Early Favorites To Win College Basketball’s Power Conferences

Everything in college basketball changes when conference play begins.

Those in power have done wonders to drum up interest in early-season action, with big name teams being featured in tournaments and showcases for the first few months of the season. But blowout wins over cupcake opponents and sloppy early-season play are littered throughout that part of the schedule.

Conference play brings rivalries, road games with student-sections, and a landslide of upsets. In short, it’s the reason we love college basketball. On top of that, succeeding in one of America’s toughest conferences is the best way to prove yourself before March Madness tips off.

With that in mind, here are the early favorites to win the six biggest conferences in college hoops.

ACC – Duke

The Blue Devils might be the boring and obvious pick, but at this point in the season, they are also the most qualified. Duke’s overtime home loss to Stephen F. Austin was a bad mishap, but it’s their only blemish so far. Aside from that slip-up, Duke has impressed with wins over Michigan State, Kansas, Georgetown and Miami.

The ACC’s other top contender, Louisville, lost at home to Florida State this weekend and only gets to play Duke once this season — a road game at Cameron Indoor. Advantage to the Blue Devils.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Big East – Butler

It’s always somewhat shocking to pencil anyone into a Big East title that is not Villanova, yet Butler’s play so far this season has been eye-popping enough to earn this level of respect. The Bulldogs have just one loss, by one point at 4th-ranked Baylor.

Head coach LaVall Jordan has Butler winning games on the defensive end of the floor. The Bulldogs rank fourth in defensive efficiency, per KenPom, thanks to top-ten performances in 3-point percentage allowed, effective field goal percentage allowed and defensive rebounding rate. Butler fights to get stops and follows them with rebounds.

Offensively, everything churns through senior guard Kamar Baldwin. His 14.7 point per game average doesn’t fully explain how capable he is of taking over a game in crunch time.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten – Michigan State

A few weeks ago, when Ohio State was 9-0 and ranked in the top three in the AP Poll, this answer would have been different. Back then, Michigan State was just 6-3 and clearly had some issues on the offensive end.

Since December 8, Ohio State has lost three of its last five games, while Michigan State has sparked a six-game winning streak. The Spartans are now two games ahead of the Buckeyes in the loss column in Big Ten play and sit a full 1.5 games ahead of the rest of the conference in the standings.

Make no mistake — the Big Ten is college basketball’s toughest conference and will be an absolute battle all season long. Even so, any team eager to compete for the title will need to go into the Breslin Center in East Lansing and win. With Tom Izzo on the sidelines and Cassius Winston patrolling the court for Sparty, that’s not likely to happen much, if at all, this season.

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Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports
By Shane McNichol  |  Last updated 1/7/20

Juwan Howard Runs On Floor During Play, Gets Technical Foul

Michigan head coach Juwan Howard got his first taste of the school’s rivalry with Michigan State from a coaching perspective on Sunday, and it didn’t go so great.

Things started getting away from the Wolverines in the second half, as Michigan State star Cassius Winston began to heat up. Howard was also angry that no foul was called while Michigan forward Austin Davis was driving to the basket, and that led him to run all the way onto the court while the Spartans were in the middle of a fast break.

Howard’s technical actually meant that the referees had to stop play and wipe out a Winston three, so in a strange way, it benefited the Wolverines in terms of the score at that moment.

Howard definitely still has a player’s mentality in some ways. When he saw a bad no-call go against his team, he just couldn’t hold back.

Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports  |  By Grey Papke  |  Last updated 1/5/20


9 things we learned about college football this weekend

Duke Overcomes MSU Late In Game

Written by Bob Wojnowski at Detroit News.com

 All the hype about all the young talent on both teams? Oh, it’s real and legitimate. Unfortunately for Michigan State, the reality of Duke senior sharp-shooter Grayson Allen is just as legitimate.

If this was an appetizer for the college basketball season, yes, we’ll take more please. The No. 1 Blue Devils had too much rebounding and too much Allen and pulled away for an 88-81 victory Tuesday night in the Champions Classic. The No. 2 Spartans flashed their immense potential, led by freshman Jaren Jackson Jr., but naturally, it was the oldest guy on the floor who took over.

Allen scored a career-high 37 points, but when he wasn’t firing up one of his seven 3-pointers, the Spartans hung tough. Not quite tough enough, which surely will grate on Tom Izzo, who now is 1-11 against Mike Krzyzewski.

