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Saturday's Top 25 NCAAB cheat sheet: Early games

Here's a quick look at the marquee early games on Saturday's NCAA basketball schedule:

Tennessee Volunteers at Kentucky Wildcats (-8.5, 140)


Jordan McRae has emerged as one of the SEC’s top scorers, leading Tennessee at 18.4 points per game and ranking tied for sixth in the league. Another strength for the Volunteers has been on the glass, where they rank behind only Kentucky in the SEC in rebounding margin. Saturday’s game pits the top two rebounders in the SEC against each other – with Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes (9.6 per game) up against Kentucky phenom Julius Randle (11.1).

On the strength of its front line, the Wildcats have dominated the paint for much of their season. It starts with Randle (16.9 points), but Willie Cauley-Stein has also taken major steps forward in his second year in Lexington. The 7-0 Olathe, Kan. native has racked up 7.6 rebounds per game, and has cracked double-figure scoring in three of Kentucky’s last five games.

TRENDS:

* Volunteers are 11-3 ATS in their last 14 games vs. the SEC.
* Wildcats are 4-1 ATS in their last five home games.
* Under is 8-2 in Tennessee's last 10 games vs. teams with winning records.
* Home team is 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings.


Oklahoma Sooners at Baylor Bears (-8, 155)

Cameron Clark leads the Sooners with 17.3 points and Buddy Hield adds 16.5 points, although he's averaging 18.5 in league games. Spangler, who leads the Big 12 with 9.5 rebounds, has shot 50 percent from the floor or better in all 17 games. Jordan Woodard (11.4 points) and Isaiah Cousins (10.6) also average double figures, and the Sooners starters have combined for 95 of the team's 123 steals.

Jefferson has six double-doubles and leads the Bears with 13.2 points and 8.4 rebounds. Kenny Chery adds 11.6 points and a 2.7 assist-to-turnover ratio while Austin gives the Bears, who are 9-0 at home, 10.3 points and a league-best 46 blocks. Taurean Prince has scored in double figures in four of his last five games and leads the Bears during that five-game stretch with 15.2 points on 60.5 percent shooting.

TRENDS:

* Sooners are 7-2-1 ATS in their last 10 Saturday games.
* Bears are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 home games.
* Over is 20-6 in Oklahoma's last 26 games.
* Over is 13-5 in the last 18 meetings.


North Carolina State Wolfpack at Duke Blue Devils (-13.5, 147)

The Wolfpack did what Duke couldn’t by winning at Notre Dame on Jan. 7, but have since dropped two straight. NC State led Wake Forest by eight at the half but fell behind when Warren picked up his fourth foul midway through the second and could not stop a layup in the final seconds. Part of the problem for the Wolfpack is the lack of scoring options behind Warren, as only Anthony Barber (11.5) and Desmond Lee (10.2) join him in double figures.

Blue Devils star forward Jabari Parker averaged 21.4 points in non-conference play but is putting up 10.5 against ACC foes, including eight on 3-of-11 shooting in the 69-65 win over Virginia. The forward will have his hands full at the defensive end on Saturday as part of the group assigned to Wolfpack forward T.J. Warren, who leads the ACC in scoring at 22.2 points.

TRENDS:

* Wolfpack are 3-12-1 ATS in their last 16 Saturday games.
* Blue Devils are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 home games.
* Under is 9-3 in NC State's last 12 games against ACC foes.
* Over is 15-5-1 in the last 21 meetings.


USC Trojans at Colorado Buffaloes (-11, 140.5)

USC's Strahinja Gavrilovic played more than nine minutes just twice in the first 16 games and had not scored more than four points, but the 6-8 forward from Serbia gained attention by scoring 10 points in 19 minutes against top-ranked Arizona on Sunday. He was rewarded with 20 minutes against Utah and came back with nine points on an efficient 4-for-6 shooting.

Josh Scott should be prepared for a good test against 7-2 center Omar Oraby of USC. Scott, a 6-10 sophomore, was the best big man in the UCLA game, finishing with 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, but the Bruins don’t have a true center like Oraby. Dustin Thomas is the best frontcourt player off the bench for the Buffaloes and the 6-7 freshman forward is another player who needs to step up in Dinwiddie’s absence.

TRENDS:

* Trojans are 7-19-2 ATS in their last 28 road games.
* Buffaloes are 6-15 ATS in their last 21 Saturday games.
* Over is 4-0 in USC's last four road games.
* Under is 14-4 in Colorado's last 18 games following a loss.


Le Moyne-Owen Magicians at Memphis Tigers (OFF)

The Magicians, who play in the Division II Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, will need a miracle to keep up with the powerhouse Tigers. LeMoyne-Owen is coming off an 85-75 loss to Fort Valley State, dropping to 1-5 in conference play and 3-10 overall. The Magicians were led by Daequan Mitchell-Fie, who had 20 points; Marcel Hawkins added 18 points while Jerry Hampton added 15 in defeat.

Tigers star Shaq Goodwin put up 15 points and eight rebounds in a 73-67 win at Louisville and was even stronger in Saturday’s 79-69 triumph at Temple, collecting 23 points and 11 boards. The display earned the sophomore forward his second AAC Player of the Week award this season and propelled Memphis higher up the national rankings. Connecticut limited him to 10 points in the Tigers' last outing, an 83-73 Huskies victory.

TRENDS:

* Tigers are 0-5 ATS in their last five road games.
* Under is 9-4 in Memphis' last 13 games.


Fordham Rams at Saint Louis Billikens (-19, 141.5)

Bronx-based Fordham is off to a dismal start, having gone 0-3 versus Atlantic 10 opponents and losing five straight overall. The Rams are coming off an 80-68 defeat at the hands of Dayton on Wednesday, their third consecutive home defeat. Jon Severe and Brenden Frazier form a potent 1-2 scoring punch in the Fordham lineup; they combined to score 33 points against the Flyers but shot just 7-for-27 from the field.

Saint Louis has entered the national picture thanks to a 10-game winning streak that includes four wins away from Chaifetz Arena. Billikens leading scorer Dwayne Evans poured in 18 points and Rob Loe added 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots in Saint Louis' previous win, a 66-60 triumph over the St. Bonaventure Bonnies. The Billikens' only two losses - against No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 12 Wichita State - came by a combined 11 points.

TRENDS:

* Rams are 17-8-1 ATS in their last 26 games following a loss.
* Billikens are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 Saturday games.
* Over is 4-0 in Fordham's last four Saturday games.
* Favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.


Pittsburgh Panthers at Syracuse Orange (-4.5)

The Panthers have won six in a row, including an 81-74 victory at Georgia Tech on Tuesday in which Talib Zanna posted 22 points and nine rebounds. Playing without sixth man Durand Johnson (ACL tear), Pittsburgh received 70 of its 81 points from the starters and absolutely dominated the glass. "The rebounding was something we came in and had to do, and had to win that on the road," said Dixon, whose team outrebounded the Yellow Jackets, 38-18.

Coach Jim Boeheim spoke critically after Monday's 69-59 win at Boston College, even though his team put up respectable numbers from the field (45.3 percent), the 3-point line (4-of-10) and foul line (17-of-21). Sophomore guard Trevor Cooney bailed out the team with 21 points while freshman backcourt mate Tyler Ennis had 12 points, six steals and five assists. Ennis has 13 games with at least five assists.

TRENDS:

* Panthers are 6-2 ATS in their last eight against the ACC.
* Orange are 6-1 ATS in their last seven home games.
* Over is 9-2 in Pittsburgh's last 11 games.
* Under is 5-2 in the last seven meetings in Syracuse.


Indiana State Sycamores at Wichita State Shockers (-10)

No. 5 Wichita State could face its biggest hurdle to an undefeated regular season Saturday when it hosts Indiana State in a battle of the only unbeaten teams in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Shockers enter the showdown tied with No. 1 Arizona for the most wins in Division I and could be the fresher team after going deep into its bench in Tuesday's lopsided victory over Bradley.

The Sycamores trailed for under two minutes in Wednesday's victory over Missouri State, the same team that had Wichita State down 18 points before the Shockers rallied to victory. Greg Lansing's team is 5-0 in league play for the first time since the Larry Bird-led Sycamores went 16-0 during the 1978-79 season, which ended with a loss in the national championship game.

TRENDS:

* Sycamores are 5-2 ATS in their last seven road games.
* Shockers are 12-3-2 ATS in their last 17 games following an ATS win.
* Over is 5-1 in Indiana State's last six road games.
* Under is 5-2 in the last seven meetings.


