Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM

Saturday's Essentials

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Michigan State (-6, 136.5) at Indiana, 12 p.m. ET: The Hoosiers won the first meeting in Bloomington on Feb. 2, pulling off a home upset by controlling the boards and making key plays when it mattered most. Michigan State remains without top big man Nick Ward, who remains out with a fractured hand. Guard Matt McQuaid is attempting to play through an ankle issue and could be vulnerable on the wing defensively, which may lend itself to a faster tempo. The Spartans lead the conference in points per game (80.1) and scoring margin, winning by an average of over 14.4 points per game. They ended Michigan’s home winning streak last Sunday in Ann Arbor, winning 77-70 to stretch their winning streak to five games after dropping three in a row from Jan. 27-Feb. 5. Cassius Winston should be plenty rested as he looks to continue staking claim to Big Ten Player of the Year honors by carrying his short-handed squad. The ‘under’ has prevailed in 10 of the last 13 contests involving the Spartans.

LSU (-1.5, 148.5) at Alabama, 12 p.m. ET: The Tigers have won seven consecutive road games and will look to prevent the Crimson Tide from their first three-game winning streak in SEC play. Alabama has rebounded from damaging losses to Florida and Texas A&M by defeating Vandy and South Carolina by nearly identical scores but must now try to avoid a season-sweep against an LSU team they gave up 88 points against in Baton Rouge, the highest output Avery Johnson’s team has surrendered all season. LSU point guard Tremont Waters has missed the last two games due to injury but is expected to return to play his typical role in Tuscaloosa. His team upset Tennessee in OT and took down A&M with at him, but he led the Bayou Bengals to an 88-79 win on Jan. 7 with 19 points and seven assists. A victory would help LSU keep pace with the Tennessee/Kentucky winner for the SEC title and it holds head-to-head tie-breakers over both due to recent victors against each of them. The ‘under’ has connected in 11 of 13 games involving Alabama, including six straight.

NC State at Florida State (-7.5, 152.5), 12 p.m. ET: Both of these teams will be dancing on Selection Sunday, so this one is mostly for seeding in the upcoming ACC Tourney and in the NCAAs. The Seminoles have only lost by a bucket to Duke in Tallahassee, squandering a second-half lead on Jan. 12. They’ve won five straight in Tallahassee and have won nine of 10 overall, losing only in Chapel Hill. They’ll face a Wolfpack team that has won four of five and has gotten their act together since getting point guard Markell Johnson from an injury that helped cause a late-January swoon. They’ve won only one of their last five visits to Florida’s state capital. Both teams rebound well, but NC State must send everyone to the glass to overcome a lack of size in this matchup. Pack head coach Kevin Keatts has stated that his team’s lack of height against such a tall, deep team concerns him, but his group is well-rested, having been off all week since beating Wake Forest by 20 last Sunday. The ‘over’ is on a 5-1 run in NC State games.

Kentucky at Tennessee (-3, 141.5), 2 p.m. ET: We’ll see how much revenge motivates the veteran Vols considering that they certainly owe the ‘Cats one after being embarrassed in Lexington on Feb. 16 to lose their handle on their national No. 1 ranking, falling 86-69 as Kentucky imposed its will during a 25-7 surge in order to end Tennessee’s 19-game winning streak. Stanford graduate transfer Reid Travis was lauded for his efforts in containing All-America candidate Grant Williams but is unlikely to play in this one due to knee sprain that has kept him out the past few games. The ‘Cats dominated in outscoring the Vols 36-20 in the paint, but they must now try and replicate that effort on the road without the benefit of one of their key cogs or one of the largest crowds in Rupp Arena history making life difficult for the visitors. They’ll be in the hunted role and will need freshman EJ Montgomery to help step up in Travis’ absence in addition to other key newcomers like Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro who must now step up on the road. The Vols have won 24 consecutive games in Knoxville, including the last three against UK. The ‘under’ has prevailed in nine of the last 11 games involving Kentucky, with one of the outliers coming in the win over Tennessee, which helped surpass the closing total (145) by fouling down the stretch in an effort to make their margin of defeat look better than it was.

