NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Thursday
by Alan Matthews - 2/4/2015
No team from the Western region of the USA has won the NCAA Tournament since Arizona in 1997, but that drought could finally end this year as there are three legitimate contenders from that part of the country in No. 2 Gonzaga, No. 6 Arizona and No. 13 Utah. With a weak WCC schedule that features no ranked teams remaining, it's not hard to see Gonzaga running the table and earning the No. 1 seed in the Big Dance's West Region over Arizona even though the Wildcats own a close head-to-head win. The Zags shouldn't be lose Thursday night. Here's a look at that and two other matchups that caught my eye.
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Tulsa at Houston (+8.5)
It's a 7 p.m. tip for this American Athletic Conference game on ESPNews. This smells like a major look-ahead game for Tulsa (16-5, 9-0), which is a surprise leader of the AAC. Why do I think that? The Golden Hurricane have their regular-season game of the year on Saturday at home against No. 23 SMU, which is right on Tulsa's tail in the AAC. Tulsa comes off a 78-71 overtime home win over South Florida on Saturday for its 11th straight win. Rashad Smith had a season-high 21 points, including two key 3-pointers in overtime. Brandon Swannegan had career-highs of 12 points, 15 rebounds and matched a career-best five blocked shots. It was Tulsa's 20th straight conference win, including conference tournament, the longest streak in program history. The 11-game winning streak is the school's longest since the 1999-00 team won 13 straight games.
Houston (9-12, 1-8) has followed an eight-game losing streak with back-to-back wins. The Cougars shocked defending national champion UConn 70-68 on Sunday to all but end the Huskies' chances of an at-large NCAA bid. Houston never trailed and committed just one turnover, a school record. It was the second straight season that Connecticut lost at Houston.
On Jan. 4 in Tulsa, the Golden Hurricane beat Houston 72-54 behind 18 points apiece from James Woodard and Shaquille Harrison. Tulsa won despite going 0-for-10 from 3-point range. It was 26-for-36 from the free-throw line while Houston scored only eight points from there. The Cougars hit only 35.9 percent overall and were led by 17 points from Jherrod Stiggers, but most of those were in garbage time.
Key trends: Tulsa is 8-2 ATS in its past 10 following an ATS loss. The Golden Hurricane are 3-7 ATS in their past 10 on the road. Houston is 8-3 ATS in its past 11 at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The home team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.
Why take the underdog: I do think Tulsa gets caught looking ahead, and Houston actually has a bit of confidence right now.
Iowa at Michigan (-1)
This Big Ten matchup begins at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Michigan already lost its best player, Caris LeVert, for the season a few weeks ago and now the Wolverines are going to be without their second-best player, sophomore guard Derrick Walton, for the foreseeable future. He suffered a foot injury in late November then apparently aggravated it recently and has missed the past two games while being seen in a walking boot. Walton averages 10.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. The UM offense has badly missed him. The Wolverines scored just 58 points in a win Jan. 27 vs. Nebraska but were held scoreless in overtime in a 76-66 overtime loss at Michigan State on Super Bowl Sunday. Walton also grades out as Michigan's best overall defender according to Synergy Sports, allowing just .595 points per possession. UM (13-9, 6-4) is squarely on the NCAA bubble.
So is Iowa (13-8, 4-4). The Hawkeyes are trending the wrong way as they have lost three straight, although two of those were to the Big Ten's best team, Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes lost at home to the Badgers 74-63 on Saturday. The Hawkeyes shot better than Wisconsin, 47.9 percent to 44.2 percent, but the Badgers made seven 3-pointers to Iowa's four, they converted 21-of-26 attempts from the free-throw stripe (13 of 20 for Iowa) and outrebounded Iowa by 11. Hawkeyes senior Aaron White was questionable with an injury but played 38 minutes and led the team with 15 points. Iowa is 12-1 this year when scoring 64+ points, with the lone loss coming to Iowa St. (90-75).
This is the only meeting of the season between the Hawkeyes and Wolverines. They split last season, with Michigan winning by eight in Ann Arbor and Iowa by 18 in Iowa City. The Wolverines have won five straight in the series at home.
Key trends: Iowa is 4-11 ATS in its past 15 vs. the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes are 1-11 ATS in their past 12 after a loss. Michigan has covered four straight games. Iowa is 1-6 ATS in its past seven at Michigan.
Why take the favorite: This is one of those I just take the home team because it's otherwise even.
No. 2 Gonzaga at Santa Clara (+17.5)
It's a late 11 p.m. ET start on ESPN2 for this West Coast Conference matchup. I'm starting to think Gonzaga actually is the second-best team in the nation behind Kentucky because the Zags have a ton of size (like Kentucky) and are a veteran group. Gonzaga (22-1, 10-0) went out of conference on Saturday and thumped a solid Memphis team 82-64 in Spokane for its 15th straight win. It was also the Zags' 38th straight home win, the longest streak in the nation. Gonzaga leads the nation in field goal percentage at 52.7 percent and hit 26 of 47 shots against Memphis (55.3 percent).
Santa Clara (11-12, 5-6), probably best known as the alma mater of Steve Nash, enters off losses at San Diego and BYU, which followed a four-game winning streak. In the 21-point loss at BYU on Saturday, the Broncos shot 34.4 percent from the field (21 of 61), including 18.2 percent from beyond the arc (4 of 22). Jared Brownridge scored 16 points to lead Santa Clara, which hasn't beaten BYU since 1972. This will be just the sixth time in school history that Santa Clara has hosted a Top 2 team and the Broncos are 0-5.
On Jan. 10, Gonzaga was ranked No. 6 when it beat visiting Santa Clara 79-57. Zags 7-foot-1 center Przemek Karnowski scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Matt Hubbard had 15 points for Santa Clara, which shot just 35.2 percent and forced only six Gonzaga turnovers. The Bulldogs also dominated the boards 41-26. It was their ninth straight win in the series.
Key trends: Gonzaga has covered four of its past 21 road games following three or more consecutive home games. Santa Clara is 4-0 ATS in its past four after an ATS loss. The Broncos have covered five of their past seven at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The Zags are 0-4 ATS in the past four meetings.
Why take the underdog: Game of the year at home for Santa Clara so they will be able to cover by a few points.
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