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Sportsbook.ag College Basketball Thursday

CINCINNATI BEARCATS (19-7) at CONNECTICUT HUSKIES (17-7)

Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Pick 'em & 126.5

Big East Foes coming off losses as home favorites will meet on Thursday night in Hartford when Connecticut hosts Cincinnati.

The Bearcats lost their third game in four tries (SU and ATS) on Friday, with all three defeats coming against underdogs (Providence, Pittsburgh and Georgetown). The Huskies had won five of six (4-2 ATS) before its 70-61 home loss to Villanova on Saturday. Although UConn is 6-3 (SU and ATS) against Cincinnati since 2006, the Bearcats have won outright as underdogs in each of their past two trips to Connecticut, by 3 as a 6.5-point underdog last season and by 12 when they were getting 7 points in 2010. Despite their struggles at home this season (2-10 ATS), the Bearcats are 19-9 SU and 21-7 ATS (75%) in road/neutral court games over the past two seasons, including 8-2 (SU and ATS) this season. Plus, they're 12-1 ATS (+10.9 Units) in non-home games after failing to cover the spread in their previous game over the past two seasons, and 11-1 ATS in non home-games when playing only their second games in 8 days in this same timeframe.

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Cincinnati doesn't quite score 70 points per game (69.8 PPG), but has outscored opponents by 11.3 PPG thanks to a defense that allows just 58.5 PPG on 38.1% FG (29.9% threes). The Bearcats have a lot more muscle down low in this game than UConn does, as they boast a stellar +7.4 RPG margin and block 6.42 shots per game, the seventh-most in the nation. But like the Huskies, Cincy's top three scorers are all guards -- Sean Kilpatrick (18.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG), Cashmere Wright (13.3 PPG, 3.4 APG) and JaQuon Parker (11.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG). Kilpatrick has been misfiring all season (42% FG, 33% threes), and has been especially cold in the team's past three losses, making just 13-of-42 shots (31%) and 4-of-24 threes. In last year's win at then-No. 11 UConn, Kilpatrick scored 16 points including the game-winning three with 2.7 seconds left, but made just 5-of-15 FG that day. Wright was much more efficient in that win with 13 points on 5-of-6 FG (3-of-4 threes) plus five assists, while Parker came off the bench to tally 12 points and four rebounds in just 20 minutes of action. Wright shoots a strong 37% from three-point range, but has been downright horrible over his past six games, making just 19-of-81 FG (23%) and 10-of-49 threes (20%). Parker has come on strong though, with 17.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG in the past two contests. Junior PF Titus Rubles (6.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG) leads the team in rebounding, but he needs to take better shots, and he's made just 32% FG this season, including 4-for-37 (11%) from downtown.

Connecticut's offense revolves around its three-guard set, scoring 70.6 PPG with a stellar 75% clip from the free-throw line. The Huskies outshoot their opponents 45% FG to 40% FG on the season, and don't commit many turnovers (12.0 TOPG). They are a horrible rebounding team though (minus-4.5 RPG margin), and don't shoot particularly well from downtown either (34.3% threes). Guards Shabazz Napier (16.3 PPG, 4.7 APG) and Ryan Boatright (15.4 PPG, 4.2 APG) were both outstanding in last Wednesday's upset win over then-No. 6 Syracuse, combining for 27 points (9-of-16 FG), 11 assists and five steals. But in Saturday's loss to Villanova, the duo scored a combined six points on 3-of-15 FG (0-for-7 threes) and committed 10 turnovers (five each). Boatright did not play against Cincinnati last season, but Napier kept his team in that meeting with 27 points (10-of-19 FG), seven assists, five rebounds and two steals. Napier has been playing tenacious defense lately with 13 steals over his past five games (2.6 per game), putting him at 2.04 SPG for the season. Freshman SG Omar Calhoun (11.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG) has really stepped up his offense in the past four contests with 15.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG. He has also made 78% of his free throws this season, including 9-of-9 in Saturday's loss. Sophomore SF DeAndre Daniels (10.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG) provides the bulk of scoring in the frontcourt, and is coming off a strong game against 'Nova with 13 points on 6-of-8 FG while pulling down four rebounds.

DUKE BLUE DEVILS (22-3) at VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (17-7)

Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Duke -13 & 146.5

After a tough loss at Maryland on Saturday, No. 6 Duke looks to get back on track Thursday with a visit to reeling Virginia Tech.

