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Reags Top-25 Roundup: Stars vs Style, A Desperate Wisconsin & More

Virginia v Duke

I plan on doing these every so often, or really whenever there’s a million good games. Some days it will be a recap, some days it will be previews and some days it will be a combo of both. It’s just an easy recap, for those that couldn’t sit around all night and watch games. I get it. It’s one of the downfalls of college hoops. You lose a portion of the season because you’re overshadowed by football and people just waiting for March. Note it will just focus on top-25 teams to make life easier. At the bottom we’ll have a preview for today’s games. 

Stars vs Style
Obviously the big game today is Duke vs Virginia. We are losing a bit if Tre Jones is out and I’ll say this, there are rumors he may be playing. I have no idea what to expect. But, I’ve heard every possible story around him and his playing leading up to today. The line has been all over the place as well with Duke opening -4, getting as low as -1 yesterday and back up to -3 this morning. The total also went from 139.5 to 141.5 and now down to 137. That’s sort of how I feel about this matchup. It’s at Duke, which is a massive advantage for Duke, however Virginia’s roster has played there already and won. If Tre Jones is out we’re going to see a big disadvantage on the defensive side of the ball for Duke. Jones is the best on ball defender in college basketball and really disrupts what other teams want to do. Because of him, Duke can get out in transition where its at its best. Remember, Virginia runs a three guard lineup vs Duke’s three wing lineup. You take Jones out that means Cam Reddish or RJ Barrett are going to have to chase Jerome and Guy off of a million screens. Virginia is trained to not give up transition points. You’re not going to see them crash the glass offensively. They’ll drop everyone back into the packline defense. They don’t turn the ball over. It’s a complete contrast of styles. If Jones isn’t playing, Barrett is going to have to continue to be the playmaker, looking to slash and kick creating space for someone like Zion. I do look forward to the De’Andre Hunter vs Zion matchup. Both of those guys are top-5/7 picks in the NBA Draft and really make both teams special.

Can Wisconsin finally get a win?
Wisconsin has been bad lately. There’s no other way around it. They’ve lost 4 out of 5 with the only win coming against the last place team in the Big 10 in Penn State. After what looked like a decent nonconference, Wisconsin has fallen apart a bit. They aren’t flirting with the bubble yet, but with a stretch in a few weeks consisting of Nebraska, Minnesota and Michigan on the road while hosting Maryland and Michigan State you need to start racking up some wins now. They are hosting Michigan today with a chance to get a quality win to go with the NC State and Oklahoma wins. The key is going to be for someone else besides Ethan Happ to get going. Too many times this year Wisconsin has been poor offensively – scoring 14 in a half against Minnesota and 15 against Maryland. Michigan is a top-3 defense in the country. They are going to take away Happ as much as possible. Can Nate Reuvers continue to shoot well? A loss here and you’re looking at a likely .500 record in Big 10 play. As for Michigan, its still playing with house money.

Auburn’s shooting vs Kentucky’s inability to guard the 3-point line
Over in the SEC we have Kentucky going on the road against Auburn. This game is simple. Can Kentucky defend the 3-point line. They’ve absolutely struggled doing that this year, mostly because of playing Reid Travis with PJ Washington. Teams are just taking whoever Travis is guarding and running ball screens with him. Travis is too slow to hedge or switch giving up either the roll or a clean look. Auburn wants to shoot a bunch of threes, ranking 23rd in the country in 3PA/FGA. Auburn also ranks 67th in the country in 3pt%. Kentucky meanwhile ranks 269th in 3pt percentage defensively. If Auburn is making shots they can set up the press and trap which is when they are at their best. Kentucky has been getting off to slow starts in SEC play and I go back to that Travis/Washington pairing. There’s no other way to put it. Travis has been bad in the SEC. Kentucky keeps making runs when they bring in Nick Richards for him. That’s what they should do to start, or go small with Immanuel Quickley. If you bring in Richards you can run that 2-2-1 or 1-2-2 press with a trap and really jump and switch.

Indiana rivalry
We have a rivalry game in the Hoosier state between Indiana and Purdue today. I thought Indiana had the talent to be the 3rd best team in the conference, but they are coming off of a pretty bad loss at home to Nebraska and are currently on a 3-game losing streak. For this it’s going to be about Romeo Langford’s defense vs Carsen Edwards. That’s at least who should be guarding him. Langford has gotten better defensively all year and is now a pretty solid on ball defender. Edwards is the key for Purdue. They don’t have a consistent second scorer and if you can at least bother Edwards or turn him into an inefficient scorer, you have a great chance at winning.

Will Shamorie Ponds play
Shamorie Ponds looked like an All-American as St. John’s ran through the nonconference. Then he suffered back tightness and have missed some games. He’s questionable today against Butler in a game that St. John’s needs to win to stay in the hunt for the Big East title. Ponds has been real efficient this year, which was one of the knocks on him after going through the NBA Draft process last year. He’s been excellent at drawing attention offensively and getting others involved while picking his time to attack. Without him, they become even shorter bench wise and then you’re talking about Kamar Baldwin have a big time advantage.

Road challenges
Kansas, North Carolina, Texas Tech and NC State all go on the road against inferior opponents. We’ve seen the road be a bitch to top teams this year no matter who they are playing. Remember, NC State just lost to Wake Forest (playing without Markell Johnson). Kansas goes to West Virginia, which is a tough spot no matter how bad WVU is this year. UNC heads to a struggling Miami team. Texas Tech heads to Baylor and that 1-1-3 zone. NC State heads to Notre Dame. I’m going to be shocked if all 4 teams escape with a win.

SoCon battle
The Southern Conference is one of my favorite mid-major conferences this year. They have legit talent and teams like Furman, Wofford, UNC Greensboro and East Tennessee State. Today we have Furman and Wofford playing. Wofford is currently 6-0 in conference play while Furman is 4-2. There’s pretty much no chance for Wofford to get an at-large despite the wins at Loyola and Villanova. A loss here would really put the dagger in those chances and make the SoCon Tournament the last chance. Meanwhile, Wofford can continue to run through the conference and make a case itself. Wofford is 40th in KenPom and 30th in the NET. The computer models seem to love this team.

Top-5 Games:
Virginia at Duke – 6pm, ESPN
Kentucky at Auburn – 4pm, ESPN
Furman at Wofford – 7pm
Oklahoma at Texas – 8pm
Indiana at Purdue – 2pm, FOX

Picks
Kansas State -1.5
Virginia +3
Minnesota -4.5