NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Opening Lines Wednesday
by Alan Matthews - 2/17/2015
Two of college basketball's best rivalries take center stage on Wednesday night as Xavier visits Cincinnati for city bragging rights and North Carolina is at Duke. I think ESPN might run a commercial or two in order to hype the Tar Heels and Blue Devils. Just a guess. Honestly, Xavier-Cincinnati might be more heated. Of course, those schools had a huge brawl when they played at Xavier in 2011, which was the last time the Crosstown Shootout was staged on campus. It was moved for two years to a neutral site (US Bank Arena) so things could calm down a bit. Last May the schools announced a new 10-year home-and-home contract for the series. Here's a look at those two games and one other that caught my eye on the schedule.
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Xavier at Cincinnati (pick'em)
This nonconference matchup starts at 7 p.m. on ESPN2, and both schools are on the NCAA Tournament bubble. ESPN's Bracketology currently has Xavier as a No. 9 in the West and Cincinnati a No. 10 in the West but dropping. CBSSports.com analyst Jerry Palm said that Xavier (16-10, 7-7 Big East) may need to win three of its last five games to get a bid.
The Musketeers lost 78-70 at home to St. John's on Saturday, their third loss in the past five games. Senior Matt Stainbrook led the Musketeers with 17 points, on 7-for-9 shooting, and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. Xavier is now 1-8 in games decided by eight points or fewer. The lone win was vs. Marquette. Cincinnati (17-8, 8-5) has lost two straight and three of five. It comes off a 50-49 home loss to Tulane on Saturday. The Green Wave's Jonathan Stark hit a 30-foot buzzer-beater for the upset. UC is one of the worst offensive teams in the nation and that was on display. It had just 13 points at halftime and was 0-for-11 from 3-point range. Octavius Ellis (15 points) was the only Bearcat to score in double figures.
Last season Xavier beat Cincinnati 64-47 despite then-top scorer Semaj Christon sitting much of the game because of foul trouble. The Musketeers were 11 of 16 from long range and held Cincinnati without a field goal for 10 minutes in the second half. Xavier has won five of its last seven against Cincinnati. This is the 82nd meeting between the schools. The Shootout has not been played this late in the season since Feb. 18, 1981.
Key trends: Xavier is 2-5 against the spread in its past nine nonconference games. It is 3-9 ATS in its past 12 on the road. Cincinnati is 5-11 ATS in its past 16 after a loss. It is 1-4 ATS in its past five overall. The favorite is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings.
Why take the Bearcats: Not having to give points at home? Sweet.
No. 15 North Carolina at No. 4 Duke (-7)
College basketball's best rivalry tips at 9 p.m. and of course is on ESPN. Yet you won't be hearing Dick Vitale's voice, which is a shame because he has helped make this rivalry what it is. It will be the first game in the series broadcasted on ESPN that Vitale won't work since he joined the network in 1979. Dan Shulman and former Duke player Jay Bilas are on the call.
North Carolina (18-7, 8-4 ACC) has no shot at the ACC regular-season title as it has lost three of its past four games. It's important to finish in the top four of the standings because then you get a double bye in the conference tournament. The Heels were beaten 89-76 at Pitt on Saturday in their first game since Dean Smith died, so perhaps that was part of the reason Carolina looked so lousy. The Heels fell into a 10-0 hole and never were able to tie it. They allowed Pitt to shot 64.9 percent from the field. Brice Johnson had 19 points and Kennedy Meeks 15, but no other Carolina player had more than eight.
Duke (22-3, 9-3) is projected as a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance as things stand, and it still has a shot at the ACC title but needs Virginia to lose at least twice. The Blue Devils won 80-72 at Syracuse on Saturday for their fifth straight victory. Freshman Jahlil Okafor had another stellar game with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Okafor was perfect from the field on seven attempts in the second half when Duke outscored Syracuse 44-33.
It's the 239th all-time matchup between UNC and Duke, with the Heels leading 133-105. They each won on the other's court a year ago. Duke has won eight of the past 11 overall and four of the past five at Cameron Indoor.
Key trends: The Heels have covered just two of their past 11 games. They haven't covered their past eight vs. teams with a winning record. Duke has covered five of its past eight vs. teams with a winning record. The Heels are 7-2 ATS in their past nine at Duke.
Why take the underdog: Duke wins, but I expect a very spirited UNC effort.
Missouri at No. 18 Arkansas (-16.5)
This SEC matchup tips at 9 p.m. and is on the SEC Network. What has happened to Missouri (7-18, 1-11)? This used to be a very good program, but this season has been a disaster under first-year coach Kim Anderson. He was hired in April out of Central Missouri to replace Frank Haith, who left Missouri for Tulsa (and has the Golden Hurricane in second place in the AAC). The Tigers have lost 11 straight games since opening SEC play with an overtime win over LSU. They were beaten 77-74 at home by Mississippi State on Saturday. Tigers sophomore guard Wes Clark missed that game with an elbow injury and is done for the season. He's second on the team in scoring (10.1 ppg), rebounding (3.5 rpg) and assists (3.1 apg). The losing streak is one away from tying the program record that last happened in both the 1965-66 and '66-67 seasons.
Arkansas (20-5, 9-3) looks like clearly the second-best team in the SEC behind Kentucky, and the Hogs visit Lexington on Feb. 28. Arkansas won at Ole Miss 71-70 on Saturday for its fourth straight win. Reserve guard Manuale Watkins hit a short jumper with 6.4 seconds left for the victory. Ole Miss' Jarvis Summers had a chance to win it with a mid-range jumper in the final seconds, but it bounced off the rim. This is the latest in a season that the Razorbacks have been ranked since 1999.
The Razorbacks won 61-60 at Missouri on Jan. 24. The Tigers' Clark missed two free throws with 3.3 seconds left. The Hogs' Rashad Madden grabbed the rebound after the second miss, but the Tigers players were so stunned they didn't even foul him.
Key trends: Missouri has covered two of its past nine vs. teams with a winning record. It is 1-4 ATS in its past five overall. Arkansas has covered five straight. It is 4-12 ATS in its past 16 on Wednesday. The Tigers are 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings.
Why take the favorite: Hogs just one home loss, while Missouri has yet to win a true road game.
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