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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:00 PM

Saturday's Essentials

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North Carolina (-6.5, 158) at Miami (FL), 12 p.m. ET: Roy Williams hasn’t been gotten a lot of consistency from his Tar Heels, who have a unique blend of upperclassmen and elite freshman talent trying to co-exist. He probably didn’t sleep a lot in Coral Gables on Friday night, which had nothing to do with the South Florida night life. The Hurricanes will be lucky to finish with a .500 record but have always been problematic for the Tar Heels, pulling multiple memorable upsets over the years. Expect the Tar Heels to run at all costs and play multiple bodies in the first half to try and wear on Miami’s lack of depth, so taking a shot at the first-half over could be a solid play. UNC freshman point guard Coby White is a perfect 2-0 in ACC road games after wins over Pitt and N.C. State but faces a unique matchup in 5-foot-6 ‘Canes spark plug Chris Lykes. If he can dominate the matchup, the Tar Heels should be able to win and cover over the course of 40 minutes. They’re still without forward Sterling Manley (knee), who will miss a sixth consecutive contest. The Hurricanes won their first ACC game after starting 0-3 in taking down Wake Forest last Saturday and have covered back-to-back games following a 1-9 run against the number.

Michigan at Wisconsin (-3.5, 128), 12 p.m. ET: The Badgers will look to slow down a Wolverines squad that has won six straight by double-digits, covering in the last four. John Beilein’s team has been dominant throughout the season but will be facing its toughest road challenge since destroying Villanova in mid-November. Michigan won in Madison last season but were better equipped to deal with Ethan Happ given the presence of Mo Wagner and Duncan Robinson. Jon Teske, a 7-foot-1 junior enjoying a breakout season, will be tasked with slowing down Happ, who scored 29 points in last year’s loss and comes off a 31-point effort in his last game at the Kohl Center after shooting 14-for-17 from the field. He wasn’t able to follow up last Saturday night’s excellence at Maryland in a mid-week loss, finishing with just 10 points and struggling with foul trouble against there Terps’ quality bigs, so a bounce-back game has to be expected here. 6-foot-11 forward Nate Reuvers has stepped up of late to give Wisconsin a formidable look up front, scoring in double-figures in six of the last nine games. Wolverines freshman star Izzy Brazdeikis hasn’t been fazed by true road games, averaging 18.7 points while shooting 55 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range. Wisconsin is 13-2 at home against the Wolverines all-time after falling last season.

Kansas (-4.5, 149.5) at West Virginia, 2 p.m. ET: Although the Mountaineers have dropped their first five Big 12 games and look like they’re in for a long season, going into Morgantown is always an adventure. The Jayhawks don’t have to be told twice about the pitfalls of the WVU Coliseum since they’ve dropped four of five there, so we’ll see how they handle being favored and expected to kick West Virginia while its down. Bob Huggins isn’t expecting to get shot-blocking center Sagaba Konate back from his knee injury, so they’ll be without his impact on the offensive boards and as the defensive anchor. Kansas also lost its center, Udoka Azubuike, for the season and have had major issues on the glass The Jayhawks now have to key in on freshman forward Derek Culver, who has impressed Bill Self with his aggressiveness and physical style. West Virginia comes off a 98-67 loss at TCU on Tuesday, so the last few days of practice couldn’t have been much fun under Huggy Bear since he called out his team for a lack of effort. At home, West Virginia will almost certainly be competitive early and could be a decent first-half play.





Alabama at Tennessee (-13.5, 154), 2 p.m. ET: Crimson Tide head coach Avery Johnson feels his team is playing the best team in the country, so he’ll be looking to test his young group. ‘Bama has overachieved despite losing Collin Sexton to the pros, riding 17-year-old freshman Kira Lewis, Jr. to wins over Kentucky, Arizona, Murray State and Wichita State. They lost their first league road game at LSU but won at Missouri on Wednesday and has a big body it can throw at the Vols’ esteemed frontcourt in Donta Hall, who had 17 points and 11 boards in a 78-50 home win last season. Tennessee will be looking for revenge from its most lopsided loss last season and has won 11 straight games, covering in each of the last four. No opponent has come within single-digits of Rick Barnes’ team in Knoxville. Georgia Tech and Samford have come closest in 13-point losses. The Vols haven’t won a dozen straight since 1976-77 but have dropped seven of 10 against ‘Bama. Avery Johnson has beaten 12 of 22 nationally-ranked teams since taking over in Tuscaloosa.

