NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Jan. 7 Opening Lines
by Alan Matthews
And then there were two … unbeaten teams that is. There were three schools without loss entering this week, and one of them, No. 2 Oklahoma, lost its first game Monday night in a triple-overtime thriller at No. 1 Kansas. Certainly no shame in that. The second, surprising South Carolina, improved to 14-0 with a win at Auburn in USC’s SEC opener on Tuesday. So the Gamecocks could be the last one standing if SMU is upset at home by Cincinnati on Thursday night.
Cincinnati at No. 15 SMU (-8)
A 7 p.m. ET tip on ESPN in an American Athletic Conference matchup. The Bearcats (11-4, 1-1) were ranked for a while, but that went away following home losses to No. 11 Iowa State and Temple. UC ended that two-game skid with a 76-57 win over Tulsa on Saturday. Farad Cobb was the only Bearcat to score in double figures with 21 points, and he leads the AAC in 3-pointers made. Gary Clark added 14 rebounds. As usual, Cincinnati won with defense. Tulsa shot just 22 percent in the first half and went nearly 14 minutes without a field goal. Thus the Golden Hurricane were down 14 at intermission.
SMU (13-0, 2-0) is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament because of recruiting violations, which is a shame because this is clearly the best team in the conference and has a legitimate shot of running the table in the regular season. The Mustangs also can’t play in the conference tournament. Coach Larry Brown was suspended nine games but is back now. However, star guard Keith Frazier, who was the target of the NCAA’s investigation, reportedly has left the team. He missed SMU’s 72-58 win over South Florida, and media reports are he won’t be back. Frazier, a very highly-touted recruit, was averaging 11.9 points per game. Cincinnati won both meetings last year and is 3-1 in the series since both joined the AAC.
Key trends: UC is 6-2 against the spread in its past eight road games. SMU is 2-5 ATS in its past seven at home.
I’m leaning: Cincinnati because of no Frazier. Still expect an SMU win.
No. 16 Louisville at NC State (+6.5)
A 7 p.m. ACC tip off on ESPN2. The Cardinals (12-2, 1-0) were a little rusty in their ACC opener on Sunday at home as they hadn’t played since a close loss at Kentucky on Dec. 26. But Louisville escaped Wake Forest 65-57. Freshman Donovan Mitchell had season highs with 18 points and eight rebounds in his first start and Chinanu Onuaku added 12 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. U of L played without second-leading scorer Trey Lewis (14.7 ppg) due to a sprained ankle suffered in practice. He’s likely to play here. But Mitchell is expected to stay in the starting lineup as the freshman is blossoming. Coach Rick Pitino has now used eight different starting lineups this season. Sunday marked the first time Louisville has won a game this season by fewer than 20 points.
NC State (10-4, 0-1) was surprised 73-68 in overtime at Virginia Tech on Saturday to end the Wolfpack’s six-game winning streak. They blew a 14-point second-half lead. NCSU’s Cat Barber, the ACC’s leading scorer, played every single minute of the game and had 21 points with seven rebounds. NC State had a chance to win the game at the regulation buzzer, but Barber had his shot blocked. The Wolfpack were just 5-for-12 from the free-throw line in overtime. NC State will be wearing its all-black Adidas alternate uniforms for this one. The Wolfpack were struggling entering a game at Louisville last year and donned the black. They pulled off a 74-65 upset over the No. 9 Cardinals and that was a springboard for a strong NC State finish to the regular season that got it an NCAA Tournament berth. Barber had 21 points vs. the Cards.
Key trends: The Cardinals are 3-7 ATS in their past 10 ACC games. NC State has covered 18 of its past 25 following a loss.
I’m leaning: NC State.
Texas San Antonio at UAB (-22.5)
At times, I will look at the games with the highest total on the board, and that’s the case for this Conference USA matchup that tips at 8 p.m. ET (no TV). UTSA (3-12, 1-1) isn’t a very good team. Its only nonconference wins were over schools called Southern Utah and East Central. But the Roadrunners pulled off an 85-80 home upset of Rice on Sunday. Christian Wilson poured in a career-high 23 points off the bench to help UTSA build a 21-point second-half lead and hold off the Owls. Wilson went 8-of-10 from the floor and added five rebounds and three steals. Ryan Bowie, who ranks second in the league at 18.4 points per game, added 20 points. UTSA shot a season-high 55.8 percent.
UAB (11-3, 1-0 C-USA) has won eight straight since neutral-court losses to Illinois and Virginia Tech in a Thanksgiving holiday tournament. The Blazers handled visiting Middle Tennessee 78-67 on Sunday. UAB was down 12 at the half but managed a fifth straight double-digit win, a program first since 2002. It was also UAB’s 17th straight home win. Middle Tennessee shot 66.7 percent from the field in the first half and 20 percent in the second (had just four points in the final seven minutes). Robert Brown and Nick Norton scored 14 points apiece to lead UAB. Chris Cokley’s 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game lead the team this season. UAB is 2-0 all-time in this series as the teams have met once each of the past two seasons.
Key trends: UTSA is 1-4 ATS in its past five on the road. It is 4-11 ATS in its past 15 after a win. UAB is 16-6 ATS in its past 22 in the conference.
I’m leaning: UAB.