NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Tuesday
by Alan Matthews - 2/2/2015
And then there was one. With former No. 2 Virginia's loss at home to Duke on Saturday, that leaves only Kentucky without a defeat. Probably no surprise there and the Cats were back to a unanimous choice for the top spot in both polls this week as they should be. I would argue that Tuesday's home matchup with Georgia has the potential to be a trap game for the Cats because arguably their two toughest regular-season games left are after that: Saturday at Florida and next Tuesday at LSU. Here's a look at the UK matchup and two other games that caught my eye.
Georgia at No. 1 Kentucky (-19)
It's a 7 p.m. tip on ESPNU, and should Georgia pull the upset that would just about punch the Dawgs' ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. Georgia (14-6, 5-3 SEC) is definitely a bubble team right now, although ESPN's Bracketology has UGa in as a No. 8 seed in the East. The Dawgs had a five-game winning streak snapped on Saturday in a 67-50 loss at South Carolina. The 50 points were a season low for Georgia as was the awful 22 percent shooting. It played without leading scorer and rebounder Marcus Thornton, who suffered a concussion in Georgia's previous game. Thornton, who averages 13.5 points and 7.3 boards, is not expected to play in this one, either. Freshman Yante Maten started in place of Thornton against South Carolina and had three points and six rebounds in 18 minutes before fouling out.
Kentucky (21-0, 8-0) also will be missing a rotation guy as freshman forward Trey Lyles will miss his second straight game with an undisclosed illness. He averages 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in 21.7 minutes per game. The Cats didn't miss the former McDonald's All-American too much in Saturday's 70-55 win over visiting Alabama. Sophomore guard Dominique Hawkins likely stands to gain the most playing time during Lyles' absence as he started against Alabama but only played nine minutes and didn't score. UK shot a season-high 58.5 percent vs. the Tide. It was Kentucky's 54th straight win under John Calipari when holding an opponent under 55 points (16-0 this year).
This is the 15th time Georgia has played the nation's No. 1 team. The Dawgs have yet to win one. The last was Nov. 19, 2012, when the Bulldogs fell 66-53 to Indiana in Brooklyn. UK was 2-0 vs. Georgia last year, winning each by at least 12.
Key trends: Georgia has covered five of its past seven in the SEC. It has covered nine of its past 12 vs. teams with a winning record. The home team has covered four straight in this series.
Why take the underdog: The Dawgs should hang within 15 or so even without Thornton.
No. 9 Louisville at Miami Fla. (+2.5)
It's an 8 p.m. start on ESPN 3 for this ACC game. The Hurricanes (14-7, 4-4) fell out of the Top 25 this week because they lost twice last week, 70-50 at home to Georgia Tech and then 55-54 on Sunday at Florida State in which the Seminoles rallied from a 16-point deficit. Miami's Sheldon McClellan missed a floater in the lane as time expired. It was UM's seventh game this season decided by five points or fewer. The Cans are 5-2 in them. I would call Miami a definite bubble team right now as well. ESPN has the Canes as a No. 10 seed in the East. Miami is 3-2 vs. ranked teams this season, beating No. 8 Florida (which clearly shouldn't have been ranked), No. 24 Illinois and No. 4 Duke.
Louisville (18-3, 6-2) comes off a 78-68 home overtime win over then-No. 13 North Carolina, rallying from an 18-point second-half deficit. Star Montrezl Harrell led the way with 22 points (and 15 rebounds), 14 coming after halftime when UNC led 36-25. Terry Rozier also had 22 points and is averaging 20.3 points in ACC games, tied for the league lead. Believe it or not that was Rick Pitino's first-ever win against North Carolina. It was the biggest come-from-behind win for Louisville since also rallying from 18 down in January 2011 against Marquette in a Big East game. It was Louisville's first overtime win in three years.
It's the first meeting between Louisville and Miami since 2006.
Key trends: Louisville has covered only two of its past 10 after a win. It has covered four of its past 15 vs. teams with a winning record. Miami hasn't covered its past four at home.
Why take the underdog: It will be a rare sellout for the Canes, so they should rise to the occasion.
Virginia Tech at Syracuse (-12.5)
ESPNU shows this ACC game at 9 p.m. What would an NCAA Tournament be without Syracuse? We might find that out for the first time since 2008 as the Orange (14-7, 5-3) are another bubble team and in fact not in the current ESPN field of 68. They enter this one on a two-game skid but have been off since a 93-83 defeat at North Carolina on Jan. 26. You can't be losing to bad teams like Virginia Tech and hope for an at-large bid with a middling record, even if you are Syracuse. The Orange have been riddled with major injuries this season. Senior big man Rakeem Christmas currently leads the ACC in scoring (including non-league games), averaging 18.4 points per game.
Virginia Tech (9-12, 1-7) was beaten 73-70 at Wake Forest on Saturday. The Hokies rallied from a 10-point deficit to briefly lead 65-64 with 1:50 left, but Wake's Mitchell Wilbekin hit a 3-pointer on the next possession and the Deacons wouldn't trail again. Tech freshman star Justin Bibbs missed a potential tying 3-pointer with five seconds left. Bibbs, who averages a team-leading 13.6 points, returned after missing four games with a concussion. He came off the bench and had 10 points in 20 minutes. I'm sure he will play more minutes here. That loss dropped Tech to 2-6 in games this season decided by three points or fewer.
These teams played Jan. 3 in Blacksburg in the ACC opener for both and Syracuse won 68-66. The Orange nearly blew a 19-point lead. Christmas had 17 points and nine rebounds, while Bibbs had 22 points and 11 boards. The Orange have won the past three meetings.
Key trends: Virginia Tech is 5-1 ATS in its past six games. It is 5-2 ATS in its past seven on the road. Syracuse hasn't covered its past five.
Why take the favorite: Hokies are winless on the road.
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