Iowa State (PK, 140.5) at Texas, 2 p.m. ET: The Longhorns are slowly falling out of NCAA Tournament contention despite the fact most of the Big 12 will be included on Selection Sunday, so they’re in survival mode at this point and must be careful not to fall under .500 and cost themselves an NIT bid. Shaka Smart’s team will continue without suspended senior guard Kerwin Roach, the team’s leading scorer. The ‘Horns badly missed him as they blew a 19-point lead to Baylor, ultimately losing an 84-83 decision in OT. Texas fell at Oklahoma by a bucket and are hoping some home cooking can help rescue a season that’s slipping out of control. The Cyclones lead the conference in scoring (78.3 ppg) and rank 10th nationally in turnover margin. Texas held them to just 65 points but still lost in Ames when these teams got together on Feb. 2 as it ended up shooting under 40 percent from the field while finishing 6-for-23 from 3-point range. ISU freshman Talen Horton-Tucker scored a team-high 15 points in that game and has shot nearly 37 percent from 3-point range over his last 10 games, connecting on 18 of 49 3-pointers. Texas lists senior forward Dylan Osetkowski as questionable due to an illness, so monitor his availability prior to tip-off.

Ohio State at Purdue (-12, 133), 2 p.m. ET: The Buckeyes suspended top scorer and rebounder Kaleb Wesson, so it’s a good thing they’ve likely done enough to guarantee their inclusion in the NCAA Tournament since they’ll be able to sweep any struggles under the table due to his absence. The 6-foot-9, 270-pounder is expected to return, but head coach Chris Holtmann didn’t elaborate on a reason for the suspension or a return date. The Boilermakers are undefeated at home (14-0) and won in Columbus 79-67 on Jan. 23 as Kaleb Wesson played just six minutes due to foul trouble. Kyle Young, a 6-foot-8 sophomore who missed the first meeting, is expected to replace Wesson in the starting lineup. The Buckeyes shot 10-for-22 from 3-point range in that home loss, outdone by the Boilers shooting 12-for-24 from beyond the arc at Value City Arena. Carsen Edwards finished with 27 points, tying his third-highest scoring output of the Big Ten season. Purdue is looking for a season sweep of Ohio State and has won four of the last six matchups between the schools. The Boilermakers have won their last 10 home games by double-digits.

Butler at Villanova (-7.5, 137), 2 p.m. ET: It’s Senior Day at the Pavilion, where a class featuring two-time champion Phil Booth and versatile big man Eric Paschall, who redshirted on that first title-winning team after transferring in from Fordham, will suit up at home for the final time. Expect an emotional atmosphere as Villanova looks to build on a mid-week win over Marquette that kept its hopes of at least a share of another Big East title alive. Visiting Butler looks NIT bound, having struggled mightily outside of Hinkle Fieldhouse and looking to stay above .500 to try after losses in three of four. Guard Kamar Baldwin was held to just 11 points when these teams played in Indianapolis on Jan. 22. He’s averaged 19.3 points over the past five games but has shot just 5-for-19 from 3-point range and must have a big game for the Bulldogs to have any chance at an upset. He played 42 minutes in Tuesday’s OT loss to Providence and shot just 5-for-14 against the Wildcats in Indy, missing four of five 3-point shots. Some metrics still list Butler as a bubble team, but that will certainly burst if it fails to pull an upset here. The ‘over’ has connected in four consecutive games involving the Bulldogs.

Texas Tech (-3.5, 136.5) at TCU, 4 p.m. ET: A 104-96 loss to at West Virginia handed the Horned Frogs their fourth loss in five games, threatening their inclusion in the NCAA Tournament that once looked like a lock. No one doubts point guard Alex Robinson is a special player and an extension of head coach Jamie Dixon on the floor, but TCU has really struggled to get stops since beating Florida 55-50 on Jan. 26, surrendering over 70 points in seven of nine, a stretch that began with an 84-65 loss in Lubbock at the hands of these Red Raiders. Considering Tech ranks second in the country in scoring defense (58.1 ppg), being unable to get stops could result in another blowout that would really hinder TCU, which closes with another tough home game against Big 12-leading K-State in addition to a visit to fellow bubble-dweller Texas just before the conference tournament. The ‘over’ has connected in Texas Tech’s last three games, its longest such streak of the season.

