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by Matt Fargo - 03/18/2009
The Betting Numbers
When it comes to (1) against (16) matchups in the NCAA Tournament, we are always going to see big numbers and that is the case here. Connecticut, the top seed in the West Region opened as a three touchdown favorite over the SoCon Tournament Champion Moccasins and the line is holding steady and staying above 20 in all places. This is one of six opening round games that have a line of 20 or more. The over/under number of 145 has not moved at all since its inception on Monday.
The is just the second meeting between Chattanooga and Connecticut with the Huskies winning the first meeting 100-71 in the first round of the 1995 NCAA West Regional.
Connecticut was the preseason favorite to win the Big East Tournament and it nearly met expectations, finishing a game behind Louisville. The Huskies were looking for a rematch with the Cardinals in the Big East Tournament but they were upended by Syracuse in that classic six-overtime contest at MSG. Connecticut has dropped back-to-back games only once all season and it just so happened to take place in its last two games, losing at Pittsburgh in the regular season finale and then losing to the Orange as mentioned. Two of the Huskies four losses this season came against the Panthers.
Connecticut came into those final two games with a perfect 13-0 record away from home and those 13 wins include five victories against teams that are in the 64-team field as well as four others against teams playing in other postseason tournaments. The Huskies are ranked third in shooting defense in the nation, allowing 37.7 percent from the floor and they are also second in the country in rebounding margin at +10.5, trailing only Michigan St. Playing in the rugged Big East led to a strength of schedule ranking of 21st.
UT-Chattanooga was the surprise team to come out of the Southern Conference as Davidson was the odds on favorite to make it into the NCAA Tournament. The Mocs avoided the Wildcats in the SoCon Tournament and they almost were unable to make their run as they escaped with a one-point win against Elon in the opening round. Chattanooga has an 18-16 record with a lot of those losses piling up during the non-conference portion of the season. The Mocs were blown out early and often, losing to Tennessee by 39, Missouri by 28, Memphis by 12 and USC by 27.
The Mocs had a nice run in the middle of the year but they closed the regular season with three straight losses, making their tournament championship even that much more surprising. Chattanooga is one of only four teams in the entire tournament that is in the negative in shooting percentage margin, coming in at -0.2 percent. It is hitting only 65.5 percent from the free throw line, 6th lowest of all 64 teams and their 0.88 assist/turnover ratio is tied for 7th worse. It would take a minor miracle for the Mocs to pull off an outright upset here.
Against the Numbers
Neither team had much success against the books this season. Connecticut is 13-14 against the number including a 9-13 ATS mark as a favorite. Covering massive numbers has not been the strength of the Huskies as they are 0-6 ATS this season when giving up 15 or more points. They have had more success on the road than at home, going 9-6 ATS in road and neutral court games. Fading the Huskies down the stretch would have paid huge dividends as they went a money-burning 1-6 ATS in their final seven games.
The Mocs are not even as successful as they are 13-17 ATS on the year including a 6-10 ATS record in road and neutral court games. They covered just six of 15 games when getting points and are only 2-5 ATS as a double-digit underdog however that includes a 2-0 ATS mark when getting 20 or more points, covering those two games by a combined 28.5 points. Prior to the final two games in the SoCon Tournament, both ATS wins, the Mocs were on a miserable 0-5 ATS run.
The Huskies are a No. 1 seed for the fifth time in school history and in the previous four appearances, won the National Championship once (1999) but failed to make it past the Elite Eight in the other three appearancesâ€¦Connecticut has been sent to the West Region five times and that is where both National Championships started fromâ€¦ In nine previous NCAA Tournament appearances, the Mocs are 3-9 all time, advancing to the Sweet 16 in 1997â€¦Last year, No. 1 seeds won their first-round game by an average of 32 ppg.