NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Thursday
by Alan Matthews - 3/11/2015
While Power 5 conference tournaments really started in full on Wednesday, those were mostly the dregs of those leagues. Starting Thursday, we begin to get a look at some bubble teams that absolutely can't afford to lose their tournament opener. I examine one of those clubs, the Big Ten's Illinois, below along with two other interesting matchups. Could UConn's relevance this season end already? It will with a huge upset loss.
Michigan vs. Illinois (-3.5)
This Big Ten Tournament matchup is at noon ET on the Big Ten Network from the United Center in Chicago. Michigan is having a lost season, while Illinois is listed among the "Next Four Out" on ESPN. The winner gets the pleasure of facing Wisconsin. Beat UM and UW and the Illini will get in.
No. 9 Michigan (15-15, 8-10) will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010. It was expected to be a moderate Big Ten contender, but its two best players, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, were lost to injuries. Walton's season hasn't been officially declared over yet due to a broken foot, but he's doubtful at best for this tournament. The Wolverines will get one guy back for this game in freshman center Ricky Doyle. He missed the regular-season finale, a 79-69 home win over Rutgers, due to illness. Doyle averages 6.1 points and 3.2 rebounds in almost 19 minutes per game. Freshman Aubrey Dawkins, the son of Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, had a career-high 31 points in that win over Rutgers with eight 3-pointers, one shy of the school record. It was only the second win in the past nine games for UM. No. 8 Illinois (19-12, 9-9) lost a tough bubble game to close the regular season, 63-58 at Purdue on Saturday. The Illini led by as many as 13. Senior Rayvonte Rice had 25 points for Illinois. Since returning to the Illini lineup in mid-February from injury and suspension, he has averaged 16.5 points per game.
Michigan and Illinois split during the regular season. On Dec. 30 in Ann Arbor in the conference opener, UM won 73-65 in OT. LeVert and Walton were still healthy then, but Dawkins led the way with 20 points while Doyle had 13. Walton was actually scoreless in 27 minutes. Michigan erased a 13-point second-half deficit. Malcolm Hill scored 19 as the only player to finish in double digits for Illinois. On Feb. 12 in Champaign the teams went to OT again and the Illini prevailed 64-52. Kendrick Nunn hit a late 3-pointer to force OT. Illinois closed the game on a 21-2 run, including the overtime.
Key trends: Michigan has covered just six of its past 20 after an ATS win. Illinois is 5-0 ATS in its past five on Thursday. UM is 8-2 ATS in the past 10 meetings.
Why take the favorite: It's basically a home game for Illinois, which also has much more to play for.
South Florida vs. Connecticut (-14)
It's an American Athletic Conference first-round game on ESPNews at 8 p.m. from Hartford, so obviously that location is a huge boost for the defending national champion Huskies because they are going to have to win the tournament to get a shot at repeating in the Big Dance. The winner faces No. 3 seed Cincinnati on Friday.
No. 6 seed UConn (17-13, 10-8) got an impressive win over ranked SMU on March 1 that might have at least gotten the Huskies into the at-large conversation, but then they closed the year with a close home loss to Memphis and a 75-63 defeat at Temple on Saturday. The Owls erased a five-point halftime deficit with a 15-4 run over the first 7:18 of the second half. UConn's Amida Brimah was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. His 3.37 blocks per game average ranks third in Division I and leads the AAC. As noted above, this game is in Hartford and UConn is 6-1 there this season (splits between there and Storrs). South Florida (9-22, 3-15) was last in the AAC. All three Bulls' conference wins came in Tampa. Recently, the team's leading scorer, senior Corey Allen Jr., was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for six games. The Bulls closed out the regular season with a 67-63 home loss to Tulane on Saturday. USF lost 14 of its final 16 games and ended regular-season conference play last in the league in scoring offense (56.7).
UConn was 2-0 vs. USF this year, winning by 14 in Tampa and 13 in Hartford. The Huskies are 6-0 all-time vs. the Bulls in Hartford.
Key trends: USF is 2-5 ATS in its past seven games. UConn has the same record in its past seven against teams with a losing record. The Huskies are just 4-12 ATS in their past 16 games overall. USF is 4-1 ATS in the past five at UConn.
Why take the favorite: USF is 1-12 on the road. I wish this line were a couple of points lower, but I expect a focused Huskies squad plus no Allen for the Bulls.
Xavier vs. No. 22 Butler (-1.5)
This Big East Tournament game at Madison Square Garden is at 9:30 p.m. Butler will be in the NCAA Tournament no matter what and is currently projected by ESPN as a No. 6 seed in the Midwest. Xavier is a No. 9 in the South, but the Musketeers are going to be sweating Selection Sunday if they lose here -- especially big. The winner likely faces Georgetown in the semifinals.
Butler (22-9, 12-6) is the No. 3 seed for this tournament. The Bulldogs closed the season with a 68-68 win at then-No. 24 Providence. One of Butler's better players is Andrew Chrabascz, who is third on the team in scoring at 10.9 points per game and pulls down 3.7 rebounds. He missed a few weeks with a broken hand but has been back for two games, although Coach Chris Holtmann claims that his player isn't yet 100 percent. Chrabascz is 7-for-22 from the field since his return. Sixth-seeded Xavier (19-12, 9-9) nearly suffered a bubble-bursting loss in its regular-season finale at a terrible Creighton team but escaped 74-73 to end a two-game losing streak. Dee Davis hit two free throws with four seconds left. He only had four points in the game. Matt Stainbrook scored a career-high 26 points.
Xavier was beaten at Butler 88-76 on Jan. 10 as Chrabascz scored 19 points to lead five players in double figures. He missed the rematch on Feb. 21 in Cincinnati, a 73-56 Musketeers victory that remains Butler's most-lopsided loss. Xavier never trailed.
Key trends: Xavier is 6-2 ATS in its past eight on Thursday. The Musketeers are 1-4 ATS in their past five neutral-site games. Butler is 1-4 ATS in its past five after a win. Xavier has covered seven of the past nine meetings.
Why take the underdog: Xavier needs it more.
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