Saturday's Late Tips
December 8, 2017
By Brian Edwards
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**Cincinnati vs. Florida**
-- Florida (5-3 straight up, 4-4 against the spread) will look to avoid a four-game losing streak when it faces Cincinnati in Newark, N.J., on Saturday night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. This will be the first encounter between these two storied hoops programs. A couple of offshore books opened the Gators as 1.5-point favorites, but with a -125 price tag attached to it. By 7:00 p.m. Eastern on Friday, however, most spots had the Bearcats favored by 1.5 points.
-- Mike White’s team raced out to a 5-0 start with a blowout win over Stanford and a double-overtime triumph over Gonzaga, sending it to the finals of the PK80 Invitational in Portland to take on unbeaten and top-ranked Duke. UF jumped out to an 18-4 lead and led by as many as 17 points in the second half. Hell, the Gators were up with four minutes remaining, but the Blue Devils rallied to capture an 87-84 victory as 2.5-point ‘chalk.’
-- Florida returned home to take on undefeated Florida State this past Monday as a nine-point favorite. However, the Seminoles dominated from start to finish in an 83-66 win that hooked up their money-line supporters with a payout in the +385 neighborhood. Leonard Hamilton’s squad owned the glass with a 51-34 rebounding advantage, prompting White to call his team, “soft.”
-- That description fit the bill again Wednesday night when UF was in bounce-back mode vs. Loyola Chicago as a 16-point home ‘chalk.’ The Ramblers led from start to finish on their way to a nothing-fluky-about-it-whatsoever win by a 65-59 count to hook up their money-line backers with an incredible 10/1 return (paid $1,000 on $100 wagers). The Gators were an atrocious 2-of-19 from long distance (10.5%) and no player scored in double figures.
-- Florida was averaging 99.5 points per game while shooting at 49.0 and 46.0 percent clips from the field and 3-point range, respectively, in the team’s first six games. Since then in back-to-back L’s to FSU & Loyola Chicago, the Gators have averaged merely 62.5 PPG while shooting at abysmal 36.5 and 18.1 percent rates from the field and downtown, respectively.
-- UF’s top three scorers are slumping along with the rest of the team. Va. Tech transfer Jalen Hudson (19.4 PPG) paces the Gators in scoring, while Rice grad transfer Egor Koulechov (15.5 PPG) follows Hudson. Koulechov couldn’t miss early in the year, but he’s been held to scoring totals of 4, 15, 11 and 7 in the past four outings. Junior guard Kevaughn Allen (13.0 PPG) hasn’t been able to buy a bucket this season, draining only 35.3 percent of his FGs and 30.4 percent of his 3-balls.
-- Allen is currently the best FT shooter in UF history, splashing the nets from the charity stripe at an 87.0 percent clip. He had his streak of 27 consecutive made FTs snapped in Wednesday’s loss, but that surge of makes inched him ahead of Anthony ‘Sag-Nasty’ Roberson in the annals of UF basketball history.
-- With a hat tip to long-time UF beat writer Chris Harry for this factoid, the Gators haven’t lost four games in their first nine since 1996, Lon Kruger’s last season with the program when they limped to a 2-4 start. Side Note: Harry is a regular guest on my Games Galore podcast.
-- While UF played twice this week, Cincinnati (7-1 SU, 3-3 ATS) hasn’t played since its loss to bitter, cross-town rival Xavier in a heated contest this past Saturday. This game always features intensity and if you’re to believe UC head coach Mick Cronin, this one included Xavier’s J.P. Macura dropping three f-bombs aimed at Cronin, including one in the handshake line postgame. This agitated Cronin so much that he went after Macura, reportedly screaming, “You want a piece of me?!” The postgame pressers for Cronin and Chris Mack were fantastic, so be sure to check ‘em out.
-- Xavier handed Cincy its first defeat by an 89-76 count as a 2.5-point home favorite. Trevon Bluiett torched the Bearcats for a second straight year by dropping a game-high 28 points. In the losing effort, junior wing Jacob Evans scored a team-best 23 points. Cane Broome added 16 points and five assists, while Gary Clark finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and a pair of steals.
