at Matthew Knight Arena since its home court opened in 2011. With Oregon off back-to-back losses USC and UCLA, let me note that the Ducks haven't lost three in a row since dropping five straight in January 2014. Make Oregon a 10* play.
|02-22-18||Southern Miss v. Texas-San Antonio -5.5||Top||56-64||Win||100||12 h 20 m||Show|
We have some C-USA action Thursday night as the Southern Miss Golden Eagles take on the UTSA Roadrunners at the Convocation Center in San Antonio, Texas. The Golden Eagles limp in having after lost five of their last seven after an 87-69 loss to UAB in their last outing. That leaves Southern Miss 13-15 overall, including 6-9 in C-USA play. As for UTSA, the Roadrunners have won five of their last six following a 97-89 overtime win over Charlotte the last time out. UTSA now sits 15-12 overall, including 8-6 in C-USA play.
Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles own an excellent guard duo in leading-scorer Edwards (15.8 & 6.1) and PG Griffin (15.0-4.1-6.0). A third guard is Magee (12.2) is also in double digits plus he also leads the team in rebounding (6.1 per). That's because Southern Miss gets no real frontcourt help, as no "big man" averages as much as 5.5 PPG. The not so-Golden Eagles average 71.9 PPG and allow 72.4 PPG, which indicates why the team is two games under .500.
UTSA: The Roadrunners average 80.1 PPG (2nd) and own some fairly decent balance. Guard Jackson (19.2) leads the team in scoring and reserves Wallace (11.4) and Lyle (10.1) come off the bench in the backcourt to provide some scoring punch. The 6-8 Allen (8.4 & 5.1) and the 6-6 Frohnen (7.0 & 6.,8) are solid frontcourt players.
The pick: The home team is 7-0-1 ATS in the last eight meetings between these two teams and Southern Miss is averaging only 62.5 PPG on the road. The home team is an 8* play in this one.
|02-21-18||Michigan +3 v. Penn State||Top||72-63||Win||100||12 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: 22-7 Michigan (11-5 in Big Ten) will visit Happy Valley tonight to take on 19-10 Penn State (9-7 in Big Ten). Michigan is No. 17 in the latest AP poll and hopes to overtake Nebraska (12-5) in the race for fourth place to earn a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Penn State has played itself into at least being in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament berth because of a strong second half and has an opportunity to earn what would assuredly be a resume-boosting win here at home:
Penn State: The Nittany Lions' four-game winning streak came to an end as they dropped a 76-73 decision to Purdue on Sunday. The Nittany Lions were doomed by some late misses from the free-throw line in their search for another signature win to add to their NCAA Tournament resume. Sophomore guard Tony Carr was named the Big Ten Player of the Week for the first time in his collegiate career after averaging 24.5 points, five rebounds and four assists against Ohio State and Purdue. Carr (19.6 & 4.6) led the way with 19 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists in the loss to the Boilermakers while fellow guard Shep Garner (10.6) buried five 3-pointers en route to 17 points to finish in double figures for the 13th time this season. The 6-8 Stevens (15.1 & 6.2), the 6-9 Watkins (12.5 & 9.2) and guard Reaves (10.7 & 4.7) give Penn State five double digit scorers.
The pick: Penn State has morphed into one of the Big Ten's better teams in the second half of the season and returns home here, where they have won four straight games. The Nittany Lions hope to move on the right side of the bubble by knocking off Michigan but the Wolverines have won the last six meetings with the Nittany Lions (Penn State's last win over Michigan came back on Feb. 27, 2013), as well as 11 of the last 12. Michigan can still catch Nebraska for the No. 4 seed plus it also wants to enhance its RPI in order to get an even better seed for the NCAA Tournament. Make Michigan a 10* play.
|02-20-18||St. Louis v. Dayton -5||Top||50-53||Loss||-105||14 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: Archie Miller led Dayton to four straight NCAA appearances, winning 102 games in that span (never less than 24 in any season). However, he left for the Indiana job. The Flyers brought in former alum Anthony Grant (played under Don Donoher), who has had success of his own on the bench, coaching VCU and Alabama (he was also an assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida and most recently in the NBA with OKC). However, the loss of four starters has taken its toll, as Dayton is just 12-14 (6-8 in A-10). The Flyers will welcome the 15-12 Saint Louis Billikens (8-6 in A-10) Tuesday nigh to the UD Arena. St. Louis hadn't won more than 12 games in any of the previous three seasons (win totals of 11, 11 and 12, respectively) but led by four returning starters in Travis Ford's second season at the school, the Billikens have a chance to secure a top-four finish in the Atlantic-10 for the postseason tourney.
St. Louis: The Billikens are making run at just that (currently alone in fourth-place), having won four of their last five games. St. Louis is not a good offensive team, averaging just 66.8 PPG (315th) on 42.2% shooting (302nd). A trio of guards score in double digits, Bess (13.1 & 7.4), Goodwin (11.5-7.5-4.0) and Roby (11.1). The best frontcourt player is teh 6-7 French (8.8 & 6.9) but note the rebounding numbers for guards Bess and Goodwin, who also leads the team in assists. The Billkens' deliberate style of play leads to them also allowing a modest 65.6 PPG (30th).
Dayton: The Flyers have lost four of five following an 85-67 defeat at George Mason and the team's lone role down the stretch (and in the A-10 tourney) will be that of spoiler. The duo of 6-7 forward Cunningham (16.4 & 8.6) plus guard Darrell Davis (16.2 & 4.3) provide Dayton with a solid 1-2 punch. Those two are supported by a trio of guards chipping in between 8.3 and 10.5 PPG. Dayton averages 73.9 PPG and allows 73.8 PPG, so it's not difficult to see why the Flyers are a 12-14 team on the season.
The pick: The Billikens won the first meeting 76-65 back at St. Louis in late January but winning on the road here won't come easily, even against a struggling Dayton team. The Flyers have always been a "tough out" at home and even in a season in which the team is two games under .500, Dayton is 10-4 SU at home, owning four wins in its last five league home games (only loss to powerhouse Rhode Island). St. Louis is no Rhode Island. Spoiler alert! Make Dayton a 10* play.
|02-20-18||The Citadel +20.5 v. East Tennessee State||Top||84-82||Win||100||12 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Southern Conference action tonight from Johnson City, Tn. when the East Tennessee State Buccaneers host The Citadel Bulldogs. ETSU won the SoCon's regular season and postseason titles last year, then lost to Florida in the NCAAs, finishing with 27 wins. The Buccaneers are 23-5 this season, including 14-1 in league play, giving them a two-game cushion. The Bulldogs were just 12-21 last season (4-14 in SoCon) and check in this season at 9-18, including 4-11 in league play.
The Citadel: The Bulldogs enter on a four-game slide, after a 75-71 loss to VMI. The 6-7 Najdawi kept the The Citadel close with 23 & 14. He leads the team in scoring at 15.2 PPG. Guard Frierson (13.8) added 20 points. Despite shooting 42.0% as a team (307th), The Citadel is averaging 84.2 PPG (16th). The problem is, the Bulldogs are allowing 89.6 PPG (350th) on 48.7% shooting (337th).
East Tennessee State: The Buccaneers are the SoCon's dominant team and bounced back from their first conference loss (at UNC-Greensboro) to down Western Carolina 72-61. This team hasn't much missed a beat, despite losing four starters from last year's team. The lone returning starter is guard Desonta Bradford, who leads the team in scoring (15.2), rebounding (5.9) and assists (3.5). The only other double digit scorer is fellow guard McCloud (11.7). Defense has been the key for ETSU, holding opponents to 65.4 PPG (26th) on 39.9% shooting (12th).
The pick:This is a game between the league's best team and one of its "have-nots." However, the road team is 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings and The Citadel is 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings between the schools. Take the big points and make The Citadel an 8* play.
|02-18-18||Stanford v. California +6.5||Top||77-73||Win||100||13 h 55 m||Show|
The set-up: Johnny Dawkins led Stanford to two NIT titles in his tenure at the school but he was not hired to win NIT championships. He was let go after the 2015-16 season and replaced by Jerod Haase. The Cardinal would have welcomed an NIT invite in Haase's first year at Stanford (2016-17 season), as the Cardinal finished just 14-17 (6-12 in Pac 12). Stanford is just 13-13 on the season so far this year but despite losing five of its past seven, Stanford remains just one game out of second place in the Pac-12 standings at 7-6 The Cardinal take to the road to tonight for a game at Haas Pavilion against the 8-18 Cal Bears, who are just 2-11 in Pac 12 play. Cal has a first-year head coach in Wyking Jones and the team's 23 and 21-win seasons of the past two year seem 'light years' ago!
Stanford: The Cardinal have lost two straight, the most recent being a 64-56 loss at Colorado where a 20 point first half set the tone. Guard Dorian Pickens (14.1) paced the Stanford attack with 18 points. PG Daejon Davis (10.6-4.3-4.8) gave the Cardinal 12 points and four pulls on 5-16 while leading scorer and rebounder, the 6-8 Reid Travis (19.0 & 7.7) added 10 points and six rebounds. The 6-9 Humphrey (10.4 & 7.40 is the team's fourth double digit scorer.
California: The Golden Bears have been struggling on both ends of the floor and that trend continued in a 77-43 loss at Utah as a 13- point road dog. Cal never found their offense and the defense didn’t help with the team getting out-shot 54.9%-30.2%. Guard Darius McNeill (11.7) was the only Cal player to reach double digits (just barely with exactly 10 points!) at Utah. However, three other Golden Bears are averaging in double digits on the season. Guard Coleman (15.6) is the team's top scorer, joined by the 6-7 Sueing (13.5 & 5.3) and the 6-11 Lee (12.2 & 7.6) in teh frontcourt. Overall though, Cal doesn't score enough (69.3 PPG ranks 284th) and allows too many points (78.2 PPG ranks 307th).
The pick: Oddly enough, one of Cal's two Pac 12 wins came in a 77-74 win up in Maples Pavilion. However, not much has gone right for Golden Bears since, who’ve subsequently won SU just once (at Haas Pavilion vs. Oregon State). Sure, Stanford is the better team and Cal is the Pac 12's worst team, but Stanford has lost its last two games at Haas Pavilion by an average of 13.5 points.Take the home dog, as I believe Cal just may get its first regular-season sweep of Stanford since 2009-10. Make Cal a 10* play.
|02-18-18||Duke -2 v. Clemson||Top||66-57||Win||100||6 h 55 m||Show|
The set-up: Virginia has led the way this season in the ACC and the Cavs currently own a conference mark. However, early this afternoon at Littlejohn Coliseum, No. 12 Duke (21-5) and No. 11 Clemson (20-5) will square off with second-place in the ACC on the line (both are 9-4). This is the first and only scheduled meeting of the season between teh two schools Duke and Clemson but with plenty of teams chasing them in the league standings, this becomes a critical matchup for seeding in next month's ACC Tournament. Duke has won two in a row following an uncharacteristic 1-3 stretch while Clemson had won five in a row before falling to Florida State on Wednesday, when the Tigers blew an 18-point lead before losing in overtime.
