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College Basketball Weekend Primer – Best Games, Best Bets For Nov. 18-20

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Half of the AP Top 25’s top four teams already lost this week. Here’s a primer for this weekend’s best games, bets and what to look forward to next week.


Significant changes to the preseason through the first few weeks are inevitable. Some teams are better than people thought, and others are much, much worse (I’m looking at you, UConn). And when the poll is released on Monday afternoon, there might be a new No. 1.

Duke, with three of its five-star freshman sitting out with injuries, lost to No. 7 Kansas, 77-75, on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. This happened mere hours after No. 2 Kentucky routed No. 13 Michigan State, 69-48, on the same court at the Champions Classic. The Wildcats certainly staked their claim to the No. 1 ranking. And that was just part of an exciting opening week.

Baylor upset No. 4 Oregon, No. 22 Creighton won a big home game against No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 3 Villanova escaped West Lafayette with a win at No. 15 Purdue. Now we get to look ahead at what awaits this weekend as some other made-for-TV events get underway.

Staying Neutral

Neutral-site games and tournaments are nothing new for the opening months of college basketball prior to conference season getting in full swing around the first of the year. One of the biggest early season tournaments is the Maui Invitational, which gets started Monday. But don’t overlook what’s going on Saturday and Sunday in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Duke, fresh off its trip to the Big Apple, takes on a Penn State team trying to take another step forward under coach Patrick Chambers. The Blue Devils and Nittany Lions meet at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday before No. 21 Rhode Island and No. 24 Cincinnati meet later at Mohegan Sun Arena. The winners will play Sunday at 1 p.m. in the championship game, with Duke likely having to face another tough test.

That probably won’t be the case for Villanova at the Charleston Classic. The defending champions are the only worthwhile team in the entire tournament, and they should cruise to the title no matter who they play Sunday at 9:30 p.m. ET.

Sneaky Good Games

Michigan vs. SMU (Friday, 7 p.m. ET)

The championship game of the 2k Classic at Madison Square Garden should be a dandy. Larry Brown resigned from the SMU job in July, but he did leave new coach Tim Jankovich a solid roster that features Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye, who averaged 22.7 points and nine rebounds through the Mustangs’ first three games.

Michigan also is off to a 3-0 start with five players averaging in double figures. Zak Irvin has been solid and is averaging 14 points per game after going 3-of-4 from 3-point range in Thursday’s win over Marquette.

Monmouth at No. 18 Syracuse (Friday, 7 p.m. ET)

Any chance to see the Bench Mob is exciting. Monmouth beat Drexel before losing at the buzzer in overtime at South Carolina, but the Hawks can be a dangerous team. Certainly Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim knows that. The Orange haven’t yet been tested, winning easy games against Colgate and Holy Cross.

No. 17 St. Mary’s at Dayton (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET)

This has the potential to be one of the better games of the weekend. Jock Landale has been a beast down low for the Gaels, hitting 21 of 30 from the field while averaging 23 points and 8.5 rebounds in first two games.

Charles Cooke has been just as good for Dayton in its two victories, going for 50 points while shooting 57.7 percent from the field. Both of these teams are dark horse Final Four contenders, and the Flyers’ home gym will be rocking for this matchup.

Best Bets

In this section, I’ll pick five games against the spread that I’d put smart money on every Friday. I’ll then keep a running record throughout the season. These picks will consist of games taking place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Here’s what happened last weekend and what I’ve got going this week:

Season record: 2-3
Last week: 2-3

  • Kansas (-6) over Indiana (L)
  • Nevada (+11.5) over St. Mary’s (L)
  • Harvard (+4) over Stanford (L)
  • Baylor (-17) over Oral Roberts (W)
  • Tulane (+21) over North Carolina (W)

This week:

  • SMU (-1) over Michigan
  • St. Mary’s (+3) over Dayton
  • Cincinnati (-4) over Rhode Island
  • Duke (-20) over Penn State
  • Ohio (+4) over Georgia Tech

Looking Ahead

The Maui Invitational tips off Monday, and it’s a pretty loaded field. North Carolina, Oregon and Wisconsin are the main draws, while UConn tries to prove it can live up to its initial ranking following losses to Wagner and Northeastern this week.

Here’s a look at the first-round matchups:

  • No. 9 Wisconsin vs. Tennessee
  • No. 4 Oregon vs. Georgetown
  • UConn vs. Oklahoma State
  • No. 5 North Carolina vs. Chaminade

San Diego State hosts No. 25 California in another matchup to watch Monday night.

MORE: NCAA Men’s Basketball AP Top 25 – Week 2 Takeaways

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