NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Sunday
by Alan Matthews - 1/10/2015
If UCLA hopes to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team -- presuming it doesn't win the Pac-12 Tournament -- then the Bruins better win Sunday's home game against California. Why? The Bruins are on the road for the next three games after that, visiting USC, Oregon State and Oregon. So a loss to the Bears could being a serious tailspin or be a momentum-builder before that tough trip. Here's a look at UCLA's matchup on Sunday and two other games I like.
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No. 13 Wichita State at Loyola Ill. (+5.5)
Wichita State lost to Creighton in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship Game on March 10, 2013. The Shockers haven't lost a conference game since, winning 24 straight (including the MVC Tournament). That streak could be in jeopardy on Sunday evening (5 p.m. ET tip, ESPNU) in Chicago against the Ramblers. Perhaps Wichita State (13-2, 3-0) was caught looking ahead a bit to this game Wednesday as it trailed a lousy Bradley team 28-27 at home on Wednesday. However, the Shockers outscored the Braves 36-15 in the second half. Wichita held Bradley to 18 percent shooting after intermission, including 0-for-7 from 3-point range. Darius Carter led the Shockers with 19 points and seven rebounds.
Loyola (12-3, 2-1) has three pretty acceptable losses: at Michigan State, against a solid Tulane team, and at Northern Illinois. The Ramblers got a very quality win Wednesday at Evansville, 71-70. Milton Doyle fed Christian Thomas for a lay-up with:00.1 left, capping a game-ending 9-2 run. Thomas led the team with 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting. It was the first MVC road victory for the Ramblers after dropping 10 away games since joining the conference last season.
Last season Loyola was just a 10-22 team and not a match for Wichita State. The Shockers won 57-45 at home and 88-74 in Chicago.
Key trends: The Shockers are 0-6 ATS in their past six vs. teams with a winning percentage above .600. Loyola has covered seven straight games.
Why take the underdog: I like the Ramblers, off to their best start in 49 years, to win outright. Loyola gets its first win over a ranked opponent since the 2008-09 season and first such home win since Dec. 27, 1986
California at UCLA (-5.5)
The Bears and Bruins tip off at 7:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1. Does Coach Steve Alford regret taking the UCLA job? I'm sure not, but Alford has a lot of work to do as the Bruins don't look like they will be an NCAA Tournament team this season. UCLA (9-7, 1-2 Pac-12) did end a five-game losing streak Thursday night with an 86-81 double-overtime home victory over Stanford. The Bruins trailed by 14 points with 10 minutes left in regulation. Stanford's Chasson Randle missed a potential game-winning free throw to force the second overtime; he also missed a short jumper near the end of regulation. UCLA does have one of the nation's top freshmen in Kevon Looney, who will be a Top-10 pick (maybe Top 5) in the 2015 draft if he declares. Looney had 27 points and 19 rebounds, both career highs, against the Cardinal. Looney averages 12.9 points and 10.5 rebounds on the season.
California (11-5, 1-2) opened conference play with a win over ranked Washington but has since lost to Washington State and Wednesday at USC, 71-57. Tyrone Wallace scored 21 points and Jordan Mathews added 17 for the Golden Bears, who were playing in their first road game in more than a month. Roger Moute a Bidias and Kingsley Okoroh made their first starts of the season, replacing Christian Behrens and Sam Singer. Moute a Bidias had four points and six rebounds in 25 minutes and Okoroh had the same numbers in 22 minutes.
UCLA swept the season series last year, winning 76-64 at home and 86-66 in Berkeley.
Key trends: The Bears have covered just three of their past 17 Pac-12 games. UCLA is 1-7 ATS in its past eight games. The home team has covered five of the past seven meetings.
Why take the favorite: UCLA has been fairly good at home.
Illinois at Nebraska (pick'em)
It's an 8:30 p.m. tip on the Big Ten Network for the Fighting Illini and Cornhuskers. Illinois will be without its best player, Rayvonte Rice, for the next 3-6 weeks due to a broken left hand. Rice leads the Illini with 17.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. The 6-foot-4 senior guard had been the only reliable scorer and hit a game-winning 3-pointer against Missouri on Dec. 20. Illinois (11-5, 1-2) opened Big Ten play with losses at Michigan and Ohio State but upset No. 11 Maryland 64-57 on Wednesday in the Illini's first game without Rice. Sophomore Malcolm Hill really stepped up with a career-high 28 points while adding seven rebounds. Illinois was down 28-26 at the half but opened the second half on a 20-3 run.
Nebraska (9-6, 1-2) opened conference play with losses against Indiana and at Iowa but got that first Big Ten win with a 65-49 home victory over Rutgers on Thursday. Nebraska got two frontcourt players back from injury in that one, seniors Leslee Smith and Moses Abraham. Smith, who tore an ACL in July, had two rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot, while Abraham, who had been sidelined since Dec. 9 with a broken hand, had five points and three rebounds off the bench. Terran Petteway led the Huskers with 20 points, his eighth 20-point effort of the season. Petteway has now been in double figures in 26 straight games dating back to last season. Nebraska held Rutgers to 34.7 percent shooting, the sixth time in the last seven games a Huskers opponent has been held under 40 percent.
These schools split last season, with the Huskers winning at home 67-58 and losing by 11 in Champaign.
Key trends: Illinois is 0-5 ATS in its past five road games. Nebraska has covered 15 of its past 20 Big Ten games. The Huskers are 1-9 ATS in their past 10 vs. teams with a winning record.
Why take the Huskers: Love pick'ems and will almost always take the home team.
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