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NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Jan. 9 Opening Lines
by Alan Matthews

Our first Saturday without college football in months — well, the FCS National Championship Game between Jacksonville State and North Dakota State is Saturday. So now college basketball takes over the betting weekends through the beginning of April. What would ESPN fill all those channels with on Saturdays without all those NCAA basketball games? Bovada has odds up for the National Player of the Year, and to no surprise Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield is the even-money favorite followed by LSU freshman Ben Simmons at +200.

No. 9 Kentucky at Alabama (+4.5)

A 6 p.m. ET tip on the SEC Network. Kentucky (11-3, 1-1) didn’t lose twice at all last season as the Cats took an unbeaten record into the Final Four before losing to Wisconsin. There’s a pretty reasonable chance that UK loses a second straight game here. Kentucky was thumped in an 85-67 loss at LSU on Tuesday. So that’s three defeats to unranked teams already, and UK is 0-2 in true road games. Coach John Calipari took the blame for the struggles in a message posted on his website. Skal Labissiere, projected by some as the top recruit in this year’s class over Simmons (laughable now), continues to have a tough time. He played 16 minutes vs. LSU and had three points and two rebounds. UK was killed on the boards against LSU to the tune of 46-32. Only Tyler Ulis (23 points) and Jamal Murray (21) showed up.

This could be the start of quite a 48 hours or so for the Alabama athletic program. The Tide (9-4, 0-1) opened SEC play with a 74-66 loss at Ole Miss on Thursday, but you could really see that result coming as the Rebels opened their new arena. Alabama did lead by eight at halftime. The Tide’s Shannon Hale hit a 3-pointer to give Alabama a 52-48 lead with 11:35 left, but Ole Miss took control with an 11-0 run during the next five minutes. Bama turned it over 19 times with just 10 assists. That has been a problem all year as Alabama has more turnovers than assists. Senior guard Retin Obasohan scored a game-high 23 points vs. Ole Miss, tying his career high. Forward Jimmie Taylor played only 13 minutes due to foul trouble. Alabama was blown out twice by UK last year.

Key trends: Kentucky is 0-4 against the spread in its past four road games. The Tide are 9-2 ATS in their past 11 following a loss. Bama is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.

I’m leaning: Alabama, which might win outright.

No. 1 Kansas at Texas Tech (+6.5)

A 9 p.m. tipoff on ESPNU for this Big 12 matchup. It’s a potentially huge trap game for Kansas (13-1, 2-0), which might still be emotionally and physically spent from Monday’s epic 109-106 triple-overtime win over No. 2 Oklahoma — you won’t see a better regular-season game than that. Three Jayhawks scored at least 21 points, led by Perry Ellis’ 27; he added 13 rebounds in 53 minutes of action for his first double-double of the season. Sophomore Devonte’ Graham had a career-high 22 points and hit the go-ahead free throws. It was the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 game to go to multiple OTs since NC State beat UCLA at the 1974 Final Four.

Texas Tech (11-2, 1-1) isn’t too bad. It opened Big 12 play with a solid home win over Texas and then lost at No. 13 Iowa State 76-69 on Wednesday. ISU’s lead was only three — after leading by 18 at one point — with three minutes left but it scored seven of the next eight points in a 91-second span. Justin Gray had a career-high 14 points and career-best nine rebounds in the loss, which was TTU’s first true road game. Senior guard Devaugntah Williams leads Texas Tech in scoring at 14.8 points per game, which is eighth in the Big 12. TTU has lost 12 straight in the series vs. Kansas. Neither game was close last season.

Key trends: Kansas is 3-8 ATS in its past 12 vs. the Big 12. TTU is 7-0 ATS in its past seven at home.

I’m leaning: Texas Tech, which also might win outright.

No. 7 Arizona at USC (-1)

A 7 p.m. ET start on the Pac-12 Network. And I don’t get this line at all. Am I surprised that Arizona (13-2, 1-1) lost at UCLA on Thursday night? No. The Bruins are capable of beating anyone (as they proved vs. Kentucky) when they play at their potential. The Cats’ eight-game winning streak ended in an 87-84 loss on a Bryce Alford 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left. UA made a valiant rally, down 10 late but tying things at 83. With 22 seconds left, Isaac Hamilton was fouled and made one of two free throws for UCLA, and then Arizona’s Ryan Anderson did the same on the other end to set up Alford’s heroics. Arizona coach Sean Miller ripped his team’s defense afterward, but a bright spot was senior center Kaleb Tarczewski. In his second game back from a long injury absence, Zeus played 24 minutes and had 12 points and 12 rebounds. He has come off the bench in his two games back, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in the starting five here.

USC (13-3, 2-1) does appear much improved this season. The Trojans beat Arizona State 75-65 in their Pac-12 home opener on Thursday. USC had a 17-point lead with less than 10 minutes left but let ASU get within two before pulling away again. Julian Jacobs had 15 points, five assists and four rebounds while playing through an ankle injury to lead USC. The 2-1 start is the program’s best in the Pac-12 since 2011 and the 10-0 home start is Southern Cal’s best since 1974. The Trojans won just 12 games overall in 2014-15. That’s all fine and good, but USC hasn’t played any teams near Arizona’s level at home yet. The best win is probably vs. New Mexico.

Key trends: Arizona is 6-1 ATS in its past seven Saturday games. It is 6-2 ATS in its past eight on the road. Cats have covered five of their past seven after a loss. They are 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings.

I’m leaning: USC and Arizona played once last year, a 30-point Arizona route in Tucson. This one will be much closer, but UA will win.