March 7, 2018
By Brian Edwards
Editor's note: Brian Edwards has cashed his guaranteed plays at a 41-28-1 clip (59.4%, +11.18 Units!) since Dec. 8, so don't miss out on tonight's pay-if-it-wins-only selection!
**Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech**
-- As of early this morning, most books had Notre Dame (19-13 straight up, 12-16 against the spread) listed as a 2.5-point favorite with a total of 141.5.
-- Mike Brey’s team was nationally ranked when star senior power forward Bonzie Colson broke his foot, prompting him to miss all of January before returning to the lineup on Feb. 28. The Fighting Irish went 11-3 before his injury, 2-1 since his return. We should note that both wins were over lowly Pittsburgh, but the one loss was a 62-57 setback at Virginia when Notre Dame covered the number as an 8.5-point underdog.
-- In his first game back at home to celebrate his Senior Night, Colson scored 12 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots in a 73-56 non-covering triumph over the Panthers. He made 6-of-10 field-goal attempts in 21 minutes of playing time. Then at UVA, Colson exploded for 24 points and 15 rebounds while logging 37 minutes of PT.
-- In the opening round of the ACC Tournament at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Monday, Notre Dame played poorly and barely slipped past Pitt by a 67-64 count. The Panthers easily covered the spread as 17-point underdogs, but they came up short of winning their first ACC game of the season. After trailing by 12 at intermission, Kevin Stallings’ team cut the deficit to two in the final minute. Colson played 33 minutes and produced 19 points, six rebounds, two steals and three blocked shots. Matt Farrell, the gritty senior point guard from New Jersey who also missed several games with an ankle injury while Colson was out, finished with 18 points and three assists. Rex Pflueger and Temple Gibbs were also in double figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
-- Notre Dame is No. 65 in the RPI Rankings with its 1-7 record against the RPI Top 25, a 3-9 mark versus the Top 50 and a 7-10 ledger against the Top 100. Brey’s club has home victories over FSU, N.C. State and Boston College, in addition to neutral-court scalps of LSU and Wichita State (in November when Colson was healthy). The Fighting Irish has road wins at the ‘Cuse and at BC.
-- According to the latest ‘Bracketology’ report from ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi on Tuesday morning, Virginia Tech was in an 8/9 game against Oklahoma in Detroit. Meanwhile, Notre Dame was the last team in his First Four Out.
-- Colson is averaging 20.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 2.4 blocked shots per game. He’s shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 80.4 percent from the free-throw line. Farrell, who missed five regular-season games with an ankle injury, is averaging 16.8 points PPG while knocking down 40.6 percent of his 3-balls. He has a 142/63 assist-to-turnover ratio and 30 steals. Gibbs (15.5 PPG) has hit 40.2 percent of his launches from downtown, while Martinas Geben is averaging 10.9 points and 8.2 RPG.
-- Virginia Tech (21-10 SU, 17-10 ATS) is No. 47 in the RPI, going 4-5 vs. the RPI Top 25, 4-9 against the Top 50 and 8-9 versus the Top 100. The Hokies have home wins over North Carolina, Duke, Clemson and N.C. State. They’ve also won at Virginia, at Notre Dame and at BC, in addition to a road victory vs. Washington by 24 points!).
-- Buzz Williams’s squad has won five of its past eight games while going 6-2 ATS. V-Tech rallied past Duke to win on a late putback bucket by a 64-63 count last week as a five-point home underdog. However, the Hokies lost 69-68 at Miami as 3.5-point road underdogs in Saturday’s regular-season finale. They allowed a seven-point halftime lead to get away. Robinson scored a game-high 18 points by converting 3-of-4 attempts from 3-point range. He also had six assists but committed six turnovers. Blackshear had 11 points and five boards.
-- Tech is led by Justin Robinson, who paces his team in scoring (13.8 PPG), assists (5.5 APG) and steals (1.1 SPG). The junior guard has a 171/78 assist-to-turnover ratio and is draining 40.3 percent of his treys. Justin Bibbs (13.1 PPG) is burying 49.0 percent of his FGAs and 39.2 percent of his 3-pointers, while Kerry Blackshear is averaging 12.7 points and 6.0 rebounds. Blackshear is hitting 56.2 percent of his FGAs and has a team-best 29 blocked shots.
