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Cats unlikely to repeat

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Lol. Kentucky Title Odds Take Dramatic Shift With Noel Injury

Last season, a freshman-laden University of Kentucky team won the national championship led by a 6-foot-10, rail-thin shot-blocking demon named Anthony Davis. He would win several national awards, including Defensive Player of the Year.

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Kentucky coach John Calipari was forced to turn to another freshman-heavy group this season with Davis and several others off last year's team bolting for the NBA. Still, Kentucky opened as the preseason national championship favorite at Bovada.

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Coach Cal's current freshman group wasn't quite as talented as last year's, but it too had a 6-foot-10, rail thin defensive dynamo in Nerlens Noel. The key word there is "had". Just as Kentucky was starting to jell a bit, the Cats lost Noel to a season-ending torn ACL suffered in Tuesday's loss at Florida. Noel was attempting to chase down UF's Mike Rosario on a fast break in the second half but landed awkwardly on his left knee and then hit the basketball stanchion with the knee. He screamed audibly and needed to be carried off the court.

Noel, a possible No. 1 overall pick in this summer's NBA Draft (as Davis was last year), leads the nation in blocks (as Davis did in 2011-12) with 106 and the team in rebounding (9.5 per game) and steals (2.1). He was fourth on Kentucky in scoring at 10.5 points but shooting a robust 59% from the field.

At 17-7 overall and 8-3 in the SEC, Kentucky is an NCAA Tournament team as things stand. Should the Cats close the regular-season perhaps losing five of their final seven games, they could be in jeopardy for an at-large bid barring a run in the SEC Tournament. A weak SEC won't help the cause, and the selection committee will be watching closely how Kentucky finishes without Noel.

Kentucky has just one game against a ranked team remaining, a rematch with Florida on March 9 to close the regular season. UK won't be favored there, but they will be in home games against Vanderbilt, Missouri and Mississippi State. Kentucky's remaining road games are at Tennessee (Saturday), Arkansas and Georgia. The Cats may be underdogs at Arkansas, which beat Florida in Fayetteville. Five of Kentucky's losses have come away from Rupp Arena.

Winless Update

Is this the weekend that Grambling State finally becomes the last team in college basketball to get its first win? The Tigers, the lowest-scoring team in the nation at 49.1 points per game, enter Saturday's SWAC game at Jackson State at 0-22 overall. Perhaps more amazing, Grambling State has lost every game by at least 10 points. Thus it is easily also last in the RPI rankings at No. 347.

Jackson State is 6-16 but five of those wins have come in the past seven games. A total of five of JSU's victories have come at home. The only one that didn't was a 57-46 victory at, naturally, Grambling State on January 19. The Tigers had a rare halftime lead in that one but were outscored by 13 after intermission. It was their second-closest loss of the year. After Saturday, Grambling State has four games remaining.

Weekend Live Betting Schedule

There's a rare Friday night game involving a ranked team this week as No. 15 Georgetown visits Cincinnati, and the book will have live play-by-play betting. The Hoyas (18-4, 8-3) have been great for backers of late in winning and covering six games in a row to get in the mix for the Big East's regular-season title. They have allowed more than 60 points just once in the streak.

Georgetown is 8-1 overall since sophomore forward Greg Whittington was declared academically ineligible and ruled out indefinitely. He's third on the team in scoring (12.1) and second in rebounding (7.0). Cincinnati (19-6, 7-5) has lost two of three, but most expect the Bearcats will get the Big East's seventh and likely last NCAA Tournament bid barring a collapse down the stretch.

On Saturday, the book has a six-pack of Live Betting games: Villanova at Connecticut, Purdue at No. 1 Indiana, UCLA at Stanford, No. 2 Duke at Maryland, Baylor at No. 10 Kansas State and Texas at No. 14 Kansas.

The Longhorns (11-13, 3-8 Big 12) are among the national leaders in consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances with 14 straight, but they aren't getting in this year without winning the Big 12 Tournament. Texas did get some rare good news on Wednesday as starting guard Myck Kabongo, the team's top returning player, made his season debut against Iowa State. He had been suspended all year for accepting improper benefits and then giving misleading information to the NCAA. Kabongo started 34 games last season, averaging 9.6 points and 5.2 assists. He had 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists in Wednesday's overtime win against the Cyclones and could make UT dangerous in the Big 12 Tournament.

Kansas, incidentally, holds the current longest streak of NCAA Tournament appearances with 23 in a row. The Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3) have won eight-straight Big 12 regular-season titles. KU was in danger of seeing that streak end before stopping a three-game losing streak Monday night with an 83-62 blowout of Kansas State. The Wildcats and Jayhawks are now tied atop the conference, with KU having swept the season series.

On Sunday, the book offers three Live Betting NCAA games: No. 13 Ohio State at No. 20 Wisconsin, No. 3 Miami (Fla.) at Clemson and Wichita State at Illinois State in a Missouri Valley matchup. The Shockers were ranked as high as No. 20 but have lost three of four to put them close to the NCAA bubble at 20-5 overall and 9-3 in the MVC. Wichita State has a solid 41 RPI but no wins over ranked teams and bad losses to Evansville and especially Southern Illinois.

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