**Cincinnati at Connecticut**
--Connecticut (17-7 straight up, 10-10 against the spread) is No. 31 in the RPI Rankings but is banned from going to both the Big East and NCAA Tournament during Kevin Ollie’s first year as head coach following the retirement of Jim Calhoun, who won three national championships in Storrs.
--UConn has won 12 of 14 home games while posting a 4-6 spread record. The Huskies had won five of their last six games, including a huge home win over Syracuse last week, before they dropped a 70-61 decision to Villanova on Saturday as 4.5-point home ‘chalk.’
--In the win over the ‘Cuse, UConn’s guard combination of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright combined to score 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field with 11 assists and five steals. However, in the loss to ‘Nova, Napier and Boatright combined to score just six points, missed all seven of their shots from 3-point range, made just 3-of-15 from the field and committed 10 turnovers. Alas, we can conclude that UConn goes as its backcourt combination goes.
--Napier averages a team-high 16.1 points per game and has a 112/49 assists-to-turnovers ratio. The junior from Roxbury, MA., has a team-high 49 steals. Boatright scores at a 15.4 PPG clip with a 101/70 assists-to-turnovers ratio and 38 steals.
--Cincinnati (19-7 SU, 10-12 ATS) has lost three of its last four games both SU and ATS, including last Friday night’s 62-55 loss to Georgetown as a four-point home favorite. Senior guard JaQuon Parker had a team-high 15 points and six rebounds in the losing effort. The Bearcats won the rebounding battle 36-27 and held their opponent to a reasonable 62-point output. However, a lack of offense continued to kill this team, as it made only 31.5 percent of its shots from the field, 4-of-24 from 3-point land (16.7%) and 17-of-30 from the free-throw line (56.7%).
--Junior guard/forward Sean Kilpatrick leads the Bearcats in scoring, averaging 18.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest. But Kilpatrick has been held under his scoring average in three of the last four games, while dishing out only eight assists compared to 11 turnovers.
--UConn is 3-5 against the RPI Top 50, 8-7 versus the RPI Top 100.
--Mick Cronin’s squad has won four of its six road games both SU and ATS. The Bearcats are 40th in the RPI Rankings, going 4-5 against the RPI Top 50 and 9-7 against Top 100 foes.
--Cincy has been an underdog only twice this year, compiling a 2-0 spread record with an outright win at Pittsburgh (70-61) and a narrow loss at Syracuse (57-55).
--When these teams met in Storrs on Jan. 12 of last season, Cincy collected a 70-67 upset win as a 6.5-point road underdog. The 137 combined points slipped ‘over’ the 130-point total. Napier had a game-high 27 points and seven assists for the Huskies in defeat, while Kilpatrick had a team-high 16 points for the winners thanks to four treys on nine attempts from beyond the arc.
--The ‘under’ has cashed at an NCAA-best 16-3 overall clip for the Bearcats, going 5-1 in their six true road assignments.
--Totals have been an overall wash (9-9) for UConn this season, but the ‘under’ is on a 4-2 run in its last six outings.
--Tip-off on ESPN is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
**Brigham Young at Saint Mary’s**
--This is a huge revenge game for BYU, which let a late second-half lead get away and lost a 70-69 decision to Saint Mary’s on Jan. 16 as a five-point home favorite. Gaels’ All-WCC point guard Matthew Dellavedova buried a leaning, double-pump 32-footer at the buzzer to propel his team into the win column. Dellavedova finished with 18 points and eight assists compared to only one turnover. Stephen Holt scored a team-high 22 points for Randy Bennett’s team. Tyler Haws had a game-high 23 points for the Cougars.
--BYU (20-8 SU, 12-15 ATS) is No. 62 in the RPI Rankings and its resume could certainly use a boost with a big road win in this spot. The Cougars have lost six of nine games to RPI Top 100 teams and are winless in three games against RPI Top 50 foes (at Iowa St., at Gonzaga and vs. Notre Dame on a neutral court) with each defeat coming by double-digit margins. With that said, Dave Rose’s team hosts Gonzaga (RPI: 12) next Thursday and could get a shot at the Bulldogs and/or Gaels again at the WCC Tournament.