Duke: The Blue Devils have won twice without league scoring and rebounding leader Marcus Bagley III (21.2 & 11.4), as the 6-11 freshman has sat out the team's last two as a precaution with a mild knee strain. His status for this game is uncertain. Senior Grayson Allen picked up the slack against Virginia Tech with 25 points (made 7 of 15 three-pointers), while 6-10 freshman Wendell Carter Jr. registered 13 points and 13 rebounds for his seventh double-double in the last 10 games. Yet another freshman, Gary Trent Jr, went 5-of-9 from the arc against the Hokies and is shooting over 60 percent from three-point range over the last five games. Trent averages 15.2 & 4.6, Allen 15.0-3.5-4.6, Carter 14.4 & 9.5 and PG Duval (another freshman) 11.0 & 5.6 APG for the nation's highest scoring team (88.2 PPG).
Clemson: The Tigers can't match Duke's firepower (Clemson averages 75.2 PPG) and not only are the Tigers already without the 6-8 Donte Grantham (14.2 & 6.9), who was lost to an ACL tear, the team likely will likely be without PG Shelton Mitchell (11.8 & 3.8 APG) on Sunday, who suffered a head injury. Marcquise Reed (15.7-4.6-3.4 registered 23 points against Florida State in a strong bounce-back effort after totaling four points in the previous game. Gabe DeVoe (13.4 & 4.6) has been on a tear from 3-point range, draining 25-of-40 (62.5 percent) over the last five games. The Tigers are a quality defensive team, allowing 65.8 PPG (32nd), while holding opponents to 41.6% shooting (53rd).
The pick: It's true that Clemson is 13-0 at home this season but no Grantham and likely no Mitchell will make it tough to win here. Sure Clemson owns an excellent D (see above) but Duke not only averages just under 90 PPG, it shoots a blistering 50.4% as a team (9th-best). A game of this magnitude is "nothing new" for Duke, while the same can't be said for Clemson. The Tigers lose again, falling in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Make Duke an 8* play
|02-17-18||Marquette +7.5 v. Creighton||Top||90-86||Win||100||24 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: It's a Big East game from CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska, as the 19-7 Creighton Bluejays (8-5 in Big East) host the 14-11 Marquette Golden Eagles (5-8 in Big East). Marquette comes in looking for a big road win but has lost five of its last six overall, after falling 86-78 loss to St. John’s in its last outing. Meanwhile, the Bluejays are looking to gain a measure of consistent play after alternating wins and losses in each of their last five games, including a 94-46 win over subdivision Bemidji State in their most recent outing. However, I should note that Creighton can lock down its third straight 20-win season with a victory in tonight's game.
Marquette: Guard Andrew Rowsey (19.4 & 4.2 APG) led Marquette with 34 points on 11 of 26 shooting plus added team-highs of seven rebounds and six assists in the loss to St. John's. Fellow guards Markus Howard (team-high 21.9 PPG) and Sam Hauser (14.2 & 6.0) each added 18 points. That trio is really the core of Marquette's team, certainly on the offensive end. While the Golden Eagles average 81.8 PPG (33rd), no player outside of the three aforementioned guards score more than 7.0 PPG. Marquette shoots 40.2% from the three-point line (16th) and a nation-best 80.0% from the free-throw line.
Creighton: Head coach Greg McDermott has won 20 or more games in six of his first seven seasons with the Bluejays (making it seven of eight is a lock!) and he gave his bench a lot of minutes against Bemidji State, resulting in Marcus Foster's streak of seven straight 20-point games coming to an end. Foster is one of five players averaging better than 20 points in Big East games along with Butler's Kelan Martin. Foster leads the team at 20.3 PPG and while Creighton averages 85.4 PPG (7th), the Blue Jays feature just two other double digit scorers. They are reigning Big East Defensive Player of The Year Khyri Thomas (14.5) and the 6-9 Martin Krampelj (11.9 & 8.1).
The pick: Creighton has been a solid team at home this season (typical) but the Bluejays have been struggling as of late, going 0-4 ATS prior to their non-lined game with Bemidji State. Marquette is a 'live dog,' as the Golden Eagles can score, shoot well from three (see above) and are the nation's best free-throw shooting team. Watch out for the "backdoor cover!" Make Marquette an 8* play.
|02-17-18||Texas Tech v. Baylor +1||Top||57-59||Win||100||21 h 55 m||Show|
The set-up: The Texas Tech Red Raiders have responded to Chris Beard in his second season at Lubbock. After an 18-14 season last year, Texas Tech is 22-4 (10-3 in Big 12) and ranked No. 7 in the latest AP poll. The Red Raiders have won their past four games by a combined 59 points and their seven-game winning streak has vaulted them to the top of the conference standings. Meanwhile, the Baylor Bears have won four straight to move into a fifth-place tie in the Big 12 (at 6-7), while improving to 16-10 on the season.. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have used a solid offense (76.7 PPG ranks 101st on 47.0% shooting, which ranks 61st) and the Big 12's best defense (62.7 PPG ranks 8th nationally) to get to where they currently are (Red Raiders are holding opponents to 39.4% shooting, which ranks 8th). Senior guard Keenan Evans leads the Red Raiders with 18.7 PPG. Texas Tech gets a combined 21.5 PPG from freshmen guards Jarrett Culver and Zhaire Smith. 6-9 center Orense Odiase adds just 4.5 PPG but also a team-high 5.0 RPG. He has come on strong in big games, recording 12 points and eight rebounds in an upset of Kansas and a season-high 14 points in Tuesday's win over Oklahoma.
Baylor: The Bears' 4-0 run has also been fueled by defense, holding its opponents to an average of 26 first-half points during the win streak after allowing 44.5 before halftime until that point this season. Senior guard Manu Lecomte leads the Bears with 16.8 points and 3.7 APG but has had more freedom to move without the ball since junior Jake Lindsey (5.1 & 3.3 APG) joined the starting lineup five games ago. The lineup change gives the Bears a strong bench, led by senior forward Terry Maston's 10.0 & 5.8. It has outscored opponents' benches 153-49 in the past five games. 7-0 senior Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. (11 double-doubles) adds 14.5 PPG, a team-best 9.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.
|02-17-18||Auburn v. South Carolina +6||Top||75-84||Win||100||17 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: Bruce Pearl has always been considered an excellent head coach but he's also had his fair share of controversies (if unfamiliar, try Google). After winning just 15 and 11 games in his first two season at Auburn, he led the Tigers to an 18-win season last year and all five starters were back for this season. Many felt Auburn could win 20 games in 2017-18 but few (if any) could have predicted that the Tigers would be 23-3 (11-2 in the SEC) and ranked 10th in the AP poll come mid-Feb. Auburn is off a 76-66 home victory over Kentucky, and will visit Columbia, S.C. on Saturday afternoon to take on the slumping 13-13 Gamecocks, who are 4-9 in SEC play. South Carolina nearly knocked off Tennessee on the road this past Tuesday, erasing a 14-point deficit before falling 70-67 (its sixth consecutive loss).
Auburn: The Gamecocks have won two straight meetings with Auburn and three of the last four. Bruce Pearl is aware and told reporters. “We can’t afford to not (get up) or we won’t win. It’s real simple. If you’re big enough, talented enough, deep enough, you can show up sometimes and win.” Pearl is making his guard-oriented lineup work. Bryce Brown leads with 16.6 PPG, plus backcourt mates Mustapha Heron (16.1 & 5.3 rebounds) and Jared Harper (13.5 & 6.0 APG) help push the pace, can score and are pesky at the defensive end. The undersized Desean Murray (10.9 & 7.0) plays much bigger than his 6-3 frame,and fellow forwards, the 6-7 Anfernee McLemore (7.7 & 5.3) and the 6-8 Horace Spencer (4.2 & 4.7) are tough post defenders.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have one of the SEC’s best big men in the 6-9 Chris Silva (14.2 & 7.6) but their guard play leaves much to be desired (they sure miss Thornwell and Dozier from LY's Final 4 team). Reserve guard Frank Booker (11.6 points), a graduate transfer from FAU, has averaged 14.2 points over his last five games but the rest of the members of the backcourt rotation have been inconsistent. Coach Frank Martin’s teams typically are known for tough defense (allow 68.0 PPG to rank 6th) but South Carolina has allowed five straight opponents to shoot at least 46 percent (not good).
The pick: It's true that Auburn's Bruce Pearl is a leading candidate for National Coach of the Year but are the Tigers really as good as their record? The team's win over Kentucky was a real 'high' and a letdown seems more than possible. Note that South Carolina is 12-1 when scoring at least 70 points and while the Gamecocks haven’t hit that mark in their last four games, they do average 70.2 PPG at home and Auburn is allowing 72.2 PPG on the season. Take the home dog and make South Carolina an 8* play.
|02-17-18||Texas v. Oklahoma -6.5||Top||77-66||Loss||-105||13 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: Part 1 of the Red River Rivalry (basketball edition) took place back on Feb. 3 in Austin and although the Sooners controlled most of the game (held a nine-point lead with less than eight minutes remaining), the Longhorns went on a 14-0 run en route to a 79-74 victory. No. 23 Oklahoma was still very much in the thick of the Big 12 race when it last faced Texas but the Sooners now find themselves 16-9 and just 6-7 in Big 12 play. Texas will travel to the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman with a 15-11 overall mark, including only 5-8 in Big 12 play. Both teams could badly use a win but in the case of Texas, it's a matter of getting back into NCAA Tournament contention.
Texas: Nothing has gone right for Texas since it beat Oklahoma back on Feb 3, as the Longhorns have sandwiching a pair of one-possession defeats around a blowout loss avergae about two 'TDs' less than Oklahoma (72.4 PPG) but Shaka Smart's team does play defense, allowing 68.3 PPG (66th) on 41.7% shooting (63rd). Texas is awful from three-point range, converting on just a conference-worst 32.1 percent (ranks 329th nationally). The Longhorns have a terrific one-two inside duo in 6-11 freshman Bamba (13.7-10.8-4.1 BPG) and 6-9 junior Osekowski (13.6 & 7.1). Bamba leads the conference with 13 double-doubles. However, the loss of guard Jones (13.5) for the season (after just 10 games), has been a huge blow.
Oklahoma: That Feb. 23 loss in Austin began a four-game slide for the Sooners. Freshman Trae Young continues to lead the country in scoring (29.1 points) and assists (9.3), but he's shooting only 35.4 percent (17.1 percent beyond the arc) in Oklahoma losing skid (he is coming off a game in which he failed to hit a three-pointer for the first time in his career, going 0-for-9!). Junior guard James (12.4 & 4.9) and 6-9 freshman Manek (11.2 & 5.6) are OU's only two double digit scorers outside of Young. James has delivered his first two 20-point performances over the last two contests, averaging 22.5 points on 16-of-30 shooting. The Sooners are the nation's top-scoring team at 88.4 PPG but they also allow 82. PPG, ranking 338th.
