NCAA Basketball Expert Betting Advice: Three Interesting Opening Lines 2/2/2018
Things are not going well right now at defending National Champion North Carolina. On Monday, the school suspended freshman guard Jalek Felton, the nephew of former Heels star guard Raymond Felton, indefinitely. Jalek Felton was suspended by the university, not the basketball program, which sounds rather ominous. Felton wasn't playing much yet but was a Top 30 recruit in the country. Then on Tuesday, the Tar Heels lost their third straight, 82-78 at Clemson to fall to 16-7 overall and 5-5 in the ACC. The NCAA Tournament bubble could be fast approaching. To make matters worse, senior forward Theo Pinson left the game early with a shoulder injury. He went into Tuesday averaging 9.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game and could play multiple positions. If that's serious, count out UNC on doing much in the Big Dance - if it gets there. Carolina is +3300 at BetOnline to repeat.
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No. 22 Rhode Island at VCU ( +5 )
Atlantic 10 game at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2. When I decide which games to preview, I generally know which way I'm going to lean even before seeing the spread. Sometimes, however, the line surprises me and I switch. That was the case Tuesday when Rhode Island visited UMass. The Rams didn't look sharp in their previous game, a 3-point home escape against Duquesne after trailing by 15. Meanwhile, Tuesday was the biggest conference home game of the season for the Minutemen, so when I saw the opening number at 9.5, I jumped off Rhode Island and onto UMass. Glad I did as the Rams only won 85-83, their 13th straight victory. UMass was down three when Luwane Pipkins was put on the free-throw line with 1.8 seconds left - Rhode Island didn't want the Minutemen attempting a tying 3-pointer. Pipkins made the first shot and missed the second on purpose but was called for a lane violation while grabbing the rebound after throwing the ball off the front of the rim. Rhode Island ball and game. Jeff Dowtin had 19 points and 10 assists to lead the Rams.
VCU was a mid-major powerhouse under Shaka Smart before he left for Texas. The school replaced him with Will Wade, and these Rams made the NCAA Tournament each of the past two years. However, Wade left for LSU this past offseason and was replaced by Mike Rhoades from Rice. Rhoades served as a VCU assistant from for five seasons from 2009-14 before taking job at Rice. VCU is 14-8 overall and 6-3 in the A-10, so it's going to take a conference tournament title to get back to the Big Dance because every good team it played out of conference (Virginia, Marquette, Michigan, Texas, Seton Hall) it lost to. This is VCU's only look at Rhode Island in the regular season, and VCU enters having won three straight. It was 84-76 Saturday at George Mason. Justin Tillman is averaging 20.3 points and 10.4 rebounds, while shooting 57 percent from the field, in the past 16 games for VCU, which lost to Rhode Island in the 2017 A-10 Tournament title game.
Key trends: Rhode Island is 10-3 against the spread in its past 13 conference games. VCU is 4-1 ATS in its past five vs. teams with a winning record. The favorite has covered five straight in the series.
The pick: VCU.
Western Michigan at Buffalo (-11)
Mid-American Conference game at 7 p.m. ET on the CBS Sports Network. WMU was a preseason favorite to win the MAC West and Buffalo was the consensus pick in the MAC East. The Broncos, though, are two games behind first-place Toledo in their division. Western Michigan does enter on a two-game winning streak, prevailing 71-57 at Eastern Michigan on Tuesday. After scoring just 20 first-half points and trailing by one, WMU had 50 points after intermission. After going 0-of-7 from the three-point line in the first half, WMU went 7-for-9 in the second. Brandon Johnson had team highs of 14 points and eight rebounds. Star Thomas Wilder was held to 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting. He's third in the MAC in scoring at 18.5 ppg and should become the second player in program history to eclipse 2,000 career points later this season.
There aren't many schools left around the country without a conference loss, and now there's one fewer as Buffalo was handed its first Tuesday, 82-79 at Kent State, to end a nine-game winning streak. The Bulls - who played Syracuse and Cincinnati tough in close losses earlier this year -- shot 69 percent in the first half to lead by 13 at intermission and lost despite finishing at 55.6 percent overall to 45.6 for Kent State. The Flashes had a big advantage on the boards and at the free-throw line. Buffalo won at Western Michigan on Jan. 19, 84-74. A 17-3 run gave the Bulls a 66-55 lead with about seven minutes left. CJ Massinburg and Jeremy Harris scored 20 points each to lead Buffalo, which still has a two-game lead in the MAC East.
Key trends: WMU is 1-6 ATS in its past seven following an ATS win. Buffalo is 18-7-1 ATS in its past 26 after a loss. The home team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings.
The pick: Buffalo.
Utah at Colorado (Pick'em)
Pac-12 game at 9 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. Neither of these schools will be NCAA Tournament teams barring a Pac-12 Tournament title. Utah, though, is one of those clubs that can beat anyone on a given night (or lose to). Last Thursday, the Utes upset No. 21 Arizona State on the Sun Devils' floor (ending Utah's 20-game losing streak to ranked teams in true road games), and then nearly completed the state sweep but fell 74-73 at No. 11 Arizona on Saturday. Utah rallied from a 13-point, second-half deficit made it 74-73 Justin Bibbins' 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left. The Utes got the ball back after Arizona's Allonzo Trier was called for an offensive foul before the ball was inbounded. However, Donnie Tillman was off on a layup attempt. Sedrick Barefield led the Utes with a game-high 26 points in 33 minutes off the bench.
Colorado has dropped three straight and was swept on the Arizona swing last weekend. Thee Buffs lost to the Wildcats and Sun Devils largely at the free throw line. CU attempted a total of 17 free throws in the two games and Arizona/ASU attempted 45. It was the fewest number of free throws ever attempted in a two-game Pac-12 road swing by the Buffs, surpassing the 27 they shot on the same trip three years ago. This is Colorado's only game this week. The Buffs are 8-2 at home this year, with wins over ranked Arizona and Arizona State. CU won five of the first six meetings vs. Utah after the schools entered the Pac-12 together in 2011-12, but the Utes have won the past seven -- the Buffs' longest current losing streak to any Pac-12 school
Key trends: The Utes are 0-3-2 ATS in their past five after a loss. The Buffs are 4-1 ATS in their past five at home. Utah is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings.
The pick: Colorado ends the series losing streak.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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