Thursday’s WagersEditor's note: Brian Edwards owns a 30-17 record (63.8%, +11.79 Units) on his guaranteed plays since Dec. 8, so don't miss out on tonight's pay-if-it-wins-only selection!
**Duke at North Carolina**
-- College basketball’s premier rivalry will be renewed tonight when North Carolina takes on Duke at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill on ESPN at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. These schools are separated by eight miles and according to a report from ESPN last night, only two points (in Duke’s favor) separate these teams in the last 100 meetings, This ESPN feature also noted how since a 1977 encounter that started this 100-game stretch, these schools have beaten each other 50 times apiece. They have had 18 games decided by one possession, with Duke prevailing 10 times. Since 1981, both schools have had 57 players drafted (for 114 total). From Jeff Capel’s half-court shot at the buzzer to force a multiple-overtime game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, to the elbow to Tyler Hansbrough’s face that broke ‘Psycho T’s’ nose and nearly instigated a melee and to Austin Rivers’s unforgettable buzzer-beating 3-ball to win in Chapel Hill, this rivalry always demonstrates the passion, intensity and vitriol you love to see in sports. Rarely are fans left disappointed after watching these enemies compete against each other.
-- As of early this morning, most books had Duke (19-4 straight up, 13-8 against the spread) installed as a 1.5-point favorite with a total of 166.
-- Duke owns a 4-3 record both SU and ATS in seven road assignments. Mike Krzyzewski’s club took its first ACC loss of the season at N.C. State on Jan. 6, only to respond with five consecutive wins. Since then, however, the Blue Devils have dropped two of their past three games, including Saturday’s 81-77 loss to St. John’s at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
-- The loss to the Johnnies came as 10.5-point favorites. Chris Mullin’s squad had lost its first 11 Big East games before shocking Duke. Then on Wednesday night in Philadelphia, St. John’s pulled another stunner by beating top-ranked Villanova. This unexpected development makes Duke’s loss look a little better. The Blue Devils led the Red Storm 39-32 at intermission, only to get outscored 49-38 in the final 20 minutes. Gary Trent Jr. scored 22 points in the losing effort thanks to five 3-pointers on seven attempts. Marvin Bagley III finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, while Wendell Carter Jr. had 14 points, 15 boards and four blocked shots. Grayson Allen, the storied program’s senior leader, played all 40 minutes but scored just seven points and had more turnovers (three) than assists (two).
-- Duke is ranked ninth in the latest Associated Press Top 25 and No. 7 in the RPI. The Blue Devils have posted a 5-1 record against the RPI Top 50 and an 8-4 mark versus the Top 100. They have neutral-court wins over Michigan State, Texas and Florida, in addition to home wins over FSU, South Dakota and Notre Dame. The only road win of substance for Duke is an 83-75 victory at Miami on Jan. 15.
-- Allen has been held to single-digit scoring totals in five of Duke’s last nine games. For the season, he is averaging 14.5 points, 4.4 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.
-- Bagley, the freshman center, is leading the ACC in scoring (21.4 PPG) and rebounding (11.2 RPG). The future lottery pick is fifth in the conference in field-goal percentage (59.9%). Carter (14.4 PPG, 9.6 RPG) is averaging team-bests in FG percentage (61.3%) and blocks (2.1 BPG), while Trent is scoring at a 15.0 PPG clip and hitting 3’s at a 44.8 percent rate. Trevon Duval (11.3 PPG) has dished out a team-high 6.0 assists per game.
-- North Carolina (17-7 SU, 12-10 ATS) has produced a 10-2 SU record and an 8-3 ATS ledger in 12 home games. UNC lost at home to N.C. State by a 95-91 count in overtime on Jan. 27 as a 12.5-point ‘chalk.’ The Tar Heels also lost in Chapel Hill to Wofford (79-75) when they were laying 25 points on Dec. 20. This is their first game as home underdogs this season, assuming the line holds until tip.
