NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Friday
by Alan Matthews - 1/1/2015
Friday is usually the worst night of college basketball action of the week with rarely a Top-25 team in action. It's all mid-major conferences and the full Ivy League schedule. So many weeks I won't do an opening line story for Friday, unless there are some unusually strong mid-major matchups, and instead examine Sunday's slate. However, there are a few ranked teams in action this Friday so let's take a look at three interesting opening lines from BetOnline.
Southern Cal at No. 10 Utah (-16.5)
The Utes are ranked in the Top 10 of the Associated Press Poll for the first time since 1999, which surprises me. The last time Utah was in the poll was the end of the 1998-99 season, when the Utes finished at No. 6 after a 28-5 record and reaching the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. The Utes (10-2) have some nice non-conference wins against Wichita State, BYU and UNLV. Their only losses were by four points at San Diego State and by three to Kansas in Kansas City. Utah got a big piece back from injury in Tuesday's 85-49 rout of some team called Carroll College. Junior forward Jordan Loveridge returned after missing seven games with a knee injury and had 14 points. He's second on the team in scoring. By far the most interesting Utah player is 7-foot Austrian freshman Jakob Poeltl. He's raw but looks like a future NBA player. Poeltl averages 10.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in just 23.8 minutes per night.
USC (8-4) was terrible last season and might not be a whole lot better with losses to schools like Portland State, Akron and Army (loss to Penn State not so bad). The Trojans' best win is probably at New Mexico or at Boston College. USC is a pretty young team. Freshman Jordan McLaughlin leads the club in points (13.3 per game), assists (5.2) and steals (1.7). Utah swept USC last season, winning 84-66 in Salt Lake City and 79-71 in Los Angeles. The Trojans had only two Pac-12 wins a year ago.
Key trends: USC is 6-1 ATS in its past seven road games vs. teams with a winning record. Utah is 5-1 ATS in its past six vas. the Pac-12.
Why take the underdog: This line is about five points higher than it should be.
No. 21 Washington at California (-2.5)
If you aren't a believer in look-ahead trap games, I give you Washington's last outing. The Huskies opened the season 11-0 and clearly were peeking ahead to this Pac-12 opener against Cal when they hosted Stony Brook on Sunday. The result: a 62-57 shocking loss in which Washington gagged away a late 11-point lead and was scoreless over the final 3:41. That defeat dropped the Huskies from No. 13 in last week's poll. Stony Brook hadn't beaten a team from a power conference since 2006. "Mentally, we just weren't there," UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. No kidding. I'm quite sure he put the players through some rough practices since then. The 11-1 start still matches the best under Romar. Washington has the nation's leading shot-blocker in Robert Upshaw. His 55 are already just 12 shy of the school's single-season record. Largely thanks to Upshaw, UW ranks fifth nationally in field-goal percentage defense (33.9 percent).
California (10-3) seems to have been caught in a sandwich game last time out. The Bears lost a competitive game to Top-10 team Wisconsin on Dec. 22 and then somehow lost at home to Cal State Bakersfield 55-52 on Monday. It wasn't a fluke as the Roadrunners (3-10) led by as many as 17. Their only other wins were against "powerhouses" Delaware and Idaho State. Cal's Jabari Bird missed his seventh consecutive game with a foot injury. He's third on the team in scoring at 11.7 points per game. He's not expected to play in this one.
The Bears swept the Huskies last season, winning 82-56 at home and 72-59 in Seattle. UW is 8-4 in Pac-12 openers under Romar and has won six straight.
Key trends: The favorite has covered five of the past six meetings. Cal has covered six of its past nine vs. teams with a winning record.
Why take the favorite: Because the Bears are giving less than three at home.
Valparaiso at Oakland (+2.5)
I definitely don't get this line. Valparaiso (13-2) might be the best team in the Horizon League and Oakland is middle of the pack. The Crusaders, who are 3-1 in true road games, have only lost at Missouri and against New Mexico. They enter on a five-game winning streak. The team is overly dependent on one guy: sophomore forward Alec Peters. He leads the team in scoring at 19.9 points per game and is the only guy averaging double figures.
Oakland (4-10) has lost five straight games but you have to credit the Golden Grizzlies' schedule. Those losses are to Michigan State, Arizona, Pittsburgh (in overtime), Clemson and Maryland, all on the road. Oakland faced six teams from Power 5 Conferences and four ranked opponents in non-conference play. That's called cashing a check. Corey Petros needs one offensive rebound to break the all-time school record. He averages 8.2 boards a game overall and 14.4 points. The Golden Grizzlies are riding an eight-game winning streak in home league openers. After dropping the first 16 games in the series, Oakland has won six of the last eight against Valpo. The teams split two close games last year, each winning at home.
Key trends: Oakland has covered four straight in this series. The Golden Grizzlies have covered only two of their past 13 at home overall.
Why take the favorite: Can't really go against Valpo now, can I?
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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