Published on Jan. 27 at 6:52 p.m. Eastern.
By Brian Edwards
Gamblers have bets and ballgames galore to feast on Saturday in college hoops. Let’s start with an SEC showdown at the O-Dome in Gainesville, where Florida (16-4 straight up, 7-7-1 against the spread) will take on Mississippi St. at 1:45 p.m. Eastern on The SEC Network (channel 725 on DirecTV).
BetOnline.com opened the Gators as 9 ½-point favorites with a total of 145. In less than 20 minutes, the number was adjusted to 10. By 6:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday night, the total was moved to 147 at most betting shops.
UF is facing a quick turnaround after rallying to beat Ole Miss 64-60 Thursday night in Oxford. Billy Donovan’s club came out flat, falling behind 20-4 before cutting the deficit to 38-28 at intermission.
Bettors jumping on the Gators for halftime bets (-5.5, +4.5 adjusted) were able to easily cash tickets. Kenny Boynton drained four 3-pointers en route to scoring 12 points, while Erving Walker scored 10 points and dished out nine assists. Patric Young scored a team-high 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field.
The Rebels killed UF on the boards with a 36-18 advantage. However, the Gators made up for the rebounding deficit by taking care of the basketball with only six turnovers.
Florida is unbeaten in 12 home games, posting a 3-3-1 spread record. Assuming the line stays at 10 or more, we should note that UF owns a 3-4-1 ATS mark in eight games as a double-digit ‘chalk.’
Mississippi State (17-4 SU, 10-10 ATS) has won four of its last five games, including Wednesday’s non-covering victory over LSU by a 76-71 count as a nine-point home favorite. Arnett Moultrie remained the leading candidate to win SEC Player of the Year honors with another stellar effort, scoring 28 points to go with 12 rebounds.
The UTEP transfer has been dominant for the Bulldogs, averaging team-highs in points (17.1 PPG), rebounds (11.2 RPG) and FG percentage (56.3%). Moultrie has plenty of help thanks to the presence of senior point guard Dee Bost, who is averaging 16.0 points, 4.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game.
Rick Stansbury’s team has been an underdog six times, compiling a 5-1 spread record with three outright wins over Alabama, Vanderbilt, Arizona and Texas A&M.
The ‘over is 11-4 overall for the Gators, 6-1 in their home games. Meanwhile, MSU has seen the ‘over’ cash in its last three games and go 11-9 overall.
The WCC isn’t about just Gonzaga these days. With the addition of BYU along with the emergence of Saint Mary’s in recent years, the league now has three programs that are in the mix for an NCAA bid annually. The Gaels, who beat BYU 98-82 on Dec. 29, will look to sweep the season series when they venture into Provo on Saturday night.
BYU (18-5 SU, 10-9 ATS) stepped out of conference and flew across the country to collect a solid road win Wednesday at Va. Tech. The Cougars won a 70-68 decision over the Hokies as three-point underdogs. Brock Zylstra buried a clutch trey with 23 seconds left to put BYU up for good at 69-66.
Noah Harstock scored 22 points to go with seven rebounds, three blocked shots and a pair of steals for the winners. Brandon Davies added 17 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Saint Mary’s (20-2 SU, 10-7 ATS) hasn’t tasted defeat since a Dec. 22 loss to Baylor. Randy Bennett’s squad has won 10 in a row but is mired in a 2-5 ATS slump in its last seven contests.
The Gaels are led by Jones, a senior forward who began his career at San Diego and hit a game-winning jumper to propel the Toreros to a stunning win over UConn in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Jones is averaging 14.3 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.
As of early Friday night, most spots had BYU listed as a 2 ½-point favorite with a total of 152.
Dave Rose’s team has won 10 of its 12 home games while going 5-3 versus the number. BYU has a 2-2 spread record in four single-digit ‘chalk’ spots so far this year. As for Saint Mary’s, it has only been an underdog once, losing 72-59 to Baylor at The Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
When the Gaels cruised to an easy win over BYU as four-point home favorites last month, Rob Jones led the way with 25 points and 14 rebounds. Stephen Holt added 21 points, while Matthew Dellavedova finished with 18 points and 12 assists. Davies scored a game-high 28 points in the losing effort.
ESPNU will have the telecast at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
–Middle Tennessee finally failed to cover the number in Thursday’s 71-58 home win over Troy as a 17-point home favorite. The Blue Raiders have the second-best spread record in the country with a 15-5 ATS ledger. They make the quick trip to Music City on Saturday to face Vandy at Memorial Coliseum. The Commodores opened as 8 1/2-point home ‘chalk’ at most spots.
–BetOnline opened Alabama as a 9 ½-point home favorite vs. Arkansas, but the number was moved to 11 within a half-hour.
–The top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats are nine-point road favorites Saturday at LSU. Tip-off in Baton Rouge is slated for 4:00 p.m. Eastern on The SEC Network. The total is 133.
–Nevada owns the nation’s premier ATS ledger at 13-3. The Wolfpack make the long trek to Ruston on Saturday to take on Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs could be without one of their top players in Raheem Appleby (13.3 PPG), who is ‘questionable’ with a knee injury. Nevada has been installed as a six-point road favorite.
–Best wishes to College of Charleston head coach Bobby Cremins, who has taken an indefinite leave of absence to deal with a health issue that isn’t believed to be life-threatening. While doing a feature story on former Ga. Tech player T.J. Vines as a young writer for the Marietta Daily Journal, Cremins granted me an interview at media day and was as nice and courteous as can be. Here’s to hoping he gets back to the Cougars soon. After a 10-2 start to the year, they have lost six of their last eight games.
–Hawaii has taken the money in seven consecutive underdog spots. The Warriors are catching 5 1/2 points tonight at Idaho at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.