-- Roy Williams’s team snapped a three-game losing streak both SU and ATS in Saturday’s 96-65 win over cellar-dwelling Pittsburgh as a 23.5-point home ‘chalk.’ Luke Maye was the catalyst with a game-high 26 points, burying 9-of-15 field-goal attempts and 3-of-5 launches from 3-point land. The junior forward pulled down eight rebounds, made three steals and handed out five assists compared to just one turnover. Kenny Williams also hit 3-of-5 from downtown in a 15-point effort, while Cameron Johnson finished with 14 points, two steals and four assists without a turnover. Joel Berry contributed 12 points on 4-of-8 attempts from long distance. The senior point guard also had six rebounds and six assists without a turnover.
-- Maye paces UNC in scoring (18.3 PPG), rebounding (10.3 RPG), FG percentage (51.6%) and blocked shots (1.2 BPG). Berry is scoring at a 17.3 PPG clip, but he’s only making 38.9 percent of his FGAs. Johnson (12.8 PPG) and Williams (11.1 PPG) are also averaging in double figures.
-- North Carolina is No. 21 in this week’s AP poll and No. 12 in the RPI. Williams’s bunch has a 5-4 record against the RPI Top 50 and an 8-6 ledger versus the Top 100. The Tar Heels have neutral-court triumphs over Arkansas and Ohio State, in addition to road wins at Tennessee, at Stanford, at Notre Dame and at Davidson. Finally, they have beaten Michigan, Clemson and Boston College at home.
-- The ‘over’ is 14-9 overall for UNC after cashing in each of its past three games and five its last six. The ‘over’ is an incredible 10-1 in the Tar Heels’ 11 lined home contests.
-- The ‘over’ is 15-6 overall for Duke, 5-2 in its road contests.
-- The ‘over’ is 5-2-1 in the past eight head-to-head meetings between these schools. The road team has compiled a 19-7-1 spread record in the past 27 UNC-Duke showdowns.
-- These bitter adversaries have split the last four encounters, but Duke won two of three meetings last year while going 2-0-1 ATS. Both teams held serve with each other on their home courts last season, but the Blue Devils won 93-83 as four-point ‘dogs at the ACC Tournament. Allen scored 18 points, nailing 5-of-6 treys, in the victory at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
**UCLA at Arizona**
-- As of early this morning, most spots had Arizona (19-5 SU, 8-14-2 ATS) installed as a nine-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 158.
-- Arizona is alone atop the Pac-12 standings with its 9-2 record in conference action. The Bruins are in a fourth-place tie with their 7-4 mark in league play.
-- Sean Miller’s team is unbeaten at home in 12 games, but it has limped to a 3-7 spread record. UA is mired in an abysmal 0-5-1 ATS slide in its past six home outings.
-- Arizona saw its seven-game winning streak snapped in this past Saturday’s 78-75 loss at Washington as a seven-point road favorite. The 153 combined points jumped ‘over’ the 146-point tally. After trailing the entire game, the Wildcats took their first lead around the five-minute mark and held a three-point edge with less than two minutes remaining. However, the Huskies finished the game on an 8-2 run to close out the upset victory.
-- In the loss at UW, Dusan Ristic scored team-high 21 points and snagged 10 rebounds for Arizona. Allonzo Trier added 20 points and three assists without a turnover, while DeAndre Ayton finished with 19 points, 12 boards and three rejections.
-- Arizona is ranked 13th in the AP poll this week and 14th in the RPI. UA is 3-2 versus the RPI Top 50 and 8-5 against the Top 100. The Wildcats have home wins over the likes of Alabama, Arizona State, UConn, Oregon, Colorado and Utah, in addition to a neutral-court victory over Texas A&M. They own road scalps at Utah and at Stanford.
-- Trier (19.9 PPG) is a helluva shooter, as evidenced by his 53.8, 41.4 and 85.4 percentages on attempts from the field, 3-point land and the charity stripe, respectively. Ayton (19.7 PPG, 10.8 RPG) averages a double-double while making 62.8 percent of his FGAs and producing a team-best 44 blocked shots.
-- UCLA (16-7 SU, 11-12 ATS) has lost outright in four of five road assignments, going 2-3 versus the number. The Bruins are 3-3 ATS with a pair of outright wins in six games as underdogs. They’re in just their third spot as road ‘dogs, posting a 1-1 spread record in the two previous instances. UCLA covered as a 4.5-point ‘dog in a 94-91 loss at Oregon and took a gut-wrenching 78-69 overtime loss at Michigan when its backers were left with a major Bad Beat catching seven points. The game in Ann Arbor as a seven-point puppy is UCLA’s richest prior spot as a ‘dog.