-- Cronin’s teams have always had a definitive MO. They get in your face defensively from start to finish and relentlessly crash the boards. The Bearcats are usually long and athletic and if they have a weakness, it’s usually perimeter shooting. This year’s version is no different except it’s shooting the ball at better-than-decent percentages (48.0% FGs, 38.0% 3-pointers).
-- This type of physical team seems to be one that will give Florida fits. You see, UF’s current weakness is rebounding and interior defense. Fifth-year senior center John Egbunu won’t be ready to play until some point in January after tearing his ACL in a win at Auburn on Valentine’s Day. Also, freshman forward Isaiah Stokes remains out from a knee injury last winter, while freshman forward Chase Johnson is ‘out’ with an illness. This has UF extremely thin and lacking depth in the frontcourt. Kevarrius Hayes, the junior center who played so well after Egbunu was injured last season, is off to a slow start this year and was suspended for the Stanford game for a violation of team rules.
-- Cincinnati is ranked 14th in the nation in scoring defense, limiting foes to a 61.2 PPG average. The Bearcats are sixth in FG percentage defense (36.2%). They are scoring at a much more prolific pace than usual so far this year, averaging 86.4 PPG to rank 30th in the country.
-- UC has been to seven straight NCAA Tournaments and owns a 234-137 record during Cronin’s tenure.
-- Evans (13.1 PPG) is averaging team-highs in assists (4.0 APG) and blocked shots (1.5 BPG), while Clark paces UC in scoring (13.8 PPG), rebounding (8.0 RPG) and steals (1.4 SPG).
-- The ‘under’ had cashed in four straight UC games until the loss to Xavier saw an ‘over’ appearance. The ‘under’ is 4-2 overall for the Bearcats.
-- The ‘over’ hit in UF’s first five lined games, but the ‘under’ has prevailed in back-to-back outings for the Gators.
-- Since the AAC was formed during the 2013-2014 season, Florida has lost three of four games against teams from the new league, including a loss to UConn in the 2014 national semifinals.
-- ESPN2 will have the broadcast from Prudential Center with Jon ‘Boog’ Sciambi and Fran Fraschilla on the call.
**Alabama at Arizona**
-- Several offshore books sent Arizona (6-3 SU, 3-5 ATS) out as an 8.5-point home favorite vs. Alabama late Friday afternoon, but the Wildcats were 7.5-point ‘chalk’ by Friday night.
-- Sean Miller’s team has been the nation’s biggest disappointment. Arizona is embroiled in FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops similar to the way Auburn, Louisville and Oklahoma State is also being looked at. To a lesser extent, South Carolina and Alabama are dealing with a few issues as well. These circumstances have clearly impacted the Wildcats on the court, too.
-- Arizona is unbeaten in four home games with a 2-1 spread record. However, Miller’s team took three consecutive losses in a span of three days at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas over the Thanksgiving holidays. First, UA dropped a 90-84 decision to North Carolina State as a 12.5-point favorite. One day later, the Wildcats lost 66-60 to SMU as seven-point ‘chalk.’ Then in the final game vs. Purdue, the Boilermakers blasted Arizona 89-64 as one-point underdogs.
-- To its credit, though, Arizona has won three in a row since its ill-fated trip to paradise, including Tuesday’s 67-64 win over previously-undefeated Texas A&M as a one-point home underdog. Even with star guard Allonzo Trier, who is averaging a team-high 22.0 PPG, getting held to a season-low seven points and committing just as many turnovers (three) as he had assists (three), the Wildcats found a way to win behind a balanced offensive attack. Brandon Randolph, DeAndre Ayton, Dusan Ristic and Dylan Smith shared team-high scoring honors with 13 points apiece. Ayton had a double-double with 10 rebounds.
