NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Saturday
by Alan Matthews - 2/27/2015
There were dozens of nice matchups to choose from on a huge Saturday of college basketball action. But as usual I will look at Kentucky's march to history as the Cats face a ranked team for the first time since winning at Louisville in their nonconference finale. UK's unbeaten odds have taken a slight shift since their win Tuesday. The Wildcats are now +180 at Sportsbook.ag to run the table all the way through the Big Dance and -225 not to. Here's a look at that game and two other Top-10 teams potentially on upset alert Saturday.
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No. 18 Arkansas at No. 1 Kentucky (-15)
This SEC showdown is at 4 p.m. and on CBS. This might be the last ranked team that Kentucky plays until about the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament unless UK and Arkansas face off again in the SEC Tournament. The Hogs are in pretty good shape to finish second to UK in the conference and would for sure with an upset. Arkansas is currently seeded as a No. 5 in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN's Bracketology, facing No. 12 Wofford in the South.
Arkansas (23-5, 12-3) has won seven straight since a one-point last-second loss at Florida. The Hogs beat visiting Texas A&M 81-75 on Tuesday. The Razorbacks led by as many as 25 points in the first half, forcing 16 first-half turnovers. Bobby Portis led the way with 22 points. The sophomore probably will win SEC Player of the Year and is the only McDonald's high school All-American on the Hogs compared to nine on Kentucky. Portis is second in the SEC in scoring at 17.6 points per game and fourth in rebounding at 8.5 per game. I took Mississippi State +19 at home against Kentucky on Tuesday, and the Bulldogs were just able to cover in a 74-56 loss. Freshman Trey Lyles led UK (28-0, 15-0) with a career-high 18 points. With 28 consecutive victories to begin the season, UK passed the 1995-96 team for the longest single-season win streak in school history. However, the school record winning streak overall is 32. ESPN's Basketball Power Index now gives the Cats a 74 percent chance of entering the NCAA Tournament unbeaten.
Believe it or not, Arkansas has won three straight in this series. The Hogs won both last year in overtime. The win at Rupp was the Razorbacks' first since their 1993-94 NCAA championship season.
Key trends: Arkansas is 4-1 ATS in its past five road games vs. teams with a winning home record. Arkansas is 1-6 ATS in its past seven following an ATS loss. Kentucky is 3-1 ATS in its past four. It has covered eight of its past 12 on Saturday. The Hogs are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.
Why take the underdog: I'm thrilled to watch this because the one way to combat Kentucky's size is full-court pressure all game, and that's what Arkansas does. I'll take the points.
No. 7 Arizona at No. 13 Utah (-2)
The game of the year in the Pac-12 tips at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. Obviously, both will make the Big Dance, but the Pac-12 regular-season title is on the line here. Arizona would clinch the top seed in the tournament with a win. Utah would need a win and some help.
Utah (22-5, 12-3) totally embarrassed a decent Arizona State team on Thursday night, 83-41. It was an incredible 41-9 score at halftime, meaning Utah had more blocks (10) in the first half than the Sun Devils points. It took four minutes for an Arizona State shot to touch the rim. Utah shot 63 percent to ASU's 28 percent. Utah's Delon Wright, a potential Pac-12 Player of the Year, had 12 points, five rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three steals despite not playing much in the second half. Arizona also clearly wasn't caught looking ahead to this game as the Wildcats trashed Colorado 82-54 in the Buffs' gym Thursday. About the only negative was that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson suffered a cut lip in the first half and a blow to the back of his head in the second half, but he returned from both to finish with 11 points and eight rebounds. Coach Sean Miller said afterward that Hollis-Jefferson was fine.
The Wildcats and Utes met Jan. 17 in Tucson and Arizona won 69-51, Utah's worst loss of the season by far. The Utes were No. 8 and Arizona No. 10 then. Arizona was up just five at halftime, but star freshman Stanley Johnson scored all 18 of his points in the second half as the Cats pulled away. Arizona destroyed Utah on the boards, 40-19. The Utes were playing their first matchup between Top-10 teams since losing to Kentucky in the 1998 NCAA championship game.
Key trends: Arizona is 5-1 ATS in its past six on the road. The Cats are 9-2 ATS in their past 11 overall. Utah is 10-2 ATS in its past 12 after allowing less than 50 points in its previous game. Arizona is 4-1 ATS in the past five at Utah.
Why take the favorite: The Utes have beaten all eight Pac-12 visiting teams by 15-plus points. Arizona is clearly better than all those, but Utah is a different beast at home.
BYU at No. 3 Gonzaga (+12)
The regular-season finale in the West Coast Conference for both is at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and it's big for both. BYU is currently among the "Next Four Out" on the March Madness projections, but I would imagine the Cougars would jump up at least one category if not two with an upset here. Gonzaga, meanwhile, already has won the WCC regular-season title but looks to run the table in the conference and keep its case for the No. 1 overall seed in the West Region for the NCAA Tournament.
BYU (22-8, 12-5) won at Portland 82-69 on Thursday. Senior Tyler Haws' layup with 14:39 left in the first half against made him BYU's all-time leading scorer, passing Jimmer Fredette, who finished his career with 2,599 points. Haws now has 2,614 points and his fourth in the nation in scoring at 22.3 points per game. He also reached double figures for the 117th time, tying Danny Ainge for the most in school history. The Cougars scored 23 points off Portland's 19 turnovers and outscored its bench 32-6. Gonzaga (29-1, 17-0) started slowly Thursday against San Diego but pulled away in the second half for a 59-39 victory, its 21st straight win overall and 41st in a row at home, best in the nation. The Zags made twice as many field goals (16 vs. 8) in the second half as the first and shot 61.5 percent in outscoring the Toreros 37-22. Gonzaga held an opponent under 40 points for the 10th time in its Division I history. No team has ever gone 18-0 in WCC regular-season play, although Gonzaga has gone unbeaten in the conference four other times -- there just weren't 18 games then.
It's never easy to win at BYU, but Gonzaga did on Dec. 27, 87-80 in the conference opener for both. The Zags led by 16 points in the first half before falling behind by seven in the second. Kyle Wiltjer scored 24 points and Kevin Pangos had 21 points and seven assists for Gonzaga. Haws had 17 and Kyle Collinsworth a triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Key trends: BYU is 5-0 ATS in its past five games. The Cougars are 8-3 ATS in their past 11 on the road. Gonzaga is 5-2 ATS in its past seven at home. BYU is 0-5 ATS in its past five trips to Spokane.
Why take the underdog: Cougars won't win but should stay within double digits.
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