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NCAA Basketball Betting 3-Point Play: Three Interesting Jan. 23 Opening Lines
by Alan Matthews

I mentioned earlier this week that I felt obligated to preview every game played by No. 8 SMU going forward as the Mustangs are college basketball’s only unbeaten left. And I actually think Coach Larry Brown’s team had a good shot of falling Saturday evening at Temple. Alas, that game was postponed by that winter storm crushing the Northeast — as have some others, including No. 16 Providence at No. 4 Villanova — so it will now be played Sunday. I believe that increases Temple’s chances even more, by the way. But since I can’t look at that game for a busy Saturday, here are three others.

No. 20 Duke at NC State (+2.5)

A 2 p.m. ET start on CBS — assuming the game is played as the Carolinas are being blasted by the winter storm too. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski might want the game postponed to get his guys more practice time as the Blue Devils (14-5, 3-3) have stunningly lost three in a row for the first time since the 2006-07 team dropped its final four games. That was also the last time Duke fell out of the Top 25, and that will happen for sure with another loss here; it might even with a close win. Duke, which hadn’t lost three straight to unranked teams since the 1968-69 season, was beaten 64-62 at home by Syracuse on Monday. There’s still a ton of talent on this team, but it’s a very thin group since losing big man Amile Jefferson to a foot injury. He remains out indefinitely. Monday’s loss to the Orange was already Duke’s fifth, on Jan. 18. The last time a Blue Devils team had five losses on Jan. 18 was in 1995-96. The post-game news conference of the year was when Coach K addressed the media following that loss as he kept saying the word “amazing” instead of criticizing the refs for what he thought was blown call in the final seconds. Well-played, Coach K!

NC State (11-8, 1-5 ACC) has way too much talent to be 1-5 in the ACC, but maybe the Wolfpack are about to turn things around following a 78-61 win Tuesday at Pittsburgh, which is never an easy place to win. ACC leading scorer Anthony “Cat” Barber had 31 points for NCSU. He just hasn’t been getting much support. Barber did vs. Pitt as Abdul-Malik Abu had 16 points and 10 rebounds. The Wolfpack have beaten the Blue Devils in Raleigh in three of the last four meetings, including when Duke was ranked No. 2 last season, 87-75.

Key trends:
NC State is 2-5 ATS in its past seven following a win. It is 1-4 ATS in its past five at home. The home team is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings.

I’m leaning:
Just can’t see the Blue Devils dropping four straight. Take Duke.

No. 7 Maryland at No. 11 Michigan State (-3.5)

Big Ten game at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. And I’m sticking with a theme here of a potential national title contender on a shocking three-game losing streak as that’s also the case with former No. 1 team Michigan State (16-4, 3-4), although I always thought Sparty was a tad overrated. This team wasn’t supposed to be as good as last year’s that surprisingly reached the Final Four. Denzel Valentine was the national player of the year favorite before he went down with an injury that cost him four games. He hasn’t been quite as good since returning. You can understand Sparty losing at home to a good Iowa team and even last Sunday at Wisconsin by just a point. But falling in East Lansing to Nebraska on Wednesday shouldn’t happen. That was also a one-point loss, and for the second straight game Valentine couldn’t deliver a potential winning shot. The Spartans also miss point guard Tum Tum Nair, who has missed the past two due a foot injury and is out indefinitely. His injury has forced Valentine into almost a full-time point guard role.

Maryland (17-2, 6-1) is clearly the Big Ten’s most talented team with likely 2016 lottery picks in freshman Diamond Stone and sophomore Melo Trimble. The Terps have won two straight since a close loss at Michigan, but they were lucky to escape at home against Northwestern on Tuesday, winning 62-56 in OT. Stone made a pivotal three-point play with 1:13 left in OT and Maryland won despite scoring only 17 points in the second half. It had 14 in the five-minute overtime. Northwestern took 17 more shots than Maryland and made two more baskets (23-21), but the Terps scored 16 points from the free-throw line compared to five for Northwestern. In conference play, Stone is averaging 17.6 points per game while shooting 65.0 percent from the field. Maryland won both regular-season meetings with MSU last year, but the Spartans won in the Big Ten Tournament.

Key trends:
The Terps are 7-2 ATS in their past nine road games. They are 10-3 ATS in their past 13 vs. the Big Ten. MSU is 2-7 ATS in its past nine Big Ten games.

I’m leaning:

No. 12 Arizona at California (+2)

Pac-12 matchup at 8:30 pm. ET on ESPN. Arizona (16-3, 4-2) has bounced back from being swept in the Los Angeles swing — by a combined five points — with three straight blowout wins. The Wildcats won 71-57 at Stanford on Thursday, their 12th straight victory in the series. Arizona, which entered averaging 93.6 points in Pac-12 games, got 19 points from Gabe York and held Stanford to just 30.6 percent from the field. The Cats remain without two players in Allonzo Trier and Elliott Pitts. Trier was lost for 4-6 weeks recently to a broken right hand. He has missed the past three games. The freshman was averaging 14.8 points and 3.5 assists. Pitts, a reserve, has been out weeks for mysterious reasons.

California (13-6, 3-3) began life without one of its best players on Thursday but beat Arizona State 75-70 to end a three-game losing streak. That player would be senior guard Tyrone Wallace, who will miss 4-6 weeks with broken bone in his hand. He leads the Bears with 15.4 points, 4.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game and is third with 5.1 rebounds per game. The earliest he could return would be Feb. 18 at Washington. Seldom-used Sam Singer moved into the starting lineup vs. ASU and played quite well with six points, six rebounds and eight assists in 35 minutes. Cal is 12-0 at home this season. The Bears were blown out by Arizona three times last year.

Key trends:
Wildcats are 8-2 ATS in their past 10 after a win. They are 7-3 ATS in their past 10 on the road. Cal is 1-7 ATS in its past 11 following an ATS loss. Arizona is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings.

I’m leaning: