February 15, 2018
By Brian Edwards
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**Cincinnati at Houston**
-- As of early this morning, most betting shops had Cincinnati (23-2 straight up, 13-8-1 against the spread) installed as a 3.5-point favorite with a total of 132.
-- When these met at BB&T Arena in Highland Heights, KY., the home of the Northern Kentucky Norse who are loaning the facility to UC this season, Houston raced out to a 35-18 lead with 5:18 remaining in the first half. With the Cougars closing as 9.5-point road underdogs, bettors backing UH were ahead of the number by 26.5 points. The Bearcats rallied to within three by halftime and ended up winning an 80-70 decision and covering the number as 9.5-point home ‘chalk.’ Kyle Washington led UC’s rally with 19 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots. Jacob Evans added 18 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a pair of steals, while Jarron Cumberland finished with 15 points, four boards and four assists. Houston’s Corey Davis Jr. had 18 points, six rebounds and four assists compared to only one turnover and Devin Davis contributed 15 points, nine boards and three assists.
-- Cincinnati has won three in a row over Houston and five of the last six both SU and ATS. The ‘under’ had been a winner in this rivalry six straight times until the 150 combined points soared ‘over’ the 133.5-point tally in this year’s first encounter.
-- Mick Cronin’s squad is 7-1 SU and 4-3-1 ATS in eight road assignments.
-- UC hasn’t tasted defeat since dropping a 66-60 decision to Florida in Newark, N.J., on Dec. 9. One week before losing to UF, the Bearcats lost 89-76 at Xavier as three-point road underdogs. Since taking those L’s, Cronin’s bunch has won 16 consecutive games.
-- Cincinnati is 5-2 ATS with one outright loss in seven games as a single-digit favorite.
-- Cincinnati is ranked eighth in the RPI Rankings, posting a 4-2 record against RPI Top-50 opponents and a 12-2 mark versus Top-100 foes. UC, which is fifth in the latest Associate Press Top 25, has home wins over Temple, Houston, Mississippi State, SMU and UCF. The Bearcats also have road victories at Temple, at UCLA, at UCF, at UConn and at SMU, in addition to neutral-court scalps of Buffalo and Wyoming.
-- UC has four players averaging double figures in its balanced offensive attack. Evans is averaging 13.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocked shots per game. Gary Clark (12.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG) has a 50/22 assist-to-turnover ratio and is draining 51.6 percent of his field-goal attempts and 41.5 percent of his 3-pointers. Clark, a four-year starter at forward, is also averaging 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocked shots per game.
-- Cincinnati is ranked No. 1 in the nation in FG percentage defense (36.1%), second in scoring ‘D’ (55.9 PPG) and seventh at defending the 3-point line (30.0%).
-- Houston (19-5 SU, 11-8-1 ATS) is undefeated in 12 home games with a 6-1-1 spread record. This is UH’s third game as a home underdog, previously winning outright over Wichita State and Arkansas.
-- Since the road loss to UC, Houston has won three in a row while going 2-0-1 ATS. Kelvin Sampson’s squad destroyed Tulane by a 73-42 count Sunday as a 14.5-point home favorite. Devin Davis led the winners with 16 points and four rebounds, while Armoni Brooks added 11 points and 11 boards.
-- Houston is No. 27 in the RPI with 4-2 record versus the Top 50 and a 7-3 ledger against the Top 100. UH has home wins over Arkansas, Temple, Wichita State, Tulsa and SMU. The Cougars also have a neutral-court win over Providence and a road win at UCF. They have a pair of bad L’s – at Tulane (RPI #124) and vs. Drexel (RPI #217) on a neutral floor.
-- UH senior guard Rob Gray Jr. led the AAC in scoring with a 20.6 PPG average last year. Gray is averaging team-highs in scoring (17.7 PPG), assists (4.3 APG) and steals (1.2 SPG) this season. Devin Davis (10.7 PPG) is averaging team-bests in rebounding (6.1 RPG) and FG percentage (50.0%), while Corey Davis (12.5 PPG) is burying 43.6 percent of his treys.
