NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Saturday
by Alan Matthews - 3/20/2015
Here's hoping your bracket isn't totally busted following Thursday's epic first round of the Big Dance. The big losers, easily, were the state of Texas and Big 12. Supposedly the Big 12 was the best conference in the nation. I felt it was overrated, and that's looking accurate for now as No. 3 Baylor, No. 3 Iowa State and No. 11 Texas all lost. The Lone State State's five teams -- also SMU, Texas Southern and Stephen F. Austin -- each lost. Time to look forward to spring football in that state. Here's a look at three Round of 32 games Saturday that caught my eye.
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No. 14 UAB vs. No. 11 UCLA (-7, 138)
This South Region game tips at 12:10 p.m. from Louisville on CBS. The winner will head to Houston and face one of No. 2 Gonzaga, No. 15 North Dakota State, No. 7 Iowa or No. 10 Davidson. I fully expect it to be the Zags.
Fans of UCLA (21-13) might be saying "I told you so" today as the Bruins were widely panned as the worst at-large pick by the selection committee and that they should at least have been in the First Four. Just because UCLA upset No. 6 SMU 60-59 doesn't mean the committee was right to include the Bruins. That game Thursday had a very memorable ending, with SMU center Yanick Moreira called for defensive goaltending on a Bryce Alford 3-pointer in the final seconds that gave UCLA a 60-59 edge. That ball was not going in. You will hear talking heads argue whether it was goaltending or not. I guess technically it was because you at least have to give the ball a chance to hit the rim, which Moreira didn't (at least how it looked). Sad he ends his college career that way, but Moreira was a total stand-up guy in the post-game interview and now I root for him in life. Alford, the son of Coach Steve Alford, was fabulous, hitting 9-for-11 from 3-point range for 27 points. That was a school record for 3s in a tournament game, just the 10th time a player had at least nine in a Big Dance matchup and two more than dad Steve, a great college player, ever had in a game.
Iowa State was a chic Final Four pick of many after the Cyclones won the Big 12 Tournament. However, if you watched them closely you knew their past five wins came after rallying from double-digit deficits. That's a warning sign, and thus I wasn't totally shocked that UAB (20-15) pulled the 60-59 upset (score look familiar?). ISU was up 57-56, but UAB's William Lee hit a jumper with 24 seconds left, then got the rebound of a blocked ISU shot, was fouled and hit two free throws with 12.1 seconds left for a 3-point edge. The Cyclones missed two 3-pointers but tipped in one of them for the final margin. It was the first NCAA Tournament win for UAB since 2005. Over the last 20 seasons, UAB is the fourth-largest underdog to win an NCAA Tournament game; it was plus -14.
This game is a rematch from a holiday tournament in November in the Bahamas. UCLA, then ranked No. 22, won 88-76. Alford had 14, going 11-for-12 at the free-throw line. The game really wasn't that close as the Bruins led by 22 with about eight minutes left. UCLA has never lost to UAB in three meetings.
Key trends: UAB is 5-1 against the spread in its past six after a win and in past six at a neutral site. UCLA is 8-2 ATS in its past 10 games overall. The "over/under" has gone under in five of UAB's past six on Saturday. The under is 6-0 in UCLA's past six on Saturday.
Why take the favorite: Alford won't make nine 3-pointers again, but UCLA is simply much more talented.
No. 8 Cincinnati vs. No. 1 Kentucky (-18.5, 127)
This Midwest Region game in Louisville tips at approximately 2:40 p.m. on CBS. The winner will head to Cleveland to face one of No. 4 Maryland, No. 5 West Virginia, No. 12 Buffalo or No. 13 Valparaiso. My guess would be the Terps.
