March 9, 2018
By Brian Edwards
Editor's note: Brian Edwards has cashed his guaranteed plays at a 41-30-1 clip (57.7%, +9.09 Units!) since Dec. 8, so don't miss out on tonight's pay-if-it-wins-only selection!
**Florida vs. Arkansas**
-- When these teams met in Gainesville on Jan. 17, Florida defeated Arkansas for the eighth consecutive time in this rivalry. The Gators covered the spread for the fourth straight time against the Razorbacks, capturing an 88-73 win as 6.5-point home favorites. The 161 combined points catapulted ‘over’ the 153.5-point total. UF led by 15 at intermission and by as many as 21 points in the second half, while Arkansas failed to get any closer than nine points in the final 20 minutes. KeVaugh Allen, the former Gatorade Player of the Year during his prep days at North Little Rock High School, snapped out of a miserable slump and erupted for 28 points. Allen drained all six of his free throws, 6-of-7 launches from 3-point land and 8-of-12 field-goal attempts. Jalen Hudson added 21 points and nine rebounds, while Egor Koulechov chipped in 12 points and eight boards. Jaylen Barford finished with 28 points, hitting 5-of-6 shots from downtown, in the losing effort.
-- Arkansas (22-10 straight up, 16-15-1 against the spread) advanced to tonight’s SEC Tournament quarterfinals by pushing past South Carolina 69-64 as a five-point ‘chalk’ in Thursday’s late-night game at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. The 133 combined points dropped ‘under’ the 144.5-point total. The Razorbacks led by eight at halftime, cashing tickets for their supporters on first-half wagers as 2.5-point favorites (at a -115 price at most spots). Mike Anderson’s team was beaten soundly on the boards, with the Gamecocks holding a 41-26 rebounding edge. However, Frank Martin’s club committed 19 turnovers and made just 10-of-16 free-throw attempts. On the flip side, Arkansas buried 23-of-26 from the charity stripe. Barford scored a game-high 17 points and has three steals. Daryl Macon hit all eight of his FTAs in a 12-point effort. Macon also had four rebounds and four assists, while Daniel Gafford finished with eight points, four boards and four blocked shots.
-- Barford paces Arkansas in scoring (17.9 points per game) and steals (1.1 SPG). The senior guard also averages 3.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. The senior guard who arrived in Fayetteville last season as a juco transfer from Motlow State Community College is knocking down 46.9 percent of his FGAs and 43.1 percent of his treys. Daniel Gafford, a 6’11” five-star recruit who was named to the SEC’s All Freshmen Team, is averaging 11.9 PPG and leads the Hogs in rebounding (6.1 RPG), FG percentage (61.1%) and blocked shots (2.2 BPG). Meanwhile, Daryl Macon (17.0 PPG) has a 129/58 assist-to-turnover ratio and has splashed the nets at a 42.6 percent clip from 3-point range and an 87.0 percent rate from the FT line.
-- Arkansas is 7-2 both SU and ATS in its past nine games. The Razorbacks are ranked 19th in the nation in 3-point accuracy (39.9%), 33rd in scoring (81.6 PPG) and 34th in FG percentage (48.0%).
-- As of 11:00 a.m. this morning, most books had the Gators installed as four-point favorites with a total of 146. The Hogs had +160 odds to pull the modest outright upset (risk $100 to win $160).
-- Florida (20-11 SU, 15-14-1 ATS) finished the regular season with three straight wins both SU and ATS, including this past Saturday’s 80-67 beatdown of Kentucky in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. Mike White’s squad easily took the cash as 5.5-point home favorites, while the 147 combined points slipped ‘over’ the 143-point tally. UF led by 15 points at intermission and by 20 at the under-12 television timeout. Hudson led the way with 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 marksmanship from 3-point land. Koulechov took only seven FGAs and logged merely 23 minutes of playing time, but he still finished with 16 points nonetheless. Keith Stone added 12 points, six boards, two assists and two blocked shots.
-- UF is currently listed as a No. 5 seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest edition of ‘Bracketology’ that was released early this morning at ESPN.com. Lunardi has the Gators slotted to face No. 12 seed Buffalo out in San Diego, with the winner getting the 4/13 survivor of West Virginia vs. Old Dominion. Arkansas is scheduled as a No. 7 seed that would take on USC in Charlotte. The winner would get the 2/15 survivor between Duke and Lipscomb.
-- Florida is 3-2 both SU and ATS in five games at neutral sites. The Gators blew a 10-point lead with four minutes left in an 87-84 loss to Duke in Portland and allowed another late lead to get away in a 71-69 loss to Clemson in Sunrise (between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale at the arena where the NHL’s Florida Panthers play).
-- UF owns an 8-7-1 spread record with seven outright defeats in 16 games as a single-digit favorite. Meanwhile, Arkansas has compiled a 4-6 record both SU and ATS in 10 games as an underdog this year.