-- Steve Alford’s bunch has responded to a three-game losing streak, including a pair of losses to the Oregon schools, by winning three in a row. UCLA has covered the number in back-to-back outings, including Saturday’s 82-79 triumph over USC as a one-point home favorite. Aaron Holiday led the way with 23 points, nine assists and six rebounds. The junior guard played all 40 minutes, hitting 7-of-10 attempts from the floor and 5-of-7 from long distance. Thomas Welsh produced 21 points and eight rebounds, while Kris Wilkes contributed 13 points and five boards.
-- UCLA is No. 58 in the RPI, going 3-3 against the Top 50 and 5-6 versus the Top 100. Other than an 83-75 win over Kentucky in New Orleans, Alford’s bunch lacks a signature win away from home. The Bruins have quality home victories over Washington, USC, Utah and Stanford. They have a bad loss at Oregon State and L’s at Stanford and Oregon aren’t helping their cause, either. UCLA was a part of Joe Lunardi’s First Four Out in his latest edition of ‘Bracketology’ at ESPN.com, so tonight’s shot at a huge road win is obviously crucial.
-- Holiday leads the Bruins in scoring (19.2 PPG), assists (5.4 APG) and steals (1.4 SPG). Welsh (13.0 PPG) paces UCLA in rebounding (10.3 RPG) and FG percentage (48.3%), while Wilkes is averaging 13.8 points and 5.3 RPG.
-- The ‘over’ is 14-9-2 overall for the Wildcats, 6-5 in their home games. They’ve seen the ‘over’ hit in four consecutive contests.
-- The ‘over’ is 13-10 overall for UCLA, 4-1 in its five road tilts.
-- ESPN will have the broadcast at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- While Villanova was falling to St. John’s as a 16-point home favorite, Virginia rallied from a 32-22 intermission deficit to capture a 59-55 win at FSU as a three-point road favorite. The ‘under’ improved to 16-5 overall for UVA when the 114 combined points dropped ‘under’ the 131.5-point total.
-- Purdue is no longer unbeaten in Big Ten play and the longest winning streak in school history is over. Hell, the Boilermakers aren’t even in first place in the league anymore after Keita Bates-Diop’s putback bucket with 2.8 seconds remaining lifted the Buckeyes to a 64-63 victory as 10-point underdogs. Purdue’s Isaac Haas caught a length-of-the-floor pass coming out of a timeout and had a great look at about a 10-foot jumper for the win, but it was off the mark. Bates-Diop paced the winners with 18 points, 11 rebounds and three assists without a turnover. Carsen Edwards had a game-high 28 points in the losing effort.
-- In Wednesday’s late-night action, the Mountain West Conference race got more interesting when UNLV went up to Reno and handed Nevada its second loss in league action. The Runnin’ Rebels beat the Wolf Pack 86-78 as eight-point road underdogs. The ‘under’ is on a 4-2 run for UNLV after the 164 combined points slithered ‘under’ the 165.5-point total. The reason that’s significant is that the ‘over’ went 15-2-1 in the Rebels’ first 18 games. Jovan Mooring scored a game-high 31 points against Nevada thanks to 6-of-12 marksmanship form 3-point range. With the Nevada loss, it falls into second place in the MWC standings, one-half game back of Boise State. The Broncos rallied from six down in the final minute to win at New Mexico two nights ago. Leon Rice’s club is 10-2 in conference play, while the Wolf Pack is 9-2 and one-half game behind.
-- Florida stopped the bleeding of a three-game losing streak in SEC play by pushing past LSU 73-64 last night as a nine-point home favorite. Jalen Hudson scored 18 points, grabbed nine rebounds, had two assists, two steals and one block. Keith Stone added 15 points and Egor Koulechov finished with 12 points and four boards. UF’s defense limited LSU star guard Tremont Waters to nine points, seven rebounds and six assists, but he has seven turnovers, made only 3-of-15 FGAs and 1-of-9 from 3-point territory.