--BYU is mired in a 0-4 ATS slump. The Cougars suffered a pair of costly outright losses at San Diego and vs. San Francisco on Feb. 7 and Feb. 9. Since then, they have won back-to-back contests, including Tuesday’s 70-68 home win over Utah St. as 12-point home favorites. Haws scored a game-high 27 points.
--Saint Mary’s (22-5 SU, 12-11-1 ATS) has won 13 of its 14 home games but has gone just 5-7 ATS. The lone home loss came to Gonzaga last Thursday by a 77-60 count.
--Bennett’s bunch bounced back from the defeat to Mark Few’s squad by winning 61-50 Saturday at Loyola-Marymount. However, the Gaels failed to cover the number as 13.5-point road ‘chalk.’ Holt had 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field.
--Saint Mary’s is No. 51 in the RPI Rankings, posting a 3-3 record against the RPI Top 100 with wins at BYU, at Santa Clara and vs. Harvard. The Gaels have lost all three games to RPI Top 50 opponents (at Gonzaga, vs. Gonzaga and at No. Iowa).
--Dellavedova averages a team-high 15.8 PPG and had dished out 174 assists compared to only 71 turnovers.
--BYU is led by Haws, a sophomore who spent the last two seasons on a Mormon mission. (How good would BYU have been during Jimmer Fredette’s senior campaign if Brandon Davies hadn’t been suspended and Haws hadn’t been away on a mission?!) Haws is averaging 21.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, while Davies averages 17.7 points and 7.6 boards per contest.
--In BYU’s first year in the WCC last season, Saint Mary’s swept a pair of regular-season meetings. Going back further to 2005, the Gaels have won four of five meetings and taken the cash in each of those encounters. The ‘under’ is also 4-1 in the last five meetings.
--The ‘under’ is 11-8 overall for BYU although the ‘over’ has hit in four of its last five games. The ‘under’ is 4-3 for the Cougars in their seven true road assignments.
--The ‘under’ is 10-8 overall for Saint Mary’s, 7-3 in its last 10 outings. The ‘under’ is 5-4 for the Gaels in their home games with a total.
--ESPN2 will have the telecast at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--Indiana captured its first win at Breslin Center since 1991 by beating Michigan St. 72-68 Tuesday as a one-point underdog in front of a raucous crowd in East Lansing. Playing at less than 100 percent with a foot injury, IU senior slasher Victor Oladipo made all the plays at crunch time, including six points in the final 47 seconds. Oladipo’s tip-in gave the Hoosiers the lead for good when Spartans’ forward Denzel Washington fell asleep and failed to box out. Next, Oladipo dunked on a run-out and buried a pair of free throws to put the game on ice. Christian Watford finished with 12 points and his three-point play the hard way was pivotal when IU trailed by four with less than 90 seconds remaining.
--Missouri remained unbeaten at home with Tuesday’s 63-60 come-from-behind win over Florida as a five-point underdog. The Tigers hooked up money-line supporters with a plus-180 payout and improved to 82-4 at home since 2008. Laurence Bowers, who was injured when UF stroked the Tigers by 31 points at The O-Dome in January, scored 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
--For UF, the loss was eerily reminiscent of a loss at Arizona before Christmas and even more similar to Elite Eight setbacks against Butler and Louisville that ended the Gators’ seasons just shy of the Final Four the last two years. Like the losses to Butler and U of L, Billy Donovan’s team led nearly the entire game and had comfortable cushions with eight minutes remaining. But at crunch time UF settled for jumpers and they didn’t fall. The Gators took 33 shots from 3-point land at Mizzou compared to only 21 attempts from inside the line.
--Indiana State’s at-large hopes are vanishing fast. The Sycamores lost their third straight game Tuesday when they fell at home to Wichita St. by a 66-62 score. Even worse, they cost their backers like me as 3.5-point underdogs.
--Saint Louis improved to 20-5 overall and took sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to Tuesday’s 76-62 win over VCU as a two-point home favorite. The Billikens led by 17 at intermission and never let the Rams cut the deficit to single digits in the second half. VCU backers as a three-point favorite for halftime wagers got a miracle push thanks to several meaningless baskets by the Rams in the final two minutes.
Brian Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.
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