We saw all the elements that make the Spartans so tantalizing, as Jackson, Miles Bridges and Nick Ward each scored 19. We also saw the concerns about 3-point shooting, and Michigan State was battered on the boards. But trust me, folks, these Blue Devils will batter most opponents far worse than this.

These are the preordained top two teams in the country, and by the sheer volume of talent, they absolutely showed it. No. 1 Duke has all those touted freshmen, but it was Allen who kept shooting them into it.

No. 2 Michigan State has all its great sophomores, led by Bridges, but it was the freshman Jackson pitching in with clutch plays. It was back and forth, even after Duke super-frosh Marvin Bagley III left early with an eye injury. When Ward raced in for a layup and three-point play after the Spartans won a scrap for the ball, the game was tied 56-56 with 12 minutes left.

It tightened up as the Spartans finally started attacking the boards. Jackson’s rebound dunk with 8:07 left sliced Duke’s lead to 65-64, and all over the floor, the initial hype for these teams proved to be legitimate.

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Judging New CFP Rankings

Written by Tom Fornelli at CBS Sports.com

The new College Football Playoff Rankings are out, and if you were hoping for a shakeup in the top four, you didn’t get one. It remains the same as last week, and honestly, it should. Where things get interesting is outside the top four, starting with a Wisconsin team I believe the committee is not getting enough respect.

No. 8 Wisconsin — Underrated

I want to start this off by making one thing clear: I don’t care what any talking head says on television, radio or a computer screen near you. If Wisconsin goes 13-0 and wins the Big Ten, it’s getting into the College Football Playoff. People will try to convince you there’s a chance it won’t happen, but it will. The only question is whether Wisconsin goes undefeated.

As for right now, however, I understand why Wisconsin is ranked No. 8. It doesn’t have what you’d consider a signature win. Its best win is over now-No. 25 Northwestern, and overall, its strength of schedule is pretty weak. But from what I remember, that’s not all that’s supposed to matter.

Let’s go back in time to the first year of the College Football Playoff when a two-word phrase was introduced to us for the first time: game control. Do you remember “game control?” It was something the committee used to defend its rankings, and I guess it’s no longer considered because when I think of game control, it’s hard to argue against Wisconsin.

Not only are the Badgers 9-0 — and I believe we’ve reached a point where we dismiss unbeaten teams too easily — but they’ve dominated their schedule. When the Badgers fell behind Indiana 10-0 last weekend, it was the first time they trailed in any game since falling behind 10-7 to Northwestern on Sept. 30. That was the first time the Badgers had trailed in a game since falling behind Utah State 10-0 in the first quarter of the season opener. In that Northwestern game, the Badgers would take a 14-10 lead with 9:16 left in the third quarter. Those five minutes and 44 seconds between halftime and that touchdown are the only time Wisconsin has trailed during the second half of a game at any point this season.

Not only have they won every game, but they’ve never entered a fourth quarter in any danger. Compare that to a Miami team that’s needed a couple of last-second scores to pull out victories. Compare that to an Oklahoma team that has nice wins but lost to Iowa State at home — or a TCU team that lost to Iowa State in Ames. Sure, upsets happen, but Wisconsin’s never even been in a position to suffer one this season. So while strength of schedule and “resume” wins should matter, so should never being in a position to lose.

No. 11 USC — Overrated

The Trojans jump up from No. 17 to No. 11 this week after beating Arizona 49-35, and I’m a bit surprised. I know USC has played one of the tougher schedules in the country, but SOS should carry only so much weight. How you’ve played against it should mean more. And look at USC’s résumé right now. What is its best victory? Is it the 49-35 win over Arizona? A 42-24 victory against Stanford back in September? Neither of those teams is in the committee’s current top 25.

Washington State and Notre Dame are ranked, however, and the Trojans lost by three to the Cougars and were crushed by Notre Dame 49-14. So what exactly has USC done to earn being ranked higher than the teams behind it? Speaking of the teams behind USC…

No. 12 Michigan State — Just Right

I know, I just said USC shouldn’t be ranked as high as it is, and Michigan State’s right behind it and I’m saying it’s a perfect spot. It doesn’t make sense on the surface, but I’m looking at this separate from where the committee puts USC. Make no mistake about it: I do not think Michigan State is the 12th-best team in the country. If you put it on a neutral field against some of the teams right behind it, I’d likely favor the majority of them. But Michigan State deserves this spot. Just because I’m not a believer in this team doesn’t mean it didn’t beat Penn State and Michigan. Now whether it beats Ohio State this week, well, I’m skeptical.