-- Florida is No. 19 at KenPom.com, No. 36 in the RPI Rankings and No. 23 in the latest Top 25 from the Associated Press. The Gators are 5-3 versus the RPI Top 25, 8-5 against the Top 50 and 14-9 vs. the Top 100. They have neutral-court victories over Gonzaga, Cincinnati and Stanford, in addition to road scalps at Texas A&M, at Missouri, at Kentucky, at South Carolina and at Alabama. UF has beaten the likes of Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky Baylor, Mississippi State and LSU at home.
-- Arkansas is No. 30 in the RPI with its 3-5 record against the RPI Top 25, a 5-7 mark versus the Top 50 and an 11-10 ledger against the Top 100. Anderson’s team owns home victories over Tennessee, Missouri, Texas A&M, Auburn, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Bucknell and Fresno State. The Hogs have a neutral-court win over Oklahoma (that hasn’t aged well in recent weeks) to go with road triumphs at UGA and at Alabama.
-- Hudson is averaging a team-best 15.6 PPG while nailing 40.9 percent of his 3-pointers. The junior swingman who sat out last year after transferring from Va. Tech, has scored 22, 27 and 19 points in UF’s past three outings. Senior point guard Chris Chiozza runs the show for the Gators, averaging 11.0 points, 6.1 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. ‘Cheese’ has a 188/57 assist-to-turnover ratio and recently became the school’s all-time leader in assists when he passed Erving Walker.
-- UF redshirt freshman forward Dontay Bassett missed the regular-season finale vs. UK after sustaining a concussion in last week’s 73-52 win at Alabama. He had been seeing increased minutes and put up career-best numbers (12 points and six rebounds) in the win over Auburn two Saturdays ago.
-- The ‘under’ is on an 8-2 run in UF’s last 10 games to improve to 16-13-1 overall.
-- Although the ‘under’ has cashed in back-to-back games for the Razorbacks, they had seen four straight ‘overs’ previously. For the season, the ‘over’ is 16-15 overall for the Hogs.
-- Arkansas has won the SEC Tournament just once since joining the league in 1992. That was when Nolan Richardson’s team went to Atlanta in 2000 as a team on the wrong side of the bubble, yet it ended up cutting the nets down at the old Georgia Dome.
-- UF has won the SEC Tournament four times, with each of those victories in the finals coming on Billy Donovan’s watch. Those tourney titles came in 2005, ’06, ’07 and ’14.
-- This game will tip at around 9:30 p.m. Eastern on the SEC Network. To be exact, the Gators and Hogs will collide 30 minutes after the conclusion of Tennessee vs. Mississippi St. The winners of tonight’s game will meet in the second semifinals game on Saturday.
**North Carolina vs. Duke**
-- As of late this morning, most books had Duke (26-6 SU, 20-10 ATS) listed as a four-point favorite with a total of 155. The Tar Heels were +170 on the money line (risk $100 to win $170).
-- Duke advanced to the ACC Tournament semifinals with last night’s 88-70 win over Notre Dame as an 8.5-point favorite. The 158 combined points soared ‘over’ the 143.5-point total. Marvin Bagley III dominated the Fighting Irish by producing 33 points and 17 rebounds. Grayson Allen added 23 points and three assists without a turnover. The senior guard drained 5-of-6 launches from long distance.
-- When these bitter rivals squared off in Chapel Hill on Feb. 8, North Carolina won an 82-78 decision as a 1.5-point home favorite. The 160 combined points fell ‘under’ the 167.5-point tally. Joel Berry Jr. led the Tar Heels with 21 points, four rebounds, two steals and six assists without a turnover. Kenny Williams finished with 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting from downtown, while Cameron Johnson contributed 18 points and 13 rebounds. Luke Maye had 15 points and eight boards for the winners. Duke was led by Gary Trent Jr.’s 16 points, while Bagley had 15 points, 16 boards, two blocks and four assists compared to only one turnover.
-- In the rematch this past Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to not only win and avoid the dreaded season sweep, but it also garnered an improbable spread cover. The Blue Devils hit their FTs in the final minute to get ahead of the number for the first time in the 74-64 win as 7.5-point home ‘chalk.’ Bagley was the catalyst with 21 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks. Allen finished with 15 points, five steals, five boards and five assists, while Trent added 13 points and five boards. Johnson had a team-best 16 points for UNC in the losing effort.
-- Bagley averages team-highs in scoring (21.2 PPG), rebounding (11.4 RPG) and FG percentage (60.7%).
-- Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr. is ‘questionable’ with a foot injury. Carter averages 13.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.1 blocked shots per game. He had nine points, nine rebounds and a pair of blocks in his team’s home win over UNC. Carter finished with 10 points, five boards and two rejections in the loss at the Dean Dome.
