Revenge angle in full effect for public in Florida-Kentucky action

On the final weekend before March arrives, the college basketball docket is stuffed with key games. Covers talks with Scott Cooley, odds consultant for offshore sportsbook, about the opening lines and early action on four of Saturday’s best matchups.

No. 5 UCLA Bruins at No. 4 Arizona Wildcats – Open: -1.5; Move: -1; Move: Pick

This is the titanic tilt of the day, tipping off at 8:15 p.m. Eastern, with Arizona looking to stay alone in first atop the Pac-12 and UCLA aiming to create a logjam at the top that includes No. 7 Oregon.

Arizona lost on a neutral court to Gonzaga on Dec. 3, but has been scorching hot since then, going 20-1 SU (11-8-2 ATS), with the only setback an 85-58 blitzing at Oregon as a 3.5-point underdog on Feb. 4.  The Wildcats (26-3 SU, 14-13-2 ATS) followed with five straight victories, including Thursday’s 90-77 home win over Southern California laying 9 points.

UCLA lost at home to Arizona 96-85 as a 5.5-point chalk on Jan. 21 and followed with an 84-76 loss at USC as a 7-point fave. But the Bruins (25-3 SU, 14-14 ATS) have won six in a row since then, including Thursday’s 87-75 victory at Arizona State giving 13 points. In that six-game stretch, UCLA has scored 82 or more points five times, twice eclipsing 100.

“This feels like a toss-up game, and we should get really good two-way action with this one,” Cooley said Friday night. “The sharp players have liked UCLA of late, so we’ll see if that continues to trend for this matchup.”

The Bruins were drawing line-moving action by late Friday night, with the number dropping to pick ‘em.

No. 12 Florida Gators at No. 10 Kentucky Wildcats – Open: -4.5; Move: -4

This Southeastern Conference tussle, which tips at 2 p.m. Eastern, could very well decide who wins the regular-season title. Florida (23-5 SU, 16-10 ATS) has somewhat quietly ripped off nine consecutive wins (7-2 ATS), and that includes an 88-66 rout of Kentucky as a 1.5-point home favorite on Feb. 4. On Tuesday night, the Gators dumped South Carolina 81-66 as a 7.5-point home chalk.

The Wildcats (23-5 SU, 14-14 ATS) bounced back from the Florida loss to win their last five, including a 72-62 victory at Missouri laying 16 points Tuesday. John Calipari’s squad has also won and cashed four of the last five in this rivalry.

“The revenge angle is in full effect for the public here, after the embarrassment Kentucky was dealt in the last meeting,” Cooley said. “But early money is on the Gators and the under.”

Indeed, after opening Kentucky at -4.5, Florida cash dropped the number to 4 on Friday night. But then started seeing heavier action on the Wildcats, adjusting their price to -115. The total opened at 157, was quickly bet down to 155.5, then went back up to 156.5 late Friday night.

No. 23 Creighton Bluejays at No. 2 Villanova Wildcats – Open: -10; Move: -11; Move: -10.5

Villanova is surely stinging from Wednesday’s 74-66 home loss to Butler as a 10-point chalk, giving the Bulldogs a season sweep of the Big East series. But the Wildcats (26-3 SU, 14-14 ATS) are still in full control of first place, thanks to a seven-game win streak (2-5 ATS) prior to that upset.

Creighton (22-6 SU, 17-9 ATS) has tried to hold its season together after losing point guard Maurice Watson to a knee injury in mid-January. The Bluejays have gone a middling 4-5 SU and ATS since then, including Wednesday’s 68-66 home loss to Providence as a 6.5-point favorite.

On New Year’s Eve, visiting Villanova beat Creighton 80-70 laying 1.5 points.

“Early sharp money on the under forced a move, but things could change once we bump limits,” Cooley said, noting the total dropped from 150 to 148.5, before rebounding to 149.5 and then to 150 again. “Currently, we have 75 percent of wagers on the home squad.”

That caused to adjust the line a full point to 11, though late Friday night it ticked down to 10.5. Tipoff is at 3 p.m. Eastern.

Brigham Young Cougars at No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs – Open: -20; Move: -20.5

It seems you can’t make the line high enough for Gonzaga, which not only sports a perfect 29-0 SU record, but is No. 1 in the nation with a stout 20-5-1 ATS mark, cashing at an 80 percent clip. The Bulldogs boatraced San Diego 96-38 laying a hefty 24 points on the road Thursday night.

Brigham Young (20-10 SU, 11-15-1 ATS) has won three of its last four, routing Portland 97-78 Thursday as an 11.5-point fave. BYU and Gonzaga met three weeks ago, with the Zags notching an 85-75 road win to push as a 10-point chalk.

“We’ve certainly reached a point where Gonzaga lines are inflated, because everyone knows about their sensational ATS run up to this point,” Cooley said, alluding to the Zags almost always being a double-digit favorite, often 20 points or more. “It’s often difficult to attract money on the other side of Gonzaga games, because their opponents are teams nobody pays attention to. And in this case, it’s safe to say that BYU doesn’t have a ton of homer players. We’ll need the Cougars here.”

The Bulldogs were drawing about 60 percent of the action late Friday night. Tonight’s game tips at 10 Eastern.

Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.


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