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MSU, Duke Favored To Win In March

Written by Kyle Boone at CBS Sports.com

The college hoops season is mere days away. So if you’re looking to wager a little cheddar on some future bets on who might take cut down the nets at the end of the 2017-18 season, we’ve got updated odds at the ready — headlined by, you guessed it: Duke.

When we updated the futures odds in late-August, the Blue Devils were 7/1 to win it all, good for second on the list behind Kentucky. However that was just days before Marvin Bagley III, the No. 1 rated prospect in the Class of 2017, was cleared by the NCAA and ruled eligible to play the upcoming season. They are now the frontrunner, and with Grayson Allen back for his senior season and three other five-star incoming freshman on campus, they’ve certainly got the talent to hang another banner under Coach K.

Second on the list in odds is Michigan State, which is currently 13/2 to win it all. The Spartans return their entire starting five, including likely NBA lottery pick Miles Bridges, and have a super sophomore trio in Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Josh Langford that makes them the overwhelming favorite in the Big Ten, and a No. 1 seed in-waiting on paper. Factor in a Hall-of-Fame coach in Tom Izzo who rarely, if ever, underperforms, and it’s easy to see why Sparty projects as a title contender in 2017.

Here’s a look at the rest of the field according to odds from Vegas Insider.

Duke 5/1
Michigan State 13/2
Arizona 8/1
Kentucky 10/1
North Carolina 12/1
Kansas 14/1
Missouri 16/1
Wichita State 16/1
Louisville 20/1
Villanova 20/1
Florida 25/1
Gonzaga 25/1
West Virginia 25/1
USC 28/1
Oregon 33/1
Alabama 40/1
Michigan 40/1
UCLA 40/1
Indiana 50/1
Miami 50/1
Purdue 50/1
Saint Mary’s 50/1
Virginia 50/1
Arkansas 66/1
Baylor 66/1
Butler 66/1
Notre Dame 66/1
Cincinnati 80/1
Florida State 80/1
Minnesota 80/1
Oklahoma 80/1
Seton Hall 80/1
Xavier 80/1
SMU 100/1
South Carolina 100/1
Auburn 125/1
Memphis 500/1

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Jud Heathcote, Former Michigan State Basketball Coach, Dies at 90.

Written by Gary Parrish at CBS Sports.com

Jud Heathcote, who coached a Magic Johnson-led Michigan State team to the 1979 national championship, died Monday in Spokane, Washington, Michigan State officials announced Monday night.

Heathcote was 90.

“The basketball world is a sadder place today with the passing of Jud Heathcote,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, a Hall of Famer who worked under Heathcote from 1983 until replacing him as Michigan State’s coach in 1995. “No one cared more about the welfare of the game than Jud. He was a coach’s coach and a mentor to many. … Without a doubt, he was one of the most influential people in my life — giving me a chance when no one else would. Any coaching success I’ve ever had is because of him. Long after he left Michigan State, he was still one of the first people I would call when I had a tough decision in coaching or life.”

Heathcote also coached at Montana from 1971-1976. He retired with a career record of 419-274 that includes a 339-221 record at Michigan State.

“Coach Heathcote had an impact on so many people,” Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said. “He was among the best teachers I had the opportunity to be around.”

Heathcote’s greatest professional moment came in Salt Lake City — where his Spartans beat Indiana State (and Larry Bird), 75-64, in the final game of the 1979 NCAA Tournament. It remains the highest-rated televised game in college basketball history. Heathcote finished his career with three Big Ten titles and two Big Ten Coach of the Year awards. He was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

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Three Michigan State Players Charged With Sexual Assault

Written by Kyle Austin at M Live.com

The Ingham County Prosecutor will seek sexual assault charges against three members of the Michigan State football team, according to a Monday afternoon press release.

The release says that “we are alleging that on the night of January 16, those three persons sexually assaulted a woman in an East Lansing apartment on campus.”

While the decision has been made to seek those charges, as of 4 p.m. on Monday, no arrest warrants had been issued by 54-B District Court. A court clerk said then that Judge Richard D. Ball had left his courtroom for the day and wouldn’t return until 9 a.m. the following day.

As a result, the three players have not been formally charged, and as such the names of those accused have not been released. Specifics of the charges being sought were not offered by the prosecutor’s office.

The release also notes that the office also reviewed charges against a former employee of the football program that were not of a sexual nature. The prosecutor declined to issue charges against that individual.

Curtis Blackwell, the team’s former recruiting director, was suspended from his duties in February for what the school termed “serious violations regarding your conduct.” His contract was not renewed when it expired on May 31.

