NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Thursday
by Alan Matthews - 1/21/2015
Three potential Final Four teams are in action on Thursday night, and it wouldn't shock me if two of them, Arizona and Gonzaga, lost to quality conference opponents. Meanwhile, second-ranked Virginia should remain unbeaten against arguably the worst team in the ACC. The Cavaliers are +900 at Sportsbook.ag to win the national title, with Arizona at +1200 and Gonzaga at +1400. Here's a look at each matchup, and it's an underdog Thursday.
Georgia Tech at No. 2 Virginia (-18.5)
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This ACC game tips off at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN3 and could be a bit of a trap game for the Cavaliers as their next game is at rival Virginia Tech (granted the Hokies aren't any good) with then Duke up after that. Virginia comes off a 66-51 win at Boston College on Saturday. UVa was actually down five points early in the second half but would cruise to its first victory at BC in four attempts under head coach Tony Bennett. Junior swingman Justin Anderson, who came in averaging a team-high 14.5 points, failed to make a field goal for the first time this season. He finished 0-for-8 for eight points. The nation's best defense held BC to 39.5 percent shooting. The Cavaliers (17-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) continued their best start since the Ralph Sampson-led 1980-81 team won its first 23 games. Virginia is the only team in the nation that ranks in the Top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency.
Georgia Tech (9-8, 0-5) lost its fifth straight Saturday, 70-65 at Pittsburgh. The Jackets took a 49-45 lead with 11:42 left in the game, but they turned the ball over on four of their next five possessions and failed to take a shot each time. Pitt, meanwhile, scored on four of five possessions. Georgia Tech had seven turnovers overall following that four-point lead. The Georgia Tech backcourt (five players) combined to shoot just 3-for-17 with 11 points. Reserve forward Robert Sampson led Georgia Tech with 16 points.
Under Bennett, UVa is 6-1 against Georgia Tech. At No. 2, Virginia is the highest-ranked team Tech has faced in Brian Gregory's tenure and the highest-ranked team the Yellow Jackets have faced, home or away, since Jan. 16, 2008, an 83-82 loss at No. 1 North Carolina. Tech has won two road games vs. Top-10 teams (against two losses) during Gregory's tenure. The last was last season at No. 7 Syracuse.
Key trends: Tech is 4-0 ATS in its past four vs. teams with a winning record. The Jackets are 8-1 ATS in their past nine vs. the ACC. Virginia is 7-15 ATS in its past 22 Thursday games. Virginia is 7-1 ATS in the past eight meetings.
Why take the underdog: UVa will do just enough to win by 12-15 points, not cover.
No. 7 Arizona at Stanford (+2.5)
This tips off at 9 p.m. on ESPN, and I'm not going to bury the lead in that I believe Stanford has a great shot of pulling the upset here. Arizona (16-2, 4-1) comes off a very impressive 69-51 win over No. 8 Utah on Saturday in the first matchup of Top-10 teams in the Pac-12 in seven years. Freshman Stanley Johnson had all 18 of his points and all nine of its rebounds in the second half when Arizona outscored the Utes 38-25. The McKale Center last hosted two Top-10 teams in 2004. Arizona did get guard Gabe York back after he missed one game with an ankle injury, but he didn't score in limited minutes. Arizona has gone 63 straight games without allowing an opponent to score 80 points.
The Cardinal (13-4, 4-1) could take sole possession of the Pac-12 lead with the upset. They stepped out of conference for the final time this regular season with a 72-59 win over visiting UConn on Saturday. Chasson Randle, the Pac-12's leading scorer, led Stanford with 23 points. He has scored at least 23 points in four of his last five games and has reached double figures in 16 of 17 games. The Cardinal, a good rebounding team, killed UConn on the glass 48-24. Stanford also is averaging only 10.5 turnovers per game, a total that is tied for the Pac-12 lead and ranks 15th-best in the country.
Stanford has lost nine straight games to Arizona, and the No. 7 Wildcats would be the highest-ranked team that the Cardinal have beaten since late January 2007. Randle has faced Arizona only four times, averaging 11.2 points while shooting just 28.0 percent. Randle is 12 points from becoming the third Cardinal with 2,000 points career. Stanford is 2-1 against ranked teams this year, beating Texas and Washington.
Key trends: Arizona is 1-5 ATS in its past six road games. Stanford is 4-0 ATS in its past four vs. teams with a winning percentage above .600. The road team has covered five of the past seven.
Why take the underdog: I think Stanford wins its biggest game of the year.
Saint Mary's at No. 3 Gonzaga (-15)
This is hands down the best rivalry outside of a Power 5 Conference in college basketball. The West Coast Conference showdown tips at 11 p.m. and will be shown on ESPNU. Saint Mary's (15-3, 7-0) beat a good BYU team 82-77 on Saturday for its ninth straight win. That is the Gaels' best win of the season, so they are likely going to need at least one win over Gonzaga this season -- or win the WCC Tournament -- to get an at-large NCAA bid. SMC forward Brad Waldow is the reigning WCC Player of the Week as he averaged 24.5 points and 10 rebounds in the team's two victories last week. He's the only player in the country averaging more than 20 points (20.6) and 10 rebounds (10.1) per game this season.
The only loss for Gonzaga (18-1, 7-0) remains to Arizona in overtime. The Zags pounded Loyola Marymount 72-55 on Saturday for their 10th straight win. That came after Gonzaga was nearly shocked at Pepperdine on Thursday, winning only by two thanks to shoddy free-throw shooting. Otherwise Gonzaga has mostly been blowing teams out. Zags senior Kevin Pangos is five 3-pointers from tying the school career mark of 288 held by Blake Stepp.
SMC leads the WCC in rebounding, but Gonzaga leads the nation in shooting percentage at .530. The Bulldogs have won the last six meetings after the Gaels had won four of the previous seven between 2010-12. Gonzaga has won 34 straight home games overall, tops in the nation.
Key trends: Saint Mary's is 7-0 ATS in its past seven after a win. It has covered five straight on the road. Gonzaga has covered one of its past five at home. The Zags have covered five in a row vs. SMC.
Why take the underdog: Like those road/home trends above for SMC.
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