NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Friday
by Alan Matthews - 3/19/2015
It's Day 2 of the NCAA Tournament's first round on Friday as by around midnight or so we will have our Round of 32 set. I put a few potential Top-4 seeds on upset alert: No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 UC Irvine, No. 4 Maryland vs. No. 13 Valparaiso and No. 3 Oklahoma against No. 14 Albany. I happen to think the Cardinals and Sooners, in particular, are overrated. While those are nice matchups, here are three others that caught my eye on another spectacular day of hoops. Why do I have a feeling there will be a lot of people around the country calling in sick for this day and a long weekend?
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No. 10 Georgia vs. No. 7 Michigan State (-5.5, 126)
This East Region game from Charlotte tips at 12:40 p.m. on truTV with the winner probably facing No. 2 Virginia on Sunday.
Georgia (21-11) finished in a three-way tie for third in the SEC and beat South Carolina in its first conference tournament game before losing by 11 to Arkansas. UGa is in the Big Dance for the first time since 2011. It hasn't won a game since 2002. Probably the Dawgs' claim to fame this year was they played Kentucky as well as anyone, holding a nine-point lead with under 10 minutes left in the second half -- the largest second-half lead anyone had over UK. There is one significant Georgia injury to monitor. Junior guard Kenny Gaines missed the Bulldogs' semifinal loss to Arkansas with a foot sprain. He is the team's second-leading scorer at 11.6 points per game but said there's no way he won't play this game. Sophomore guard Juwan Parker reaggravated an injury in that loss but also expects to play. The last time Georgia had every player available healthy was Jan. 6 in its conference opener.
Michigan State (23-11) is a tournament regular under Tom Izzo. Remember, last year's team was a chic pick to win it all, and Izzo lost a lot off that club, so it was supposed to be a bit of a rebuilding year in East Lansing. Yet MSU nearly won the Big Ten Tournament and frankly should have beaten regular-season champion Wisconsin. The Badgers were down 11 in the second half and won in overtime. Izzo has to be thrilled with how senior Branden Dawson played in the Big Ten Tournament. He was up-and-down this season but had at least 14 points and eight rebounds in all three tourney games.
Key trends: Georgia has covered five of its past seven nonconference games. MSU is 5-1 against the spread in its past six out of conference. The Spartans have covered just two of their past 11 neutral-site games. The "over/under" has gone under in four of Georgia's past five outside the SEC. The over is 6-1 in Michigan State's past seven overall.
Why take the favorite: Izzo always has his team tournament-ready.
No. 12 Wyoming vs. No. 5 Northern Iowa (-6, 110.5)
It's an East Region game from Seattle at 1:40 p.m. ET (rough start time locally) on TBS, with the winner taking on either No. 4 Louisville or No. 13 UC Irvine on Sunday. I find this game interesting because the total is crazy low, by far the lowest of any game in the first round.
Wyoming definitely knocked a more deserving team (Temple? Colorado State?) out of the Big Dance. The Cowboys (25-9) finished third in the Mountain West regular-season standings (one spot behind CSBU) but rolled to the conference tournament championship, beating Utah State by two, Boise State in overtime and then San Diego State by two in the title game. It's the first Big Dance for Wyoming since 2002. A No. 12 seed has upset a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament in 13 of the last 14 seasons. Wyoming can't score (308th at 61.7 ppg) or rebound (30.1, 330th) but can definitely defend, holding teams to just 56.0 points per game (No. 8).
Northern Iowa (30-3) has a lot of people picking it to reach the Sweet 16. The Panthers finished second to Wichita State in the Missouri Valley regular-season standings but didn't have to deal with the Shockers in the conference tournament, with UNI handling Illinois State 69-50 in the finale. It's the first tournament berth since 2010 for Northern Iowa, which moderately surprised me. The Panthers are a lot like Wyoming. Not good offensively (65.4 ppg, No. 223) or on the boards (30.8 rpg, No. 320) but excellent on defense, holding teams to just 54.3 points per game (No. 4). Senior forward Seth Tuttle is the team's best player and was the MVC's Player of the Year and the MVC tournament's Most Outstanding Player. He averages 15.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. He shoots an outstanding 62 percent from the field and is the only Panther to average in double-figure points.
Key trends: Wyoming hasn't covered its past four nonconference games. UNI has covered 13 of its past 19 overall. The under has hit in four of Wyoming's past five nonconference games. The over is 4-1 in Northern Iowa's past five overall.
Why take the underdog: I believe Northern Iowa wins, but since neither team can score it should stay close. I don't normally do totals because they aren't released the day before in the regular season. I have to address this one, however. Go over. That's so low.
No. 9 St. John's vs. No. 8 San Diego State (-3, 120)
This South Region game in Charlotte starts around 9:40 p.m. ET on CBS, with the winner facing almost surely top-seeded Duke on Sunday.
St. John's (21-11) was fifth in the Big East regular-season standings and ended the year on a two-game skid, betting totally obliterated by Villanova to close the season and then a 74-57 loss to Providence in the first game of the conference tournament. And the Johnnies got a No. 9 seed!? There's one big player suspension to be aware of here, and it's why I'm going to lean San Diego State in this game. St. John's junior center Chris Obekpa has been suspended two weeks by the team for a violation of team rules. He could return March 29, but clearly the Red Storm won't be playing then. The 6-foot-10 Nigerian started 24 games this season. He doesn't do much on offense, averaging only 5.8 points. But he pulls down 7.0 rebounds per game and was among the national blocks leaders at 3.2 per game. He holds the school record with 321 in his career. He's just about the only imposing interior presence that Coach Steve Lavin has.
Coach Steve Fisher has San Diego State (26-8) in the Big Dance for the sixth straight year, and the Aztecs have won a game in the past two tournaments. SDSU tied with Boise State for first place in the Mountain West regular season, with the Aztecs being upset by Wyoming 45-43 in the conference tournament final. See that score? Expect something similar here. San Diego State can't score (305th at 61.8 ppg, 284th in 3-point shooting percentage at 31.6) but is a fabulous defensive team, ranking second nationally (53.1 ppg allowed).
SDSU and SJU have never played, but San Diego State senior Dwayne Polee II spent his freshman season at St. John's before transferring to SDSU. Polee didn't play with anyone on the current Red Storm roster.
Key trends: St. John's is 5-2 ATS in its past seven nonconference games. SDSU is 1-5 ATS in its past six out of conference. The under is 4-1 in the Johnnies' past five at a neutral site and in SDSU's past five after a loss.
Why take the favorite: That Obekpa loss is big.
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