NCAA Basketball Expert Predictions: Three Interesting Jan. 18 Opening Lines
by Alan Matthews - 1/17/2017
Potentially devastating news for an excellent Creighton team on Monday as point guard Maurice Watson, who leads the nation in assists at 8.8 per game, had to be carried off the court in the first half after injuring his knee. It was actually the second time in the game he had to be helped off the court as he previously had collided with a Xavier player. Watson also averages 13.4 points and shoots an excellent 48.4 percent from 3-point range. The No. 7 Bluejays are next in action Saturday at home vs. Marquette. Creighton is +3000 to win a national title. I don't think this team is quite that good, but it could make the Final Four if Watson is OK. Early reports are the ligament is "solid", so that sounds positive.
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No. 19 Florida at No. 24 South Carolina (+1)
First game on the schedule with a 6:30 p.m. ET tip on the SEC Network. The Gators and Gamecocks join Kentucky as the only teams without an SEC loss yet and probably will be the only three schools in the conference to make the Big Dance. Maybe Mississippi State. Florida won a seventh straight game on Saturday, 80-76 in overtime against Georgia. Canyon Berry led the way with 27 points. He was a big reason why UF's reserves outscored Georgia's a whopping 51-5. The Gators starting frontcourt of Devin Robinson, Justin Leon and Kevarrius Hayes scored just nine points. The Dawgs did lead by eight in the second half.
South Carolina is unbeaten when star guard Sindarius Thornwell has been in the lineup. Thornwell was suspended for six games in December for violation of school policy. USC went 3-3 without him. The Gamecocks won a fourth in a row Saturday, 67-56 over Ole Miss to get back into the Top 25. Four Gamecocks were in double figures, led by sophomore Chris Silva, who recorded his second career double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Thornwell had 10 points and eight rebounds. USC forced 21 turnovers and has forced 84 turnovers in its four SEC games. Carolina beat visiting UF 73-69 in OT in the lone meeting last season.
Key trends: Florida is 6-1 against the spread in its past seven following an ATS loss. The Gamecocks are 5-1 ATS in their past six on Wednesday. The Gators are 4-1 ATS in their past five at South Carolina.
I'm leaning: USC is 2-0 vs. ranked foes this year and I believe it covers here.
No. 15 Notre Dame at No. 10 Florida State (-5)
ACC game at 7 p.m. ET. I'm just going to stick with Florida State games until I get one wrong. I was on the Noles last week in their home game against Duke and they won that easily. I was absolutely against FSU in a letdown game on Saturday at North Carolina and the Seminoles were beaten 96-83 to see their school-record 12-game winning streak end. This is game No. five of a six-game stretch vs. ranked teams, and I'll probably look at FSU's home game vs. No. 12 Louisville on Saturday if I'm right about the Noles again here. The main reason they lost to North Carolina was the Heels won the battle on the boards 56-34, with 21 offensive rebounds. They finished with a 28-15 edge in second-chance points, the exact difference in the game. FSU also missed 14 of 26 free throws.
The Irish are the only team without an ACC loss. They won a seventh in a row Saturday, 76-71 at Virginia Tech. Steve Vasturia had a team-high 20 points and was named the co-ACC Player of the Week. The 5-0 conference start is the best in Notre Dame program history, regardless of league. The win also snapped Virginia Tech's 15-game home winning streak just two days after the team ended Miami's 21-game home winning streak. UND outscored Tech 10-2 down the stretch and has now outscored its ACC opponents 45-11 in the final 11:27 (combined) this season. FSU won the lone meeting with Notre Dame last year 77-56 in Tallahassee.
Key trends: The Irish are 3-0-1 ATS in their past four road games. The Noles are 12-4 ATS in their past 16 at home.
I'm leaning: Florida State.
Colorado at Washington (pick'em)
Pac-12 game at 11 p.m. ET on ESPNU and these are probably the two most disappointing teams in the conference. The Buffs and Oregon State are the only schools winless in the conference -- CU was an NCAA Tournament team last year. It comes off a 71-68 home loss to No. 25 USC on Sunday, a fifth straight defeat. It's the longest losing streak in Coach Tad Boyle's tenure in Boulder. The Buffs had battled back from a 67-60 deficit with 2:44 remaining by scoring eight straight points. Colorado committed 17 turnovers and allowed USC to collect 17 offensive rebounds. The Trojans turned those into a combined 36 points. It was CU's first loss this year after leading at the half (6-1).
Washington fell to 1-4 in the conference with a 79-69 loss at Stanford on Saturday. The Huskies rallied from a 45-24 deficit to tie it at 63 on David Crisp's 3-pointer with 4:15 left. But the Cardinal scored 11 straight and closed the game on a 13-6 run. Freshman superstar Markelle Fultz had 34 points, his third 30-point outing for Washington. He's averaging 22.2 points, 6.1 assists and 5.8 rebounds. Senior team captain Malik Dime missed his second straight game with a broken finger on his right hand and won't play here. Colorado and UW split last year.
Key trends: The Buffs are 1-7 ATS in their past eight. UW is 3-8 ATS in its past 11. CU is 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings.
I'm leaning: Washington.
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