-- The ‘under’ is 14-8 overall for UC, 5-3 in its road games. The ‘under’ has cashed at a 4-2 clip for the Bearcats in their six games that had totals in the 130s. Going back several years, the ‘under’ is 38-13-1 in UC’s past 52 road outings.
-- The ‘under’ is 12-8 overall for the Cougars, 6-2 in their home games.
-- Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on the CBS Sports Network.
**Arizona at Arizona State**
-- As of early this morning, most books were listing Arizona State (19-6 SU, 13-10-2 ATS) as a one-point favorite with a total of 162.
-- Arizona (20-6 SU, 9-15-2 ATS) is atop the Pac-12 standings with its 10-3 record in league play. Sean Miller’s team holds a two-game lead over both USC and UCLA, while ASU is in a four-way tie for sixth place and three games back of UA.
-- Arizona is 6-2 SU and 4-4 ATS in eight road assignments.
-- When these bitter rivals met in Tucson on Dec. 30, Arizona captured an 84-78 win as a six-point home favorite. The 162 combined points slithered ‘under’ the 163-point total. It was the Wildcats’ fifth consecutive win over ASU, which is 0-3-2 in those five setbacks. UA led by 12 with 4:11 remaining, but ASU’s Tra Holder hit several late buckets to give his team’s supporters a backdoor push. Holder finished with 31 points in the losing effort. Allonzo Trier and DeAndre Ayton scored 23 points apiece for the winners. Ayton had 19 rebounds and three blocked shots.
-- Arizona is No. 17 in the latest AP poll and 18th in the RPI. UA is 4-2 against the RPI Top 50 and 10-6 versus the Top 100. The Wildcats own home wins over Alabama, USC, Arizona State, Oregon, Colorado, Utah and UConn. They also have road wins at Stanford and at Utah, in addition to a neutral-court triumph over Texas A&M.
-- Arizona had dropped back-to-back game at Washington and vs. UCLA going into this past Saturday’s showdown vs. USC. The Wildcats avoided a three-game losing streak by stroking the Trojans 81-67 as 6.5-point home ‘chalk.’ Rawle Alkins drilled 4-of-7 launches from 3-point land and dished out five assists in a 20-point effort. Ayton produced 18 points and seven rebounds, while Trier finished with 14 points, eight boards and four assists.
-- Arizona State is No. 25 in the RPI, going 2-1 versus the Top 25, 3-2 against the Top 50 and 8-6 when facing Top-100 competition. The Sun Devils have neutral-court wins over Xavier, Kansas State and St. John’s, in addition to victories at Kansas and at Utah. They also have home wins over USC, Colorado and UCLA.
-- Bobby Hurley’s squad owns a 12-2 SU record and an 8-6 ATS mark at home.
-- Holder leads ASU in scoring (19.4 PPG), steals (1.4 SPG) and 3-point accuracy (39.3%). Shannon Evans II is averaging 17.2 points, 4.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.
-- Arizona State has won three straight games and four of its past five since losing at home to Utah in overtime on Jan. 25. During the three-game winning streak, Evans is averaging 22.3 PPG and has an 8/2 assist-to-turnover ratio.
-- The ‘over’ is 14-11-2 overall for the Wildcats, 6-2 in their road outings.
-- The ‘over’ is 12-11-2 for the Sun Devils, 6-6-2 in their home contests.
-- ESPN will have the telecast at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- I’ve lost a pair of ‘unders’ in overtime the last two nights. First, I had ‘under’ 124 in Rutgers’ 67-58 OT win over Northwestern on Tuesday, with the 125 combined points inching ‘over’ late in the extra session. Then last night in Gainesville, Florida allowed a six-point lead with less than 16 ticks left to get away. Georgia star senior power forward Yante Maten buried a 25-footer from the right wing to trim the deficit to 59-56 with 15.8 seconds remaining. After Mark Fox burned a timeout, UF’s leading scorer Jalen Hudson was whistled for a travelling violation. Next, Maten drained another 3-ball, this one from beyond the top of the key from about 28 feet out. Maten’s heroics forced OT and had UGA seeking a season sweep of the Gators for the first time since 1997. The Bulldogs would do what they hadn’t done since Tubby Smith roamed the sidelines in Athens, winning 72-69 as 10-point underdogs. They hooked up money-line supporters with a +425 return (paid $425 on $100 wagers).