The pick: Texas just played in its sixth overtime game last Saturday (matching a school record for the most in a season) and could be wearing down. Sure, Oklahoma has clearly struggled as of late (1-9 ATS run started on Jan. 13) but the Sooners have won five straight home games against the Longhorns and are 11-1 in Norman this season, where they are averaging 95.5 PPG (Texas is averaging 66.0 PPG on the road). Make Oklahoma an 8* play.
|02-17-18||SMU v. UCF -3||Top||37-52||Win||100||12 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The SMU Mustangs continue to play short-handed and their 70-67 home loss to Memphis this past Wednesday was the team's fourth straight. SMU's once-promising season has slipped away, as the Mustangs are 15-11 (5-8 in AAC). UCF has won two in a row following a 2-5 stretch that included losing massive 7-6 center Tacko Fall for the season due to a shoulder injury. The Knights will welcome the Mustangs to CFE Arena in Orlando early on Saturday, checking in at 16-9 (7-6 in AAC).
SMU: When the calendar turned to 2018, SMU stood at 12-3 but the Mustangs are just 3-8 since. The team's best player, PG Shake Milton (18.7-4.7-4.4), is currently listed as “out indefinitely” after missing SMU’s last 4 games (Mustangs are 0-4) and the Mustangs will also be without 6-6 Jarrey Foster, who is out for the season due to a knee injury. Foster was lost seven games ago and was averaging 13.2 PPG and a team-high 5.9 RPG. Guard Jahmal McMurray did everything he could Wednesday against Memphis, knocking down nine three-pointers en route to a career-high 33 points but it still wasn't enough. He has taken on a larger role for the injury-plagued Mustangs and checks in averaging 13.9 PPG. SMU's defense remains its strength, allowing just 63.5 PPG (11th).
UCF: Fall averaged 11.3 & 7.3 in his 16 games and his loss leaves two double digit scorers for the Knights. Guard Taylor leads with 14.8 PPG and forward AJ Davis adds 11.4 & 8.0). Those two Knights carried the bulk of the scoring load the last time out against USF, as Davis registered 26 points and Taylor chipped in 21. Meanwhile, the other three starters totaled four points on 1-of-6 shooting. Even without Fall's presence, UCF has remained one of the nation's elite defensive teams, allowing 61.2 PPG (3rd) on 38.9% shooting (4th).
The pick: SMU beat UCF 56-51 in Dallas back on Dec. 27. However, Milton and Foster played in that one, combining for 28 points & 15 rebounds. That duo will be 'MIA' for this one and also note that in that late-Dec. loss, the Knights were missing the irreplaceable B.J. Taylor due to a serious foot injury. Shorthanded SMU comes in just 3-7-1 ATS since Jan. 1, while UCF is 12-4 ATS over its last 16 home games.Make UCF an 8* play.
|02-16-18||Yale -2 v. Dartmouth||Top||77-65||Win||100||12 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: If it's a Friday in February, then the Ivy League is always near center stage in college hoops. Tonight, from the Edward Leede Arena in Hanover, New Hampshire, the Dartmouth Big Green will host the Yale Bulldogs. Yale comes in 11-13 overall (including 4-4 in Ivy play), after downing Cornell 74-65 last Saturday. As for Dartmouth, it's been a season-long struggle that's carried over into conference play. The Big Green just ended a 10-game losing streak with a 72-56 rout of Princeton but that leaves them just 5-16 overall, including 1-7 in Ivy games.
Yale: The Bulldogs have six players averaging 20-plus minutes per game, contributing 7.8-to-15.1 PPG. Oni, a 6-7 guard, leads the etam in scoring at 15.1 PPG (adds 5.5 RPG) and is joined by guard Copeland (12.2) and forward Reynolds (10.1 & 5.5) in double digits. Yale shoots a decent percentage (46.9% ranks 567th) but the Bulldogs average a modest 74.6 PPG (161st).
Dartmouth: The Big Green went just 7-20 last season, so this year's 5-16 record is no major surprise. Dartmouth is off an impressive rout of Princeton (see above), as Taylor Johnson led all scorers with 21 points. Johnson is a senior guard checking in with a team-high 12.6 PPG (3.9 RPG & 3.1 APG). Three more players contribute double digits in fellow senior guard Wright (12.0 & 4.5),sophomore PG Barry (10.5 & 4.1 APG) and freshman forward Knight (10.4).
The pick: Yale won all both matchups against Dartmouth last season and won this season's first matchup by 10 points. A change of venue from New Haven to Hanover shouldn't alter the margin of victory by too much. Make Yale a 10* play!
|02-15-18||Oregon +5 v. USC||Top||70-72||Win||100||13 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: The Oregon Ducks have won five of their last six games to reach 17-8, including 7-5 in Pac 12 play. They will visit the Galen Center tonight in Los Angeles, where they will take on the USC Trojans, who after three straight losses, are 17-9, including 8-5 in Pac 12 games. Oregon enters playing better basketball at the moment but Trojans have already beaten Oregon 75-70 in Eugene earlier this season.
Oregon: Sophomore PG Payton Pritchard helped Oregon bounce back from a 35-point loss to Stanford by averaging 15.5 points on 52.2 percent shooting in home wins over Washington (65-40) and Washington State (84-57). Pritchard is averaging 14.4 points and 4.9 assists, while backcourt mate Elijah Brown is averaging 12.8 points. A trio of frontcourt players include the 6-7 Brown (12.2 & 6.6), the 6-7 McIntosh (9.7 & 6.3) and the 6-9 White (9.6 & 3.3). Troy Brown is a freshman and averaged 18.5 points and 7.5 rebounds with seven steals in last week’s sweep of the Washington schools. Head coach Dana Altman had four freshmen on the court at one point of last Saturday’s win over Washington State, including 6-9 forward Kenny Wooten, who averages 7.2 points and 4.5 boards and leads the Pac-12 with 73 blocks.
USC: Head coach Andy Enfield remained optimistic even after last Saturday’s 81-67 loss to Arizona, which outrebounded the Trojans by 18 and shot 56.1 percent for the game. Sophomore guard Derryck Thornton, a transfer from Duke, made his first career start for USC and had seven points in place of junior Shaqquan Aaron, who was unavailable due to a coach’s decision. USC has two excellent big men in the 6-11 Metu (15.7 & 7.4) and the 6-10 Boatwright (14.2 & 6.4) plus the 6-11 Rakocevic (7.9 & 5.4), Then there is team's guard trio of McLaughlin (12.7 & 7.5 APG), Stewart (10.9) and Mathews (9.0)
USC: Boatwright has been slow to recover from a foot injury for USC and his recent efforts have been underwhelming. Meanwhile, Dana Altman’s Ducks are making progress in recent weeks and are playing their most consistent ball of the season right now (have outscored teams by nearly eight PPG in their last five contests). That's not really new, as under Altman, Oregon is 48-18 during the second half of Pac-12 play. The Ducks are 3-0 ATS as an underdog (2-1 SU) since Dec 1. Take the points and make Oregon a 10* play.
|02-15-18||Purdue v. Wisconsin +10.5||Top||53-57||Win||100||11 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Purdue Boilermakers entered their Feb. 7th game with Ohio State on a 19-game winning streak and as the No. 3 team in the AP poll. However, the Buckeyes edged the Boilermakers 64-63 to snap the the team's school-record 19-game streak. Purdue then dropped a 68-65 decision at top-ranked Michigan State to fall out of first place in the Big Ten standings and drop to No. 6 in the latest AP poll. Purdue looks to bounce back Thursday at Madison (and avoid its longest losing streak in over four years!), when it takes on the 11-16 Wisconsin Badgers (4-11). Talk about a fall from grace! Wisconsin opened the season having gone to 19 consecutive NCAA tournaments and with 13 NCAA wins over the previous four season, ranked second in that category to only North Carolina's 14. So much for that. Wisconsin trailed by as many as 25 points before making a late run in the 83-72 loss to No. 21 Michigan on Sunday, defeat all but ensured it will finish the regular season with a losing record for the first time since 1997-98.
Purdue: The Boilermakers are 23-4, including 12-2 in the Big Ten, just one game back of 13-1 Ohio State (Michigan State is 13-2). The 7-2 Isaac Haas (15.0 & 5.3) scored a team-high 25 points in the loss to Michigan State to finish with at least 18 points for the fifth time in his last six games. Guard Carsen Edwards (16.9) added 14 points against the Spartans while the 6-8 Vincent Edwards (15.1 & 7.8) was held to eight on 3-of-11 shooting from the floor. "There's a fine line between winning and losing," Purdue coach Matt Painter told reporters. "You've got to learn from it, that's the main thing as you can be better because of it down the road in March." Back-to-back losses don't diminish what this team has accomplished. Purdue averages 82.5 PPG (30th) on 49.6% shooting (16th), while allowing just 64.3 pPG (18th) on 40.1% shooting (20th).
Wisconsin: The Badgers have dropped six of their last seven games, including three straight at home but hope to salvage some pride by knocking off the Boilermakers for the first time since Jan. 7, 2015. "That's two games in a row that we came out flat and haven't been as prepared as we should have," Wisconsin guard Brad Davison told reporters. "That's definitely been an issue for us and something that we'll have to keep working on." The 6-10 Ethan Happ (18.2 & 8.7) led the way with a season-high 29 points to go along with seven rebounds, but it wasn't enough as the Badgers allowed Michigan to shoot 56 percent from the floor. Happ and Davison (11.3) are the only players in double digits. Brevin Pritzl (8.7) added 13 points and is 7-of-11 from the floor in his last two games after going 0-for-13 in his previous two outings. Wisconsin has trouble scoring (67.6 PPG ranks 307th) but allows only 67.1 PPG (53rd).
The pick: Purdue had scored 70 or more points in 17 straight games before its two-game skid but hopes to rediscover its shooting touch against the Badgers. However, I'm not so sure about that. I realize that the Badgers are 0-7 against ranked teams this season but this is a prideful program (see history above) and Wisconsin is set to honor Frank Kaminsky, who led the Badgers to back-to-back Final Four appearances in 2014 and 2015, by retiring his No. 44 jersey during a ceremony on Thursday. Home dog rises to the moment. Make Wisconsin an 8* play.
|02-14-18||NC State +5.5 v. Syracuse||Top||74-70||Win||100||13 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: The NC State Wolfpack are 16-9 (6-6 in ACC) and the Syracuse Orange 17-8 (6-6 in ACC) as they get set to meet Wednesday at the Carrier Dome. Their records are similar and so are their recent performances. The Wolfpack have split their last 12, after losing back-to-back games prior to winning three in a row. Meanwhile, the Orange followed a pair of losses with back-to-back wins and have now split their last 14 games.
North Carolina State: The Wolfpack have given up 181 total points in back-to-back losses, after a 96-89 loss to North Carolina. N .C. State shot 54.7 percent and had six players reach double digits in scoring but it couldn't find an answer for North Carolina's Luke Maye, who scored a career-high 33 points. PG Markell Johnson pushes the pace for N.C. State's uptempo offense and is averaging 11 assists per game over his last six (averages 7.8 APG on the season). Guard Allerik Freeman (14.1 & 4.) is the etam's leading scorer and 6-5 junior guard Torin Dorn (13.6 & 6.4) is coming off one of his best games of the season in which he dropped a team-high 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting while adding three steals. The 7-0 Yurtseven (13.8 & 6.9) is the team's best frontcourt player. The Wolfpack check in averaging 80.9 PPG (40th).
