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Saturday's Tips

**West Virginia vs. Michigan**

--This matchup at Barclays Center in Brooklyn will feature the Big East against the Big Ten. As of late Friday afternoon, most spots had Michigan installed as a 10 ½-point favorite with a total of 128.

--Michigan (10-0 straight up, 5-3 against the spread) looks like the best team in America from my view. Barring injuries, the Wolverines really don’t have a weakness. They have one of the nation’s best point guards (Trey Burke), one of the country’s best post defenders (Jordan Morgan) and one of the nation’s best mid-range jump shooters in Tim Hardaway Jr. On top of those strengths, John Beilein’s squad has a trio of outstanding freshmen in Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary. Stauskas has already established himself as one of the premier pure shooters in all of college basketball.

--West Va. (4-4 SU, 2-4-1 ATS) has already lost four games to Duquesne, Davidson, Oklahoma and Gonzaga. The Mountaineers led the Dukes by a 36-23 count at intermission Tuesday night, but they went cold offensively in the second half and lost a 60-56 decision as 7 ½-point road favorites. Juwan Staten scored a game-high 13 points in the losing effort.

--To say the least, Bob Huggins’s team is a bit challenged offensively. This is evident by the fact that Staten, a sophomore guard who transferred from Dayton, leads WVU in scoring with merely a 10.6 points-per-game average. Staten has led the team in scoring in four of the past six games.

--Burke leads Michigan in scoring and assists, averaging 17.1 points and 6.9 assists per game. The sophomore point guard is shooting better than 50 percent from the field, which is basically unheard of for a PG who takes most of his shots from the perimeter.

--This is the first time these schools have squared off in hoops. Beilein coached at WVU from 2002-2007, recording a 104-60 ledger.

--The ‘under’ is 6-1 overall for the Mountaineers, but the ‘over’ is 5-3 for the Wolverines.

--ESPN will have the telecast at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

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**Florida at Arizona**

--BetOnline.com opened Florida (7-0 SU, 4-1 ATS) as a 3 ½-point favorite late Friday afternoon. However, the number was down to two within a few hours and the total for ‘over/under’ wagers opened at 134.

--Billy Donovan’s team has been crushing its opponents, taking out the likes of Wisconsin (74-56), Marquette (82-49) and FSU (72-47) by wide margins. The Gators are coming off the blowout win over the Seminoles in Tallahassee on Dec. 5. Senior guards Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton scored a team-high 14 points apiece.

--Boynton is UF’s leading scorer among a quartet of players who are averaging in double figures. Boynton, who is also one of the nation’s best perimeter defenders (just ask Jimmer Fredette), is averaging 14.4 PPG.

--Arizona (7-0 SU, 5-1 ATS) returns to the court for the first time since last Saturday when it captured a 66-54 win at Clemson as a 5 ½-point road ‘chalk.’ Mark Lyons, a transfer from Xavier, led the way against the Tigers with 20 points, four rebounds and four assists.

--Lyons is the Wildcats’ second-leading scorer, averaging 13.4 PPG. Nick Johnson and Solomon Hill are also scoring in double figures with 13.6 and 12.3 PPG averages, respectively.

--When these teams met at The O-Dome in Gainesville last season, UF collected a 78-72 win in overtime but ‘Zona easily took the cash as an 11 ½-point underdog. Patric Young paced the Gators with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

--The ‘under’ is 3-0 overall for ‘Zona, 2-1 for UF.

--Tip-off is scheduled for 10:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Will Northwestern ever get to an NCAA Tournament? The chances went from decent to slim Friday when the school announced that star senior forward Drew Crawford is out for the season with a torn labrum that will require shoulder surgery. Crawford, who ranks 10th on the Wildcats all-time scoring list, was averaging 13.5 PPG. He can apply for a medical redshirt and might be able to return next season.

--As if things weren’t bad enough for first-year Mississippi St. head coach Rick Ray, now he will be without another key player. Wendell Lewis, a senior center who averages 8.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, will miss at least the next eight weeks with a broken kneecap. The Bulldogs will take on Loyola-Chicago on Saturday in a rematch of the landmark 1963 game won by Loyola.

--Indiana sophomore forward Austin Etherington is out for the season with a fractured kneecap. Etherington is a reserve who didn’t play major minutes and was averaging 1.9 PPG.

--Rutgers head coach Mike Rice has been suspended without pay for three games and fined $50,000 by the university for inappropriate language and behavior at practices. This could be an interesting situation to watch, especially since the last RU coach was dismissed for somewhat similar behavior on campus.

--Anthony Grant returns to the school that gave him his first head-coaching gig Saturday when Alabama plays at VCU. The Rams are seven-point home favorites.

--My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the victims of Friday’s incomprehensible tragedy in Connecticut.

  
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