The Blue Devils saw their six-game win streak snapped in College Park, and now they are trying to end a three-game ATS skid. The Hokies have lost eight straight games, but the offense was much more efficient in Saturday's narrow, four-point overtime loss at 14-point favorite NC State, scoring 86 points. Duke has won eight of the past nine meetings SU between these schools, but Virginia Tech has covered two straight, losing by five points in overtime at Duke and then by only four points in an ACC Tournament defeat. Virginia Tech has struggled to beat teams with eight straight SU losses, but the school is a solid 3-2-2 ATS in its past seven games. Meanwhile, Duke is 1-5 ATS in true road games this season, including three outright losses and a one-point win at 11-point underdog Boston College. The Blue Devils shot 48% FG and still lost at Maryland on Saturday, allowing the Terps to make 60% of their shots. Historically Duke has a tough time bouncing back from a narrow defeat, going 11-24 ATS (31%) after a loss by six points or less since 1997. Expect the Hokies, who are 4-2 ATS in the past six games in this series, to ride the nation's leading scorer Erick Green (25.3 PPG) and keep this game awfully close.

Duke has scored 78.1 PPG this season, the 11th-highest total in the nation. The Blue Devils also shoot 47.2% from the floor, including 40.4% from three-point range (7th-best in nation). They dish out 15.2 APG with a solid 1.36 Ast/TO ratio. Duke's only real weakness is on the glass, where the team has been outrebounded this season (minus-0.9 RPG). Since PF Ryan Kelly (13.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG) went down with a foot injury, the Blue Devils have a minus-3.3 RPG margin. PF Mason Plumlee (17.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG) is one of the better big men in the country, recording 14 double-doubles and making 60% of his shots this season. But he had a horrible game on Saturday, recording a season-low four points (2-of-7 FG) and three rebounds before fouling out. Last season, Plumlee scored 10 points with six rebounds in Blacksburg and tallied a double-double (12 pts, 10 reb) in the ACC Tournament win over the Hokies. SG Seth Curry (16.9 PPG) is an impressive shooter at 46% FG, 42% threes and 82% from the foul line. He kept his team in the game Saturday with 25 points on 11-of-17 FG (3-of-7 threes), marking his seventh straight game of scoring at least 11 points, averaging 19.3 PPG during this streak. But he hasn't found the rims to be kind at Virginia Tech, where he's made just 2-of-9 shots in his career. PG Quinn Cook (12.3 PPG, 5.8 APG, 4.0 RPG) does an outstanding job running this offense with a stellar 2.39 Ast/TO ratio this season. He's also taken on a greater scoring load this month with 16.8 PPG in the five games. Speaking of scoring, freshman SG Rasheed Sulaimon (11.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG) has also contributed more offensively recently, with 11+ points in seven of his past nine games, averaging 13.3 PPG over this span. He's also 14-for-14 from the charity stripe in his past four games.

Virginia Tech likes to play at a fast pace with 71.4 PPG, but shoots a subpar 42.0% FG and 32.5% threes. And by playing this style, the Hokies give up a ton of points (73.7 PPG) and have a minus-1.1 turnover margin. Senior SG Erick Green continues to lead the nation in scoring at 25.3 PPG, as he has poured in at least 20 points in all but two of his 25 games this season. In the past four contests, he's scored 27.0 PPG, thanks in big part to his 31-of-39 free throws (79%) in this span. If he can continue to penetrate and cause some foul trouble against a Duke team with a thin bench, Virginia Tech will be in great shape to keep this game close. He made just 10-of-35 shots in the two close losses to the Blue Devils last season, but was able to get to the rim and convert 9-for-9 free throws in the conference tourney loss. The Hokies are hoping junior SF Jarell Eddie (13.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG) is officially over his horrible three-game slump from Feb. 7-12 when he scored a total of five points on 2-of-21 FG. But he played much better in Saturday's loss to NC State with 17 points (7-of-13 FG) in just 22 minutes of action. Freshman PF Marshall Wood (4.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG) is also looking to build upon his great performance on Saturday when he tallied 14 points and 16 rebounds against the Wolfpack. Wood and junior PF Cadarian Raines (7.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG) will be tasked with containing Plumlee down low, but Raines has been tough inside over his past five games with 8.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 2.0 BPG.

  
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