Syracuse: The Orange rely on three players offensively, as no other team member averages as much as six point per game. Guards Battle (20.3) and Howard (15.0 & 5.1 APG) are the team's top-two scorers, with 6-9 freshman Brissett (14.2 & 9.0) leading the way in the frontcourt. Jim Boeheim always coaches defense-first and it's no different this season. Syracuse holds opponents to 63.4 PPG (12th) on 38.6% shooting (4th).
The pick: The Wolfpack have been a poor road team (especially ATS) but Syracuse is in a bad situational spot here, having gone 2-10 ATS in their last 12 games following a ATS win (won and covered its last game over Wake forest). The Wolfpack are 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings in Syracuse and the road team is 7-2 ATS in the last nine meetings of this series. Make NC State an 8* play..
|02-14-18||Clemson v. Florida State -4.5||Top||79-81||Loss||-105||11 h 59 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 11 Clemson aims for its fifth consecutive victory when it visits Florida State on Wednesday. The Tigers, coming off a 17-16 season (6-12 in ACC), sit 20-4 overall and 9-3 in ACC play. In fact, Clemson is just one win shy of tying the program record for ACC victories in a single season. The 17-8 Florida State Seminoles (6-7 in ACC) have lost two straight and three of their last four. The Seminoles lost 84-69 at Notre Dame on Saturday, just three days after pushing now top-ranked Virginia to the brink in a 59-55 defeat.
Clemson: The Tigers are coming off a 72-48 rout of Pittsburgh on Thursday that clinched their third 20-win season under coach Brad Brownell. Clemson has adjusted well to the loss of 6-8 power forward Donte Grantham (14.2 & 6.9) to a season-ending knee injury, relying more on its backcourt for scoring. Guards Marcquise Reed (15.4 & 4.7), Gabe DeVoe (13.5 & 4.6), and Shelton Mitchell (12.0 & 3.9 APG) all are capable scorers. DeVoe drained seven three-pointers in a 25-point performance against Pittsburgh, and the Tigers have made 10 or more from beyond the arc in four straight games for the first time since 1983. With Grantham out, the frontcourt 'load' falls on the 6-9 Thomas (10.3 & 7.5),
Florida State: Like Clemson, FSU relies on its backcourt. The duo of Terance Mann (14.5 & 5.9) and Braian Angola (13.4 & 4.2) are the team's top-two scorers plus both present matchup problems at 6-6. The Seminoles match up much better with the Tigers now that Grantham is out of the picture with the 6-8 Cofer (13.2 & 5.4), 7-4 center Christ Koumadje (8.6 & 5.4) and the 6-9 Kabaengele (7.1 & 4.8) giving Thomas likely more than he can handle up front.
The pick: Clemson is heading to the final stretch of its regular season and is a lock for the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, FSU (which opened 11-1) is now a "bubble team" and could sure use a win here. FSU averages 82.9 PPG (27th) on the season and is 10-2 SU at home, where it averages 88.2 PPG. Clemson has lost three straight games to FSU and is just 5-11 under head coach Brad Brownell against Florida State, including 2-5 in games played in Tallahassee. Make Florida State a 10* play.
|02-13-18||Michigan State v. Minnesota +10.5||Top||87-57||Loss||-106||13 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: The Spartans edged Purdue on Saturday for their eighth straight victory, pulling them into a second-place tie with the Boilermakers in the Big Ten at 12-2 (Ohio State leads at 13-1). Michigan State is 24-3 overall and Monday captured the top spot in the Coaches' Poll, while ranking second in teh AP poll to No. 1 Virginia. The Spartans will travel to Williams Arena to taking on the 14-13 Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Gophers have been far from 'golden' these days, as they limp in on a seven-game slide, after suffering an 80-56 blowout loss at Indiana on Friday.
Michigan State: The Spartans own a dynamic starting-five, led by 6-7 swingman Bridges (17.8 & 7.1) He's joined up front by the 6-8 Ward (13.1 & 7.4) and 6-11 freshman Jackson (11.0 & 6.1) plus in the backcourt by 6-5 guard Langford (12.7) and PG Winston (12.1 & 7.1 APG). That said, Izzo has been quick to sit his starters when they've been in early foul trouble this season and the Spartans' depth has been instrumental in rewarding him to stick with that strategy. With freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. having a hard time with fouls against Purdue, senior forward Gavin Schilling showed why the Michigan State bench is considered one of the best in the country, not only for his 3-for-3 shooting but more for his seven rebounds and defense of Boilermakers center Isaac Haas down the stretch. The defense of Schilling, Tum Tum Nairn and Matt McQuaid off the bench gives the Spartans another dimension when Izzo goes to his reserves, and all have shown the ability to come through on both ends of the floor in crunch time. This unit is one of Izzo's best-ever offensive teams, averaging 83.1 PPG (25th) on 51.6% shooting (2nd)..
Minnesota: Injuries have been devastating to the Golden Gophers this season, as Amir Coffey (14.0 & 5.1) and Dupree McBrayer (9.5) are currently out. Then there is the indefinite suspension of center Reggie Lynch (10.1 & 8.1), with the Gophers going 1-10 in the games he's missed. Pitino has been to go with freshman guard Isaiah Washington, 6-8 senior Davonte Fitzgerald and 6-7 sophomore Michael Hurt in the starting lineup, with that trio averaging only 14.6 points combined. Forward Jordan Murphy (17.4 & 11.6) has been the most consistent player for Minnesota, while guard Nate Mason is also dangerous, averaging 16.5-3.9-4.2.
The pick: Michigan State is on a roll but reaching No. 1 (at least in the Coaches' poll), could set-up a letdown situation, especially with the Spartans coming off their hard fought win over Purdue over the weekend. The home dog barks in this one. Make Minnesota 10* play.
|02-13-18||Texas A&M +1.5 v. Missouri||Top||58-62||Loss||-110||12 h 39 m||Show|
The set-up: Texas A&M posted two wins over ranked opponents last week, winning at Auburn (81-80) and then beat Kentucky, 85-74. The Aggies are now 17-8 (6-6 SEC) and are ranked 21st in Monday's latest AP poll. The Missouri Tigers survived a wild one against visiting Mississippi State on Saturday, registering an 89-85 overtime win after letting a double-digit lead slip away in the final two minutes of regulation. The Tigers’ four-game streak is their longest in conference play since reeling off seven straight Big 12 wins during the 2011-12 season. The run has 17-8 Missouri tied for fourth in the SEC standings (7-5), one game ahead of the Aggies.
Texas A&M: The Aggies own one of the SEC’s top frontcourts with the 6-10 Tyler Davis (14.3 & 8.8) and 6-10 Robert Williams (10.8 & 9.6) dominating inside, while 6-9 swingman D.J. Hogg (11.7 & 5.5) creates matchup problems on the wing. Guard Admon Gilder (11.8 & 4.2) is a solid scorer and an excellent defender but the Aggies will be without PG Duane Wilson (9.0 & 4.0 APG) for the remainder of the season, after he aggravated a nagging knee injury in the win over Kentucky. However, reigning SEC Freshman of the Week T.J. Starks (7.9) has averaged 15.2 points in five games since assuming Wilson’s starting role.
Missouri: Guard Kassius Robertson (16.6 PPG) has emerged as the Tigers’ clear leader and the graduate transfer from Canisius has earned SEC Player of the Week honors in consecutive weeks. Robertson poured in a season-high 27 points at Ole Miss on Tuesday and followed up with 22 against Mississippi State. However, the 6-7 Jordan Barnett (13.6 points, six rebounds) is the team’s only other double-digit scorer. That said,6-7 senior Kevin Puryear (9.2) plus a pair of 6-11 freshman, Jontay Porter (8.8 & 6.5) and Jeremiah Tilmon (8.1 & 4.0), give the Tigers a deep and talented frontcourt.
The pick: Missouri has recorded nine more victories than it had all last season, the third-largest improvement in the nation behind North Carolina A&T (12) and UC Santa Barbara (13). However, A&M will be a severe test. After a month and a half absence from the AP top-25, Texas A&M jumped back into the rankings this week at No. 21 on the strength of a four-game win streak. The fact is, the Tigers will be seeking to snap a seven-game Texas A&M winning streak in the series and to avenge a 60-49 loss to the Aggies in College Station on Jan. 20. Not happening. Make Texas A&M an 8* play.
|02-12-18||Notre Dame +9.5 v. North Carolina||Top||66-83||Loss||-105||20 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: It's hardly been a "walk in the park" for the North Carolina Tar Heels, the defending national champs. The 21st-ranked Tar Heels (19-7 / 8-5 ACC) will play their third game in five days, after knocking off No. 9 Duke on Thursday and following that up with a furious 96-89 triumph at North Carolina State on Saturday. North Carolina will try to complete the trifecta when Notre Dame visits the Smith Center on Monday night. 15-10 Notre Dame (5-7 ACC) has rebounded from a seven-game losing streak with back-to-back home wins over Boston College and Florida State.
Notre Dame: The return of senior PG Matt Farrell from an ankle injury for the past three games has been a big boost for the Fighting Irish. Farrell poured in a career-best 28 points Saturday and enters averaging a team-high 16.5 PPG (as well as a team high 5.2 APG), with preseason All-American Bonzie Colson (21.4 & 10.4) still sidelined (missed last 11 games). Junior guard Rex Pflueger (9.1-4.3-3.2) and also had a career-high total with 19. Senior guard Gibbs (16.3) also added 19 points in the win over FSU. Farrell is averaging 21 points and has drained 15-of-31 from three-point range in three games since a stretch in which he missed five of seven contests with an ankle injury. “We take our lead from (Farrell) - he’s been the warrior for us,” Irish head coach Mike Brey told reporters after his team shot almost 50 percent from the floor against Florida State and drained 10 shots from behind the arc. Sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs has also played a big role for Notre Dame while averaging 21.3 points over the last six contests.
North Carolina: The 6-8 Maye (18.7 & 10.5) leads in scoring and rebounding, with a trio of guards chipping in double figures. Berry (17.4-3.6-3.1) tops that trio, followed by Johnson (13.1 & 4.8) and Williams (11.5). The Tar Heels shot 78.1 percent from the floor in the second half Saturday at North Carolina State, marking the highest rate in a half with Williams as the coach. Maye had quite a bit to do with it by racking up a career-high 33 points (27 in the second half) and adding 17 rebounds. Maye is averaging 24.7 points over the last three games, after scoring a season-low four against Clemson. Senior swingman Theo Pinson (8.7-6.0-4.5) told reporters after Maye’s effort Saturday: “I mean, that was a performance.” Pinson also came through in Saturday’s win with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting with seven assists after connecting on 3-of-13 from the field in his previous three outings. Berry has averaged 19 points over the last four games.