Indiana at Purdue (-8, 143.5), 2 p.m. ET: The Boilermakers have won six of seven against the Hoosiers and beat Archie Miller in his first taste of the rivalry last season last season, prevailing in Bloomington. They’ll visit Assembly Hall again on Feb. 19, but will be looking to bury their in-state rival here by handing Indiana a fourth straight Big Ten defeat. After being competitive in tough setbacks at Michigan and Maryland, the bottom fell out for IU on Monday in a brutal 66-51 effort at home against Nebraska, resulting in their lowest-scoring output of the season. The Hoosiers shot 2-for-14 from 3-point range and may be without top shooter Al Durham, who will attempt to play after getting kicked in the back of the leg against the ‘Huskers. Indiana is getting healthier with forward De’Ron Davis and guard Robert Phinisee back in the rotation. This is a homecoming game for Phinisee, who will be tasked with helping contain standout guard Carsen Edwards, who is in a great flow at the moment. 6-foot-9, 280-pound freshman Trevion Williams has been the x-factor for Purdue’s recent success, so his battle with Indiana big man Juwan Morgan will be critical here.

NC State (-2, 153.5) at Notre Dame, 2 p.m. ET: The Wolfpack may be without point guard Markell Johnson, whose absence against Wake Forest contributed greatly to their upset loss. He’s dealing with a lower back injury that head coach Kevin Keatts won’t rush him back from, so think twice about backing the visitors here given how poorly they played without their leader in Winston-Salem, falling behind by as many as 22 points before coming up just short in a 71-67 defeat. Braxton Beverly, more shooter than playmaker, would fill in if Johnson doesn’t play. The Demon Deacons utilized a zone and benefited from NC State missing 13 of 14 3-point attempts in falling behind in the first half, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mike Brey challenge the visitors to find the range at the Joyce Center before switching things up. The Fighting Irish is 1-3 in ACC play and has really struggled to shoot the ball. Notre Dame will look to get T.J. Gibbs and freshman guard Prentiss Hubb going early. With guard Rex Phluger done for the season with a torn ACL, the Irish are light on depth, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Notre Dame try to slow down the pace to conserve its energy for the second half.

Kentucky at Auburn (-4, 146), 4 p.m. ET: The Wildcats come off an impressive 20-point win at Georgia and won a rivalry game at Louisville, so they’ve got some road experience. Going into Auburn is really going to provide a major test given that the Tigers have won 24 of 25 home games and are perfect this season, scoring nearly 90 points per game while owning a 27.1-point margin of victory. Senior leader Jared Harper will look to try and shake the confidence of point guard counterpart Ashton Hagans, who is averaging 15.8 points, 4.4 assists and 3.6 steals over his last five games while dominating opponents defensively, so that matchup will be key here. Hagans scored a career-high 23 points in a homecoming game in Athens and has six straight games with three or more steals. Reid Travis and P. J. Washington must hold up against Auburn’s deep and versatile frontcourt as a road upset will also require the ‘Cats to hang around on the boards. Bruce Pearl has beaten John Calipari in two of the last three meetings between the schools. Before that, Kentucky had won 91 of 108 matchups.

TCU at Kansas State (-2.5, 132.5), 4 p.m. ET: The Horned Frogs lost injury-riddled guard Jaylen Fisher this week as he’ll transfer to give himself the best chance to get healthy and make the most of his college career, but they didn’t miss him in a 31-point win over West Virginia in which they almost hit the century mark. Don’t write off TCU’s ability to win on the road on the basis of his absence since point guard Alex Robinson is more than capable of ensuring his teammates find a rhythm in Manhattan. The Wildcats return home on the heels of impressive road upsets at Iowa State and Oklahoma that followed a 71-69 home win over West Virginia. Texas beat K-State by 20 in the Big 12 opener, but that game was played without key forward Dean Wade, who has since returned from a broken foot. Point guard Kamau Stokes is also healthier after his own foot issue, so we’ll see if the Wildcats can’t live up to their preseason billing as one of the Big 12’s top contenders by taking care of business at home against TCU and Texas Tech on Tuesday.

