NCAA Basketball Expert Betting Advice: Three Interesting Opening Lines 3/6/2018
Some very interesting results in conference tournaments over the weekend. Michigan upset Michigan State and Purdue to repeat as Big Ten champion - the Wolverines now probably wish the Big Ten Tournament wasn't a week earlier this season so they could carry that momentum immediately into the Big Dance. Lipscomb upset Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun final to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. And Loyola-Chicago beat Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Conference championship game on Sunday to reach the NCAAs for the first times since 1985. The Ramblers were appearing in their first conference title game since 2002, when they were members of the Horizon League.
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Pittsburgh vs. Notre Dame ( -16.5 )
ACC Tournament game at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN2 from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn with the winner facing No. 7 Virginia Tech. No. 10 seed Notre Dame is an interesting case for an at-large NCAA Tournament berth. ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Irish among his "Next Four Out," so obviously a loss here would be crushing because No. 15 Pittsburgh is absolutely atrocious, finishing 0-18 in the conference. It's just the seventh time in ACC history a school went winless. The Panthers have not won since beating Towson before Christmas and lost star player Ryan Luther to a season-ending injury earlier in December. I'm presuming this will be Coach Kevin Stallings' last game as the Panthers' head coach. I say Notre Dame is an interesting case at 18-13 overall because it played 15 games without preseason ACC Player of the Year Bonzie Colson due to a broken bone in his foot and went 6-9 in them. He returned last Wednesday in a 73-56 win over Pittsburgh in South Bend. The Irish couldn't build on that win, though, losing 62-57 at No. 1 Virginia on Saturday. Colson had 24 points and 14 rebounds, but the Irish shot just 35.8 percent against the nation's No. 1 defense.
Pittsburgh is the ACC school that Notre Dame has faced more overall than any other, with the Irish leading the series 33-30. ND coach Mike Brey is one victory away from reaching 500 wins in his career. He would become the 23rd active Division I coach to win 500 games. The Irish reached the ACC Tournament title game last year, losing to Duke. They are 6-3 all-time in the event.
Key trends: The Panthers are 2-5 against the spread in their past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The Irish are 1-5 ATS in their past six after an ATS win. Pitt is 4-0-1 ATS in the previous five meetings.
The pick: Pittsburgh.
Stony Brook at Vermont (-13.5)
America East semifinal game with no national TV but streaming on ESPN3 with the winner facing either Hartford or UMBC. Vermont was the regular-season champion at 15-1. That lone defeat was at home to Hartford by a point on Feb. 18. The Catamounts are a good team - they lost by only four in nonconference play at Kentucky. UVM opened this tournament with a 75-60 win over Maine. Trae Bell-Haynes and Payton Henson scored 21 points apiece. Bell-Haynes became only the seventh UVM player to score more than 1,600 career points. He was the America East Player of the Year. The Toronto native became the third Catamount to win the Player of the Year Award in consecutive seasons, joining Taylor Coppenrath and Marqus Blakely. Vermont is in its 16th conference semifinal since 2002.
Fifth-seeded Stony Brook upset No. 4 Albany, 69-60, to advance. Akwasi Yeboah and Junior Saintel combined for 35 points as the Seawolves led wire-to-wire. This is the ninth straight season they have advanced to the America East semifinals. Freshman Elijah Olaniyi was the America East Rookie of the Year. Vermont was 2-0 vs. Stony Brook during the regular season, winning 73-62 at home on Jan. 13 and 69-60 in New York on Feb. 24.
Key trends: The Seawolves are 0-5-1 ATS in their past six after a win. The Catamounts are 5-15-1 ATS in their previous 21 at home. The underdog is 4-1-1 in the past six meetings.
The pick: Stony Brook (hard to beat any team three times in one season).
LIU Brooklyn at Wagner (-9)
Northeast Conference championship game at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2. It's only the second time in history that two New York City teams will square off in an NEC title game. The first was in 2003 when Wagner beat St. Francis Brooklyn for the title. Wagner was the regular-season champion this year at 14-4, and LIU Brooklyn finished fourth at 10-8. The Seahawks advanced with a 75-64 home win over Robert Morris. Senior guard JoJo Cooper had 20 points, including the 1,000th of his career, while junior Romone Saunders and sophomore Blake Francis added 18 and 15 points, respectively.
The Blackbirds advanced with a 78-77 win over Fairleigh Dickinson. Raiquan Clark scored 28 points and Joel Hernandez added 25. Jashaun Agosto made both free throws in his only trip to the line with 3.6 seconds to go. It's LIU Brooklyn's first NEC final since 2013. These schools split during the regular season. In the first, LIU Brooklyn won at home on Jan. 13, 69-67. Julian Batts made a layup with 1.8 seconds left. Wagner was just 10-for-20 from the free throw line. On Feb. 17, Wagner won at home, 78-74, to clinch the second regular season title in the past three years, and third in program history.
Key trends: The Blackbirds are 2-5 ATS in their past seven. The Seahawks are 4-1 ATS in their past five.
The pick: Wagner.
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