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Best Bets: Previewing Oregon-Michigan, Arizona-Gonzaga and Memphis-Tennessee

Illinois Arizona Basketball

Arizona guard Nico Mannion reacts after making a defensive stop against Illinois during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)


The lines have not yet been posted for Sunday’s games. We’ll be looking at these games using KenPom’s projections until they are live.

No. 10 OREGON at No. 5 MICHIGAN, Sat. 12:00 p.m.

  • SPREAD: Michigan (-3.5)
  • TOTAL: 137.5
  • IMPLIED SCORE: Michigan 70.5, Oregon 67
  • KENPOM: Michigan 70, Oregon 67

In Michigan’s wins this season, the Wolverines are shooting 42.3 percent from three. In their two losses, they are 6-for-37 from beyond the arc. I bring this up because Oregon’s defense - that matchup zone that they play - is designed to force teams to have to settle for bombing away from three, but the Ducks hold their opponents to just 28.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Those threes they make you take? They are, generally speaking, not good threes. That, combined with the fact that the Oregon zone should be able to help takeaway Michigan’s ball-screen offense, and I tend to lean towards Oregon.

The problem?

This is a noon ET tip between a team in the central eastern time zone and a team in the pacific time zone. Oregon will be playing a game at what feels like 9 a.m. for them. That’s a tough spot to bet the road team, which leads me to what I think is probably the sharp bet in this game.

PICK: The under. We saw this same scenario play out with Arizona and Baylor last week, and that game was ugly and played in the 50s. At 137.5, I love it.

No. 6 GONZAGA at No. 15 ARIZONA, Sat. 10:00 p.m.

  • SPREAD: Arizona (-2.5)
  • TOTAL: 151
  • IMPLIED SCORE: Arizona 76.75, Gonzaga 74.25
  • KENPOM: Arizona 77, Gonzaga 74

The game of the weekend is going to be the nightcap on Saturday, as the Zags make the trip south to take on Sean Miller and Arizona.

There are a couple of things to be wary of in this matchup. For starters, Gonzaga’s offense starts with their frontcourt, whether it is Filip Petrusev or Killian Tillie, and Arizona ranks fifth nationally in two-point percentage defense. I also think that it is worth noting that the way the Zags defend ball-screens - typically, it is drop coverage - plays into Nico Mannion’s hands, as he is really good in the mid-range.

That tends to make me lean towards Arizona.

But the flip side is that Arizona is young, Zeke Nnaji is not as good of a defender as the stats might indicate and this Gonzaga team is legit, which, again, leads me to what I think the sharp bet is in this game.

PICK: The over. Gonzaga and Arizona are both ranked in the top 12 in offensive efficiency this season, according to KenPom. They both rank in the top 30 in average offensive possession length. They both shoot better than 38 percent from three and neither guard the three-point like all that well. I was hoping to get the total under 150, but I still like the over at 151.

The line has also been bet down from (-3.5) to (-2.5). I like Arizona there. I think the Wildcats are, at the very least, as good as Gonzaga, which means the value is on Zona at home.

No. 13 MEMPHIS at No. 19 TENNESSEE Sat. 3:00 p.m.

  • SPREAD: Tennessee (-7)
  • TOTAL: 139
  • IMPLIED SCORE: Tennessee 73, Memphis 66
  • KENPOM: Tennessee 74, Memphis 68

It’s never fun to bet rivalry games, not when there is as much animosity between the two programs as there is between Memphis and Tennessee.

The Tigers are still without James Wiseman and Lester Quinones, but that has not cost them yet this season. Their only loss of the year came against Oregon in Portland with Wiseman on the floor. I don’t think that Tennessee is going to be flustered by the pressure or the style that Memphis wants to play. Lamonte Turner is not a man that gets intimidated by anyone. I also think that the Vols have the athletes to hang with Memphis in this game.

My concern, however, is that Memphis forces a lot of turnovers, and Tennessee has been somewhat turnover prone this season. They rank 220th nationally in turnover percentage. That’s worrisome.

PICK: If forced to pick, I would probably lean Tennessee (-7) if betting a side, but this is another case where I feel better about better the over than I do betting either side. It opened at 142 and has been bet down to 139. I like that line.

No. 3 OHIO STATE at MINNESOTA, Sun. 6:30 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Ohio State 68, Minnesota 59

I am going to be fascinated to see where this line opens. In the last week, we’ve seen top five teams Maryland and Michigan both lose games on the road where they were underdogs to Penn State and Illinois. I don’t think that is going to be what happens here, because Ohio State is (probably) significantly better than either Maryland or Michigan while Minnesota is not as good as Penn State or Illinois.

So I think that the Buckeyes win this fairly easily.

Which would make a line like Ohio State (-7) very interesting, even on the road.

KenPom has it at Ohio State (-9). That’s getting a little too high for my taste, especially in a road environment. So it will be something to monitor as we get closer to Sunday.