NCAAB News and Notes Wednesday 12/9

NCAAB News and Notes Wednesday 12/9

What Bettors Need To Know: Kentucky vs. UConn
By RYAN COLAIANNI

National powers meet in Challenge


Over the last 20 seasons, Kentucky and Connecticut have each won two national titles and both teams have Final Four aspirations this season.

On Wednesday night, these perennial powers will face off in the Big East-SEC Invitational at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The fourth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats have started the season 8-0. But while they have a quality win over North Carolina, the Wildcats have often played down to the level of their opponents, struggling at times against low-level, mid-major teams.

Kentucky point guard John Wall leads the Wildcats in scoring at 18.1 points per game and is just as good at passing the ball, averaging nearly eight assists. Wall is a master of distributing the basketball especially during fast breaks. He quickly drives the ball up the floor and finds players for open dunks or wide open jump shots.

Junior forward Patrick Patterson has been the primary beneficiary of Wall’s ability to find the open man. During Patterson’s first two seasons in Lexington, he was the primary scoring option. While Patterson is still scoring nearly 17 points per game, he finally has the supporting cast he needs to take some weight off his shoulders. On any given night a different Wildcat can lead the team in scoring.

Connecticut, ranked 14th nationally in this week’s Associated Press poll, fell in its only matchup against a team ranked in the Top 25 this season, losing 68-59 to Duke over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Connecticut is led by senior guard Jerome Dyson who tops the Huskies in scoring at 20.1 points per game. However, Dyson has struggled shooting the ball this season, shooting less than 40 percent from the field and less than 30 percent from behind the arc. If Connecticut is going to be able to compete with the talent of Kentucky, Dyson will need to be more efficient from the field and avoid taking the bad shots that he has been accustomed to taking this season.

Dyson is not the only scoring option for the Huskies. Stanley Robinson and Kemba Walker are both averaging 15.4 points per game. Robinson, a 6-9 forward, will have his hands full inside as he will battle against Patterson. The Huskies will likely try to make this a half court game in an attempt to slow down the Wildcats, who are best in transition.

Back on top

Since Kentucky last won the national title in 1998, the team with the most wins in NCAA history, has simply been average. It missed the NCAA tournament in 2009 for the first time in 18 years and fired head coach Billy Gillespi after just two seasons in Lexington.

First year Kentucky coach John Calipari has the Wildcats back among the top teams in the country. After struggling through some close early-season victories over unheralded opponents Miami (Ohio) and Sam Houston State, the Wildcats played to their ability getting a 68-66 victory over 11th ranked North Carolina last Saturday. They were led by a key 28-2 first-half run to help build a 15-point halftime lead.

Kentucky has been plagued by spurts of inconsistency. Despite beating North Carolina, it led by 19 points late in the first half but was unable to knock North Carolina out, letting the Tar Heels back into the game late in the second half. Kentucky also needed overtime to beat 4-3 Stanford.

Super freshmen

Kentucky hired former Memphis coach John Calipari in April and Calipari quickly assembled the top recruiting class in the country including five-star players Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton and the nation’s top recruit John Wall. Wall, a shifty, 6-foot point guard who loves to drive and put up shots in traffic, leads the Wildcats in scoring as well as assists.

Wall, Cousins and Bledsoe are all averaging more than 10 points per game and it seems with each game that they play together, they become more and more comfortable with each other. Wall has been consistent, scoring at least 12 points to go along with at least five assists in each of his seven games this season. If they continue to put it all together, this is a team that has a legitimate shot at playing for the national title in Indianapolis.

Narrow victories

Both Kentucky and Connecticut have struggled at times against mid-major opponents this season. Kentucky has narrow wins over Miami (Ohio) (72-70) and Sam Houston State (102-92) while Connecticut has squeaked past Hofstra (76-67) and Harvard (79-73). Kentucky and Connecticut are a combined 3-9 against the spread this season.

Kentucky seems to struggle when Wall is not on the floor. That was evident in the second half of Saturday’s game against North Carolina, where Wall missed more than 10 minutes with leg cramps. That allowed North Carolina to nearly steal a victory at Rupp Arena. Without Wall on the floor, the Wildcats were unable to get the easy fast break points that they got in the first half.

Familiar confines

Connecticut will play its third game of the season at Madison Square Garden after beating LSU 81-55 November 25 and losing to Duke 68-59 November 27. Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun is 44-30 at MSG and will play again in the world’s most famous arena again during the Big East tournament in March. Under Calhoun, Connecticut is 195-22 record in November and December against non-conference foes.

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Wednesday 12/9

Wednesday's Tips
By Brian Edwards

**Georgia at St. John’s**

--Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened St. John’s (6-1 straight up, 3-2 against the spread) as an 8 ½-point favorite.