The pick: This is North Carolina's third game in five days, a grueling stretch that has included victories against two huge neighboring rivals. "Got to be ready," coach Roy Williams said, figuring there was no use bemoaning the assigned schedule. However, it's difficult to ignore that this is the first time North Carolina has had three ACC regular-season games scheduled in a five-day period since 1980 (note: the Tar Heels are the only ACC team with such a setup on the schedule this season). My bet says that the Irish give the Tar Heels "all they want" in this brutal scheduling spot for the defending champs. Make Notre Dame a 10* play.
|02-11-18||Cincinnati v. SMU +8||Top||76-51||Loss||-109||9 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 6 Cincinnati has won 15 straight, opening 11-0 in the AAC and standing at 22-2, overall. With just seven games to go in league play, Cincinnati is well on its way to winning its first outright AAC regular season championship (the Bearcats, who shared the 2014 crown with Louisville), as Cincy's two closest challengers are 9-3 Wichita State and 8-3 Hosuton. Sunday, it's a road game at injury-ravaged SMU, which is 15-9 overall, including 5-6 in the AAC. The Mustangs are down to seven available scholarship players with junior guard Jarrey Foster (knee), who is second in scoring (13.2 points per game), and freshman forward Everett Ray (foot) both sidelined with season-ending injuries. Junior guard Shake Milton, the preseason AAC player of the year who is averaging 18.0-4.7-4.4 this season, is questionable with a left-hand injury that has forced him to miss the last two games.
Cincinnati: After this game, the Bearcats will play the two teams right behind them, at Houston and home vs. Wichita State, next Thursday and Sunday. Few teams play better defense nationally year-in and year-out than the Bearcats who rank second in scoring defense (56.1 PPG) and first field-goal percentage defense (36.3%) here in the 2017-18 season. They have held three of their last five opponents to 48 points or fewer. With that kind of D, the team's 76.8 PPG on offense is more than enough. Four players average in double figures, led by junior swingman Jacob Evans (13.7), who is shooting 41.1 percent from 3-point range, and 6-8 senior forward Gary Clark (12.9), who also leads the team in rebounding (8.9). Versatile senior forward Kyle Washington (11.3 & 5.5) and reigning AAC co-Sixth Man of the Year Jarron Cumberland (10.7), round out the players in double figures.
SMU: Milton is one of 13 players nationally averaging 18 points, four rebounds and four assists per games, so his loss would be a big one for the Mustangs. "It really is day-to-day, but it could be a week and a half," head coach Tim Jankovich told 247Sports.com. "He's slowly getting better, but I don't know when it's going to be good, where he's good to play and be effective." With Milton and Foster out, junior guard Jahmal McMurray, who is third in scoring (12.1) and shooting 43.2 percent from three-point range, has stepped up to average 19.7 points over the last three games while three other Mustangs, guard Ben Emelogu II (10.7 & 5.0), the 6-9 Ethan Chargois (10.3 & 4.7) and guard Jimmy Whitt (10.3 & 5.2), average in double figures.
The pick: "No matter if Shake Milton plays or not, they've still been an unbelievable home team in the last four or five years," Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin told Cincinnati.com. "We've got to be ready to take their best shot, ready for a hostile environment." He knows of what he speaks. SMU is 13-1 at Moody Coliseum this season and 81-5 there since the 2013-14 season. Note that Cincy comes into this contest a fairly modest 12-8-1 ATS. We've already seen Purdue's 19-game win streak end this week with TWO straight losses, then St Mary's 19-game winning streak ended abruptly last night in a 78-65 home loss to Gonzaga while earlier on Saturday, Virginia's 15-game winning streak came to an end with a one-point OT loss to Va. Tech. Is Cincy's 15-game streak next? I say make SMU a 10* play.
|02-10-18||USC v. Arizona -5.5||Top||67-81||Win||100||23 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: The 13th-ranked Arizona Wildcats are 19-6, including 9-3 in Pac 12 play to lead the conference. They welcome USC to the McKale Center Saturday night, with the Trojans coming in 17-8 overall and 8-4 in league play (USC is tied with UCLA for second-place). Washington ended the Wildcats’ seven-game winning streak with a buzzer-beating victory last Saturday and then Arizona had few answers for UCLA's offense in Thursday’s 82-74 loss (that's two losses in a row!). While UCLA was taking care of Arizona on Thursday, USC missed an opportunity to move into a first-place tie with an 80-78 loss at Arizona State.
USC: The Trojans have four players averaging in double figures, led by the 6-11 Chimezie Metu at 15.7 PPG. He adds a team-high 7.4 RPG and has 41 blocks. The 6-10 Bennie Boatwright (14.6 & 6.5) had been limited by a foot infection over the past two weeks but scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench against the Sun Devils. The team’s strong interior also includes the 6-11 Nick Rakocevic (7.8 & 5.3), who has averaged 16.5 points on 76.4 percent shooting over his last two games. Guards McLaughlin (12.1 & 7.6 APG) and Stewart (11.1) round out the double digit scorers with fellow guard Mathews (9.4) just missing.
Arizona; Junior guard Allonzo Trier had 17 points against the Bruins, while 7-1 freshman Deandre Ayton added 16 points and 12 rebounds. Trier leads in scoring a 19.8 PPG and Ayton is second (19.5), while leading in rebounding at 10.8. Guard Rawle Alkins (13.2) is considered the glue of the Wildcats but the sophomore has gone 4-of-20 from the floor in his last two games, including 1-of-8 from three-point range.
The pick: After back-to-back losses, I expect Arizona to rebound strongly in this one. USC's two-point loss at Arizona State should come as no surprise, as the Trojans have been swept in their last five trips to face the Arizona schools (note: Arizona is 39-10 all-time in Tucson against USC). Make that their last six trips. Lay the points and make Arizona an 8* play.
|02-10-18||Tennessee -2.5 v. Alabama||Top||50-78||Loss||-103||19 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: The No. 15 Tennessee Volunteers are 18-5 (8-3 SEC) on the season and will head to Tuscaloosa on a six-game winning streak to take on the 15-9 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-5 SEC). Tuesday's 61-59 win at Kentucky vaulted the Vols into second-place in the SEC, while the Crimson Tide are badly in need of a confidence boost after dropping three of their past five contests, the latest a 67-63 setback Tuesday at Mississippi State (Alabama is in a four-way tie for 4th, meaning a loss or two would see them drop dramatically).
Tennessee: Lamonte Turner continues to make the most of his minutes off the bench, as he made the go-ahead three-pointer Tuesday at Kentucky. He finished with a game-high 16 points and despite not having started a single game, is the team’s third-leading scorer at 11.4 PPG. 6-7 sophomore forward Grant Williams leads Tennessee in scoring at 15.9 PPG (also adds 6.1 RPG) and 6-5 small forwards adds 12.5 PPG plus a team-high 6.3 RPG.
Alabama: Freshman guard Collin Sexton enters the weekend third in the SEC in scoring at 18.6 PPG. Three others join him in double digits, 6-9 forward Hall (10.8 & 7.) plus giards Petty (10.7) and Ingram (10.3 & 6.0). Defense has kept Alabama in the SEC hunt, as the the Crimson Tide have allowed 65.7 points PPG while holding opponents to 39.8 percent shooting from the floor in league games (No. 1 in the conference in both categories).
The pick: Speaking of defense, Tennessee has allowed just 58.5 PPG during its five-game SEC winning streak (last six opponents overall, have all been held to 63 points or fewer). For the season, the Volunteers are averaging 77.0 PPG, the school’s highest mark since scoring 78.4 points per game in 2008-09. That's a sweet combo for Rick Barnes' team. The Vols are for real and put Alabama in its place in this one. Make Tennessee an 8* play.
|02-10-18||Miami-FL -3 v. Boston College||Top||70-72||Loss||-106||15 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 25 Miami is 18-5 on the season (7-4 in ACC) and heads to Boston College having won three straight ACC victories for the first time all season, after an 87-81 triumph over Wake Forest on Wednesday. Making its recent surge more impressive is that Miami's Bruce Brown Jr. (11.4 & 4.0 APG) has missed the last three games due to foot surgery. Boston College (14-10 / 4-7 ACC) has lost four of its last five.
Miami: The Hurricanes have rallied around the injury to Brown, with different players stepping up each night to fill the void, as Brown is the team's third-leading scorer, its top assist man and its best defender. The 6-11 Huell (12.8 & 6.9) and freshman guard Walker (11.5) are Miami's only other double digit scorers but four others contribute between 8.0 and 9.5 PPG. Case is point, the Hurricanes had five or more players score at least 10 points for the sixth time this season against Wake Forest. Senior guard Newton (8.6) finally seems to be rounding into form with 16 points, his second straight double-digit scoring game.
Boston College: The Eagles' 96-85 Wednesday loss to Notre Dame pushed them further away from the NCAA Tournament picture, although guard Jerome Robinson 20.1-3.6-3.3() had a performance to remember with 46 points. It was the highest total by an ACC player since another Eagle, Tyrese Rice, matched that total on March 1, 2008. The Eagles have featured the same starting lineup for all 11 of their ACC games and Robinson has been a monster as the top scoring guard (25.2 in ACC action) in the conference, scoring in double figures in 21 straight games, with 20 or more points 11 times following his 46-point explosion. Sophomore guard Ky Bowman (16.6-7.0-5.0) and fellow guard Chatman (13.1) are the only others joining Robinson in double digits, after senior forward Hawkins (12.4 & 9.1) was lost for the season after just eight games.
The pick: Boston College's four ACC wins are two more than it recorded last season and four more than the winless year before that. BC owns a one-game advantage over Miami overall in the all-time series (24-23) but that hardly seems relevant considering the Hurricanes have won the last 12 meetings! Miami did not commit a turnover in the final 15:20 of its win over Wake Forest and it's that kind of play that will "win the day" in this contest. Make Miami a 10* play.
|02-10-18||Marquette v. St. John's||Top||78-86||Loss||-106||13 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: The 14-10 Marquette Golden Eagles have lost six of their last nine games and visit Carnesecca Arena in Queens at just 5-7 in Big East play. The host St. John's Red Storm are looking to get back to .500 with a win, as they are 12-13 overall and a pathetic 1-11 in the Big East. However, that lone conference win came just this past Wednesday when the Red Storm shocked No. 1 Villanova 79-75, as a 16 1/2-point dog. That major upset came just four days after the Red Storm upset then-No. 4 Duke (at plus-10.5) last Saturday, 81-77. As Vince Lombardi famously once said, "What the hell is going on out there?"
Marquette: The Golden Eagles are a high-scoring squad averaging 81.9 PPG (33rd) on 47.2 percent shooting (56th) but the team allows 77.8 PPG (302nd) on 47.5% shooting (317th). A trio of guards are the core of Marquette's team, Markus Howard (22.0), Andrew Rowsey (18.8 & 4.2 APG) and Sam Hauser (14.1 & 5.9). Marquette had dropped four in a row before knocking off Seton Hall 88-85 on the road this past Wednesday. The Pirates will play four of their remaining six regular-season games on the road. "We have a group that really wants to win," Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski told reporters. "What we're trying to learn and develop is doing what it takes to win. And that's all of us together. I thought (against Seton Hall) we did the things that it took to win a game against an outstanding team on their home floor."
