With the college football bowls largely in the rearview mirror, I certainly will shift more attention to NCAA basketball through the Final Four in Houston. And I will provide these Opening Line stories near daily -- Fridays are hit-and-miss with generally a weak schedule that night -- to give you a betting head start for the next day's games and any potential relevant injury news. This Saturday marks the first where all the major conferences are underway. And the No. 1 ranking in the polls is on the line for the likes of No. 2 Kansas and No. 3 Oklahoma, both of whom host ranked Big 12 foes on Saturday. Not a fan of either school, but I'm rooting for both to win because then we should see a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup between the Sooners and Jayhawks in Lawrence on Monday night.
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No. 9 Butler at No. 6 Xavier (-6)
This Big East showdown tips at 1 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. Xavier (12-1) is going to plummet in the polls after betting destroyed 95-64 at No. 16 Villanova on Thursday. And the news got worse from that game when Musketeers star freshman Edmond Sumner had to be carted off on a stretcher after a nasty fall just a few minutes in. It appears he will be OK as he was released from the hospital later Thursday and was able to travel home with the team. Presumably Sumner will miss some time, however. He's averaging 11.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Xavier's biggest deficit this season prior to Villanova was 18 points, which came Dec. 22 at Wake Forest. Sumner was a big part in XU rallying to win that one. The 95 points allowed to Villanova were the most given up by Xavier this season, which also committed a season-high 19 turnovers. The players probably were a little shaken up after that injury.
Butler (11-2) also comes off a Thursday loss in the conference opener, 81-73 at home to No. 12 Providence. The Bulldogs led by 11 at halftime but allowed the Friars to score 56 second-half points. Butler was just 3-for-17 from long range. Senior guard Kellen Dunham, the team's leading scorer, had just eight points and was 3-for-14 shooting. He's in a major funk right now. In the first eight games, Dunham made 24-of-55 shots from 3-point range (43.6 percent). In the past five, he's a ghastly 2-for-32 (6.3 percent), missing the past 21. He has been held in single digits four straight games after averaging 20 in the first eight. Butler won two of three meetings last year in this series but lost by 12 at Xavier.
Key trends: Butler is 6-1 against the spread in its past seven road games. Xavier is 8-1 ATS in its past nine overall.
I'm leaning: Butler.
No. 1 Michigan State at Minnesota (+10)
The Big Ten matchup is at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Sparty will drop in the new polls after losing its first game of the season Tuesday night in Iowa, but you really could see that one coming. After all, in MSU's first game without injured star Denzel Valentine, an early national player of the year candidate, it nearly lost to Oakland University. MSU (13-1) had to rally from 15 points down at one point before prevailing in overtime. Iowa's better than Oakland and the Hawkeyes won pretty easily, 83-70. The Hawkeyes never even trailed in ending a nine-game losing streak in the series. Valentine is out another week or so. He's averaging 18.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists per game. The MSU basketball team was in attendance at the Cotton Bowl on Thursday night watching the football team get demolished. This is MSU's first trip to Minnesota since 2012.
Minnesota (6-7) has lost five of its past six games, including puzzlers to South Dakota, South Dakota State and Milwaukee. The Gophers opened Big Ten play Wednesday with a 78-63 defeat at Ohio State. The Buckeyes used a 21-5 run to blow open a close game. Minnesota has a good-looking freshman in Jordan Murphy, who is averaging 10.8 points and 8.5 rebounds. He had a string of three straight double-doubles end in the loss to OSU. He was the first Minnesota player with three straight double-doubles since current NBA player Kris Humphries in December 2003. The Gophers pulled off a 96-90 overtime upset in East Lansing last year. Sparty had won six of the previous seven meetings. All-time, the Gophers are 4-18 against the top-ranked team in the country. All four wins came at home.
Key trends: MSU is 11-5 ATS in its past 16 road games. Minnesota is 1-5 ATS in its past six at home. The home team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings.
I'm leaning: Go Gophers, who might win this outright.
Gonzaga at San Francisco (+13)
This West Coast Conference game is at 11 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Gonzaga (11-3) was the heavy favorite to win the West Coast Conference title again this season and maybe the Zags will, but they got bad news this week when excellent center Przemek Karnowski was ruled out for the season. He has been out since late November with a bulging disc in his back. The original diagnosis was 4-6 weeks, but he has since had surgery. Karnowski averaged 8.8 points and 5.4 rebounds for the Zags, but the numbers don't tell the whole story and he's one of the best post defenders and rebounders in the country. It's not clear if he will seek a medical redshirt to play next season or turn pro. With a healthy Karnowski, Gonzaga might have had the best frontcourt in the nation along with All-American Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis, who are both having huge seasons. The Zags have won five straight since a home loss to UCLA. They escaped at Santa Clara 79-77 on Thursday. Josh Perkins had a career-high 26 points. He secured the win by grabbing the rebound of his intentionally missed free throw with 2.5 seconds left.
San Francisco (8-5) beat Portland 107-95 on Thursday. USF was down 15 points midway through the second half but outscored Portland 41-14 the rest of the way. It was San Francisco's first 100-point game since 2011 and its highest-scoring overall since the 2009-10 season. Senior guard Tim Derksen led the way with a career-high 27 points on 10-for-12 shooting. The Dons shot 58.3 percent from the field and made 11-of-23 of their 3-point attempts. You may not know they are coached by former Kentucky star Rex Walters. The Dons were 0-3 vs. Gonzaga last year. The closest loss was by nine in the WCC Tournament.
Key trends: Zags are 2-8-1 ATS in their past 11 road games. USF is 11-4 ATS in past 15 meetings.
I'm leaning: USF to cover.
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