--Georgia (4-3 SU, 1-5 ATS) is looking to bounce back from Sunday’s 74-62 loss at Va. Tech as a 10 ½-point underdog. The 136 combined points jumped ‘over’ the 127 ½-point total. Travis Leslie has 17 points and seven rebounds in the losing effort. Jeremy Price came off the bench to contribute 10 points and seven boards in just 18 minutes of playing time.

--St. John’s has covered the number in three straight games, including its first loss of the year Sunday at Duke. The Blue Devils won 80-71, but the Red Storm hooked up its backers catching 17 points. D.J. Kennedy kept the Johnnie’s in the game with 18 points, nine assists and four rebounds.

--Mark Fox’s team picked up its lone spread cover of the season in last Wednesday’s 64-56 home win over Saint Louis as a three-point home favorite at Stegeman Coliseum. Dustin Ware had a game-high 17 points in the victory.

--UGA is 0-2 ATS in a pair of underdog spots this year. Likewise, Norm Roberts’ team hasn’t covered in two ‘chalk’ situations.

--Anthony Mason Jr., who missed nearly all of last season and hasn’t played yet this year due to a hamstring injury, is almost ready to come back. However, Mason is considered “doubtful” to return against UGA. Also, Justin Burrell (4.9 points per game, 3.1 rebounds) is “doubtful” after spraining his ankle against Duke.

--The ‘over’ is a perfect 3-0 for the Dawgs this year, 1-1 for the Red Storm.

--Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.

**Villanova at St. Joseph’s**

--LVSC opened Villanova (8-0 SU, 6-1 ATS) as a 13 ½-point favorite.

--Jay Wright’s team is coming off Sunday’s 95-86 win over Maryland in Washington D.C. The Wildcats covered the spread as 2 ½-point favorites. Scottie Reynolds enjoyed a monster performance with 25 points, eight assists and five rebounds. In addition, Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes finished with 20 and 18 points, respectively.

--Since winning its first three games, St. Joseph’s (3-4 SU, 2-4 ATS) has lost four in a row. The Hawks lost 78-66 Sunday at Cornell as 10-point road underdogs. Garrett Williamson had 14 points in the losing effort.

--Phil Martelli’s team is 1-4 both SU and ATS as an underdog this season. The Hawks collected their lone victory in an 84-80 win over Boston College as eight-point puppies.

--Villanova is 3-1 ATS as a double-digit ‘chalk’ this year.

--Reynolds, a senior guard, is the catalyst for ‘Nova. He is averaging 15.3 points and 4.1 assists per game.

--The ‘under’ has cashed in six consecutive head-to-head meetings between these schools. Villanova has prevailed in four of the last five encounters, going 3-2 ATS. The Wildcats won last year’s meeting by a 59-56 count, but St. Joe’s took the money as an 11-point ‘dog. Reynolds led the winners with 18 points and six assists.

--This game will be played at The Palestra in Philadelphia with ESPN2 providing television coverage at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

**Kentucky vs. Connecticut**

--This is a rematch of a second-round game in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. On that day, Connecticut captured an 87-83 win, but Kentucky covered the number as a nine-point underdog. These perennial powers will collide at Madison Square Garden and ESPN will have the telecast at 9:30 p.m. Eastern.

--LVSC opened UConn (6-1 SU, 1-5 ATS) as a two-point favorite.

--Kentucky (8-0 SU, 2-4 ATS) won a 68-66 decision over North Carolina this past Saturday at Rupp Arena. However, the Wildcats crushed their backers by allowing the Tar Heels to post the backdoor cover as 3 ½-point road underdogs. UK held a 43-28 lead at intermission, only to get outscored by 13 in the second half.

--Patrick Patterson had 19 points and seven rebounds against UNC. John Wall had 16 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals, but he also committed seven turnovers.

--Jim Calhoun’s squad has won back-to-back games since losing to Duke at MSG two weeks ago. The Huskies are off a 79-73 win over Harvard, but the Crimson easily took the cash as an 18 ½-point road underdog.

--The ‘under’ is 4-1 overall for UK, but the ‘over’ is 3-2 overall for UConn. Dating back to last season, the ‘Cats have seen the ‘under’ go 9-2 in their last 11 games. Meanwhile, UConn has watched the ‘over’ cash at an 8-3 clip in its last 11 outings.

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Wednesday 12/9

(4) Kentucky vs. (14) UConn
(at New York)

UConn returns to Madison Square Garden for the second time in less than three weeks as it tries to knock the Wildcats from the ranks of the unbeatens in the SEC/Big East Invitational.