-- Maten finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Tyree Crump had 13 points, nailing a huge 3-ball with just over three minutes left in OT to give UGA a six-point advantage. Georgia, now 14-11 overall and 5-8 in SEC play, still has tons of work to get back into the bubble conversation and save Fox’s job. But stranger things have happened. There are plenty of chances left, starting with Saturday’s home game vs. Tennessee.
-- Florida missed five of its first six free throws in overtime. KeVaughn Allen knocked down a triple with 10:03 left in regulation to give the Gators an 11-point lead, but they wouldn’t get another bucket from the field until there was 2:36 remaining. Hudson went scoreless and committed the costly turnover at crunch time. Mike White’s club fell to 17-9 overall and 8-5 in SEC action.
-- Check out St. John’s, which won its fourth consecutive game at DePaul last night. The Red Storm disappointed its backers like me as a 1.5-point road favorite, however. Chris Mullin’s team made only 1-of-2 at the charity stripe twice in the last 16 seconds, leaving the Blue Demons down by four after Tariq Owens’ made FT with three ticks left. DePaul called timeout but had little time to get in range for a quality look at a meaningless shot that held so much importance for some. You know what comes next: Max Strus nailed a long 3-pointer at the horn to give DePaul the improbable cover in a 77-76 loss.
-- We shouldn’t get overly excited about St. John’s, right? Probably not. But what if Mullin’s team wins its last four regular-season games? Well, the Red Storm would then take an eight-game winning streak to Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament. When was the last time the Knicks won eight straight? The guess here is that it’s been years, many of them, and my point is that NYC would suddenly be fired up for the Johnnies at MSG. St. John’s is 12-13 overall, 4-11 in the Big East. The Red Storm went into last night at No. 64 in the RPI and No. 70 at KenPom.com. The four remaining games are at Marquette (RPI #66), vs. Seton Hall (#24), vs. Butler (#45) and at Providence (#41 BEFORE beating Villanova last night). St. John’s has Top-10 wins vs. Duke and at Villanova. It has five RPI Top-50 wins, including a 23-point victory over surging Nebraska and a neutral-court win over UCF when Tacko Fall was healthy. Eight of St. John’s 13 L’s have come against RPI Top-25 foes. Guess how many of those were blowouts? None. Only one loss, 82-70 to Arizona State at Staples Center in L.A., was by a double-digit margin, but the Johnnies were only down one to ASU with 2:10 left before the Sun Devils finished the game on an 11-0 run. If memory serves, Jim Harrick took a Georgia team with a 16-14 record to the NCAA Tournament in the early 2000s. If St. John’s wins its next four, it’ll go to MSG with a 16-13 record and lots of quality victories.
-- Even if St. John’s only wins two or three of the next four, who says Shamorie Ponds can’t pull a Gerry McNamara and get the Johnnies to the finals of the Big East Tourney? This dude is on fire! He’s played all 40 minutes in each of the last five games. He logged 49 minutes in a double-overtime loss at Georgetown on Jan. 20. Ponds dropped 44 on Marquette this past weekend and then went for 26 points and 10 assists at DePaul. He had 33 in the win over Duke and finished with 26 at ‘Nova.
-- Just as we noted in this space yesterday, Providence was off an unfathomable home loss (in blowout fashion) to DePaul this past weekend. Well, Ed Cooley’s team got that loss back last night by stunning Villanova 76-71 as a 9.5-point home underdog last night. The Friars hooked up money-line backers with a +400 payout. Kyron Cartwright was the catalyst with 17 points, five assists and three steals.
-- N.C. State was another nice money-line winner (+200) in Wednesday's 74-70 win over the ‘Cuse at the Carrier Dome.
-- Kentucky has lost four in a row after falling 76-66 at Auburn as a 9.5-point road underdog. The ‘Cats will try to avoid five straight L’s this weekend when they host Collin Sexton and a hot Alabama team at Rupp Arena.
-- After Saturday’s controversial and gut-wrenching loss at Missouri in overtime, Mississippi State got beat by Vandy’s Riley LaChance at the buzzer last night in NashVegas. Ouch!
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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