St. John's: There are not many schools in the nation who are 1-11 in conference play and have as much talent as the Red Storm. Before back-to-back major upsets of Duke and Villanova, the Red Storm took now-No. 5 Xavier right to the wire in a 73-68 loss. After that game, Xavier head coach Chris Mack told reporters. "That might be the best 0-11 team I've ever seen anywhere in a conference. Period." As noted, St. John's had dropped 11 straight games to open Big East play before stepping out of conference last Saturday and stunning Duke. The Red Storm then proved that was no fluke four days later, when they came back into conference play with a trip to No. 1 Villanova and came away with a second straight four-point win. St John's doesn't score like Marquette (72.9 PPG) but also allows a six-plus PPG fewer (71.3 per). Despite losing guard LoVett (14.9) after just seven games, the Red Storm still own a perimeter group to match up with the Golden Eagles. The trio of Ponds (20.5-5.2-4.7), Simon (11.2-7.3-5.0) and Ahmed (11.8 & 4.6) is quite formidable. Just ask Duke and 'Nova.
The pick: St. John's is better than its record but off wins over Duke and Villanova, I just can't play them here. After all, before winning last Saturday against Duke in Madison Square Garden (considered a home game for the Red Storm), St John's had lost six consecutive home contests. Make Marquette an 8* play.
|02-09-18||Princeton v. Harvard -1.5||Top||51-66||Win||100||22 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The Princeton Tigers have won six of their last nine games to inch over .500 at 11-10 on the season. Princeton will visit Harvard on Friday night, which would need a win over the Tigers to level its record at .500, as the the Crimson are 10-11, after winning four of their last five. However, while Princeton is 3-3 in Ivy League play, Harvard is 5-1, one game back of 6-0 Penn.
Princeton: The Tigers have a guard trio leading the way in both scoring and rebounding. Devin Cannady is averaging 18 points and 5.1 rebounds, Myles Stephens is averaging 14.5 & 6.1 and Amir Bell checks in at 10.5 & 5.4. Princeton averages 73.3 PPG and allows about the same at 70.3.
Harvard: The Crimson also have a trio of double digit scorers, all of whom are sophomores. Bryce Aiken(14.1) is thetetam's top backcourt player but the other two top performers play in the frontcourt. The 6-7 Towns (15.6 & 5.2) is the team's leading scorer and the 6-9 Lewis (11.7 & 5.3) barely edges Towns as the top rebounder. Harvard scores less than Princeton at 65.6 PPG but also allows fewer points at 67.2.
The pick: Some (most?) view Princeton as the better team but as Bill Parcells once said, "You are who your record says you are." Harvard is 5-1 in Ivy play and Princeton just 3-3. At this near pick-em price on Harvrad's home floor (the Lavietes Pavilion), I'll make Harvard the 10* play.
|02-07-18||Virginia -3 v. Florida State||Top||59-55||Win||100||11 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: The No. 2 ranked Virginia Cavaliers are a perfect 11-0 in ACC play and have won 14 in a row overall to reach 22-1, thanks to beating teams by an average of 16.4 PPG. Meanwhile, 17-6 Florida State is stuck in the middle of the ACC pack with a 6-5 mark heading into the final weeks of the regular season. Florida State welcomes the 2nd-ranked Cavs to the Donald L. Tucker Center looking to make a bold statement with a marquee victory. Virginia's defense was "on its game in winning 59-44 at Syracuse on Saturday and FSU comes into this matchup with some confidence of its own, after an 80-76 victory at Louisville avenged a Jan. 10 loss to the Cardinals that halted the Seminoles' 28-game home winning streak.
Virginia: The Cavaliers are allowing just 52.3 PPG, fewest in the nation and the second-best mark in in school history. They have held 11 opponents to fewer than 50 points. Virginia's slow, deliberate style creates turnovers as the Cavs leas the nation with 9.2 takeaways per game and six opponents have committed more giveaways than successful baskets. Defense has the key, so the Cavaliers haven't needed an explosive offense. UVa averages a modest 68.7 PPG, with guards Guy (15.5) and Hall (12.1 & 4.2) being the team's lone double digit scorers. The team uses an eight-man rotation and the biggest contributors among the other six have been guard Jerome (9.6) and the 6-7 Wilkins (6.0 & 6.7).
Florida State: The Seminoles are the anti-Cavaliers, as they like to push the ball up the court with a fast-break offense (84.7 PPG ranks ) led by guard Terance Mann, the team's leading scorer (15.5). Fellow guard Angola checks in at 14.1 & 4.4 and the 6-8 Cofer has come into his own this season, averaging 13.4 & 5.5. Five other players contribute between 6.1 and 9.3 PPG, including the 7-4 Koumadje (8.9 & 5.5)
The pick: The Cavs have to "slip up" sometime and somewhere, right? I realize that no team has scored more than 68 points against the Cavaliers this season but the Seminoles are 10-1 at home where they have averaged 91.2 PPG. One of these days, the Cavs lack of offense ( (ranks 290th in scoring) will come back to 'bite' them. How about right here, where the Seminoles have won 32 of their last 33 games? Make FSU a 10* play.
|02-06-18||Nebraska +1.5 v. Minnesota||Top||91-85||Win||100||13 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Nebraska Cornhuskers have rebounded nicely this season after winning 13, 16 and 12 games the last three seasons. The Cornhuskers have won six of their last eight and will travel to Williams Arena in Minneapolis at 17-8 (8-4 in Big Ten). Waiting for them are the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who have not been so golden these days in losing eight of their last nine. Minnesota was 8-1 and ranked 14th when it met Nebraska for the first time this season (Cornhuskers won 79-68 in Lincoln) and after a win over Illinois, stood at 13-3. Those days are long gone now, as Minnesota is 14-11, including only 3-9 in the Big Ten.
Nebraska: Three players are averaging in double figures for Nebraska, James Palmer Jr. (17.6 & 4.4), the 6-9 Isaac Copeland (13.2 & 6.4) and Glynn Watson Jr. (11.0 & 3.5). Nebraska's three-game winning streak has come against Big Ten bottom-feeders, most recently an 11-point win against Wisconsin. "You could just see our guys growing in confidence," said coach Tim Miles. The Cornhuskers trailed Wisconsin at halftime, shot just 4-of-19 from three-point range for the game and had two of their starters go scoreless but still rallied for a 74-63 win. James Palmer Jr. registered 28 points and has matched or exceeded that total in three of the last four outings. Isaac Copeland added 17 points and is averaging 21 points over his last three games while committing only one turnover in 100 minutes over that stretch.
Minnesota: The Gophers put in a good effort at Michigan their last time out but it still resulted in a loss. "I'm proud of our guys for their effort," Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino said after the three-point loss in overtime. "To play in front of a sold-out crowd when you're down two of your top six (players), no team in college basketball can sustain that. We're not feeling sorry for ourselves. We're not making excuses. We've got to play as close to perfect as we possibly can in order to win. We were close. We know we can play with anybody if we play the right way."Minnesota's demise began when the 6-10 Reggie Lynch (10.1 & 8.0) was sidelined due to sexual assault investigation. Amir Coffey, the team's third-leading scorer at 14.0 PPG has a shoulder injury and has missed the last two (he's missed seven game sin all, this season). Forward Jason Murphy is having a superb year (17.5 & 11.3) and guard Mason (15.7-3.9-4.3) has been the team's best guard. Freshman guard Isaiah Washington delivered the best performance of his rookie season with 26 points off the bench against Michigan but checks in averaging a modest 7.7 PPG on the season.
The pick: Minnesota is no slouch at home (10-4 SU and averaging 80.7 PPG) but without the shot-blocking Lynch (4.1 per game), the Golden Gophers have lost their last three at home. Without a healthy Coffey as well, this team is VERY vulnerable and looking like an NIT-bound squad. Meanwhile, the Cornhuskers are now on the radar of the NCAA Tourney Selection Committee. The committee doesn't consider ATS records but we sure do and will note that Nebraska is on a highly-profitable 12-1-1 ATS run. Let's not forget that Nebraska handled this team at home when Minnesota had "all hands on deck,' plus it's a bonus that 6-11 center Jordy Tshimanga has recently been reinstated (20 combined points and 12 rebounds over his last two games). Make Nebraska a 10* play.
|02-05-18||Indiana -2 v. Rutgers||Top||65-43||Win||100||12 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: Both Indiana (12-12) and Rutgers (12-13) are basically .500 teams on the season but while the Hoosiers are 5-7 in Ben Ten play, the Scarlet Knights are a woeful 2-10. Indiana travels to New Brunswick Monday night and comes in off losing five of its last six games, including a current four-game slide. Rutgers welcomes Indiana to the Louis Brown Athletic Center., where the Scarlet Knights have lost five of their last seven home games.
Indiana: The Hoosiers fell short in their upset bid of fourth-ranked Michigan State on Saturday, dropping a 63-60 decision to the Spartans on Saturday. "We're coming down the home stretch and we're trying to fight and claw for every win that we can," Indiana head coach Archie Miller told reporters. "It's all about Rutgers right now and we've got to get ready to go." The 6-8 Juwan Morgan (16.5 & 7.2) led the way with 23 points and 11 rebounds against Michigan State, registering his seventh double-double of the season. Freddie McSwain Jr. (3.8 & 4.3) added eight points and set a career high with 16 rebounds, including nine offensive boards. Guard Devonte Green (7.3) contributed eight points and dished out a career-high six assists, but Indiana was undone by a 28.8 percent performance from the floor in the three-point loss. Other than Morgan, guard Johnson (13.2 & 4.6) is the only other double digit scorer.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights made a valiant effort last Saturday, losing just 78-76 to No. 3 Purdue (team's fifth straight loss). That effort came despite playing without key players Mike Williams (9.2 & 4.2) do to an ankle problem and Eugene Omoruyi (7.6 & 4.7) out with a knee issue. "We can play with anybody when we play like that and follow the game plan and execute," Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell told reporters. "When building a program you have to go through a lot of stuff." Guard Corey Sanders (14.2-4.4-3.2) poured in a season-high 31 points and pulled down seven rebounds in the loss to Purdue to move into 22nd place on the program's all-time scoring list. The 6-7 Deshawn Freeman (11.3 & 7.5) narrowly missed a double-double as he scored 16 points and pulled down nine rebounds, to finish in double figures for the 20th time in 25 games this season. Freshman guard Geo Baker (11.6) went 3-of-4 from the three-point line en route to 14 points.
The pick: The Indiana Hoosiers aren't winning many games, but they are playing better basketball recently (see Michigan St. game). The Scarlet Knights are connecting on just 38.0% of their shots in their five-game slide and they hope to avoid a seventh consecutive loss to the Hoosiers. Not happening, off that all-out try against Purdue. Make Indiana a 10* play.
|02-04-18||Temple -2.5 v. Tulane||Top||83-76||Win||100||7 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: Both the Temple Owls (12-10 / 4-6 AAC) and the Tulane Green Wave (13-8 / 4-5 in AAC) are in the bottom half of the American Athletic Conference standings The two schools meet on Super Bowl Sunday in New Orleans, with the Owls looking to build off wins in four of their last five games, including an an 81-79 overtime win over No. 16 Wichita State on Friday. Meanwhile, the Green Wave are looking to turn their momentum around after losing four of their last six, although they did take a step in the right direction with a 71-69 overtime win over East Carolina in their last outing.
