Friday's Tip Sheet
December 8, 2017
By Brian Edwards
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The Naismith Hall of Fame Classic will take place Friday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles. This event will feature six programs in a tripleheader.
The coaches consist of an NBA legend trying to orchestrate a massive rebuild at his alma mater (Chris Mullin), a veteran thriving at a fifth collegiate program (Lon Kruger), one of the best point guards in college basketball history (Bobby Hurley), a proven coach (Jamie Dixon) who is in the second year of a rebuild at his alma mater, a former NBA head coach (Eric Mussleman) and an up-and-coming coach with a former model for a wife (Andy Enfield/Amanda Marcus).
Let’s take an in-depth look at the Oklahoma-USC game before hitting on the other two showdowns in Bonus Nuggets.
Oklahoma (6-1 straight up, 5-2 against the spread) and Southern Cal are poised to throw down in a key non-conference game for both clubs. As of Thursday night, most books had the Trojans installed as 1.5-point favorites with a total of 166.
Oklahoma is No. 96 in the RPI Rankings, losing its only game to an RPI Top-100 opponent when it dropped a 92-83 decision to Arkansas in the opener of the PK80 Invitational in Portland, Ore. The Sooners did pick up a pair of wins at the event, besting Portland by a 93-71 count before defeating Oregon 90-80 as 2.5-point favorites.
Trae Young was the catalyst for OU in the win over the Ducks, producing 43 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals. Young, the true freshman point guard who was a McDonald’s All-American and five-star recruit, hit 11-of-22 shots from the field, 4-of-11 from long distance and 17-of-18 from the free-throw line. Christian James added 11 points and seven rebounds.
Lon Kruger is in his seventh season as the head coach at OU. The former multi-sport athlete at Kansas St. is the only coach in Division-I history to win NCAA Tournament games with five different schools. Kruger took the Sooners to their first Final Four appearance in 14 years two seasons ago. Starting in his second campaign in Norman, Kruger led OU to four straight NCAA Tournaments with win totals of 20, 23, 24 and 29.
However, Oklahoma limped to an 11-20 record last season after losing 70 percent of their scoring. It was only the third time in 14 seasons that a Kruger-coached team was left out of the postseason. Nevertheless, with Young on board for at least one year, expectations are high for a bounce-back season.
Young has been nothing short of sensational, leading the nation with his 28.7 points-per-game average. He is third in the country in assists with 8.7 per game. Young has made 47.6 percent of his shots from the field, 37.9 percent of his launches from 3-point range and 88.9 percent from the charity stripe. The star PG has scored at least 28 on five straight foes, and he has three double-doubles.
Junior guard Christian James is scoring at an 11.9 PPG clip, while senior forward Khadeem Lattin is averaging 11.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.6 blocked shots and 1.1 steals per game.
USC (4-2 SU, 3-3 ATS) is looking to avoid a third straight loss when it takes on OU. The Trojans lost 72-55 at SMU as three-point road underdogs this past Saturday. Before that setback, they were beaten 75-59 by Texas A&M as four-point home ‘chalk’ on Nov. 26.
USC led the Mustangs by as many as eight points in the first half and held a 30-27 advantage at intermission, but it was outscored by 20 in the second half. Chimezie Metu scored a team-best 13 points, but he was the only Trojan in double figures.
Andy Enfield’s team has won three of its four home games while posting a 2-2 spread record, but those games were at the Galen Center (not Staples). The Trojans own a 93-89 overtime win over Vanderbilt in Nashville, hooking up their backers with a fortunate cover as 3.5-point favorites. Jordan McLaughlin produced a game-high 35 points against the Commodores, draining 12-of-19 shots, including 5-of-11 from downtown. Metu finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, while Bennie Boatwright contributed 14 points and six boards before fouling out.
USC struggled in the first two seasons of Enfield’s tenure. The former FSU assistant took the Florida Gulf Coast job in 2011 and took ‘Dunk City’ to the Sweet 16 in only his second year in Ft. Myers. Two seasons ago in his third campaign at the helm, the Trojans made the NCAA Tournament. They advanced to the Round of 32 last year and brought back their entire nucleus. This prompted Lindy’s magazine to rank USC No. 11 in its preseason edition.
