NCAA Tournament Betting: Belmont Challenges Arizona
Thursday night Belmont will go searching for its first-ever NCAA tournament victory when it battles the Arizona Wildcats in a West Regional game in Salt Lake City (7:20 pm ET, TNT).
Can the Bruins, playing in the NCAA tournament for the third straight season and finally advance to the next round or will the Wildcats avoid Belmont's upset bid and cover a short spread?
Bruins-'Cats Betting Lines
Depending upon the book, Arizona opened at -4, -4.5 or -5 for this game, with a total of 140. In the early betting action most spreads gravitated toward the 4.5.
Going by Sagarin's PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com the Wildcats should be favored by 3.5 points for this game
Belmont could also be found at upwards of +175 on the moneyline at some NCAA betting outlets.
Belmont only returned two starters this season from the team that won the Atlantic Sun last year before losing to Georgetown by 15 points in the NCAA tournament. Nonetheless, the Bruins were the pre-season favorites to win the Ohio Valley Conference this year, their first as an OVC member. And led by its senior back-court combo of Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson, Belmont lived up to those expectations.
The Bruins went 12-4 through non-conference play, beating Stanford, Middle Tennessee, Ohio and South Dakota State and losing to VCU, Kansas and Central Florida. Belmont then went 14-2 to post the best record in OVC play, and won the conference tournament, rallying to beat Murray State 70-68 in overtime in the title game two Saturdays ago.
Arizona, meanwhile, only returned one starter from a team that missed the NCAA tournament last year. But the Wildcats possessed some serious young talent, which had many “experts” tabbing the 'Cats for a top-three finish in the Pac-12 this season. And that's where they ended up, finishing in a tie for second place, one game behind first-place UCLA.
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Arizona started 14-0 this season and reached No. 3 in the polls before losing at Oregon. But the 'Cats later went a bit cool down the stretch, going 4-4 over their last four games, then lost in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Conference tournament to UCLA 66-64 last Friday.
Along the way Arizona defeated Florida, Miami, San Diego State and Colorado twice, while six of its seven losses came to teams that made the NCAA tournament.
Bruins-'Cats, Statistically Speaking
Belmont, playing a schedule ranked as 163rd-toughest by Sagarin, is shooting 49 percent from the floor this season, 38 percent from 3-point range and 74 percent from the FT line. The Bruins are also holding opponents to just 41 percent FG shooting, but getting out-rebounded by about one board per game.
Arizona, playing Sagarin's 43rd-ranked schedule, is shooting 45 percent from the field this season, 36 percent from long range and 75 percent from the line. Defensively the 'Cats are limiting foes to 42 percent shooting, and they're out-boarding them by about six per game.
Bruins-'Cats Betting Trends
Belmont is 13-10 on the OVER/UNDERS this season, as its games have averaged 141 points.
Arizona is 9-17 on the totals, as its games have averaged 137 points.
Free NCAA Tournament Pick:
Belmont has a nice pair of experienced guards and some momentum, having won its last six games. Arizona, on the other hand, is still on the young side, and has split its last 10 games. So we give the underdogs a chance at an upset here.
To be safe, take the Bruins at the +4.5 points offered at The Greek.