NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Saturday
by Alan Matthews - 2/13/2015
With all due respect to the Big East, I don't consider it a power conference in college basketball any longer after losing Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Louisville. It's probably the next-best one after the Power 5, sure. So what a surprise it is, then, that the best game on Saturday's schedule is for first place in the Big East, with Villanova all but locking up the conference's regular-season title for the second year in a row with a win over Butler. The Wildcats are +3000 on Sportsbook.ag to win the national title. Here's a look at that game and two others that caught my eye.
No. 23 Ohio State at Michigan State (-1.5)
It's a noon tip on ESPN for this Big Ten matchup, and the winner here will be in a better position to potentially finish second in the conference behind lock Big Ten champion Wisconsin. The Buckeyes (19-6, 8-4) have won five of their past six games and come off a 75-55 home rout of Penn State on Wednesday. Superstar freshman D'Angelo Russell had 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and Sam Thompson had a career-high 22 points. OSU played without occasional starting center Anthony Lee due to a groin injury, and he's questionable here. He averages only 11 minutes per game. The Buckeyes played their third straight game without second-leading scorer Marc Loving, but he will come off suspension and face the Spartans. Loving is averaging 11.7 points and shoots a terrific 53.2 percent from long range. Loving has been practicing with Ohio State during his suspension.
Michigan State (16-8, 7-4) is in the NCAA Tournament as things stand, but Sparty doesn't want to go on a three-game losing streak or anything because it's close to the bubble. MSU comes off a 68-44 rout at Northwestern on Tuesday. Coach Tom Izzo wanted to give his offense a boost, so he started freshman Lourawls Nairn at point guard and brought second-leading scorer Travis Trice off the bench. It seemed to energize Trice as he had 16 points and made 4 of 6 from 3-point range. Trice averaged 11 points on 33 percent shooting in his previous six games. Izzo tied late Purdue coach Ward "Piggy" Lambert for third place on the all-time Big Ten victories list with 228 - Bobby Knight (353) and Gene Keady (265) are the only two ahead of Izzo.
This is the only regular-season meeting. The schools split two very close games last year, each winning at home.
Key trends: OSU is 4-1 ATS in its past five games. The Buckeyes have covered just two of their past 12 on the road. The Spartans are 2-6 ATS in their past eight. They have failed to cover six straight vs. teams with a winning record. OSU has covered five of its past seven at MSU.
Why take the underdog: OSU is just the better team.
Oregon State at USC (TBA)
It's a 5 p.m. tip on the Pac-12 Network for this one. Rather amazingly, at least to me, Oregon State hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 1990. The Beavers (16-8, 7-5) have a realistic shot this season if they can finish the regular season strong, although a loss to a bad USC team would really be a killer. OSU comes off a 75-59 defeat at UCLA on Wednesday. Junior guard Gary Payton II, the son of the greatest Oregon State basketball player ever and an NBA legend, matched his career high with 24 points in the loss. OSU was just 5-for-22 from beyond the arc and 20 of 52 (.320) overall. The team got more bad news when the suspension of Victor Robbins was extended for an indefinite period following a recent DUI citation. Robbins, who averages 10.3 points, was given a 10-game suspension in mid-January due to a violation of athletic department rules and was set to return Feb. 19 vs. Utah. That won't happen now.
I wonder if USC (9-15, 1-11) is having second thoughts about hiring former Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield in April 2013 after his team was the darling of that year's NCAA Tournament. This program isn't going forward and is last in the Pac-12 after finishing in the basement last year as well. The Trojans have lost nine straight since their lone conference win, 71-57 at home vs. Cal. If looking for a positive, seven of those losses were close. Loss No. 4 of that skid was 59-55 at Oregon State on Jan. 24. Payton II had 21 points and 10 rebounds. Trailing 58-55, the Trojans had a chance to tie, but Payton stole a pass intended for Nikola Jovanovic at the top of the 3-point arc with eight seconds to play. Katin Reinhardt led USC with 17 points. The Beavers have won eight of the last 11 meetings against USC.
Key trends: The Beavers are 9-3 ATS in their past 12 after a loss. OSU is 1-6 ATS in its past seven road games. The Trojans are 0-4 ATS in their past four at home vs. teams with a losing road record. The road team has covered the past four meetings.
Why the TBA? USC freshman guard Jordan McLaughlin is likely to sit after aggravating his surgically-repaired shoulder in the loss to Oregon. He averages 12.1 points, 4.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds in a team-high 31.6 minutes per game. OSU will be a favorite in this game but not by much. Assuming McLaughlin sits, take the Beavers as they should roll.
No. 6 Villanova at No. 18 Butler (+2)
This starts at 6 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network. Currently ESPN's Bracketology has Villanova as a No. 2 seed in the East, but should it win out and claim the Big East title I could easily see the Wildcats jumping to a No. 1 because I expect probably two more losses for current East No. 1 Virginia. Villanova (22-2, 9-2) has a one-game lead over Butler and brings a five-game winning streak into this one. The Wildcats survived a tough challenge at Providence on Wednesday, 74-68. The Wildcats used an 11-0 run in the second half for a 48-34 lead with just over eight minutes left and hung on. Ryan Arcidiacono scored 20 points and Daniel Ochefu had 19 to lead Villanova. Ochefu was out of the starting lineup for the second straight game as punishment for some academic issue, but after that game Nova coach Jay Wright made it sound like the punishment was up.
Butler (18-6, 8-3) struggled to a 14-17 record last season in its first year post-Brad Stevens and first in the Big East, but the Bulldogs clearly will return to the NCAA Tournament next month. The Bulldogs also have won five straight and have been off since an 83-73 win over DePaul last Saturday. Butler is coached by Chris Holtmann, who was supposed to an assistant to Brandon Miller, but the school announced on Oct. 1 that Miller would be taking a leave of absence as head coach for unspecified medical reasons. It has since been announced that Miller won't be returning at all, so the job is Holtmann's.
Villanova hosted Butler on New Year's Eve and the Wildcats won 67-55. Arcidiacono scored 15 points and Ochefu had 10 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots. Butler shot only 35.5 percent. The Bulldogs' two leading scorers, Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones, were held to a combined 18 points, about 12 below their current combined average.
Key trends: Villanova is 5-0 ATS in its past five conference games. The Wildcats are 7-3 ATS in their past 10 on the road. Butler is 5-0 ATS in its past five vs. teams with a winning record. The Bulldogs are 9-4 ATS in their past 13 at home.
Why take the favorite: Butler's a nice team but not in Nova's class.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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