Saturday's Late Tips
February 23, 2018
By Brian Edwards
Editor's note: Brian Edwards owns a 36-22-1 record (62.1%, +12.5 Units) on his guaranteed plays since Dec. 8, so don't miss out on tonight's pay-if-it-wins-only selection!
**Missouri at Kentucky**
-- Missouri 5-star recruit Michael Porter Jr. is a guaranteed lottery pick this summer and could go No. 1 overall in the upcoming NBA Draft. In the Tigers’ season opener, Porter was injured and left the game after playing only two minutes. He subsequently had to undergo back surgery in November, but he was cleared this week and practiced Thursday and Friday. In fact, Porter hasn’t been completely ruled out of Saturday’s game at Rupp Arena, although he’s unlikely to play at UK.
-- This means that a likely NCAA Tournament team – Joe Lunardi had Missouri as a No. 7 seed in his latest edition of ‘Bracketology’ released Thursday morning on ESPN.com – will be adding one of the nation’s premier players as it readies to make a push in March. Now, is Porter where he wants to be from a conditioning standpoint? Of course not. Will it take him a week or two – presuming his back doesn’t flare up – to get into the flow? At least that long. But if he can play 8-12 minutes in a few (out of three remaining) regular-season games and then log 12-15 per game in the SEC Tournament, then he should be able to make a positive impact. And who knows? Maybe he’d be ready to play heavy minutes in the NCAA Tournament. I know one thing. If I’m a Villanova, Duke, Virginia, Xavier, Michigan State, Auburn or any other team vying for a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, I sure as hell don’t want to have to face Missouri with both Porters in uniform as early as the Round of 32.
-- Missouri (18-10 straight up, 14-13 against the spread) is one of six SEC teams who are tied for third place with 8-7 records in conference play. These six schools along with LSU, which is 7-8 in SEC action and just one game back of the others, are vying for the third and fourth slots in the SEC Tournament. Those coveted positions guarantee a double bye at this year’s SEC Tournament that’s being played in St. Louis for the first time. That means those teams wouldn’t play until Friday and would play a maximum of three total games if they make the finals.
-- Kentucky (19-9 SU, 12-16 ATS) is a five seed in Lunardi’s latest, slotted to play the winner of a First Four game between Syracuse and USC. If UK were to advance, the survivor of a 4/13 Gonzaga-East Tennessee State showdown would next for the Wildcats.
-- Since losing four games in a row SU and dropping five straight ATS, Kentucky has responded with back-to-back wins vs. Alabama and at Arkansas. The ‘Cats pulled away late to top Alabama 81-71 as four-point home ‘chalk’ last Saturday, while they trounced Arkansas 87-72 as five-point underdogs at Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday. Kevin Knox scored 23 points, grabbed seven rebounds and made two steals to pace UK. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 18 points, five rebounds and seven assists compared to two turnovers, while P.J. Washington contributed 13 points, 10 boards, three assists, two steals and a pair of blocked shots.
-- The Wynn in Las Vegas opened UK as a five-point favorite.
-- John Calipari’s squad has won outright in 14 of its 16 home games at Rupp, but it has limped to a 6-10 spread record.
-- Knox, who leads UK in scoring (15.4 points per game) and rebounding (5.6 RPG), was named in Yahoo’s explosive report on college basketball corruption that was penned by Pat Forde and Pete Thamel and released early Friday morning. Nevertheless, Calipari and UK released a statement Friday denying any wrongdoing and when Cal was asked at a Friday presser about whether Knox would play Saturday or not, he indicated that he would “as far as I know.”
-- Missouri owns a 4-5 record both SU and ATS in nine true road assignments.
-- When these teams met at Mizzou Arena on Feb. 3, Kentucky was attempting to hand Missouri a seventh straight head-to-head loss since it joined the league. Unfortunately for UK, it rolled “seven out” as the Tigers led by 10 at intermission, by as many as 14 in the second half and cruised to a 69-60 win as 2.5-point home favorites. The 129 combined points ducked ‘under’ the 141-point total. Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett scored 16 points apiece for the winners, who forced the ‘Cats to shoot 31.3 percent from the field and 2-of-20 (10.0%) from 3-point range. Jontay Porter added 13 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots for Missouri. Gilgeous-Alexander was the only UK player in double figures with 15 points, six assists and two steals. The Tigers held Knox to five points.