The Huskies shot just 36.1 percent from the field and missed 13 of 28 free-throw attempts in an ugly 68-59 loss to Duke at the Garden back on Nov. 7. However, they’ve bounced back with a pair of home victories over Boston University (92-64 in a non-lined contest) and Harvard (79-73, falling way short as an 18½-point favorite). Take away the poor offensive effort against Duke, and UConn has scored at least 75 points in every game (all victories), averaging 80 ppg.

Kentucky held off No. 10 North Carolina 68-66 on Saturday, falling just short of covering as a 3½-point home favorite. Patrick Patterson (19 points, seven rebounds) and true freshman John Wall (16 points, five rebounds, seven assists) led the way for the Wildcats, who won despite committing 20 turnovers and making just 14 of 22 foul shots, but the defense stepped up, limiting the defending champs to just 38.8 percent shooting. First-year coach John Calipari has seen his team pull out a pair of two-point home wins (68-66 over UNC; 72-70 over Miami of Ohio), while also needed overtime to knock off Stanford in a neutral-site game.

These college basketball superpowers last met in the second round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament, with the Huskies scoring an 87-83 win and Kentucky cashing as a nine-point underdog.

In lined action, UConn is on ATS runs of 8-3 at neutral sites, 8-3 against the SEC and 4-0 on Wednesday, but the Huskies have failed to cover in six of seven overall and five of six after a SU win. Kentucky is in ATS slumps of 2-5 overall, 3-7 after an outright victory and 0-5 on Wednesday, but it is 11-3-1 ATS in its last 14 against Big East opponents.

UConn has topped the total in eight of 11 overall, five of seven in non-conference play and 19 of 26 at neutral sites, and Kentucky has gone over the number in four of five against the Big East. Conversely, the Wildcats are on “under” runs of 9-2 overall, 5-0 at neutral venues, 6-2 after a SU win and 13-6 after an ATS setback.

ATS ADVANTAGE: NONE


(3) Villanova (8-0, 6-1 ATS) vs. St. Joe’s (3-4, 2-4 ATS)
(at Philadelphia)

Villanova puts its unblemished record on the line in an annual “Big Five” clash with Philadelphia-area rival St. Joe’s at the Palestra

The Wildcats moved to 8-0 with Sunday’s 95-86 rout of Maryland, cashing as a 2½-point road favorite, their fifth straight spread-cover. Villanova has topped 70 points in all but one game – when it scored 69 in a one-point squeaker against George Mason – and is averaging 82.4 ppg despite shooting only 42.9 percent from the field. Going back to last year’s run to the Final Four, Villanova is on a 25-5 roll (20-9 ATS in lined games).

St. Joe’s started the season with three straight narrow wins over Drexel (77-67 in overtime), Holy Cross (69-67) and Boston College (84-80), but the Hawks have since dropped four in a row SU and ATS, most recently falling Sunday to Cornell 78-66 as a 10-point road underdog. St. Joe’s has put up just 62.5 ppg during its losing streak.

Villanova held off the Hawks 59-56 last year, but failed to cover as an 11½-point road favorite. The Wildcats have taken four of the last five meetings, but they’ve come up short of cashing the last two years following a 5-1-1 ATS run. Finally, the favorite is on a 5-1-1 ATS roll in this rivalry.

In addition to its 20-9 ATS run overall (5-0 ATS last five), Villanova is on ATS upticks of 4-1 on Wednesday, 7-2 against teams with losing records and 18-7-2 against opponents out of the Atlantic 10 Conference. St. Joe’s is in pointspread funks of 0-4 overall (all in non-conference play), 0-4 against winning teams, 2-8 after a SU defeat and 2-7 following an ATS loss.

For the Wildcats, the under is on streaks of 5-2 on the road, 18-7-1 in non-conference action, 19-7 versus the A-10 and 7-3 on Wednesday. Meanwhile, St. Joe’s has topped the total in five straight lined games overall, but otherwise the Hawks are on “under” tears of 5-2 at home, 4-0 against the Big East, 6-0 against winning teams and 25-12 on Wednesday.

Lastly, these squads have stayed under the total in each of their last six head-to-head meetings.

ATS ADVANTAGE: VILLANOVA and UNDER

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Wednesday 12/9

NCAAB News and Notes

Wednesday, December 9

Information on the best of Wednesday's college hoop games.

Harvard (+18) upset Boston College 82-70 LY; Crimson lost 79-73 in last game to UConn, is now 7-2 (lost by 3 at Army) with triple OT win over WmMary squad thats won six in a row since. BC is 5-3 after 62-58 win at Michigan. Ivy League road dogs are 9-12 vs spread. ACC home favorites are 13-11 against the spread.