-- Mark Fox’s hot seat in Athens is reaching boiling temperatures after Georgia was run out of Memorial Gymnasium last night. Vanderbilt collected an 81-66 win over UGA as a four-point home ‘chalk’ behind 19 points apiece from Riley LaChance and Saben Lee. The ‘under’ had been on a 10-1 run for the Bulldogs with the lone ‘over’ emerging only because their home loss to Arkansas went to a second overtime, but last night’s 147 combined points flew ‘over’ the 132.5-point tally. Since starting the year with an atrocious 1-14 spread record, the Commodores are 5-1 ATS in their past six games with the only non-cover coming in a 12-point loss at Auburn as 11.5-point puppies.
-- Speaking of Auburn, Mustapha Heron’s potential buzzer-beating trey was off in last night’s 81-80 home loss to Texas A&M. Duane Wilson’s go-ahead FT with 3.5 ticks left broke the tie for A&M. The Aggies have suddenly won three in a row to right the ship in College Station.
-- Maryland hooked up its backers as a 4.5 or five-point ‘dog in last night’s 74-70 loss at Penn State. However, Mark Turgeon’s squad saw its NCAA Tournament at-large hopes take a major hit. The Terrapins were a part of Lunardi’s Next Four Out going into the PSU game.
-- The biggest bubble winner last night was probably Marquette, which was a part of Lunardi’s First Four Out before prevailing 88-85 at Seton Hall as a six-point underdog. Markus Howard dropped 32 points on the Pirates, draining 9-of-13 FGAs, 4-of-6 launches from distance and 10-of-10 from the FT line.
-- Clemson was favored by 18.5 points for tonight’s home game vs. Pitt early this morning. The Tigers are a remarkable 12-0 SU and 8-1 ATS at home this season. The Panthers are winless in seven road assignments, but Kevin Stallings’s squad has managed a 4-3 spread record.
-- James Madison has cancelled its next two games (Thursday vs. UNC-Wilmington and Saturday at Elon) due to concerns over suspected cases of the mumps impacting the Dukes. The fear is that James Madison players could spread the virus to their opponents’ players.
-- SMU’s Shake Milton is ‘out’ indefinitely with a hand injury. This is a huge blow to the Mustangs, who are No. 70 in the RPI going into Thursday’s crucial game at Houston. Milton is averaging 18.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game. SMU was an eight-point underdog early this a.m. The Mustangs have limped to a 1-5 record both SU and ATS in six road outings, while the Cougars are 10-0 SU and 5-1 ATS at home.
-- Charlotte’s Andrien White is ‘questionable’ for tonight’s game against La. Tech due to a concussion. White is averaging 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.
-- UC Santa Barbara has suspended Jalen Canty indefinitely. Canty was averaging 12.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots per game.
-- Tulane guard Melvin Frazier is ‘questionable’ (chest) Thursday against Tulsa. Frazier is averaging 16.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.4 steals per game.
-- Illinois State’s Keyshawn Evans will miss the next 1-3 weeks with a knee injury. Evans is averaging 15.6 points, 3.4 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game. Also, forward Milik Yarbrough (disciplinary) is ‘questionable’ for Thursday’s game against Southern Illinois. Yabrough is averaging 16.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.7 blocked shots per game.
-- Montana leads the Big Sky with its 11-0 record in league play. The Grizzlies, who are 15-5-1 ATS, are perfect at home with a 9-0 SU record and a 6-0 ATS mark. They host Portland St. tonight as eight-point home favorites. The Vikings are 7-4 both SU and ATS in 11 road outings, but they might be without their leading scorer tonight. Deontae North (21.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG) has missed the last three games due to a suspension and is listed as ‘questionable.’
-- Last Calls! Washington State at Oregon State (Pac-12 Network, 10:30 p.m. Eastern), USC at Arizona State (ESPN2, 11:00 p.m.) and Santa Clara at BYU (ESPNU, 11:00 p.m.). The Beavers are nine-point favorites vs. WSU, the Sun Devils are 3.5-point home ‘chalk’ to the Trojans and the Cougars are favored by 16.5 points vs. Santa Clara.
-- Washington State is 0-7 both SU and ATS on the road this year. Ernie Kent is almost certainly looking at a pink slip at the end of this season.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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