NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Thursday
by Alan Matthews - 1/14/2015
The chances of Wisconsin, a Final Four team a year ago, landing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament may have suffered a big blow last week when one of the team's key players was lost to a broken foot. The Badgers still should be favorites to win the Big Ten but not as strongly now. Here's a look at Wisconsin's game against Nebraska on Thursday -- which should be very, very low scoring between two excellent defensive teams -- and two other intriguing matchups.
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Auburn at Florida (-14.5)
ESPN2 has this SEC game with a 7 p.m. start. The Gators entered SEC play at a vastly disappointing 7-6 and off back-to-back close losses to Florida State and UConn. Perhaps it was too early to panic as UF has opened conference play with wins at South Carolina and Saturday in Gainesville in a 72-47 rout of Mississippi State. Coach Billy Donovan ripped his team in the shootaround hours before that MSU game, and the Gators sure responded. Eli Carter came off the bench to score 20 points -- he has battled health problems often this season but finally looked 100 percent healthy -- and Dorian Finney-Smith had 16 points and six rebounds. Florida never trailed in winning its school-record 23rd straight SEC game. UF's second-leading scorer, Michael Frazier II, had just six points as he played through an illness. Those four days off should do him wonders here. The Gators played their second straight game without center Jon Horford, who was suspended earlier last week for conduct detrimental to the team. Horford was reinstated Friday but not on the bench at all. He averages 8.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in 23.2 minutes per game.
Auburn (9-6, 1-1) has won six of its past seven games. The Tigers beat visiting Missouri 85-79 on Saturday. Cinmeon Bowers led Auburn with 20 points and 14 rebounds, his ninth double-double of the season. There's a bit more buzz around Auburn this season under first-year coach Bruce Pearl. Doubt it's an NCAA Tournament team, however. That was Pearl's first SEC win at Auburn after 65 of them at Tennessee. Bowers leads the SEC and is sixth nationally in rebounding (11.3 rpg) and is 13th in the league in scoring (13.7 ppg).
The Tigers have just one victory over Florida in the past 14 seasons, coming in the 2009 SEC Tournament. Auburn hasn't won in Gainesville since 1996. Pearl did have success against UF while with the Vols, going 8-5.
Key trends: Auburn is 1-5 ATS in its past six road games. UF is 7-1 ATS in its past eight vs. the SEC. The Tigers have covered four of the past five meetings.
Why take the underdog: No question Florida will win, but I would have taken any line in double digits.
Nebraska at No. 7 Wisconsin (-17.5)
It's a 9 p.m. tip for this Big Ten game on ESPN 2. The Badgers (15-2, 3-1) will be without one of their best players in point guard Traevon Jackson for perhaps the rest of the regular season. He had surgery this week on a broken right foot. Jackson will begin rehab in 2-3 weeks, but he could miss six weeks overall. He was averaging 9.4 points and 2.9 assists. Jackson was hurt in Sunday's 67-62 upset loss at Rutgers that perhaps could have been seen coming because UW All-American center Frank Kaminsky was a late scratch with a concussion. HIs absence marked the first time in 77 games that a Badgers' starter missed a game because of an injury. It looks like he will return here after being cleared for practice. The preseason Big Ten Player of the Year selection, Kaminsky is leading Wisconsin in scoring (16.9 points per game) and rebounds (8.2 per game). Bronson Koenig will move into the starting lineup for Jackson. He averages 4.9 points and 2.1 assists but played well vs. Rutgers after Jackson left.
Nebraska (10-6, 2-2) has won back-to-back home conference games by double digits. It beat Illinois 53-43 on Sunday. That was the Huskers' best defensive effort ever under Coach Tim Miles, holding Illinois to just 27 percent shooting. NU held the Illini to two field goals in the first nine minutes of the second half. Star Terran Petteway led the Huskers with 18 points. He has scored in double figures in 27 straight games, the longest streak by a Husker since Tyronn Lue, who had 36 straight spanning the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons.
These schools played once last season, a 77-68 Nebraska upset over No. 9 Wisconsin in the regular-season finale. That game may have been what got the Huskers into the NCAA Tournament. Petteway had 26 points. Kaminsky led Wisconsin with 14 points. It snapped the Badgers' five-game winning streak in this series.
Key trends: The Huskers have covered six straight Thursday games. They are 4-10 ATS in their past 14 overall. Wisconsin is 1-4 ATS in its past five vs. teams with a winning record.
Why take the underdog: Kaminsky might not quite be 100 percent, and then you have to replace Jackson full time.
Oregon at Washington State (+3)
This is the latest-starting major conference game on the schedule Thursday with an 11 p.m. tip on the Pac-12 Network. This also will be the first home conference game for Ernie Kent as Washington State's head coach. He was hired on March 31, 2014, to replace Ken Bone, who led the Cougars for five years. Kent will face Oregon for the first time as he spent 13 years coaching there, going 235-174 overall. He holds the school record for wins. Kent led the Ducks to five NCAA Tournament appearances and two conference tournament titles. The Cougars (8-7, 2-1) come off very solid three-point wins at California and Washington. It's the school's first back-to-back road wins since 2009. DaVonte Lacy led WSU with 25 against the rival Huskies. Lacy leads the team and ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring with 17.0 points per game.
Will the national runner-up Oregon football team be honored at this game? Perhaps. The Ducks (12-4, 2-1) come off a 59-56 home win over Arizona State on Saturday. Jordan Bell tied a school record with eight blocks for Oregon. His 59 on the season are already a school record. The Ducks shot 50 percent as a team (23-for-46) and are 12-0 when outshooting their opponents this season. Oregon is 9-0 when leading at halftime. Oregon's freshmen are accounting for 40 percent of the team's scoring (31.0 points per game) and 43 percent of the total rebounds (17.3 rpg). Dillon Brooks is the second-leading freshman scorer in the Pac-12 (13.5 ppg).
The Ducks have won seven straight and 10 of the past 11 in this series. No current Cougar has played in a victory over Oregon.
Key trends: Oregon is 1-5 ATS in its past six overall. The Cougars have covered six straight vs. teams with a winning record. The home team is 7-3 ATS in the past 10 meetings.
Why take the favorite: I worry about this being Oregon's first road game, but the Ducks are clearly a superior team.
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