NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Tuesday
by Alan Matthews - 3/9/2015
I'm a big college basketball fan, but I'd be lying if I said that the regular season matters even a little. It simply does not. And it never will as long as conference tournaments exist -- and those aren't going away soon (thus, if you want regular-season drama, you have to watch the Ivy League). So the sport begins to matter, at least to me, this week, capped by Selection Sunday. There are two NCAA bids on the line on Tuesday's schedule. H ere's a look at those two title games as well as my first Grambling State preview ever.
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Robert Morris at St. Francis N.Y. (-5.5)
The Northeast Conference Tournament final tips at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. Robert Morris looks for its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010, while St. Francis, which is based in Brooklyn, has never made the Big Dance. For what it's worth, ESPN's Bracketology projects St. Francis as the tournament champion and a No. 16 against No. 1 Villanova in the West Region for the Big Dance. Entering this season, according to the New York Post, there are five schools in Division I that were at the NCAA's top level in 1948 when Division I was created and have yet to play in the NCAA Tournament. Joining St. Francis on that list is Army, Northwestern (knew that one), the Citadel and William & Mary (played in the Colonial Athletic Association Final on Monday).
The top-seeded Terriers (23-10, 15-3) advanced with a 62-48 win over St. Francis of Pennsylvania on Saturday to advance to the tournament final for the first time since the 2002-03 season. St. Francis, which has tied the school record for wins, got a game-high 20 points and 11 rebounds from senior power forward Jalen Cannon. The 2015 NEC Player of the Year was 9-for-13 from the floor for his 20th double-double of the season. The Terriers didn't allow a single fast-break point. Second-seeded Robert Morris (18-14, 12-6) moved on with a 66-53 win over No. 3 Bryant on Saturday. Sophomore guard Kavon Stewart set career highs in points (19) and steals (seven). RMU is in the championship game of the NEC Tournament for the sixth time in the last seven years.
St. Francis and Robert Morris have split two meetings. The Terriers won 68-63 at home on Jan. 16 behind 23 point from Brent Jones. He also had a key late strip as RMC's Lucky Jones tried to get off a tying 3-pointer. Robert Morris won 67-65 at home on Jan. 24.
Key trends: RMU is 6-1 ATS in its past seven Tuesday games. The Colonials are 2-7 ATS in their past nine vs. teams with a winning record. St. Francis is 4-1 ATS in its past five games.
Why take the favorite: Should be a wild atmosphere in that tiny St. Francis gym.
Green Bay at Valparaiso (-2.5)
The Horizon League Championship Game is at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Green Bay hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1996, while Valparaiso was last there in 2013. ESPN projects Valpo to win the tournament and as a No. 13 seed against No. 4 Utah in the South Region.
Valpo (27-5, 13-3) was the Horizon's regular-season champion. It advanced with a 60-55 win over Cleveland State on Saturday to set a school record for wins. The Crusaders ended the game on a 7-2 run. Alex Peters led the way with 22 points. He's the team's star, leading in scoring (17.0 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 per game). Valpo is coached by Bryce Drew, who made one of the more memorable NCAA Tournament buzzer-beating shots back in 1998 for Valpo against Ole Miss. Green Bay is in the conference championship game for the first time in 17 years. The Phoenix (24-7, 12-4), the second seed, advanced with a 70-56 win over Illinois-Chicago on Saturday behind 30 points from senior Keifer Sykes, including 15 in the final seven minutes. Green Bay had lost eight straight conference semifinal games. Interestingly, Green Bay has now gone two straight seasons without losing consecutive games. The Phoenix join Arizona, Wichita State, Villanova and San Diego State as the only teams in the country without two straight losses the past two regular seasons. I did not know that.
Green Bay and Valpo split in the regular season, each winning at home. The Phoenix won 51-50 on Jan. 23 as the Crusaders were only 5-for-27 from the field in the second half. Valparaiso won 63-59 on Feb. 13. Peters had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Key trends: Green Bay is 2-6 ATS in its past eight after a win. It has covered one of its past five on the road. Valpo is 5-0 ATS in its past five vs. teams with a winning record. Green Bay is 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings.
Why take the favorite: Valpo has just one home loss.
Grambling State vs. Alcorn State (-9.5)
Hey, you can bet on this right? Frankly, these low-level DI games can offer great value because the books don't research those as much. No national TV for the SWAC Tournament opening-round game from Houston. Why am I previewing this? Because I'm rooting for Grambling, probably the worst team in all of Division I. The Tigers (2-26, 0-18) have only beaten lower-level schools Lyon and Selma and both of those were close. Grambling is one of just two DI schools without a conference win in the regular season. The other was San Jose State of the Mountain West. Not that Alcorn State (5-25, 4-14) is a powerhouse.
If you like offense, look away from this one. There are 351 teams playing DI basketball this season. Grambling is dead last in scoring (52.0 points per game) and assists (7.8 per game) and third-from-last in shooting (.360). Grambling brings a 21-game losing streak into this one, although it actually lost the regular-season finale to Alabama A&M only by four points -- that's essentially a win. Alcorn State is also not a very good offensive team, ranking 344th in assists (8.8 per game) and 339th in shooting (.385). It carries a seven-game losing streak into this one. Two of Alcorn's wins, naturally, came against Grambling. The Braves won at Grambling 72-70 on Jan. 12. LaAntwan Luckett made one of two free throws with three seconds left and grabbed the offensive rebound off the miss to preserve the victory. On Feb. 9 in Lorman, Alcorn won 91-77. Marquis Vance scored a career-high 30 points in the win. The victor here faces No. 1 seed Texas Southern in the next round.
Key trends: Grambling is 4-1 ATS in its past five against teams with a losing record. Alcorn State is 3-8 ATS in its past 11 overall.
Why take the underdog: Look, I don't know much about these teams other than what I read. But I played some basketball and you don't want to finish the season winless, even just in conference play. So I expect a strong effort from Grambling. I'll take the points since it's at a neutral site.
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