-- The ‘under’ is on a 5-2 run to improve to 16-11 overall for Missouri. The Tigers have watched the ‘under’ go 7-2 in their nine road contests.
-- The ‘over’ is 15-12 overall for UK, 9-6 in its home games.
-- Tip-off is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
**Auburn at Florida**
-- The Wynn in Las Vegas opened Florida (17-11 SU, 12-14 ATS) as a 2.5-point home favorite. UF is 10-5 SU and 5-8 ATS at home.
-- Mike White’s team has lost three consecutive games both SU and ATS, including Wednesday’s 62-57 setback at Tennessee as a four-point road underdog. Jalen Hudson scored a team-best 13 points for the Gators and pulled down five rebounds. Senior point guard Chris Chiozza had 11 points, nine assists, six rebounds and two steals. There’s no shame in that loss in Knoxville, but L’s can become contagious and there was no excuse for blowing comfortable second-half leads in the prior defeats vs. Georgia and at Vandy. The Gators have also lost late second-half leads in L’s vs. Duke (in Portland) and vs. Clemson (in Sunrise, where the NHL’s Florida Panthers play). Those were leads given up in the final minute, but there are other L’s when UF led with less than 10 minutes remaining such as at Ole Miss, vs. South Carolina and at Georgia.
-- Florida is No. 29 at KenPom.com and Lunardi has it as a No. 7 seed in his latest bracket projections. However, Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com has the Gators as a part of his Last Four In and they are ranked No. 62 in the RPI. UF has a 3-3 record against the RPI Top 25, a 6-6 mark versus the Top 50 and an 11-10 record against the Top 100. Five of the Gators’ six Top 50 wins have come away from home. They have road victories at Texas A&M (by 17 points!), at Kentucky and at Missouri, in addition to neutral-court scalps of Gonzaga (in Portland) and Cincinnati (in Newark). All five of UF’s wins over teams ranked between 50-100 in the RPI have come by at least nine points. The other four include a 71-54 home win over Mississippi St., a 65-41 victory at South Carolina, an 81-60 pimpslap of Baylor in Gainesville, a 71-54 home triumph over Mississippi St. and a 108-87 win over Stanford at the PK80 Invitational in Portland.
-- Auburn (24-4 SU, 19-7 ATS) has won outright in seven of its nine road assignments, posting a 6-3 spread record. The losses came at Alabama and at South Carolina.
-- Auburn star guard Mustapha Heron is listed as ‘questionable’ at UF. Heron, the team’s second-leading scorer with a 16.1 PPG average, missed Wednesday’s blowout win over Alabama due to the flu. The sophomore also averages 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.
-- Even without Heron and Anfernee McLemore, the SEC’s leading shot blocker who was lost to a season-ending injury (dislocated ankle) last weekend, Auburn destroyed arch-rival Alabama with only seven scholarship players dressed out. Bruce Pearl’s squad won 90-71 Wednesday as a seven-point home ‘chalk’ to avenge a loss at Coleman Coliseum earlier this year. Jared Harper was the catalyst with 21 points, six assists, four steals and two rebounds, while Bryce Brown finished with 18 points. Chuma Okeke contributed 16 points, 10 boards and two blocked shots.
-- Auburn is No. 6 in the RPI and No. 12 in the latest Associated Press Top 25. AU is 3-1 versus the RPI Top 25, 6-3 against the Top 50 and 14-4 vs. the Top 100. The Tigers have won by double-digit margins in five of its six wins over Top-50 opponents and in 10 of their 14 victories over Top-100 foes. They own home wins over Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss, in addition to a neutral-court scalp of Middle Tennessee. AU has won on the road at Tennessee, at Missouri, at Murray St., at Mississippi St., at Georgia and at Ole Miss.