-- North Carolina (24-9 SU, 18-13 ATS) is playing for the third time in three days, while Duke had a bye and is playing in this event for only the second time tonight. UNC knocked off Syracuse 78-59 as a 7.5-point favorite on Wednesday. Williams scored a team-high 17 points, while Theo Pinson tallied 16 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, two steals and one block.
-- Roy Williams’s squad made the semifinals thanks to last night’s 82-65 win over Miami as a six-point ‘chalk.’ The Hurricanes, who had won at UNC on a buzzer beater last week, scored the first 14 points of the game. However, the Tar Heels would eventually turn it up and actually took a one-point advantage by halftime. They finished the game on an 11-0 run to provide the misleading final score. Pinson stole the show with 25 points, 11 boards, three assists, three steals and one rejection. Johnson added 13 points, seven rebounds, one steal, one block and five assists without a turnover.
-- UNC has been an underdog five times this season, going 1-3-1 ATS with one outright win at Tennessee.
-- Berry is averaging a team-best 17.2 PPG while also dishing out 3.2 APG and making 88.1 percent of his FTAs. Maye, the junior power forward, is averaging 17.1 points and 10.2 RPG.
-- The ‘under’ was a winner in Duke’s last six regular-season games, but that surge ended when last night’s win over Notre Dame saw the ‘over’ emerge. The ‘over’ is 17-13 overall for the Blue Devils.
-- The ‘over’ is 18-14 overall for UNC, but it has seen the ‘under’ cash in each of its last three games.
-- This game will tip from Barclays Center in Brooklyn at around 9:30 p.m. Eastern. To be exact, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils will get after each other 30 minutes after the Clemson-UVA game ends.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- Lunardi’s latest on the bubble teams looks like this:
Last Four Byes: Providence, USC, UCLA and Texas.
Last Four In: Oklahoma, Alabama, Middle Tennessee and Louisville.
First Four Out: Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Arizona State and Syracuse.
Next Four Out: Marquette, Baylor, Penn St. and Nebraska.
-- With Middle Tennessee going down Thursday at the Conference USA Tournament, a bid will likely get stolen from a bubble team. I agree with Lunardi that the Blue Raiders will garner an at-large berth. Western Kentucky and Old Dominion, who square off today in a pick ‘em affair at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, were certainly going to be high seeds in the NIT, but neither team was going to be given much at-large consideration.
-- I completely disagree with Lunardi and any other bracketologist that believes Louisville will get a bid. The Cardinals don’t have any bad losses on their resume, but they haven’t beaten anyone of great relevance, either. U of L is 0-8 against the RPI’s Top 25 and 2-11 versus the Top 50. Both wins came over FSU, which is No. 50 in the RPI.
-- Two teams Lunardi doesn’t have in the picture that will leap into the bubble conversation if they can pull off upsets today are Georgia and Mississippi State. UGA has a chance to get its seventh win over an RPI Top-50 foe when it faces Kentucky as a five-point underdog in today’s second game of the afternoon session in St. Louis (3:30ish p.m. Eastern). Meanwhile, Mississippi State was listed as a seven-point underdog vs. Tennessee for tonight’s matchup at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on the SEC Network.
-- The ‘under’ is on a 15-6 run for UGA, while Kentucky has seen the ‘over’ hit in five consecutive games. When these teams met at Rupp Arena in January, UK captured a 66-61 comeback win over the Bulldogs, who covered the number as 9.5-point road underdogs. The 127 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 146.5-point total. Today’s total was 137 points as of mid-morning.
-- Mark Fox’s team is 6-2 ATS in its past eight games. When the Bulldogs have been underdogs of four points or more this year, they’ve compiled an 8-3 spread record with five outright victories. UGA held on for a 62-60 win over Missouri yesterday as a four-point underdog, hooking up money-line supporters with a +155 return (risk $100 to win $155).
-- Kansas State star forward Dean Wade (foot) has been downgraded to ‘doubtful’ for tonight’s Big 12 Tournament game vs. Kansas. Wade averages 16.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.9 blocked shots per game. As of mid-morning, KU was favored by 7.5 points. The Jayhawks avenged a pair of regular-season losses to Oklahoma St. with Thursday’s 82-68 win over the Cowboys as 5.5-point ‘chalk.’
-- Temple will face Wichita State tonight in the AAC Tournament at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPNU. As of late this morning, the Shockers were favored by 11 points with a total of 146.5. The Owls are 5-1 ATS in their past six games when listed as underdogs of 7.5 points or more. They covered the spread in both regular-season meetings with Wichita State. Temple knocked off the Shockers 81-79 in overtime as a 7.5-point home underdog on Feb. 1. Then in the rematch on Feb. 15, the Owls led by 14 at halftime as 13-point road underdogs, but Gregg Marshall’s team rallied to win a 93-86 decision.
-- Nicholls State star guard Tevon Saddler is out of the Southland Conference Tournament due to a knee injury. Saddler averages 15.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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