How much Austin Rivers' buzzer-beating bomb last week means to the ACC standings in the long run remains to be seen. Its short-term effect is easy to see, however, as the conference enters this week with a three-way logjam at the top and three more squads within two games of first place.
North Carolina is part of the trio that shares the lead, the Tar Heels joined in that group by Duke and Florida State. Roy Williams and the Heels have an opportunity to at least break that deadlock on Wednesday and put some pressure on the Blue Devils and Seminoles who both play Thursday. It won't be easy for UNC, though, who ventures south to Coral Gables for an 8:00 p.m. (ET) match on ESPN against the Miami (FL) Hurricanes.
Opening lines listed the Tar Heels -5 with 145 for the total.
Williams' squad bounced back from the loss to Duke with a very strong showing last Saturday vs. Virginia. The 70-52 win at home was more than enough to cover the 10-point spread, and as has been the case for most games involving the Cavaliers this season, the final tally stayed 'under' the 133-point total. It was the first cover for UNC backers in five contests.
North Carolina's offense was still below par despite putting a dubya on the ledger. Some of that can be attributed to Virginia's fine defense, but not all of it. The Tar Heels sank just one 3-pointer for the second game in a row, hitting 1-of-10 from beyond the arc after a 1-of-6 performance a few days earlier vs. Duke. Long-range shooting isn't supposed to be the Heels' strength, but making 2-of-16 over a pair of games is going to lead to trouble.
Miami enters this matchup off a 64-59 loss at Florida State on Saturday, just grabbing the cover as 6½-point underdogs. The defeat snapped a 5-game win streak for the 'Canes.
The two teams squared off in Chapel Hill on Jan. 10 with UNC extending its streak to nine straight wins in the series with a 73-56 victory. The final margin was barely enough for Heels backers to cover the 16½-point spread and stayed well below the 154½-point total, marking the fifth 'under' in the last six meetings.
Aztecs, Lobos Square Off In Mountain West Bout
Another league to start the week with a three-way tie at the top is the MWC where UNLV, New Mexico and San Diego State each sit 6-2. That makes Wednesday's contest in San Diego between the Lobos and Aztecs either for sole possession or at least a share of first place, depending on the outcome of UNLV's game Tuesday at TCU.
Tip from Viejas Arena is set for 10:15 p.m. (ET) and the game started off as a pick on the early NCAA odds that also made 126 the scoreboard number.
Steve Alford and the Lobos have quietly fashioned a 20-4 overall record behind a stellar and underrated defense that ranks ninth nationally allowing just 57.3 points per game. That number dips to 56.5 in MWC play after holding Wyoming to just 38 points last Saturday when New Mexico picked up its fifth consecutive win since losing back-to-back contests to San Diego State and UNLV about a month ago.
The Lobos have also been making friends with bettors all season. New Mexico has covered all five in the current win streak and stands 16-5 against the spread for the campaign.
Steve Fisher and San Diego State are hoping to bounce back from a tough 65-63 loss at UNLV. The Aztecs did cash for their backers as 10-point underdogs to break a three-game losing skid at the college basketball betting window.
New Mexico and SDSU met in Albuquerque on Jan. 18 with the Lobos laying 10½ on their home court. The Aztecs pulled off the 75-70 upset for their fourth straight win in the series.
Murray State, Saint Mary's Warm Up Before BracketBusters Meeting
When the BracketBusters slate was first announced, Saturday's upcoming battle between Saint Mary's and Murray State definitely stood as the marquee matchup. A bit of the sheen is off now that the Racers saw their undefeated season end about a week ago, but it's still a must-see clash of tournament-bound teams and both are in action against strong competition as part of Wednesday's 70-game slate.
Murray State will make a short haul northwest to face Southeast Missouri State at 8:00 p.m. (ET) in a game that can be seen on ESPN3, while Saint Mary's is home to host the Loyola Marymount Lions in a late-night tip (10:30 ET).
Both games are rematches, with the Racers and Redhawks meeting less than two weeks ago on Murray State's floor. The Racers scored an 81-73 victory over SEMO as 14½-point favorites in a game that went well past the 137½-point total. Southeast Missouri was an 11-point dog at home last February when the two squared off on this floor, and the Redhawks came away with the outright upset, 64-57.
Saint Mary's was 7½-point road chalk on Jan. 26 when the Gaels met the Lions, and just missed the cover with a 71-64 triumph. That game also stayed 'under' the total (143) and marked the 11th-straight win in the series for Saint Mary's.