NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Saturday
by Alan Matthews - 1/16/2015
College basketball really takes over Saturdays from now until the first weekend of April, and this Saturday's schedule is easily the best of the season thus far. Nearly every ranked team is in action, with five matchups featuring both teams ranked in the Top 25. Also, Kentucky and Virginia are the only unbeatens left in the nation, and they both are on upset alert in road games at Alabama and Boston College, respectively. Here's a look at three intriguing matchups.
No. 4 Duke at No. 6 Louisville (-3.5)
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A noon tip on ESPN for this matchup between Hall of Fame coaches Mike Krzyzewski and Rick Pitino. ESPN is hyping this as it is, but the network really would have if Coach K was going for his 1,000th career win (currently 997). As early as last Sunday I would have thought he would have been here. However, the Blue Devils (14-2, 2-2) enter on a shocking two-game losing streak, both to unranked clubs. They were beaten 87-75 last Sunday at NC State and then 90-74 at home against Miami on Tuesday, which ended Duke's national-best 41-game home winning streak. It's the first time Duke has lost consecutive games by double digits since the end of the 1995-96 season. It's the first time Krzyzewski has lost consecutive conference games by a dozen points or more each since the 1982-83 season. The Blue Devils can score with anyone, but their defense has been a question all season. NC State shot 55 percent (62.5 percent from long range) and Miami 51.8 percent (50 percent from long range). The Blue Devils haven't lost three straight in eight years. Lose this, and I think the ACC regular-season title is unattainable.
Louisville (15-2, 3-1) has only lost close games to Kentucky and North Carolina, so that's pretty acceptable. The Cardinals bounced back from that UNC loss with a 78-63 home win over Virginia Tech on Tuesday. Chris Jones had a career-high 11 assists, and Terry Rozier scored 16 points. Louisville tied a season-high with 10 3-pointers. Star Montrezl Harrell had a minor scare after he rolled his ankle in the second half, but he says he's fine. The Cards are the opposite of Duke most nights: struggle to score but awesome defensively. Louisville players will wear throwback jerseys, and the school will honor its 1980 championship team.
These now conference rivals haven't met since the 2013 Elite Eight in Indianapolis, an 85-63 Louisville win on the way to the national title. That was the game in which former Louisville player Kevin Ware suffered that gruesome broken leg.
Key trends: Duke is 2-6 ATS in its past eight games. The Blue Devils are 1-6 ATS in their past seven vs. the ACC. Louisville has covered just one of its past nine overall. The Cards are 1-6 ATS in their past seven vs. teams with a winning record.
Why take the favorite: If Duke was playing anyone else I would say it doesn't lose three in a row. But the crowd at the KFC Yum! Center will be going delirious in Duke's first-ever visit there and in honoring that 1980 team.
No. 16 West Virginia at No. 20 Texas (-4)
One of three Big 12 matchups featuring ranked teams Saturday, and this tips off at 6:15 p.m. ET from Austin on ESPN. Not a heck of a lot was expected of West Virginia this year after the Mountaineers were 17-16 last season and lost in the first round of the NIT, but Bob Huggins' club looks like a legitimate contender in the Big 12. West Virginia (15-2, 3-1) had quality nonconference wins over UConn and NC State, and its two losses are by a combined three points (LSU and ranked Iowa State). WVU clobbered No. 18 Oklahoma 86-65 on Tuesday. The WVU bench had a season-high 55 points. West Virginia's full-court press contributed to a season-high 22 turnovers for the Sooners, which led to 27 WVU points. West Virginia's star is senior guard Juwan Staten, the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year. He was just 1-for-9 against Oklahoma for four points but is averaging 15.8 ppg on the season along with 4.3 assists and 3.2 rebounds.
Texas (12-4, 1-2) probably falls out of the Top 25 regardless of what happens here. The Horns enter off back-to-back double-digit losses to the two Oklahoma schools. UT has been off since last Saturday's 69-58 defeat at Oklahoma State. Freshman star Myles Turner had 18 points, six rebounds and five blocked shots for Texas, but the Horns shot only 34.4 percent. UT did tie a school record with 12 blocks. The Horns are just 1-2 since the return of starting point guard Isaiah Taylor from injury. He had missed 10 games, including losses to Kentucky and Stanford.
Texas had no trouble at all with WVU last year, winning all three games (one in Big 12 Tournament) by at least 11 points. Five of the eight games in the all-time series have been decided by four points or less, including one in overtime.
Key trends: WVU is 6-1 ATS in its past seven vs. teams with a winning record. Texas is 1-5 ATS in its past six overall. UT has covered four straight against West Virginia.
Why take the favorite: Week off should get UT back on track.
No. 8 Utah at No. 10 Arizona (-5)
Sadly, this game isn't available on national television as it tips at 7 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network. I still favor Arizona to win the Pac-12, and the Wildcats were heavy preseason betting favorites, but Utah would change my mind with an upset in Tucson. This is the first Top-10 matchup in the Pac-12 in almost seven years. Both teams avoided potential look-ahead losses Thursday.
Utah (14-2, 4-0) won 76-59 at Arizona State as a 4.5-point favorite. Delon Wright had 21 points, and Jordan Loveridge added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Utes in their first game in eight days. They shot 54 percent from the field and have won seven straight. All four of Utah's Pac-12 games have been routs. The Utes are very good offensively, ranking sixth nationally in shooting, and defensively, ranking 10th in points allowed per game. Utah reserve guard Kenneth Ogbe missed his third straight game with a groin injury and is questionable for this one. The sophomore averages 6.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per game in 18.2 minutes a night. This will be Utah's first time playing in a Top-10 matchup since losing to Kentucky in the 1998 title game. This may be the best Utah team since that one. Arizona bounced back from an upset loss at Oregon State to beat Colorado 68-54 on Thursday, the Wildcats' 31st straight home win. Freshman Stanley Johnson had 22 points and eight rebounds. Arizona played without guard Gabe York due to an ankle sprain and he's questionable here. He averages 9.2 points in 22.6 minutes.
Arizona was 3-0 against the Utes last season, although both regular-season games were close and one went to overtime. The teams met in the Pac-12 Tournament, and it was a dominating 71-39 Wildcats victory. Arizona set school records for fewest points allowed, fewest field goals (12) and lowest shooting percentage (25) by an opponent. Utah had only 13 points at the half and missed its first 11 shots.
Key trends: Utah is 4-0-1 ATS in its past five road games. Arizona is 3-7 ATS in its past 10 vs. teams with a winning record. The Utes are 4-1 ATS in their past five at Arizona.
Why take the favorite: This should bring out the best in the Cats.
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