Well, this matchup sure has lost some of its earlier luster. The Longhorns look to make up for their first loss when they travel to Storrs to take on struggling UConn.
Texas lost to Kansas State. Duke lost to North Carolina State. And Memphis fell to Texas El-Paso, the first Conference USA defeat for the Tigers in 65 games. It might seem like the underdogs have taken over the college basketball court, but look again: The dogs are almost dead even at 872-873-35 ATS as we go to press.
Hey, winning on the road isn’t easy. Texas was actually a 1-point puppy in Manhattan, and all three of Duke’s defeats this year were away games. As for Memphis, well, every dog has his day.
No. 1 Texas at Connecticut
Saturday, Jan 23, 4:00 p.m. (ET) - Gampel Pavilion
Speaking of dogs, the Connecticut Huskies (12-6 SU, 7-9 ATS) hope Saturday will be their day. They’ve fallen out of the AP poll with three losses in their last four games, although UConn still has the respect of the coaches at No. 21 in their rankings.
But the focus is on Huskies coach Jim Calhoun; he was forced to take an immediate medical leave Tuesday afternoon, and although Calhoun’s health is reportedly not in immediate danger, there is no timetable for his return. The flu bug, by the way, has bitten several of his players this month.
Associate head coach George Blaney was in charge Wednesday as the Huskies (-9) downed the St. John’s Red Storm 75-59 in a glorified warm-up for Saturday’s meeting with the No. 1 Longhorns (17-1 SU, 7-7 ATS). Blaney is Calhoun’s right-hand man and has the confidence of his players, plus the experience of playing and coaching at Holy Cross before his three-year stint in charge of Seton Hall. If anything, the Huskies may play at a higher level for the more relaxed Blaney in the short term.
Texas, on the other hand, has drained all its betting value after such a hot start, dropping the cash in five straight games and needing overtime to beat Texas A&M (+14½) before losing 71-62 at Kansas State. The Wildcats were able to take advantage of Texas in the paint; that’s UConn’s modus operandi as well, with three 6-foot-9 starters on the frontline.
The Longhorns have also been digging their own grave with a 62.4-percent success rate from the free-throw line. That’s No. 325 out of 347 teams in Division I this year. UConn has been watching opponents hit 73.9 percent of their freebies; only nine teams have suffered more in this department. Saturday should bring the Huskies some welcome relief. CBS has the television coverage starting at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.
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No. 11 Georgia Tech at Florida State
Sunday, Jan 24, 12:00 p.m. (ET) - Tucker Civic Center
Georgia Tech (14-4 SU, 9-4 ATS) has one of those three aforementioned victories over Duke (-7), plus a 73-71 road win over North Carolina (-6½). Throw in a 66-64 nail biter at home over Clemson (+1), and the Yellow Jackets are playing their best basketball since Jarrett Jack led them to the Tournament final in 2004.
But there are some flaws on this team; Ken Pomeroy has the Jackets ranked No. 71 in the nation in offense, thanks in part to a weak non-conference schedule and a high turnover rate of 22.1 percent. The 'under' is 7-5 on the season and 4-1 in ACC action.
One of those 'under' results happened against Sunday’s opponent. Back on December 20, the Seminoles (14-4 SU, 4-9 ATS) went into Atlanta and dropped the Jackets 66-59 in overtime, cashing in as 5½-point puppies.
That was the high-water mark of the season for the ‘Noles; they were 2-6 ATS before that game, and they’re 1-3 ATS since, including an embarrassing loss at home to N.C. State (+11).
Even so, Florida State is ranked two spots ahead of Georgia Tech in overall efficiency at No. 24. This is a one-dimensional defensive team much like the Jackets: excellent defense (No. 3 in Division I), uninspired offense (No. 102) and a horrendous turnover rate (24.8 percent, or No. 325).
But make sure to check the betting odds before blindly taking the 'under' in Sunday’s contest. The 'over' is actually 4-1-1 for FSU at home this year. Must be those funky pregame introductions at the Civic Center, which you’ll get to see if you’re there live or you have access to ESPN Full Court. Tip-off is at noon Eastern.