DePaul Blue Demons at Villanova Wildcats (-17)

The Blue Demons' last three wins have come by a combined eights points, including a 99-94 double-overtime victory at Butler. That's a sign of budding maturity for a team that leans heavily on freshmen Billy Garrett Jr. (11.6 points) and Tommy Hamilton IV (9.5 points, 5.3 rebounds). The two have emerged to complement the senior duo of Cleveland Melvin (16.6 points, 6.6 rebounds) and Brandon Young (14.6 points, 4.2 assists).

The Wildcats struggled on offense in their 74-67 win at St. John's, belying their typical efficiency at that end of the floor. Pinkston (16.1 points, 5.4 rebounds) leads a trio of double-digit scorers and has been even more effective in conference play, and Darrun Hilliard (13.9 points) and James Bell (13.8) also can put up big numbers. Villanova freshman Josh Hart (9.9), has been named Big East Rookie of the Week three times in the past four weeks.


TRENDS:

* Blue Demons are 5-1 ATS in their last six games.
* Wildcats are 8-1 ATS in their last nine games following an ATS win.
* Under is 7-1 in DePaul's last eight road games.
* Over is 4-0 in the last four meetings.


Florida Gators at Auburn Tigers (+8)

Gators leading scorer Casey Prather, who has missed the past two games due to a bone bruise in his right knee, was cleared for contact Friday but coach Billy Donovan said it's doubtful he'll play significant minutes. That won't be the case for sophomore guard Michael Frazier II, who scored a career-high 21 points in Tuesday's win. Frazier is the conference leader in 3-point field goal percentage at 47.3.

The strength of the Tigers is in the backcourt, which features the conference's leading scorer in senior Chris Denson (19.4) and third-leading scorer in junior KT Harrell (19.0). Denson's 272 points through 14 games are the highest by an Auburn player since the 1993-94 season while Harrell is the first Tiger to score in double figures in the first 14 games since 2002-03. Each guard has scored at least 20 points on six occasions this season.

TRENDS:

* Gators are 2-5 ATS in their last seven road games.
* Tigers are 2-12 ATS in their last 14 games following a loss.
* Under is 19-7-1 in Florida's last 26 games.
* Under is 4-1 in Auburn's last five home games.


Oklahoma State Cowboys at Kansas Jayhawks (-5.5)

The Cowboys dominated TCU 82-50 at home on Wednesday but have struggled a bit on the road with the loss at Kansas State and a narrow 73-72 decision over West Virginia last weekend. Markel Brown scored 28 points and Smart had 25 when the Cowboys stunned then-No. 2 Kansas 85-80 at Allen Fieldhouse last season. Oklahoma State G Phil Forte leads the Big 12 in 3-point shooting at 47.9 percent.

Most of the Jayhawks’ core was not around for that home loss to Oklahoma State last season, and the trio of Wiggins, Embiid and Selden Jr. is getting stronger as the season moves along. Wiggins’ 19 boards on Monday were one shy of Kansas’ freshman record and Embiid is 12-for-15 from the field in the last two games while coming up one rebound shy of a double-double in each.

TRENDS:

* Cowboys are 8-19 ATS in their last 27 games vs. teams with winning records.
* Jayhawks are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games vs. the Big 12.
* Over is 11-4 in Oklahoma State's last 15 Saturday games.
* Road team is 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings.


UCLA Bruins at Utah Utes (+1)

Norman Powell finally put up good numbers against a quality opponent Thursday, and if the Bruins can squeeze 19 points out of him every game they’d have a lot better chance of staying on Arizona’s heels. Powell is shooting 15-for-25 in the last three games and Anderson is wise enough to know who has the hot hand when it's time to pass the ball.

The Bruins aren’t a strong rebounding team in their frontcourt so Jordan Loveridge can do some damage if he works hard enough. He won’t have a size advantage at 6-6, but knows how to leverage his body and work the angles to average a team-high 8.2 rebounds. Dallin Bachynski, a 7-foot reserve center, could do significant damage in a half-court setting as UCLA doesn’t have anyone that can match up with him one-on-one. 

TRENDS:


* Bruins are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games vs. Pacific 12 opponents.
* Utes are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 Saturday games.
* Under is 5-0 in UCLA's last five road games.
* Under is 6-2 in Utah's last eight games.

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