The investigation into the alleged incident, which was conducted by the Michigan State University Police Department, lasted more than four months. The three players are currently suspended from the team and have been removed from university housing.

When the charges are authorized, Michigan State will have had four members of its 2016 team charged with sexual assault this offseason.

Auston Robertson, a freshman defensive end last year, was charged in April with third degree criminal sexual assault in an unrelated incident.

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College Football Picks for Week 12

Written by Robby Kalland at CBSSports.com

Five days after talking about style points and what that means for gamblers, the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 teams in the playoff rankings all lost as chaos reigned supreme in Week 11.

Week 12 doesn’t look much better on paper, but after last week when two top teams lost as 20-plus point favorites, we have to expect some form of excitement and craziness a week ahead of rivalry week.

Here is a look at the lines and odds for the biggest games of the week:

Lines you need to know

No. 8 Oklahoma (-3) at No. 10 West Virginia: The Sooners have quietly snuck back into the top 10 and, while they need more chaos to take place ahead of them, they still have a legitimate road to the College FootballPlayoff. West Virginia might still have a chance too, but it likely needs a convincing win on Saturday to impress the committee. The Big 12, which appeared dead in the water a month ago, has to rest its playoff hopes on one of these two teams, with the other getting eliminated from the conversation Saturday.

No. 2 Ohio State (-22.5) at Michigan State:The Spartans just crushed Rutgers — as has most everyone — but reality is about to hit them square in the mouth in the form of a red-hot Ohio State team. The Buckeyes are thumping everyone, and what was once expected to be a game with significant title ramifications is now a tuneup for Ohio State going into the Michigan game.

No. 21 Florida (+14) at No. 16 LSU: The Gators need a win to clinch the SEC East but are two-touchdown underdogs to an LSU team that rebounded from its Alabama loss with a beatdown of Arkansas. That same Arkansas team handled the Gators with ease, but matchups make games and the Gators’ defense against the LSU rushing attack is going to be the key in whether this stays inside that number.

Lines that may surprise you

No. 5 Clemson (-21.5) at Wake Forest: Wake was leading at Louisville for much of the game before the Cardinals went crazy in the fourth quarter to run away with the victory. The Demon Deacons play really good defense and the way the Tigers are playing — coming off the loss to Pitt — it’s a bit surprising that this is over three touchdowns. There’s certainly potential for an angry bounce-back performance by Clemson, but Wake plays teams extremely tough and over three touchdowns is a lot of points on the road.

Arkansas (+2) at Mississippi State: I know Mississippi State has shown improvement recently and beat Texas A&M, but this seems like a bit of an over-correction on the part of the oddsmakers. Arkansas has struggled with good teams, but has hammered average to below-average opponents. Mississippi State — even with Nick Fitzgerald — falls into the latter and I’m a bit stunned to see the Bulldogs as favorites in this spot.

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MSU Vs Michigan Preview

Written by Mike Bainbridge at AthlonSports.com

Prior to the start of the regular season, most people likely assumed the Michigan Wolverines (7-0) would be the favorites entering their yearly matchup against the Michigan State Spartans (2-5). Favored by 23.5 points though? Probably not.

The Wolverines have been as impressive as any team in the country through eight weeks of the season, smothering teams with their No. 1 ranked defense and then wearing them out with a balanced attack on offense. In the last two games alone, Michigan has outscored its opponents 119-8 while allowing just 194 total yards combined.

The same cannot be said for the Spartans as they come into this weekend riding a five-game losing streak after falling to Maryland 28-17 on the road last week. Both sides of the football look to be in complete disarray, which is an obvious concern for head coach Mark Dantonio as Michigan State heads into its most important game of the season to date.

Can you throw out the records in rivalry games? We will find out Saturday.

Michigan at Michigan State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 29 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Michigan -23.5
Three Things to Watch

1. Quarterback Quandary
Coach Mark Dantonio isn’t giving any hints as to who will be under center when the Spartans take the field on Saturday. Redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke has started each of the past two weeks and done some good things, primarily with his legs, but Dantonio has stated he needs to provide more of a threat throwing the football vertically. Fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor came on in relief of Lewerke against Northwestern and threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns in the second half but was unavailable last week against Maryland due to a foot injury. “It’s probably a game-time decision based on how the week goes in terms of whether it’s (Lewerke’s) play, others’ play, or quite frankly, some injury situations,” Dantonio said to the Detroit News earlier this week. The expectation is that both quarterbacks will be used throughout the game, pending O’Connor is available to play.

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