I didn't have Cincinnati (23-10) beating No. No. 9 Purdue in the first round, but the Bearcats did in exciting fashion, 66-65 in overtime. Troy Caupain hit a very tough layup at the buzzer in regulation, with the ball rolling around the rim, looking like it might fall out and then dropping. Vince Edwards missed a 3 at the buzzer in overtime for Purdue, which really was the better team and had a seven-point lead with 50 seconds left in regulation. Cincinnati won for the sixth time in seven games and also won its NCAA opener for the first time since 2012. However, monitor the status of the team's leading scorer and rebounder, Octavius Ellis. He was ejected from that game early in the second half after throwing an elbow toward the neck of Purdue center A.J. Hammons. It appears he won't be suspended for this game, but if officials determine he threw a punch then he would be. Cincinnati is a terrible offensive team (62.4 ppg, No. 294) as it is. What the Bearcats can do is defend (55.6 ppg, No. 6).
I gladly took the 33 points in Kentucky's opening-round game against No. 16 Hampton, and that worked out nicely as UK won 79-56. The Pirates were competitive for about 10 minutes in the first half. I was actually quite surprised Hampton scored in the 50s against one of the best defenses in NCAA history. Still, the Pirates shot only 28.8 percent and were outrebounded 51-31. At 35-0, UK has tied last year's Wichita State team for the best start in college basketball history. The Shockers lost game No. 36 to Kentucky.
If you have ever been to Cincinnati, half that town roots for Kentucky. In fact, a lot of people who work in Cincinnati live in cheaper northern Kentucky. The schools are about only 80 miles apart. Yet the two teams have only played once since 1990, and that came in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. I'm sure the fan support in Louisville will still be about 90 percent UK for Saturday.
Key trends: Cincinnati is 1-6 ATS in its past seven neutral-site games. Kentucky is 4-1 ATS in its past five vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 10-2 in UC's past 12 at a neutral site. The under is 5-2 in UK's past seven in that scenario.
Why take the underdog: This game is going to be ugly! Defense, defense, defense. Assuming Ellis plays, I'm taking the points as there won't be many scored.
No. 5 Arkansas vs. No. 4 North Carolina (-4.5, 165)
This West Region game in Jacksonville tips at approximately 9:40 p.m. The winner goes to Los Angeles and most likely faces No. 1 Wisconsin in the Sweet 16.
I did think that the Tar Heels (25-11), as 11-point favorites, would run Harvard out of the gym on Thursday, but UNC held on for dear life in a 67-65 victory. That the score was in the 60s tells you that the pace was in Harvard's style. UNC was up 16 in the second half at one point before falling behind 65-63 with 1:17 left. Freshman swingman Justin Jackson was the star, hitting the tying jumper in the final minute and then a breakaway dunk to clinch it. Jackson ended up with a team-high 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting. To reach the Final Four, the Heels need to score in transition, but that never really got going as Carolina scored just four points off Harvard turnovers. Also of concern is that the much bigger Heels shot only 13 free throws to Harvard's 20. Plus UNC turned it over 17 times.
Arkansas (27-8) escaped Wofford 56-53 in the first round behind 20 points from Michael Qualls and 15 points and 13 rebounds from Bobby Portis, who was the SEC Player of the Year. That game was back and forth all night. Wofford missed two potential tying shots on its final possession. The Hogs' success is built on their pressure defense and that wasn't much on display Thursday as Arkansas had only seven points off turnovers, tied for its fewest points in a game this season. The Razorbacks average 19.2 points off turnovers, No. 2 among Power 5 Conference teams.
This game should be a track meet with the Heels' offensive style going against that full-court pressure of Arkansas. I expect each team to get into the 70s -- that total is by far the highest of Saturday's games. UNC better not turn it over 17 times again.
Key trends: The Hogs are 1-6 ATS in their past seven after a win. UNC is 0-4 ATS in its past four NCAA Tournament games. The under is 5-2 in Arkansas' past seven nonconference games. The over is 5-1 in UNC's past six on Saturday.
Why take the favorite: Qualls and Portis are future NBA players, but Carolina has about five of them. Plus I'm not high on the SEC. I would go under that total just because it's so high.
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