NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Wednesday
by Alan Matthews - 1/6/2015
Just three teams unbeaten left in college basketball after previous zero-loss schools Colorado State (at New Mexico), Villanova (at Seton Hall) and TCU (vs. West Virginia) all fell last week. Those without a loss are unanimous No. 1 Kentucky, which played Tuesday night at home, and ACC clubs Duke and Virginia. The ACC is like what the SEC West was for much of the college football season: clearly ahead of everyone else when you also include No. 5 Louisville, No. 13 Notre Dame and No. 18 North Carolina -- didn't even mention unranked Syracuse. Here's a look at three intriguing matchups on Wednesday's schedule.
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No. 2 Duke at Wake Forest (+17)
Duke has looked almost as good as Kentucky has in starting 13-0. The Blue Devils' closest wins were by 10 points over ranked Michigan State and Wisconsin. This will be just the second true road game for Duke. I could see it looking past a mediocre Wake squad (8-7) and to Sunday's much tougher game at NC State. I don't see how Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor isn't the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA this year. He leads the team in scoring (19.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.7 per game). He's also the ACC's leading scorer and shooter (obscene .682 percent from the field). Okafor has to be the National Player of the Year favorite as well. Duke ranks sixth in the nation in scoring and third in shooting.
Wake Forest played relatively well Saturday in losing 85-76 at home to Louisville in the Cardinals' first-ever ACC game. Devin Thomas had a career-high 31 points and 11 rebounds for Wake Forest, which led 69-68 with just under six minutes to play. Wake Forest shot 52.8 percent and became the only team this season to shoot better than 50 percent against Louisville. This is easily the Deacons' biggest home game of the season, so I expect them to be quite jacked up for it. Thomas, a 6-foot-9 bruising junior who averages 12.1 points and 9.7 rebounds, could give Okafor some troubles. Wake did upset No. 4 Duke 82-72 last season in Winston-Salem. It was Wake's first win in the series since 2009.
Key trends: Duke has covered two of its past nine vs. the ACC. Wake has covered nine of its past 13 at home vs. teams with a winning road record. Duke is 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings.
Why take the underdog: As mentioned above, Wake will really be geared up for this in front of a sellout crowd.
NC State at No. 3 Virginia (-15.5)
I could see Virginia a little sloppy here because it comes off a draining 89-80 double-overtime win at Miami and has a big one Saturday at No. 13 Notre Dame. Virginia blew a 19-point first-half lead against the Hurricanes and came from behind in both overtimes. Virginia never led in the first OT, but Justin Anderson made three free throws and a game-tying 3-pointer in the final 20 seconds to force the second extra period. Virginia has scored 80 or more points in back-to-back games for the first time under Tony Bennett. The Cavaliers (13-0) are off to their best start since 1980-81. That team, led by Ralph Sampson, started 23-0. The Cavs held an opponent under 50 percent shooting for the 38th straight ACC game. They are second nationally in scoring defense.
Tough week for NC State as after this game it hosts Duke on Sunday. Beating one of the two should get the Wolfpack into the Top 25. NC State comes off a 68-50 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday for a 2-0 ACC start. The backcourt trio of Ralston Turner, Trevor Lacey and Anthony Barber scored 44 of the 68 points. The Wolfpack played Virginia once last year and were routed in Raleigh 76-45. NC State has lost six straight regular-season matchups with Virginia. The Wolfpack have lost five in a row in Charlottesville.
Key trends: NC State is 13-3 ATS in its past 16 vs. the ACC. The road team has covered 14 of the past 17 meetings.
Why take the underdog: NC State scores a few garbage points late to lose by 12 or fewer.
No. 19 Seton Hall at Xavier (-7)
Time to start considering Seton Hall's Kevin Willard for potential National Coach of the Year honors as the Pirates (12-2, 2-0) are surprisingly atop the Big East standings. What makes this more impressive is that the Hall is 3-0 since highly-touted freshman Isaiah Whitehead was lost to a stress fracture in his right foot. Last week was one of Seton Hall's best in years as the Pirates beat No. 15 St. John's by 11 and then handed No. 6 Villanova its first loss Saturday, 66-61 in overtime. It's the first time the Pirates have beaten Top-15 opponents in consecutive games since the 2005-06 season. That got Seton Hall ranked for the first time since 2012 (No. 19 is school's highest ranking since 2001). Junior guard Sterling Gibbs totaled 45 points in those two wins. He's fourth in the conference in scoring at 16.6 points per game. This certainly looks like an NCAA Tournament team. The Pirates haven't gone dancing since 2006.
Xavier (10-4) has nice wins over Missouri, Alabama and Georgetown but lost at DePaul 71-68 on Saturday. Dee Davis' running 3-pointer was no good as time expired. Trevon Bluiett finished with 19 points (all in second half) and a career-high 12 rebounds, the first double-double of his Xavier career. The Musketeers allowed DePaul to shoot 65 percent after intermission. Xavier was 0-2 vs. Seton Hall last year, falling 68-60 at home and 71-62 in Newark. The Musketeers lead the Big East this season in 3-point percentage but Seton Hall is No. 1 against it.
Key trends: The Pirates are 9-1 ATS in their past 10 after a win. Xavier is 5-2 ATS in its past seven vs. teams with a winning record.
Why take the underdog: I'll be honest, I was leaning toward Xavier before seeing this line because it feels like a major letdown game for Seton Hall. But seven points? I'll take those.
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