Metu is averaging 16.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots per game. Boatwright, the junior forward, is averaging 15.3 points and 7.7 RPG. McLaughlin (13.5 PPG) is also scoring in double figures, and he’s dished out 35 assists compared to only 11 turnovers.
USC is 1-1 both SU and ATS in a pair of single-digit favorite roles this year, the loss to A&M and win at Vandy.
The ‘under’ is 5-1 overall for USC, 4-0 in its home games. On the flip side, the ‘over’ has hit a frenetic 6-1 overall clip for the Sooners. The only ‘under’ came in an 82-72 home win over North Texas, when the 154 combined points dipped ‘under’ the 158.5-point total.
OU is ranked second in the nation in scoring with its 94.4 PPG average. The Sooners haven’t defended well, ranking No. 299 in the country in scoring ‘D’ (79.7 PPG). They’re No. 307 at defending the 3-point line (38.8%).
Tip-off is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.
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**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- Nevada is in bounce-back mode Friday when it plays TCU at Staples Center. The Wolf Pack went into Lubbock on Tuesday with an 8-0 record both SU and ATS. Both of those zeros were eliminated when Texas Tech won an 82-76 decision in overtime as a 5.5-point home favorite. As of Thursday night, Eric Mussleman’s team was listed as a 1.5-point underdog to the Horned Frogs, who are one of only nine remaining undefeated teams. Both teams are nationally ranked, but this is Nevada’s last chance to pick up a notable non-conference win for its resume.
-- TCU (9-0 SU, 5-4 ATS) won 24 games and the NIT title during Dixon’s first season back in Ft. Worth since playing for the Horned Frogs in the 1980s. His second squad returned its top six scorers. All five starters are averaging in double figures led by Desmond Bane (14.1 PPG), who is splashing the nets at a 57.5 percent rate from long distance. Senior forward Kenrich Williams is averaging 14.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.9 steals per game. TCU is ranked fourth in the country in FG percentage (52.8%), 21st in scoring (87.7 PPG) and 19th in 3-point shooting (41.9%). The ‘over’ has cashed in four consecutive games the Frogs and is 6-3 overall.
-- The 8:00 p.m. Eastern tip in L.A. on the Pac-12 Network will pit Hurley’s Arizona St. squad against St. John’s, which is in the third season of Mullin’s rebuilding project. As of late Thursday, most spots had ASU (7-0 SU, 6-1 ATS) listed as a 4.5-point favorite with a total of 160. The Red Storm is 8-1 SU and 4-3 ATS. The Sun Devils have seen the ‘over’ go 5-1-1 overall.
-- ASU is led by Tra Holder, a senior guard who is averaging 22.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game. He torched Xavier for 40 points in a 102-86 win on Nov. 24 at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Holder also dropped 35 points on UC Irvine in a lopsided victory last month.
-- St. John’s is No. 18 in the RPI Rankings, posting a pair of Top-50 victories over Nebraska (79-56 in Queens) and UCF (46-43 in Kissimmee, Fla.). Mullin’s team took its only loss over the holidays down in the Sunshine State, dropping a 90-82 decision to Missouri. The Red Storm got 31 points out of sophomore sensation Shamorie Ponds against the Tigers. Ponds is averaging team-highs in scoring (20.2 PPG) and assists (4.9 APG), and he’s also pulling down 6.3 RPG. Ponds is knocking down 90.4 percent of his free throws.
-- St. John’s second-leading scorer Marcus LoVett, another sophomore guard, is ‘doubtful’ against ASU due to an ankle injury. LoVett is averaging 14.9 points and 2.1 steals per game.
-- Purdue destroyed previously-undefeated Valpo by an 80-50 count Thursday as a 15-point home favorite. Vincent Edwards paced the Boilermakers with 15 points, while Oklahoma St. transfer Joe Burton scored a game-best 19 points for the Crusaders. Matt Painter’s team has won 13 straight games at Mackey Arena. He can win his 300th career game Saturday at home vs. IUPUI. The Boilers will take on Butler on Dec. 16 at the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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