Mississippi State at Auburn (-5, 146), 4 p.m. ET: The Bulldogs have won five in a row and actually come into AU Arena with a better record in SEC play than the Tigers, who barely survived on the road at Georgia on Wednesday. Mississippi State remains without suspended guard Nick Weatherspoon, surprisingly going on their current run without him. Ben Howland hasn’t updated the media on whether he’ll be returning to the fold. For Auburn, which needed a late Chuma Okeke 3-pointer to win for the third time in four outings, this is a huge clash considering it will close with a visit to nemesis Alabama before hosting Tennessee in a game all eyes will be on next Saturday. Mississippi State won the first meeting in Starkville 92-84 on Jan. 26 behind 27 points from Quinndary Weatherspoon, Nick’s older brother and the driving force on this team. Lamar Peters and Reggie Perry pitched in with double-doubles and must be as productive for the Bulldogs to pull off this season sweep in enemy territory. Weatherspoon, who went 4-for-5 from 3-point range in the win over Auburn, has shot 8-for-13 from beyond the arc over the last three games. The ‘under’ is on a 6-1-1 run over Auburn’s last eight games and is unbeaten (6-0) in Mississippi State’s last six.

UCF at Houston (-7, 133.5), 4 p.m. ET: The Knights go into Houston looking for a definitive win that would eliminate all doubt about their inclusion in this year’s NCAA Tournament, although they will have big games against Cincinnati and fellow AAC bubble team Temple remaining if they fall short here. UCF has lost six straight against ranked opponents, including a 77-68 loss in Orlando. The Cougs have been incredible at home, winning 18 straight games by an average margin of victory of 16.4. The Knights will try and clog the paint via the 7-foot-6 presence of center Tacko Fall, the tallest player in Division I, who played only 19 minutes in the first meeting. He’s played at least 25 in five of the last six and UCF has gone 5-1 in those games, which includes a 23-point, 20-rebound game last Sunday in a blowout of SMU. Guard Corey Davis scored a season-high 26 points in the win over UCF and has since matched that figure twice in the last three games, shooting an incredible 22-for-31 from beyond the arc in that span in lopsided wins over Tulane, South Florida and ECU. The ‘over’ has prevailed in seven of eight games involving UCF, which has uncharacteristically scored at least 75 points in four of five, really finding its offensive rhythm.

Miami (FL) at Duke (-15, 150.5), 4 p.m. ET: Zion Williamson will miss third consecutive game as he recovers from spraining his knee after his shoe exploded in the opening minute of Duke’s 88-72 loss to North Carolina on Feb. 20. Unless he returns for Tuesday’s game against Wake Forest, him being helped off the floor against UNC will be his final action at Cameron Indoor Stadium, which would be a shame. The Blue Devils are just 1-1 since his injury, winning at Syracuse while suffering a Tuesday night loss at Virginia Tech. Miami has been operating short-handed all season and comes off a brutal loss in Winston-Salem after blowing a big second-half lead against lowly Wake Forest. The Hurricanes have dropped eight straight road games and seemingly have no one to match up with R.J. Barrett, who has stepped up his production with Williamson sidelined, leaving the floor for only four of a possible 120 minutes while averaging 28 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists. The ‘over’ is 4-1 in Miami’s last five games.

Baylor at Kansas State (-6.5, 127), 8 p.m. ET: The Bears have dropped six straight against the Wildcats, last winning in January of 2017. K-State’s senior class is looking to finish strong in their next-to-last home date and hope to have a chance at claiming their first outright Big 12 title since 1977 against Oklahoma next weekend. They shared the league crown in ’13. Baylor guard Makai Mason has been in and out of the lineup with a toe injury and has struggled since returning, shooting just 3-for-16 from 3-point range. His team needs him to warm up in what should be a low-possession game where taking care of the ball will be at a premium. The Yale transfer has scored 35 points combined over his last five games after scoring 40 at home in a Feb. 2 win over TCU. He’s shot 8-for-46 in those games, but the Bears have managed to win four out of five simply due to his ability to space the floor. Mason was out of the mix for K-State’s 70-63 win on Feb. 9. K-State guard Kamau Stokes finished with 20 points, six rebounds and four assists in that win. Stokes and forward Dean Wade haven’t been practicing much, attempting to play through numerous ailments. The ‘over’ is on a 6-2 run in K-State games and is on a 6-1-1 surge in games involving Baylor.

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

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