NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Wednesday
by Alan Matthews - 3/3/2015
I'm going to be leaning mostly home favorites this week because I believe those regular-season home finales -- Senior Night -- are always great value. It's an emotional night, and the players don't want to blow it in their senior teammates' final game at home by losing, especially if it's a game where potential seeding for the conference tournament is involved or, more importantly, to gain the NCAA Tournament selection committee's attention. Two bubble teams play their home finale on Wednesday in UCLA and Tulsa. Here's a look at those and one other matchup that caught my eye.
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No. 12 Notre Dame at No. 16 Louisville (-4.5)
This ACC matchup tips at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. Obviously both clubs will be in the NCAA Tournament, so this one is for potential better seeding in the ACC Tournament. Notre Dame could finish as high as second, but anywhere in the Top 4 gets you a double-bye. I thought Louisville was a Final Four-caliber team until Coach Rick Pitino recently kicked starting guard Chris Jones off the team. He averaged 13.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game. Now I'm not super confident the Cards reach the national semifinals.
Notre Dame (24-5, 12-4) might be a tad rusty as the Irish haven't played since being upset 65-60 at home by Syracuse on Feb. 24. The Irish, whose three-game winning streak was snapped, rank second nationally in field-goal percentage but were just 17-for-49 (34.7 percent) against that SU zone and 3-for-22 from long range (13.6 percent). Top players Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton each played all 40 minutes but were only 5-for-18 combined. Connaughton did have 15 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season. The Fighting Irish are 7-3 this season in games decided by five points or less (6-2 in ACC play). Louisville (23-6, 11-5) dominated at Florida State on Saturday, 81-59 for its third straight win (two since Jones was booted). Terry Rozier handed out a career-high nine assists, matched a career-best with six steals and added 10 points. Rozier leads the Cardinals and is fourth in the ACC in scoring (17.4 ppg) and second in steals (2.0 spg). The Cardinals surpassed the 70-point mark for the first time in eight February games.
These schools haven't played since the 2012-13 season when both were in the Big East. In an interesting quirk, the teams have gone to overtime in seven of the past 13 meetings, including a memorable five-overtime Notre Dame win in 2013.
Key trends: The Irish are 2-5 ATS in their past seven games. They are 1-8 ATS in their past nine on Wednesday. Louisville has covered just two of its past 11 at home. It is 1-4 ATS in its past five Wednesday games.
Why take the favorite: I think Notre Dame is a tad overrated.
USC at UCLA (-12)
The Pac-12 battle for Los Angeles is at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2. It's a vital game for UCLA, which is currently listed among the "First Four Out" on ESPN Bracketology.
USC (11-18, 3-14) ended a three-game losing streak on Saturday with a 70-55 win over Washington in the Trojans' home finale. It helped the Huskies were without two injured starters, including leading scorer Nigel Williams-Goss. Nikola Jovanovic scored 15 of his 16 points in the second half for the Trojans, who have now exceeded last year's Pac-12 win total. USC held Washington to a 29.7 shooting percentage, the lowest by a Trojan opponent since holding UC Riverside to 19.0 percent on Dec. 12, 2012. It's one of the youngest teams in the country, so it might be pretty competitive next year. UCLA (18-12, 10-7) beat visiting Washington State 72-67 on Sunday for its second straight victory. Norman Powell scored a career-high 28 for the Bruins and was named Pac-12 Player of the Week. It was his third such selection. Powell, one of four seniors to be honored in this game, has averaged 20.4 points and shot 56.2 percent in the last five games. The Bruins can lock up the No. 4 slot and a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament with a win against USC.
On Jan. 14 at USC, the Bruins won 83-66, their fourth straight in the series. UCLA used a 26-6 run over both halves to put away the Trojans. Powell scored 22 points to lead UCLA and finished his career with a 4-0 record against USC in its building, becoming the first Bruin since Toby Bailey from 1995-98 to do so. Jovanovic scored 20 points for the Trojans. USC's last visit to UCLA on Jan. 5, 2014, resulted in a 107-73 loss, its most points allowed in a game since the 2000 season.
Key trends: USC is 5-1 ATS in its past six road games. The Trojans are 5-2 ATS in their past seven against teams with a winning record. UCLA is 4-0 ATS in its past four on Wednesday. The Bruins are 7-1 ATS in their past eight at home. UCLA has covered four straight in this series.
Why take the favorite: Bruins have been beating on their rival for a while.
Cincinnati at Tulsa (-2.5)
This American Athletic Conference matchup is at 9 p.m. ET on the CBS Sports Network. Cincinnati is currently listed among the "Last Four In" and slotted as a No. 11 seed in a play-in game vs. Purdue, while Tulsa is a No. 11 in the West Region so clearly on the bubble as well. The Golden Hurricane better go far in the AAC Tournament because they don't have good nonconference wins and haven't beaten a ranked team.
Cincinnati (20-9, 11-5) won its third straight on Saturday, 63-47 at Tulane. The Bearcats jumped out to an 18-4 lead midway through the first half and weren't much challenged in reaching their fifth straight 20-win season. Octavius Ellis led UC with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Cincinnati has held 32 of its last 33 opponents under 70 points and 11 of its last 13 foes under 60 points. It ranks sixth nationally in points allowed at 55.2 per game. Tulsa (21-7, 14-2) holds a half-game over SMU atop the AAC and the Golden Hurricane play there to close the regular season this weekend. Tulsa won its fourth straight game Saturday, 74-72 in OT at Memphis. Shaquille Harrison led three players in double figures with 23 points, including his team's all eight in OT, on 9-of-14 shooting with nine rebounds. Tulsa improved to 5-7 when trailing at halftime and 18-0 when it shoots better from the field than its opponent. The Golden Hurricane were in Conference USA last year and won the regular-season and conference tournament titles before falling to UCLA in its first game in the Big Dance.
This is the first meeting between Cincinnati and Tulsa since 2000.
Key trends: Tulsa has covered its past four games. It is 8-2 ATS in its past 10 against teams with a winning record.
Why take the favorite: Tulsa is a solid 12-3 at home while UC 5-5 on road.
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