Temple: Guard Quinton Rose led Temple with 19 points against the Shockers, while fellow Josh Brown (8.3-3.5-3.5) added 15 points along with three assists and three steals. Rose is the etam's leading scorer at 14.4 PPG (also adds 4.4 RPG) and the team's second-leading scorer is guard Shizz Alston Jr. (13.0 & 3.4), who added 12 points but shot a miserable 5 of 22 from the floor. The The 6-10 Obi Enechionyia (11.3 & 6.6) andfreshman guard Nate Pierre-Louis (7.3), each added 11 points. Temple's 81-point outburst is not typical, as the Owls average 68.1 PPG (299th) on 41.7% shooting from the floor (310th), including just 33.8% from behind the arc (239th and 68.1% from the foul line (279th).
Tulane: Melvin Frazier led Tulane with 22 points, while adding eight rebounds and a team-high four assists in the team's OT win against East Carolina. Frazier (17.3 & 5.7) is the team's leading scorer, joined in double digits this season by the 6-8 Reynolds (15.8 & 6.3), PG Embo (10.1-3.2-3.4) and the 6-9 Sehic (10.0 & 5.4). Tulane can score slightly better than Temple, averaging 75.1 PPG.
The pick: Temple’s win over Wichita State was huge, perhaps the school's biggest win since joining this conference in 2013. Does that mean this contest against Tulane has "letdown written all over it?" Not in my opinion. Temple preceded its upset of Wichita State with a well-played 85-67 romp over UConn, making me believe the Owls are more of a "play on" team at the moment. Revenge should work here, after Temple lost at home to Tulane 85-75 in its AAC opener back on Dec. 28th. Temple was a 9 1/2-point choice in that one but shot a season-worst 4 of 21 from three-point range in that 10-point loss. Obi Enechionyia was a season-worst 1 of 9 from the floor in the first meeting and surely will play better, plus Temple can't possibly shoot worse from beyond the arc, right?. Make the Owls a 10* play.
|02-03-18||Arizona v. Washington +6||Top||75-78||Win||100||15 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: Arizona lost all three games in the Battle for Atlantis tourney but has recovered to win 16 of 17 and at 19-4 (9-1 in Pac 12), is ranked 9th in the latest AP poll and sits atop the Pac 12 standings, one game better than 8-2 USC. The Wildcats have reeled off seven straight wins after a 100-72 blowout victory over host Washington State in their last game. Arizona travels to Seattle tonight to take on the surprising Washington Huskies, who are 16-6 overall, including 6-3 in Pac 12 play. Washington has third place in the Pac-12 to itself (2 1/2 games back of Arizona), after being picked 10th in the preseason.
Arizona: The Wildcats' lone loss in their 16-1 run came 80-77 at Colorado back on Jan. 6). Junior guard Alonzo Trier (19.9) and 7-1 freshman Deandre Ayton (19.7) rank 1-2 atop the list of Pac-12 scoring leaders and Ayton leads the conference in rebounding (10.7) plus ranks second in field-goal percentage (63.2). Guard Rawle Alkins (14.7 points), who has missed three of the last five games while dealing with a sore foot, and the 7-0 Ristic (11.3 & 6.7) also are averaging double figures while PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright is averaging 7.4 points and a team-best 5.0 assists. Arizona is averaging 82.5 PPG (30th) on 51.4% shooting (3rd).
Washington: The Huskies have made the most of a three-game homestand so far, routing Washington State (80-62) on Sunday and out-dueling 23rd-ranked Arizona State (68-64) on Thursday night. 6-8 forward Noah Dickerson had 21 points and 16 rebounds – his second double-double in the last three games – to bump up his season averages to 14.5 points and a team-leading 8.1 RPG. Guards Jaylen Nowell (16.6), David Crisp (11.8) and Matisse Thybulle (11.3) also are averaging double digits for the Huskies, who lead the conference in steals (8.7) and turnovers forced (15.6).
The pick: Arizona has won the last eight meetings in the series but Washington seems like a very different team this season under after 76-68 (road) and 77-66 (home) victories a season ago. Saturday’s game will be their only regular-season meeting this year under first-year head coach and former Boeheim assistant, Mike Hopkins. It’ll be strength-vs.-strength from the three-point arc as Arizona is shooting a Pac-12-best 40.0 percent from long range while the Huskies own the conference’s top three-point defense, limiting the opposition to a 32.9-percent success rate. The cry out of Seattle these days is, "Who needs Markelle Fultz!" The One and Done former Huskie was the NBA's No. 1 pick and while he struggles with an injury and shooting woes (doing NOTHING for the 76ers), Washington is thriving with four of last year's five starters back. Upset alert. Make Washington an 8* play.
|02-03-18||Georgetown +14.5 v. Xavier||Top||91-96||Win||100||10 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Xavier Musketeers are ranked No. 6 in the latest AP poll and are now 20-3 (8-2 in Big East) after squeaking by St, John's 73-68. "We're fortunate to come away with a win," head coach Chris Mack told reporters. "That might be the best 0-11 team I've ever seen anywhere in a conference. Period."Xavier will be at home on Saturday to host the 13-8 Georgetown Hoyas, who benefited from a weak early-season slate to open 8-0. However, the Hoyas are just 5-8 since, including 3-7 in Big East play.
Georgetown: The 6-10 Jessie Govan has been the heart and soul of the Hoyas attack, leading the team in points (16.2) and rebounds (10.3) but the junior center is mired in a lengthy slump, having averaged just 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds over his previous five outings. 6-7 forward Marcus Derrickson (15.6 & 7.3) has picked up the scoring slack during Govan's cold snap, averaging better than 22 points over his past three games, including a season-best 27 points in a thrilling double-overtime win over St. John's on Jan. 20. That duo comprises the team's lone double digit scorers, although the Hoyas average a respectable 78.0 PPG (79yth).
Xavier: The Musketeers boast one of the most well-balanced offenses in the nation, ranking 19th in scoring (84.2 points per game), 15th in assists (17.5), 16th in field-goal success rate (49.9 percent) and and 27th in free-throw percentage (76.8). Xavier's scoring leader is the 6-6 Trevon Bluiett (18.7 & 5.7) but he has been in a minor scoring funk, averaging 14 points over his previous three games while shooting 6-for-20 from three-point range. J.P. Macura (13.0 & 4.3) broke out for 27 points in a Jan. 20 win over Seton Hall but has scored just 18 points in two games since, shooting a combined 5-of-16 from the floor. The 6-10 Kanter (10.2 & 5.4) is the team's only other double digit scorer and will be tasked with slowing Govan.
The pick: Foul shooting has helped the Hoyas remain competitive in the majority of their Big East games so far as Georgetown ranks second in the conference and fifth in the country in free-throw percentage (78.6). Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing took solace in the way his team battled back against Creighton in a tough environment. After trailing 46-33 at halftime, the Hoyas rallied to cut the Bluejays' lead to 71-70 with less than four minutes remaining, before falling 85-77. "We didn't start the game out with the intensity and with the right frame of mind that I would have liked," Ewing said. "In the second half, we came with a lot more intensity, a lot more effort, a lot more focus." The Hoyas are 5-1 as a rod dog in Big East play and this is a lot of points. Make Georgetown an 8* play.
|02-03-18||Kentucky +2 v. Missouri||Top||60-69||Loss||-109||7 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The Kentucky Wildcats opened the season No. 5 in the AP's preseason poll and was at No. 18 when it lost back-to-back games on Jan. 16th & 20th. The Wildcats fell out of the AP's Jan 22nd poll, ending a run of 68 straight weeks of being in the top-25. However, with Kentucky's big comeback win over then-No. 7 West Va. last Saturday (trailed West Virginia by 15 at halftime, before outscoring the Mountaineers 50-28 after intermission), the Wildcats were back in the top-25 at No. 21 this past Monday. The Wildcats overcame another slow start this past Wednesday (trailed by 14 points in the second half against Vanderbilt), before coming back to win 83-81 in overtime. Kentucky is 17-5 (6-3 in SEC) as it visits 14-8 Missouri (4-5 in SEC) on Saturday afternoon in Columbia, Mo. at Mizzou Arena. The Tigers snapped a three-game skid with a 69-60 win at Alabama on Wednesday.
Kentucky: Freshmen account for 86.6 percent of the Wildcats’ scoring (Kentucky averages 77.6 PPG, which ranks 91st), as four of their five starters, as well as their top six scorers, are first-year players. The 6-9 Kevin Knox (15.6 & 5.8) picked up National Player of the Week honors last week after averaging 26.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in wins over Mississippi State and West Virginia, while PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (12.6 & 4.3 APG) has upped his production to 15.7 points and 4.4 assists in six games since moving into the starting lineup. Guard Hamidou Diallo (12.2 & 4.4) and 6-7 reserve forward P.J. Washington (10.6 & 5.0) also average double digits in points.
Missouri: This is Cuonzo Martin's first season at Missouri but the coach spent three years at Tennessee from 2012 to 2014. The Tigers are thin in the backcourt, as reserve point guard Terrence Phillips has been suspended indefinitely in the midst of a Title IX investigation .while freshman point guard Blake Harris transferred earlier in the season. Missouri is led by Robertson, a graduate transfer, at 16.0 PPG. He has topped 20 points the last three games. Two 6-7 forwards follow, Jordan Barnett (14.0 & 5.9) and Kevin Puryear (9.0 & 4.7). The Tigers also count on two big freshmen in key roles, the 6-10 Jeremiah Tilmon (8.3 & 4.2) and Jontay Porter (8.1 & 6.5 rebounds). Both had big games against Alabama (Porter had 13 points and Tillman 12) and can make a major impact at both ends of the floor when they aren’t in foul trouble.
The pick: Kentucky assistant Tony Barbee is filling in for coach John Calipari, who has been ill. He said about Missouri, "They're one of the most talented teams in this league. Don't let their record fool you. They've had some great wins. Going to Alabama and winning. Beating Tennessee, beating Georgia, beating South Carolina. I mean, this team is as good top to bottom as any team in this league and they present a lot of difference challenges for us." Forewarned is forearmed and the Wildcats can't keep falling behind their opponents. A "very focused' Kentucky team is the 10* play in this one.
|02-03-18||Cincinnati v. Connecticut +13||Top||65-57||Win||100||4 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: The No. 9 Cincinnati Bearcats have won 13 straight games (9-0 in AAC) with an 80-70 home victory over Houston their last time out. They visit the the 11-11 (4-5 AAC) UConn Huskies at Gampel Pavilion for a 12 noon ET tip-off on Saturday. While the Bearcats are off a stirring 18-point comeback win against the Cougars on Wednesday, the Huskies have lost four of their last five after a particularly humbling 70-61 loss to a Central Florida team that had dropped 11 of the previous 12 meetings between the schools.Cincinnati: The question I've had for this team all year is when the time comes, when the moment of truth comes, will we be able to take our game to another level," coach Mick Cronin told "reporters after the game. "I thought that's what we did." The Bearcats own the nation's second-best defense (56.8 PPG) and after allowing 40 points in the first half against Houston, held the Cougars to 30 second-half points while limiting the AAC's second-leading scorer Rob Gray to nine points on 4-of-15 shooting. The 6-8 Gary Clark (13.3 & 9.2) has been Cincinnati's most consistent option of late, reaching double figures in 10 consecutive games while averaging 11.3 rebounds over his previous six contests. PG Jacob Evans (13.9-4.2-3.4) is the team's leading scorer and has reached double figures in nine straight contests and had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists versus Houston. The 6-9 Washington (11.1 & 5.40 and guard Cumberland (10.9) round out the double digit scorers.
