Trio Of Early ATS NCAA Basketball Picks For Saturday

Matthew Jordan

Friday, February 19, 2016 9:55 PM UTC

Friday, Feb. 19, 2016 9:55 PM UTC

North Carolina leading the ACC at this point in the season? Expected. Miami? Very unexpected. Here are my top three NCAA Basketball picks on early-starting Saturday games.

No. 11 Miami vs. No. 5 North Carolina (-6 On NCAA Basketball Odds)
UNC was the overwhelming favorite to win the ACC regular-season title, while Miami was picked fifth. The Hurricanes didn't even  make the NCAA Basketball Tournament last season, finishing as the runner-up in the NIT. But Coach Jim Larranaga welcomed a couple of impact transfers who became eligible this season and have helped Miami to a 21-4 overall record and 10-3 in the ACC. The Canes enter this one having won five straight but were able to avoid any ranked teams in that stretch. They are unbeaten at home in ACC play. 

North Carolina (21-5, 10-3) appeared to have Wednesday night's blood rivalry game with No. 20 Duke in Chapel Hill in the bag a few times. But the Heels were stunned 74-73 for their first home loss of the season. UNC rebounded a Duke miss with just under 20 seconds left in the game, but Coach Roy Williams opted to let his team continue to play instead of calling a timeout and setting up something. It blew up big time as Joel Berry, who is probably the team's fifth-best player, attempted a shot in traffic in the lane and it was partially blocked.

Berry was just 2-for-12 on the night. You have to get the ball in the hands of either Brice Johnson or Marcus Paige there. Johnson is the likely ACC Player of the Year and had 29 points and 19 rebounds but didn't get a shot attempt in the final 4:45 of the game.  Paige struggled in the game but is the team's heart and soul. Williams apologized to his team afterward for not calling the T, saying he learned from his mentor Dean Smith to let the guys play and not allow the defense to get set. This is the only scheduled meeting between UM and UNC this season so it's big potential tiebreaker. North Carolina. According to the NCAA basketball odds boards, the favorite is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. Hard to see Heels losing a second straight at home -- I expect a double-digit win so I'm laying the points with the home team as my NCAA basketball pick

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: North Carolina -6
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle


Pittsburgh vs. Syracuse (-5.5 In NCAA Betting)
We stay in the ACC here with both the Panthers and Orange, former Big East rivals, on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Pittsburgh (18-7, 7-6) is projected as one of the final four teams in the Big Dance right now. The Panthers avoided a resume-crushing loss on Tuesday, ending a three-game losing streak with a 101-96 double overtime win over a bad Wake Forest team. A loss there would truly have been devastating considering Wake had lost 22 straight ACC road games. The Deacons were up five with about three minutes left in regulation. Pitt improved to 18-0 this season when scoring at least 70 points in a game. It crushed Wake on the boards, 58-35. It was the school's most rebounds since December 2011. Syracuse (18-9, 8-6) is in the NCAA Tournament -- generally a No. 9 seed -- but doesn't have a lot of wiggle room.

The Orange had a five-game winning streak end in a 72-58 loss at ranked Louisville on Wednesday. SU star freshman Malachi Richardson struggled, hitting just 2-for-10 for 10 points, his lowest total in nine games. Syracuse lost at Pittsburgh 72-61 in the ACC opener for both Dec. 30. Pitt closed the game on a 14-2 run. The Panthers outrebounded Syracuse 43-25. Orange head coach Jim Boeheim was still out suspended then. Syracuse. Pitt has covered only seven of its past 24 road games. SU is 7-3 ATS in its past 10 overall.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Syracuse -3
Best Line Offered: at Heritage


No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 10 West Virginia (-3.5 For NCAA Basketball Picks)
The Sooners (20-5, 8-5), the No. 1 team in the country for a few weeks, can all but kiss the Big 12 regular-season title goodbye if they lose this game. OU enters on a two-game skid. Losing at home to Kansas last Saturday is fine, but Wednesday's 65-63 loss at Texas Tech isn't acceptable -- perhaps it was a letdown game for Oklahoma. Back in January, the Sooners beat the visiting Red Raiders by 24. OU entered Wednesday's game as the top 3-point shooting team in the country but hit just 6-for-23. Big 12 leading scorer Buddy Hield was 3-for-10 from long range and held to 16 points.

The Sooners also got just seven bench points. West Virginia (20-6, 9-4) is a game behind conference-leading Kansas. The Mountaineers also enter off a loss, 85-78 at No. 24 Texas on Tuesday. WVU played without starting guard Daxter Miles Jr. (10.1 ppg), who didn't make the trip due to a hamstring injury. And fellow guard Jaysean Paige injured his foot vs. Texas and was limited to six minutes. He averages 13.5 points per game. Paige is expected to play Saturday but Miles Jr. is questionable. WVU visited Oklahoma on Jan. 16 and the Sooners won 70-68. Khadeem Lattin's tip-in with one second left was the difference. Paige had 18 for WVU. Oklahoma. The trends largely favor WVU, but the team isn't fully healthy. 

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Oklahoma +3
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker

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