Virginia at Duke (-3, 137.5), 6 p.m. ET: Saturday’s top game won’t feature Duke point guard Tyus Jones, who is out with a shoulder sprain that Mike Krzyzewski and his staff are hoping won’t ultimately derail the season. Without him and wing Cam Reddish (illness), the Blue Devils couldn’t hold an early lead at Syracuse and fell 95-91. They’ll now attempt to avoid consecutive home losses in Durham against a Cavaliers team that is playing like it deserves the No. 1 ranking they’ll earn on Monday if they can escape with a win here. Virginia won in Durham last season 65-63 to snap an 18-game losing streak that spanned 23 years. UVA has won its ACC games by an average of 20 points and ranks third in margin of victory (22.6) behind Duke (23.3) and Gonzaga (23.7). It leads the nation in scoring defense (51.7) and have allowed opponents to shoot just 25.1 percent from 3-point range, also tops in the country. With freshman Kihei Clark back, Tony Bennett’s team is at full strength and poised to rack up an upset if it can withstand a raucous atmosphere at sold-out Cameron Indoor Stadium. All eyes will rightfully be on this one.

Texas Tech at Baylor (-4.5, 125.5), 6 p.m. ET: The Red Raiders were nipped by Iowa State down the stretch, losing for just the second time this season and for the first time as a favorite. They’ve yet to drop a true road game, but have only played two, winning at West Virginia and Texas in tight games. The Bears have shown an ability to really dominate on the boards that they’ll look to use to their advantage here. Texas Tech is likely to be without wing Deshawn Corprew (calf), but will have All-America candidate Jarrett Culver leading the charge. Tech is surrendering just 54.8 points per game but lost last season’s visit to Waco 59-57 and will be wary of stumbling again, especially with another road trip to Kansas State up next.

Oregon State at Arizona (-5, 133), 7 p.m. ET: The Wildcats fell at home to Oregon on Thursday, leaving Washington as the only Pac-12 school still unbeaten in league play in a season where the selection committee won’t be kind. Due to how far the league has fallen in terms of perception after poor results from many of the top contenders, it would be a surprise to see more than two teams reach the NCAA Tournament. Arizona is one of the few with a shot at an at-large bid but isn’t as talented as it was last season when future pros Deandre Ayton and Allonzo Trier helped dominate. The Beavers have forward Tres Tinkle back in the fold after an ankle injury but come off a lopsided loss to Arizona State in Tempe that knocked them down a peg to 3-1 as well. Oregon State will challenge ‘Zona defensively with its 1-3-1 zone and has one of the country’s premier shot blockers to contend with in Kylor Kelley, a 7-footer averaging four swats per game despite playing just 23.2 minutes. Sean Miller has only lost to Oregon State once at home since taking over in Tucson, way back in 2010, his first season. He’s won 12 of 13 over OSU.

Oklahoma at Texas (-4, 136), 8 p.m. ET: Considering how loaded the Big 12 looks, there are always going to be juicy matchups that will have major implications as far as the Big Dance is concerned, but this one is particularly intriguing. The Longhorns have dropped three straight and are looking at this home game as one they have to get in order to get back on track given the grueling schedule ahead. After this one, Texas visits TCU and Georgia before hosting Kansas to close the month. It will then open February at Iowa State. Coming off an 80-78 loss to the Jayhawks in Lawrence, Shaka Smart feels his team is ready to take the next step after also coming up just short against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Four of the Longhorns’ seven losses have come in one-possession games. Oklahoma hasn’t dropped consecutive games this season but come off a 13-point loss to Kansas State. The Sooners have struggled to score in league play but have gotten by through most of the season due to gritty team defense. They’re shooting just 27 percent from beyond the arc in Big 12 play. Mix in the rivalry and the need for both teams to bounce back and this matchup is certainly among Saturday’s most riveting matchups.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at [email protected]

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