-- Virginia Tech has been an underdog 11 times, compiling a 6-5 spread record with five outright victories. However, we should note that the Hokies are 6-2 ATS with those five outright wins in their past eight such spots.
-- When these teams met at Joyce Center in South Bend on Jan. 27, Farrell and Colson were both in street clothes. V-Tech won an 80-75 decision as a 2.5-point road underdog. Bibbs was the catalyst with 20 points and five assists without a turnover. He buried 8-of-10 FGAs and all four his 3-pointers. Chris Clarke contributed 12 points, 14 rebounds and four assists, while Robinson finished with 12 points and seven assists without a turnover. Gibbs scored a game-high 27 points for Notre Dame and handed out five assists. Gibbs played all 40 minutes and drained 5-of-10 attempts from long distance. John Mooney added 15 points and 11 rebounds in the losing effort.
-- The ‘under’ has cashed in three straight games for the Irish, but the ‘over’ is 14-13 overall for the season.
-- The ‘under’ is on a remarkable 8-0 run for the Hokies, but they’ve still seen the ‘over’ go 14-13 overall. -- Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.
**Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State**
-- As of early this morning, most spots had this Big 12 Tournament showdown listed as a pick ‘em with a total of 162.
-- Oklahoma State (18-13 SU, 14-14 ATS) has one of the more fascinating resumes you’ll ever see. OSU is currently a part of Lunardi’s First Four Out, one slot ahead of Notre Dame but behind Louisville and Marquette, both of whom are in action today.
-- Mike Boynton’s first team at OSU since taking over for Brad Underwood, who pulled a one and done in Stillwater before bolting to take the Illinois job, has been up and down all year long. Oklahoma State finished league play in a four-way tie for sixth place with OU, Baylor and Texas. All four teams had 8-10 records in Big 12 action.
-- Oklahoma State is No. 87 in the RPI and No. 57 at KenPom.com. Like Lunardi, Bracketville also has the Pokies in his First Four Out. OSU is under consideration thanks to some monster wins like a season sweep of Kansas, a win at West Virginia, a victory over FSU in South Florida (Sunrise, where the NHL’s Florida Panthers play) and home wins over the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Tulsa. Nine of OSU’s 13 losses have come against RPI Top-50 foes, including one-point defeats at Arkansas and at Texas. The Cowboys’ worst losses were the four they had against Baylor (RPI #59) and Kansas State (RPI #62), both of whom swept the season series.
-- Boynton’s club has won three of its last four games while going 4-0 ATS. OSU’s only loss in this span was the aforementioned 65-64 defeat at Texas. The Cowboys are off an 82-64 win over Kansas as three-point home underdogs. Kendall Smith, a grad transfer from Cal State Northridge, led the way with 25 points and four steals on 9-of-15 shooting from the floor and four makes on six 3-point launches. Mitchell Solomon added 16 points, seven rebounds and two steals.
-- Solomon (8.3 PPG) paces OSU in rebounding (6.4 RPG), FG percentage (56.3%), and blocked shots (1.1 BPG). Jeffrey Carroll, the senior swingman who has outstanding athleticism, is averaging 15.1 points and 5.9 RPG. Smith (12.9 PPG) had buried 41.2 percent of his 3-balls.
-- Oklahoma (18-12 SU, 10-19 ATS) struggled mightily down the stretch, losing six in a row before ending that slide with two wins in its past three games. Nevertheless, the Sooners are mired in a 3-12 ATS slump.
-- Lon Kruger’s team closed the regular season with an 81-60 win over Iowa State as a 10.5-point home ‘chalk.’ Kameron McGusty drained 4-of-7 treys in a team-best 18-point effort. Trae Young had a dismal shooting performance (5-of-19 FGAs, 1-of-9 from distance) yet still managed 15 points, five rebounds, three steals and six assists compared to two turnovers. Christian James finished with 15 points and three assists without a turnover.
-- Before his own slump that coincided with his team’s struggles, Young was the heavy favorite to win National Player of the Year honors. However, the true freshman point guard out of Norman committed at least five turnovers in 16 of OU’s last 19 games. Young had 12 turnovers in an 87-69 loss at Kansas State. Nevertheless, he led the nation in both points (27.5 PPG) and assists (8.9 APG). Young (3.9 RPG, 1.7 SPG) has 110 treys to his credit but shot just 36.1 percent from downtown.
