NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Saturday
by Alan Matthews - 3/6/2015
It's the final Saturday of the regular season and, as usual, all eyes in the college basketball world will be on Kentucky. The Cats nearly saw their unbeaten dreams end on Tuesday but were able to escape in Athens. On the updated Sportsbook.ag undefeated odds through the Big Dance, UK is now +130 to do so and -165 not to. I'm not a Kentucky fan at all, but the NCAA Tournament will be vastly more interesting if it is unbeaten entering that. The Cats host Florida on Saturday, a team that won in Lexington last season. Here's a look at that game and two others that caught my eye.
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Michigan State at Indiana (TBA)
This Big Ten matchup is at noon on ESPN. Could Hoosiers coach Tom Crean be fired if Indiana loses this game? It would be devastating as IU is currently listed on ESPN Bracketology among the "Last Four In" and a No. 12 seed in a play-in game. At one point, Indiana was 15-4 and ranked in the Top 25.
If you believe Indiana AD Fred Glass, Crean's job is safe. Glass said he had to respond after a 77-63 home loss to Iowa on Tuesday that dropped IU to 19-11 overall and 9-8 in the conference. Glass said he met with Crean on Wednesday and reassured him about his job security. Glass says Crean's buyout doesn't matter, but that's hogwash. According to ESPN, the Hoosiers could buy out the deal for $12 million until July 1 and then $7.5 million after. It drops drop to $4 million in July 2016 and then to $1 million for 2017-20. I've heard rumors of the Celtics' Brad Stevens potentially returning to college and taking over the IU job if it came open. Michigan State (20-10, 11-6) would have been in some bubble danger had it lost at home to Purdue on Wednesday, but Sparty won 72-66 to end a two-game losing streak. Travis Trice tied his career high with 27 points in his final home game. Fellow senior Branden Dawson played only nine minutes after taking a shot to his head. He's questionable. Dawson averages 11.6 points and 9.3 rebounds.
This is the first meeting of the season between the Spartans and Hoosiers. MSU was 2-0 against IU a season ago, winning by 17 in Bloomington.
Key trends: The Spartans are 5-0 ATS in their past five road games. They are 1-4 ATS in their past five Saturday games. Indiana is 8-3 ATS in its past 11 following an ATS loss. It is 1-4 ATS in its past five at home. The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.
Why the TBA: Because of Dawson. IU will be a solid favorite, but I think the Hoosiers win in a blowout, Dawson or not.
Florida at No. 1 Kentucky (-15)
This SEC matchup is a 2 p.m. on CBS. Of course UK is going to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament no matter what happens here or in the SEC Tournament. The Cats look to run the table in the regular season against a Florida team that was unbeaten in SEC play last season but now is playing for maybe an NIT berth.
When I previewed Tuesday's Kentucky game at Georgia, I thought the Bulldogs might win. And I was feeling good about that when they were up nine points in the second half -- UK's biggest second-half deficit all season. However, then the Wildcats went on a 14-0 run and won 72-64 (didn't cover) to improve to 30-0 overall and 17-0 in the SEC. They are the fourth SEC team ever to win 30 straight games; Florida also did last year. UK is the 13th team in Division I history to start 30-0. The last three to do so didn't win it all. The last that did was the unbeaten Indiana team in 1975-76. Florida (15-15, 8-9) hurt Texas A&M's at-large bid chances with a 66-62 win in Gainesville on Tuesday. UF played its seventh consecutive game without leading scorer Michael Frazier II, who has a badly sprained ankle. There's just about no way he plays here or probably in the SEC Tournament.
Florida has never beaten the nation's No. 1 team in the regular season. The Gators did give Kentucky a good game on Feb. 7 in Gainesville, but the Wildcats won 68-61. Florida was up 44-42 midway through the second half before a thunderous Willie Cauley-Stein dunk tied the game and totally changed momentum.
Key trends: Florida is 4-9 ATS in its past 13 against teams with a winning record. The Gators are 2-5 ATS in their past seven on the road. Kentucky is 7-2 ATS in its past nine at home against teams with a losing road record. UK is 1-4 ATS in its past five following an ATS loss. UF is 5-2 in the past seven meetings.
Why take the favorite: Home finale, most likely, for at least a few of those young UK guys (Karl-Anthony Towns for sure). The focus will be there.
No. 9 Kansas at No. 15 Oklahoma (-3)
The Big 12 showdown is at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN, and it seems totally stacked against Kansas, which currently is projected as a No. 2 seed in the East. Oklahoma is a No. 4 in the South.
So here's why I love OU here. First off, Kansas (24-6, 13-4) has squat to play for. The Jayhawks staged an amazing rally to beat West Virginia 76-69 in overtime on Tuesday to win the Big 12 regular-season title for the 11th straight year and earn the top seed in the conference tournament. The Jayhawks completed a 16-0 home season. In addition, Kansas junior forward Perry Ellis is not expected to play Saturday, but Coach Bill Self expects him back for the Big 12 Tournament. Ellis played 17 minutes against West Virginia before suffering a knee injury late in the first half when teammate Landen Lucas fell on his leg. Ellis underwent an MRI, which showed that he suffered a sprain. He is averaging 14.2 points and 7.0 rebounds. Plus highly-touted freshman Cliff Alexander has missed the past two games as the NCAA investigates an eligibility issue and surely won't play Saturday. The NCAA doesn't exactly work at warp speed in these matters. Oklahoma (20-9, 11-6) is aiming for the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 Tournament as OU is currently tied for second with Iowa State. The Sooners lost at ISU 77-70 on Monday. Oklahoma had a 19-point halftime lead, but Iowa State scored 22 straight points in just over five minutes early in the second half.
Oklahoma lost at Kansas 85-78 on Jan. 19. KU was up 20 but the Sooners got it close with a 21-3 run out of halftime. Ellis had 16 points and Alexander 13 and 13 rebounds. Buddy Hield led OU with 26 points.
Key trends: Kansas is 1-4 ATS in its past five on the road. It is 0-5 ATS in its past five overall. Oklahoma is 0-5 ATS in its past five. KU is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings.
Why take the favorite: Pretty sure you know my reasons. I don't think it's close.
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