NCAA Basketball Expert Betting Advice: Three Interesting Opening Lines 2/1/2018
Now that we are into February, already the last full month of regular-season action in college basketball, let's look at some updated futures odds from 5Dimes to cut down the nets on the first Monday of April at the Alamodome in San Antonio. I believe that Duke is the most talented team in the country - freshman Marvin Bagley III is ridiculous - and the Blue Devils are +500 favorites. They are followed by Michigan State (+550), which Duke beat at the beginning of the season, Villanova (+550), Virginia (+805) and Purdue (+805). UVA has been arguably the most impressive team so far, but I believe is a fraud come tournament time per usual because the Cavs can't score. My Final Four right now would be Duke, Villanova, Arizona (+2000) and Cincinnati (+3000).
Creighton at No. 1 Villanova ( -13 )
Fox Sports 1 Big East game at 6:30 p.m. ET. Creighton is a cool +10000 on the NCAA title odds. The Bluejays enter on a two-game winning streak and are two back in the loss column of Villanova for first in the conference. Creighton beat visiting Georgetown on Saturday, 85-77. Marcus Foster, one of the better point guards in the country, had 28 points and Khyri Thomas 22. Coach Greg McDermott burned the redshirt of true freshman Jacob Epperson in that game. McDermott felt the team needed another big man after sophomore Martin Krampelj tore an ACL on Jan. 17. The 6-foot-11 Epperson scored two points and grabbed two rebounds in nine minutes vs. the Hoyas. This will be the Jays' eighth game against a ranked team. They are 3-4, beating Northwestern, UCLA and Seton Hall - none of which are still ranked.
Villanova, No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for a fourth straight week, won its seventh straight game on Sunday at dangerous Marquette, 85-82. Likely Big East Player of the Year Jalen Brunson had 31 points despite leaving briefly with an ankle injury. That was also Nova's first game playing without junior starting guard Phil Booth. He broke his right hand late in an 89-69 win on Jan. 23 vs. Providence. The team's fourth-leading scorer (11.6 points) is out indefinitely. Last year, Villanova was 3-0 vs. Creighton, winning all three by double digits - including 74-60 in the Big East Tournament title game. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 10-2. The game marks Creighton's first contest at Wells Fargo Center since a 96-68 triumph over No. 4 Villanova on Jan. 20, 2014.
Key trends: The Bluejays are 6-15 against the spread in their past 21 after a win. The Wildcats are 5-1 ATS in their past six following an ATS loss. Villanova is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings.
The pick: Creighton.
Northwestern at Wisconsin (-3.5)
Big Ten game at 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. Of course, Northwestern had been the only school currently in Power 5 conference to never make the NCAA Tournament before breaking through last season. This year's team was expected to be better with the two best players back and a good recruiting class, but the Wildcats have struggled and dealt with some injuries. At 13-10 overall, they will likely need to win the Big Ten Tournament to get back to the Big Dance. NU had a two-game winning streak snapped Monday in a 58-47 loss at Michigan. Scottie Lindsey, one of those key returning players, scored 15 points for the Wildcats, but no other Northwestern player had more than nine. The Cats shot just 38.3 percent. Scoring has been a problem all year as they average 71.8 points (239th).
Wisconsin (10-13) also has been hammered by injuries and will for sure miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time this century barring a win in the Big Ten tourney. The Badgers lost their third straight and sixth in the past seven on Monday, 74-63 at home to a mediocre Nebraska team. It used to be near impossible to win in Madison. UW had an 11-point lead midway through the second half but scored just eight points over the final nine minutes. Ethan Happ led Wisconsin with 25 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and four blocks. He's a great player, should be an All-American and perhaps Big Ten Player of the Year, but there's just nothing else there this season. Wisconsin is even worse offensively than Northwestern, averaging 67.8 points (305th).
Key trends: The Wildcats are 9-3 ATS in their past 12 following a loss. The Badgers are 2-5 ATS in their past seven. The road team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings.
The pick: We don't do totals here because those aren't usually released the day before. But I'd be willing to wager this is the lowest-scoring game in the country Thursday, something like 52-48. Take Northwestern.
No. 25 Arizona State at Washington (+3)
An 11 p.m. ET tip on the Pac-12 Network. Under Coach Bobby Hurley, ASU should make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014, but the Sun Devils are just 4-5 in the Pac-12 after going 12-0 in nonconference play, including very impressive wins vs. Xavier and at Kansas. Arizona State is off an 80-66 home victory over Colorado on Saturday, its biggest conference margin of victory this season. The game was tied 32-all at halftime. Star Tra Holder led ASU with 22 points. His next start will be his 110 th career, breaking a tie for fourth all-time at the school with Ron Riley. The record is 120 by Jeff Pendergraph from 2005-09. Holder is fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring at 19.3 ppg.
Washington had the No. 1 overall pick in last year's NBA draft on the 2016-17 roster in Markelle Fultz, yet they sucked. These Huskes are 15-6 overall and 5-3 in the Pac-12 (after winning two conference games last year). First-year coach Mike Hopkins, Jim Boeheim's long-time right-hand man at Syracuse, has done a fine job. SU should have made Boeheim retire like he promised and let Hopkins take over as was the plan. Junior Noah Dickerson is second on the team in scoring (14.2 ppg on 56.7 percent shooting) and tops in rebounding (7.8 rpg). UW has trailed by at least five in seven of its 15 wins. This is the only scheduled meeting between these two.
Key trends: The Sun Devils have covered just one of their past 10 Pac-12 games. The Huskies are 4-1-1 ATS in their past six. ASU is 7-3 ATS in its past 10 in Seattle.
The pick: Washington.
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