-- OU is ranked No. 38 in the RPI and No. 43 at KenPom. The Sooners, who are currently a nine-seed at Bracketville (matched up vs. eighth-seeded Rhode Island) and with Lunardi (vs. Va. Tech), have posted a 5-2 record against the RPI Top 25, a 6-7 mark versus the Top 50 and a 10-11 ledger against the Top 100.
-- The ‘over’ is 18-11 overall for the Sooners, but they’ve seen the ‘under’ hit in back-to-back contests.
-- The ‘under’ is 18-10 overall for the Cowboys.
-- ESPNU will have the broadcast at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- After OU-OSU concludes, Texas will take on Iowa State. As of early this morning, most books had the Longhorns listed as a 5.5-point favorites with a total of 136.5. This game is also on ESPNU and should tip around 9:30 p.m. Eastern. Texas star center Mo Bamba, a future lottery selection, is listed as ‘doubtful’ due to a toe injury. Bamba averages a double-double (13.0 PPG, 10.6 RPG) and is second in the nation in blocked shots (3.8 BPG). Shaka Smart’s team is in a 3-6 ATS slump, while the Cyclones are 1-4 ATS in their past five outings. Iowa State has lost six consecutive games outright. The Longhorns swept the season series, winning 74-70 as 2.5-point road favorites in Ames before collecting a 73-57 triumph as seven-point home favorites on Jan. 22. The ‘over’ is on a 14-7-1 run for the Cyclones in their last 21 outings.
-- Georgetown forward Marcus Derrickson is ‘questionable’ for tonight’s Big East Tournament game vs. St. John’s. Derrickson, who missed a blowout loss at Villanova in this past Saturday’s regular-season finale to nurse a sore ankle, is averaging 15.7 points and 8.1 RPG for the Hoyas. As of early this morning, most books had the Red Storm installed as a 4.5-point ‘chalk.’ This is a 7:00 p.m. Eastern tip from MSG in NYC on Fox Sports 1.
-- Wisconsin saw its remarkable run of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances dating back to 1998 snapped last week when it lost a heartbreaker to Michigan State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Kansas owns the longest current streak of Tourney invites (about to be 29) followed by Duke (almost 23), Michigan State (almost 21) and Gonzaga (20 as of last night). Mark Few’s team earned the WCC’s automatic invited by smashing BYU 74-54 last night as a nine-point favorite at The Orleans in Las Vegas. Few has led the Bulldogs to 19 of those 20 NCAA Tournament appearances. The first came under Dan Monson, who led Gonzaga to the 1999 Elite Eight before losing a nail-biter to the eventual national champ, UConn. The ‘Zags had advanced past Florida in the West Region semifinals in Phoenix thanks to a Casey Calvary go-ahead, tip-in bucket with just 4-5 seconds remaining. UF’s Eddie Shannon missed a last-gasp potential game-winning trey at the buzzer.
-- As of early this morning, Georgia was listed as a two-point favorite vs. Vanderbilt for tonight’s SEC Tournament opener in St. Louis at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on the SEC Network. The total was 135. Something must give with this tally since Vandy has seen the ‘over’ cash at a 13-6 clip in its past 19 games, while UGA has watched the ‘under’ go 13-6 in its last 19 outings. When these teams met in Nashville at Memorial Gymnasium during the regular season, the Commodores rolled to an easy 81-66 win.
-- Tennessee, the SEC co-regular-season champions along with Auburn, are the No. 2 seed based on Auburn’s win in Knoxville in January. However, the Volunteers are the +250 ‘chalk’ (risk $100 to win $250) to win the SEC Tourney at Sportsbook.ag. When was the last time UT won this event? That would be 1979, one year before future NBA All-Star, two-time All-American and three time first-team All-SEC selection Dale Ellis, one of the best downtown shooters to ever live out of Marietta, GA., arrived on campus.
-- How about Auburn? The Tigers haven’t won the SEC Tournament since 1985, one year after Charles Barkley left early for the NBA Draft.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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