UConn: The Huskies' latest slump has seen a growing call by fans to fire former national champion-coach Kevin Ollie.UConn is a team 'stuck ion neutral' and the team's paltry 9.9 APG ranks ahead of only four other Division I teams. Junior guard Jalen Adams leads the team in scoring at 17.6 PPG but has been held to just 18 in his previous two games combined. Backcourt mate Christian Vitale (14.0 & 4.7) scored just nine points in the loss to UCF and is shooting a dismal 36.6 percent from the floor on the season. On the bright side, the Huskies got Terry Larrier back in the lineup against UCF, who wore a mask to protect his face after suffering a fractured sinus wall that required surgery after he took a shot to the face Jan. 10 and was in and out of the lineup with severe headaches. Larrier scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds in his return against UCF. However, UConn has already PG Alterique Gilbert to shoulder surgery for a second straight season (he has played just nine games in his two years at UConn). The pick: Cincinnati is one of two teams in the country with a scoring margin north of 20 (plus-20.2). So is it the Bearcats? Not so fast. The Cougars almost beat the Bearcats in BB&T Arena on Wednesday, where Cincy has won 38 in a row. Sure, the 'wolves are howling' in Storrs but with Larrier back, expect the home dog to 'bark' in this one. Make UConn an 8* play.
|02-02-18||Rhode Island -3.5 v. VCU||Top||81-68||Win||100||12 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: The 18-3 Rhode Island Rams take their 13-game winning streak and a No. 22 ranking in the latest AP poll to the Siegel Center in Richmond, Va. to take on the 14-8 Virginia Commonwealth Rams in Atlantic 10 action on Friday. Rhode Island is 10-0 in league play, while VCU is 6-3. Rhode Island trailed by as many as 13 points against UMass on Tuesday night, before prevailing 85-83, and is in the midst of its longest winning streak since 1939-40. VCU has won its last three games and is 10-3 at home on the season.
Rhode Island: Senior guard Jared Terrell is the leading scorer for Rhode Island on the season, averaging 18.0 PPG, However, after going out with an injury after the season's first two games, 6-5 senior EC Matthews (13.7 PPG in 15 games) returned on Dec. 16, which was the beginning of Rhode Island's 13-game winning streak. Joining that guard duo in double digits are the 6-8 Andre Berry (10.0 & 4.1) and another senior guard, Stanford Robinson (10.0 & 5.6).
Virginia Commonwealth: The 6-8 Justin Tillman leads in scoring (18.2) and rebounding (9.7) with guard De’Riante Jenkins (13.1 & 4.0) and PG Jonathan Williams (10.2 & 5.8). Registering double-doubles is commonplace for Tillman, who has had 18 in his last 30 conference games, but Khris Lane got into the act for the first time this season during Saturday's win over George Mason. The 6-7 senior forward, who had six double-doubles last season while averaging 17.1 points and 7.3 rebounds at Longwood, had 25 points and 12 rebounds, both season highs, against George Mason. However, he is averaging just 8.0 & 3.7 on the season.
The set-up; Rhode Island has not only won 13 straight overall, it enters this contest on an 18-game conference winning streak, with 10 of those wins coming on the road. The 18-game league win streak for Rhode Island is tied with George Washington for the fourth-longest in A-10 history behind Saint Joseph's (21) and Temple (25, 27). The streak will end sometime (somewhere), but NOT here. Make Rhode Island a 10* play.
|02-01-18||Oregon State v. Stanford -4.5||Top||71-80||Win||100||15 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: Two middle-of-the-road Pac 12 teams meet tonight at Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto, Ca, as the 11-9 (3-5 in Pac 12) Oregon State Beavers take on the 11-11 (5-4 in Pac 12) Stanford Cardinal. The Beavers could sure use a win here after losing five of their last seven games, while a Cardinal victory gets Stanford one game over .500.
Oregon State: The 6-8 Tres Tinkle is the coach's son and leads in scoring (17.9), rebounding (7.2) and assists (3.4). Guard Stephen Thompson Jr. is right behind him at 16.3 & 3.3 plus the 6-10 Drew Eubanks is the third double-digit scorer (12.3 & 6.6). The Beavers shot just 3-of-17 from three-point range in last Saturday’s 66-57 loss to rival Oregon. Stephen Thompson Jr. led the Beavers against the Ducks with 16 points and has scored in double figures in nine straight games. However, head coach Wayne Tinkle sure needs more production from forward Drew Eubanks, who has scored a total of eight points in his last two games. OSU averages a modest 72.5 PPG (221st).
Stanford: The Cardinal are averaging 75.0 PPG and allowing 75.4, so it's no surprise they are 11-11. The 6-8 Reid Travis leads in scoring at 19.4 and adds 7.6 RPG. Three other players are averaging in double digits. Guard Pickens, back from missing seven weeks due to a foot injury, is at 13.4 PPG (in 12 games), the 6-10 Humphrey averages 11.4 PPG and leads in rebounding (7.9) plus PG Davis checks in at 10.4-4.1-4.6.
Oregon State: The Beavers haven't won a road game in over a year and a half (since March of 2016), while Stanford is providing plenty of spread value since the first of the year, covering seven in a row before losing at UCLA on Jan. 27. Stanford has won 21 of its last 23 games against Oregon State at Maples Pavilion, so I'm laying the points and making the Cardinal an 8* play.
|02-01-18||Wichita State -6 v. Temple||Top||79-81||Loss||-107||11 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: After 72 years in the MVC, Wichita State is "trying the AAC on for size" in the 2017-18. So far, so good. The Shockers are 17-4 (7-2 in AAC) as they head to Philly tonight to take on the 11-10 Temple Owls (3-6 in AAC). Wichita State has bounced back from a two-game losing streak with back-to-back 19-point victories, including 90-71 over Tulsa on Sunday. Meanwhile, Temple's 85-57 win over Connecticut on Sunday, its largest margin of victory this season, gives the Owls three wins in their last four to creep one game over .500, overall.
Wichita State: The team's leading scorer is sophomore guard Landry Shamet (14.6 & 5.2 APG) but he's just 5-for-27 from the floor (18.5%) in his last three games, including a horrific 1-for-18 from three-point range. Senior forward Shaquille Morris (12.8 & 4.6) is 20 points shy of becoming the 46th player in school history to reach 1,000 after totaling 39 in his last two games. Sophomore guard Austin Reaves (7.0 points) set a school record for three-pointers in a half with seven Sunday en route to a career-high 23 points. Senior forward Rashard Kelly (team-high 7.7 rebounds) will try to become the first Shocker in more than 21 years to record four straight double-figure rebounding games after grabbing 31 in his last three contests. Wichita State is an excellent offensive team, averaging 83.4 PPG (25th) on 48.2% shooting (30th).
Temple: The Owls' largest margin of victory this season (see above) came right after the team's 75-42 setback at No. 8 Cincinnati on Jan. 24, its most-lopsided loss of the season. Sophomore guard Quinton Rose averages a team-high 14.2 points after scoring 17 versus Connecticut but had only 12 in his previous two games combined. Junior guard Shizz Alston Jr. Alston averages 13.1 PPG and the only other Owl in double figures is 6-10 Senior Obi Enechionyia (11.3 & 6.9). The Owls can't come close to matching the Shockers' firepower, averaging a modest 67.5 PPG (309th) on 41.7% shooting (311th).
The pick: Having just switched leagues, Wichita State has not seen much of Temple and will be looking for its first-ever win over the Owls (0-3 in previous meetings). However, this is a classy Wichita State group, one which ranks fourth nationally in rebounding margin (plus-10.5) and third in the country in assists at 19.1 per game. That bodes well against an offensively-challenged and erratic-shooting (see above) Temple team. The Shockers lead the nation in road wins (71) and road winning percentage (.826) since the start of the 2010-11 season and while Temple has defeated a top-25 team in each of the last 10 seasons, it is 0-3 in such games this campaign and won't get a win here. Make Wichita State a 10* play.
|01-31-18||Pittsburgh +16.5 v. Miami-FL||Top||57-69||Win||100||11 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The Miami Hurricanes opened 10-0 and 13-2 but then suffered back-to-back losses to Clemson and Duke. things began looking up for Miami following wins over North Carolina State and Louisville but the Hurricanes fell 103-94 in OT on Saturday at rival Florida State. The 'Canes hope to put that dismal defensive performance behind them and earn a season sweep of Pittsburgh, which began ACC play with a 67-53 loss to Miami on Dec. 30 and a month later is still looking for its first conference win (0-9) after a hard-fought 60-55 loss to Syracuse.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers attempted a season-high 65 field goals in the loss to Syracuse but they connected on a season-low 27.7 percent (18-of-65) from the floor. Pitt now hopes to avoid losing 10 consecutive games for just the third time in school history. Pittsburgh has started three or more freshmen in a game 14 times this season, including each of the last 12 contests, with four – Marcus Carr, Khameron Davis, Parker Stewart and Terrell Brown – starting in the first meeting with Miami. PG Carr (10.4 & 4.1 APG) is the only freshman averaging in double digits, as junior guard Wilson-Frame (12.8) and 6-9 senior Luther (12.7 & 10.1) are the team's top scorers.
Miami: A tough week for Miami got even tougher on Tuesday with the news that versatile sophomore guard Bruce Brown (11.4-7.1-4.0) hurt his foot in practice and will undergo surgery that will keep him out at least six weeks. The Hurricanes will now need to make their push for the NCAA Tournament without their top rebounder and second-leading scorer. Miami will need to lean more on The Huell (13.5 & 6.9), the team's leading scorer, and heralded freshmen Lonnie Walker IV (10.8), the ACC's Co-Rookie of the Week after putting up 25 points against Louisville and 23 versus Florida State.
The pick: The Panthers have used 15 different starting lineups (the most in the NCAA) and are still looking for their first victory since December 22. However, while Miami's defense was a strength early on, that hasn't been the case with the team splitting its last 10 games. In fact, Miami couldn't contain the Seminoles, who became the first team to shoot 60 percent in a game against Miami since Villanova shot 62.7 percent on March 24, 2016.Pittsburgh hasn't won a road game since February 8 of last year but Miami, especially with the loss of Brown, should not be laying this many points. Make Pittsburgh a 10* play.
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