St John's is 6-1 after respectable 80-71 loss at Duke Saturday (down 16 at half, though). Red Storm is 0-2 vs spread as a favorite this year, with wins by 1-3 in those games. Georgia is 4-3, 0-2 on road, losing 72-56 at UAB (+8), 74-62 at Va Tech Saturday. SEC road underdogs are 6-11 against spread. Big East home favorites are 16-22 vs spread.

Duquesne (+7) lost 68-63 to West Virginia LY, after being up 8 at half; Dukes are 5-2, losing 83-77 at 7-1 W. Carolina, in double OT to Pitt in crosstown rivalry game- they won by 2 at shaky Iowa. West Virginia is playing for first time in 10 days since winning Anaheim tourney; they're 2-3 vs spread as favorite. A-14 road underdogs are 6-18 vs spread.

Third game in five nights for 6-3 Providence squad that is 1-2 on road, winning by 4 at Northeastern, losing by 9 at Alabama, 4 at URI. Friars only have two seniors. 6-1 George Washington was 10-18 LY, so this is good start; they're 3-1 at home, losing only to Oregon State 64-57 when President Obama came to game to root for his brother-in-law.

Wisconsin (-11) drilled Green Bay by 20 LY (up 7 at half); Badgers are playing first true road game- they're 6-1 with wins over Arizona, Duke and Maryland (went 2-1 on Maui). Green Bay is 6-2 after winning first two Horizon games; their losses are both by 12 points (Long Beach St and UAB). Big 11 road faves are 6-7. Horizon home dogs are 3-1.

Utah is 4-4 with home losses to Idaho/Seattle (3-2 at home). Utes have three starters back from LY's 24-10 team (12-4 in MWC). Michigan is playing first true road game; they're 3-0 when they score 67+ pts, 0-3 when they don't. Wolverines went 1-2 on Florida trip, losing to Bama by hoop and Marquette by 14. MWC home teams are 18-9 vs spread.

St Joe's (+9.5) lost 59-56 to Villanova LY, after leading by nine at half; Hawks lost last four games, all by 7+ points, losing at Rider, Cornell in last two games- bad losses for A-14 team. Villanova is 8-0 after a solid 95-86 win at Maryland in its first road game- they've also beaten Ole Miss, Dayton on neutral court. A-14 underdogs are 9-21 vs spread.

Kentucky is 8-0, beating Stanford 73-65 (ot), Cleveland State (73-49) on neutral court- their other six games were at home. UConn is 6-1, losing on this floor to Duke Nov 27 (Huskies lost two of last three at in NYC, with 6-OT loss in Big East tourney LY). UConn struggled to win 79-73 over Harvard in last game Sunday. SEC road teams are 10-19 vs spread.

Cal (-11) beat Pacific 68-56 LY, leading by 16 at half; 5-3 Bears are still banged-up, but slowly getting healthier- they lost only previous game on road, 86-78 at New Mexico. 7-1 Pacific doesn't play stiff teams; no one scored more than 64 points on them (six of eight foes under 60). Tigers are 4-1 in games decided by six or less points.

San Diego is weird team, losing last four games, collapsing in second half in three of them; they scored just 52.5 ppg in those losses. WCC dogs are 14-16 vs spread, 5-4 at home. New Mexico is 8-0 with wins at both Hawai'i (83-71), New Mexico State (83-71). Lobos won 57-54 at San Diego LY. WCC home dogs are 5-4. MWC road faves are 4-5.

Idaho/Washington State are only eight miles apart; Vandals lost 55-41 to Wazzu LY (+11, trailed 22-20 at half). Idaho is much-improved 5-2, 4-1 in last five games- they're 2-2 on road. WSU lost last two games, giving up 80 ppg in losses to Gonzaga (74-69), K-State (86-69) after 6-0 start. WAC road underdogs are 9-12 against the spread.

Buffalo (-1) lost 65-61 to Niagara LY (down 11 at half); Bulls are 2-2 so far; no idea why they've played so few games. MAC road dogs are 9-13 vs spread. 6-3 Niagara won its first two MAAC games by 24-20 points; Eagles are 4-3 as a favorite, but lost by 12 at Akron of MAC. MAAC home favorites are 5-5 vs spread in non-league games.

Hofstra (+3.5) won 65-61 at Manhattan LY, after trailing by 6 at half; Pride is 4-3 but two losses are Kansas/UConn (lost by 8 to Charlotte team that just spanked Louisville). Jaspers won four of last five games but is just 1-3 vs spread as underdog this year, losing 75-70 to WmMary of CAA. CAA home faves are 3-9 vs spread. MAAC road dogs are 8-7.

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