NCAA Basketball Expert Betting Advice: Three Interesting Opening Lines 2/9/2018
The University of Nebraska is an NCAA Tournament bubble team, although likely on the right side of that bubble with an 18-8 overall record and 9-4 in the Big Ten. The Huskers also have been a bettors' best friend thus far in the 2017-18 season as they lead the country with 18 against the spread victories against just six ATS losses. Nebraska has covered every single Big Ten game but a 64-63 win over Illinois as a 4.5-point favorite. Not sure the NCAA Tournament selection committee will care about ATS statistics, but you should.
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Davidson at No. 18 Rhode Island ( -5.5 )
Atlantic 10 Conference game at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2. It's no longer a question of if Rhode Island would still be an NCAA Tournament team should it not win the conference tournament but what seed the Rams will get. They have an RPI of sixth nationally, but ESPN has Rhody as just a No. 6 in the Big Dance. The Rams are one of few unbeaten teams in conference play anywhere and won a 14th straight game last Friday, 81-68 at maybe the A-10's second-best team in VCU. The regular-season race is nearly over as Rhode Island, which has its highest in-season ranking ever, has a three-game lead over second-place Davidson. Senior E.C. Matthews has been named one of 10 national finalists for the 2018 Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award. Matthews missed six games earlier this season (two of Rams' three losses were in that stretch) but is averaging 15.5 points and 4.8 rebounds since returning. Rhode Island's 14-game streak is the program's longest winning streak since 1939-40.
I suppose Davidson could make things somewhat interesting with an upset here. It's the third game of the season for the Wildcats vs. a ranked foe - they lost by 10 to North Carolina and by 20 at Virginia. They also lost by 13 at a now-ranked Nevada squad. Davidson enters off three straight conference blowout wins. The Wildcats have one of the A-10's top players in senior forward Peyton Aldridge, who leads the team in scoring (20.2 ppg) and rebounding (6.9 rpg). Aldridge outscored St. Joseph's 29-28 by himself in the first half in a 91-62 win Tuesday. Davidson hosts Rhode Island to close the regular season. Last year, Rhody won all three meetings (last was in A-10 Tournament semifinals).
Key trends: The Wildcats are 7-1-1 ATS in their past nine games. The Rams are 5-1 ATS in their past six at home.
The pick: Rhode Island.
Columbia at Yale (-4.5)
Ivy League matchup at 7 p.m. ET with no national TV (the game of the night in the conference is Princeton-Harvard on ESPNU). So why am I looking at this matchup between two schools a combined 11 games under .500 overall? Because Yale has been the worst ATS bet in the country as of this writing at 4-10 ATS. Its covers came out of conference at Delaware State and at St. Bonaventure and in Ivy League play against Dartmouth and Princeton. Yale did play a very respectable noncon schedule with trips to Creighton, Wisconsin, TCU, Georgia Tech and that matchup vs. the Bonnies. The Bulldogs, who lost their starting backcourt of Makai Mason and Jordan Brunner to injuries before the season started, have dropped two straight in the Ivy League and are ahead of only winless Dartmouth.
Columbia was just 3-10 out of conference, but most of those games were on the road to cash a check, including at Villanova, Penn State, UConn (took the Huskies to overtime) and Boston College. The Lions are on a two-game winning streak in the Ivy League to get to .500 in conference. They have one of the top sharp-shooters from long range in the nation in junior guard Quinton Adlesh. He's hitting 47.3 percent from 3-point range, first in the Ivy and eighth nationally - William & Mary's Connor Burchfield leads at 52.6 percent. As a team, Columbia is Top 20 nationally in made 3-pointers per game. Columbia and Yale play again on Feb. 24. Columbia leads 125-108 all-time vs. Yale but has lost the past four.
Key trends: The Lions are 0-7 ATS in their past seven after a win. The Bulldogs are 2-8 ATS in their past 10 at home. The favorite is 9-3 in the past 12 meetings.
The pick: Yale.
Minnesota at Indiana (-6)
Big Ten game at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. Really the only thing these schools are playing for is a potential spot in the NIT. Minnesota is proof you must examine nonconference schedules closely because the Gophers on the surface looked like a pretty good team when they were 13-3 at one point. But the only good team they had played up to that point was Miami, and Minnesota lost that at home. On Tuesday, the Gophers fell to 3-10 in the Big Ten with their sixth straight loss, 91-85 at home to those Cornhuskers mentioned above. Nate Mason's career-high 34 points were wasted. Minnesota was again without starting forward Amir Coffey, who missed a third straight with a shoulder injury. Starting guard Dupree McBrayer, who has been battling leg injuries all season, didn't play in the second half.
Indiana improved to 6-7 in the Big Ten and ended a four-game slide with a 65-43 win at Rutgers on Monday. The Scarlet Knights entered with the Big Ten's worst offense at .87 points per possession, and they managed just 16 first-half points. Juwan Morgan led IU with 24 points and eight rebounds. He deserves All-Big Ten First-Team recognition as Morgan is averaging 16.8 points on 59.1 percent shooting to go with 7.3 rebounds per night. There's just very little around him. On Jan. 6, the Hoosiers won at Minnesota, 75-71. Robert Johnson scored a career-high 28 points and Morgan had 20. Mason led Minnesota with 22 points and nine assists. Coffey missed that one as well.
Key trends: The Gophers are 1-5 ATS in their past six. The Hoosiers have covered seven straight at home. The underdog has covered 21 of the past 28 meetings.
The pick: Indiana.
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