-- With one more win in its three remaining games, Auburn will earn at least a share of its first SEC regular-season championship since 1999.
-- Auburn hasn’t tasted a victory over Florida in nine years, losing 10 in a row. The ‘over’ has hit in four consecutive games in this rivalry. The Gators have covered in three straight against Auburn, including last year’s 114-95 win as 10-point road favorites on Valentine’s Day. John Egbunu sustained a torn ACL in this game and hasn’t played since then. KeVaughn Allen, who was held scoreless for the first time since 2016 in Wednesday’s loss at UT, had 17 points for UF despite playing only 21 minutes and taking just four shots from the field. Allen made both of his 3-pointers and hit 9-of-10 at the charity stripe. Seven Gators scored in double figures, including Chiozza (11) and Egbunu (10). AU’s Harper had 10 points and two assists in defeat, while Heron finished with nine points, six rebounds and two steals.
-- The ‘over’ is 14-12 overall for Auburn, but the ‘under’ is 5-4 in its road outings. The ‘over’ has hit in back-to-back games for the Tigers and six of their past nine.
-- The ‘under’ is on a 6-1 run for the Gators to improve to 14-12 overall. They’ve seen the ‘over’ go 7-6 in their 13 lined home games.
-- The SEC Network will provide television coverage at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- Wichita State star guard Landry Shamet is ‘questionable’ (illness) for Saturday’s game at SMU. Shamet, who missed the Shockers’ mid-week game, is averaging 14.7 points, 5.2 assists and 3.1 RPG. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. As of early Friday night, most spots had the Shockers listed as 7.5-point road favorites. One offshore had the total at 143 points. Remember, SMU’s Shake Milton and Jarrey Foster remain ‘out.’
-- After slipping on the wet floor and injuring his knee during Wednesday’s game at Providence, Seton Hall forward Desi Rodriguez has been ruled out of Saturday’s game at St. John’s. Nevertheless, the Pirates aren’t expected to be without Rodriguez for an extended period. Rodriguez is averaging 18.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.0 steals per game.
-- Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard’s team eventually beat Providence when the game resumed at noon Eastern on Thursday afternoon. All plays, including mine on Providence -1, were ruled no-plays when the game was postponed with the Pirates leading by nine and more than 13 minutes remaining. The house rules in Las Vegas books call for a basketball game to have played at least 35 total minutes to become official for betting purposes. Therefore, all wagers (for the game; not first-half bets) on the side and total were cancelled. Willard has more concerns than just Rodriguez’s knee and how to defend the Johnnies’ Shamorie Ponds. In Yahoo’s aforementioned report, Seton Hall’s name was heavily mentioned along with payments from Andy Miller’s agency to former player Isaiah Whitehead, who was a 5-star get for Willard several years ago.
-- Marquette star guard Markus Howard is ‘doubtful’ at DePaul with a hip injury. Howard is averaging 21.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game for the Golden Eagles, who face the Blue Demons at noon Eastern in a non-televised Big East showdown. Marquette was a short three-point road favorite as of early Friday night.
-- San Diego State forward Malik Pope is ‘out’ Saturday against San Jose State due to a suspension. Pope is averaging 12.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots per game.
-- Louisiana Tech guard DaQuan Bracey is ‘questionable’ against UTSA with a leg injury. Bracey averages 13.7 points and 4.3 APG.
-- Hawaii forward Michael Thomas has been upgraded to ‘probable’ for Saturday’s home game vs. Big West rival UC-Irvine. Thomas, who missed Thursday’s late-night win over Long Beach St. due to a head injury, is averaging 13.4 points and 6.1 RPG.
-- Iowa State’s Donovan Jackson is ‘out’ at WVU due to a personal matter. Jackson averages 15.4 PPG. This means the Cyclones will be without three key players, including Solomon Young and Nick Weiler-Babb. This is a 6:00 p.m. Eastern tip from Morgantown on ESPNU.
-- Evansville guard Dru Smith is ‘doubtful’ Saturday against Southern Illinois due to a foot injury. Smith averages 13.4 points, 4.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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