NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Tuesday
by Alan Matthews - 12/29/2014
I didn't include the Illinois-Michigan Big Ten opener among my three games to watch Tuesday, but it should be quite the atmosphere in Ann Arbor even though both teams are just OK. Ticket prices have skyrocketed for the game because it's expected that Jim Harbaugh will speak to the crowd at halftime after he's introduced at a press conference as Michigan's new football coach earlier Tuesday. The cheapest ticket on StubHub to get into Crisler Arena was $119.25 as of 10:30 a.m. ET on Monday, according to ESPN. A pair of tickets in the same section had sold on the site on Dec. 22 for $28 each. So that game will be worth checking out on ESPN2 just for Harbaugh and to see if he says something about beating Ohio State. Here's a look at three intriguing matchups Tuesday.
No. 12 Maryland at Michigan State (-3.5)
Think the Terps will be jacked up for this one? It's the first Big Ten game for Maryland, and they don't get much tougher than playing in East Lansing, although this Spartans club clearly isn't as good yet as recent Tom Izzo teams. I'm not really sure if Maryland (12-1) is any good. Its best win is against Iowa State, but the Terps were handled fairly easily by former ACC foe Virginia. This will be Maryland's second true road game. It won 73-64 at Oklahoma State on Dec. 21. Maryland's best player, senior Dez Wells, returned to the lineup Saturday after missing the past seven games with a fractured right wrist, scoring 10 points in a 72-56 win over Oakland. He was averaging a team-best 16.2 points in the first five games of the season.
There's a big injury concern for Michigan State as its best player, senior forward Branden Dawson, has missed the past two games with a slightly fractured wrist. He averages 10.8 points and 8.5 rebounds and might be able to return for this one. Sparty suffered an embarrassing loss without him, falling 71-64 in overtime at home to little Texas Southern on Dec. 20. Texas Southern was coming off a 40-point loss to Gonzaga and hadn't beaten a ranked team since December 1994. The Spartans were 24.5-point favorites in that game. That made it the biggest upset loss from a spread perspective under Izzo. The coach was understandably ticked off by that, and MSU bounced back with an 82-56 win over the Citadel last Monday. The Spartans haven't beaten a good team yet, also losing to Duke, Kansas and Notre Dame. Michigan State is shooting .420 (108-257) from 3-point range this season, leading the Big Ten and ranking third in the nation. Izzo is 17-2 in Big Ten home openers, including winning the last 12.
Key trends: The Terps are 10-4 ATS in their past 14 vs. teams with a winning record. MSU is 7-1 ATS in its past eight at home.
Why give the points: Only do it if Dawson plays. If he doesn't, take them.
Davidson at No. 3 Virginia (-16)
This could be a huge trap game for the Cavaliers because they could be looking past a pretty solid Davidson squad and toward the ACC opener in Miami on Saturday. Virginia does look Final Four-caliber thus far, with impressive wins at Maryland and VCU. The Cavs slaughtered the class of the Ivy League, Harvard, 76-27 in their last game on Dec. 21. Virginia, 11-0 for the first time since the 1992-93 season, held Harvard to an NCAA record-tying one field goal in the first half, and it came just 3:29 into the game. Only Savannah State, with one field goal in the first half against Kansas State on Jan. 7, 2008, had done that before in the shot-clock era. UVa led Harvard 39-8 at the half in winning its 17th straight home game. The Crimson finished 8-for-50 from the field, the worst shooting percentage ever by a Virginia opponent. Harvard's starters were a combined 1-for-32 from the floor. As usual, Virginia is one of the nation's best defensive teams. The Cavaliers held an opponent under 70 points for the 17th consecutive game (longest active streak nationally).
Davidson, of the Atlantic 10, was an NIT team last year and has started 2014 at 9-1, the team's best start under Coach Bob McKillop. That loss was 90-72 to North Carolina in Charlotte back on Nov. 22. The Wildcats are a terrific offensive team, ranking No. 1 nationally in points at 87.7 per game, No. 3 in made 3-pointers per game, No. 6 in assists and No. 9 in rebounds. Tyler Kalinoski leads the club in averaging 16.1 points. Davidson has won 11 of its last 12 road contests dating back to last season but is 14-89 all time against AP Top 25 teams and has lost 18 of the past 19. Davidson lost to No. 25 Virginia 70-57 last November in Charlotte.
Key trends: Davidson has covered six straight nonconference games. Virginia is 9-2 ATS in its past 11 nonconference matchups.
Why take the points: Virginia will do just enough to win and then focus on ACC, so Davidson should hang within 12-14.
Florida at Florida State (+6)
The Gators and Seminoles renew their rivalry on Tuesday in Tallahassee, and each side has one more nonconference game this weekend before heading into conference play. Florida (7-4) has been a disappointment. UF was expected to take a step back somewhat after losing four senior starters off last season's Final Four club, but it was still expected to be a good team. Maybe it will be. Florida has won four straight by at least 13 points entering this one. Former Duke forward Alex Murphy made his debut for the Gators in their last game, a 63-50 win over Wake Forest on Dec. 20. Murphy, declared eligible shortly before the game, had nine points off the bench. Another transfer who was expected to contribute, guard Eli Carter, missed that one with strep throat. He has a good shot of playing against FSU. The junior, who used to play at Rutgers, averages 7.8 points in 23 minutes per night.
Florida State (7-5) also has underachieved but enters on a three-game winning streak. Don't get too excited, Noles backers, as those were against North Florida, South Florida and Stetson. Pretty much every decent team FSU has played it has lost to. Florida State is again strong defensively but struggles to score. Aaron Thomas leads the team in averaging 14.8 points per game, but he was ruled ineligible the rest of the season a couple of weeks ago. Montay Brandon (13.9) and Xavier Rathan-Mayes (11.5) lead the way now. FSU, which has just one player shooting better than 30 percent from long range, has lost five straight to the Gators, including two in a row in Tallahassee.
Key trends: UF has failed to cover its past seven after a win. The underdog has covered seven of the past 10 meetings.
Why take the points: I'm shocked FSU is getting that many at home -- this isn't your usual Florida team, which has also played only one true road game. An outright win wouldn't surprise me for the Seminoles.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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