-- Before the win over A&M, UA gathered a little momentum by gutting out a 91-88 overtime win at UNLV last Saturday. The Wildcats failed to cover the number as 4.5-point road favorites, however, with the 179 combined points going ‘over’ the 157.5-point total. The score at the end of regulation was 78-78, so ‘over’ backers were fortunate for the extra sessions since there were only 156 combined points at the end of regulation. The Runnin’ Rebels led by 11 at intermission and were still up by double digits with 12 minutes left. Ayton was the catalyst in the comeback, contributing 28 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Trier dropped 29 on UNLV, while Parker Jackson-Cartwright was also in double figures with 12 points.
-- Arizona sophomore guard Rawle Alkins is slated to make his season debut vs. ‘Bama. Alkins, the Word of God Academy High School product out of Brooklyn, has been recovering from a broken foot. Alkins averaged 10.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game as a freshman last season.
-- Arizona freshman reserve wing Emmanuel Akot is ‘questionable’ vs. ‘Bama due to a knee injury. He’s averaging 2.1 points and 1.6 RPG.
-- Alabama (7-2 SU, 3-4-1 ATS) is playing its first true road game. Avery Johnson has his best team in Tuscaloosa in his third season at the helm. The Crimson Tide is off to a fast start despite the absences of sophomore forward Braxton Key and senior guard Ar’Mond Davis. Key suffered a meniscus injury in late October and hasn’t played yet, but he’s so close to returning that he’s actually been upgraded to ‘questionable’ at Arizona. Key averaged 12.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game last year to garner SEC All-Freshman Team honors. Davis averaged 6.9 PPG in 2016-17.
-- Johnson’s team is off its best win of the year, a 68-64 victory over Rhode Island Wednesday as a four-point home ‘chalk.’ Junior forward Donta Hall led the way with 13 points, 14 boards, two assists and three blocked shots. Dazon Ingram also had a double-double with 10 points, 14 boards and a pair of assists. Daniel Giddens and John Petty added 12 points apiece.
-- Alabama is led by true freshman point guard Collin Sexton, who is averaging team-highs in scoring (20.8 PPG) and assists (3.5 APG). Sexton was held to 11 points in only 17 minutes of playing time vs. URI, but that was because he sustained an eye poke. Nevertheless, he’s ‘probable’ at UA. Hall (11.9 PPG) is averaging team-bests in rebounding (7.6 RPG), blocked shots (2.8 BPG) and FG percentage (75.0%).
-- Alabama is an underdog for only the second time this year. The Tide lost 89-84 to Minnesota on a neutral floor as a 4.5-point ‘dog. The team’s only other loss came at home this past Sunday to UCF (65-62).
-- The ‘under’ has appeared in back-to-back ‘Bama games to improve to 5-3 overall.
-- The ‘over’ is 5-3 overall for the Wildcats, 2-1 in their home games.
-- ESPN2 will provide the telecast on ESPN2 at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- UCLA travels across the country and has to play a noon Eastern game on Saturday at Michigan. CBS will have the broadcast. Offshore books opened the Wolverines as 4.5-point favorites, and that’s where the number remained early Friday night. Michigan (7-3 SU, 4-5 ATS) is unbeaten in five home games with a 2-2 spread record.
-- Marquette is a six-point road underdog at struggling Wisconsin at noon Eastern on Fox Sports 1. The Badgers have limped to a 4-6 SU record to date and are in dire need of a win in this spot. They started the week win a conference win at Penn State, only to lose a heartbreaker at Temple two nights later (Wednesday).
-- VCU and Seton Hall will meet in the first game of the doubleheader in Newark, facing each other at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Prudential Center is the home of the New Jersey Devils and the Pirates, who get a true home game against the Rams. Seton Hall was favored by 12 early Friday night.
-- John Calipari’s Kentucky team is undefeated in seven games at Rupp Arena, but the Wildcats have limped to a 2-5 spread record at home. The ‘Cats are favored by 16 vs. Monmouth for Saturday’s noon Eastern tip.
-- Auburn is a 10-point home favorite to UAB for a 4:30 p.m. Eastern tip on the SEC Network. The Tigers are 4-0 SU and 2-0 ATS at home, while the Blazers are 1-0 both SU and ATS in their lone road assignment.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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