Thursday NCAA News and Notes

Thursday NCAA News and Notes

Thursday's Afternoon Action
By Chris David

The NCAA Tournament tips off Thursday with eight games taking place in the afternoon.

Let’s break down the first session.

**No. 14 Georgia vs. No. 3 Xavier (West - Washington D.C., 12:20 p.m.)**

After winning three games in two days en route to the SEC Championship this past weekend, Georgia was rewarded with a quick turnaround game against a quality Xavier team. The Bulldogs won and covered all four games in the SEC tournament, cashing tickets as live ‘dogs in all four. Prior to this run, Georgia was 2-11 in its previous 13 games. Do the Bulldogs have anything left in the tank or is Dennis Felton’s team spent after their remarkable conference tournament run?

The school is going to find out soon and unfortunately their opponent is deep, talented and more importantly experienced. For those of you who forget, the Musketeers had last year’s NCAA tournament runner-up, Ohio State, on the ropes in the second round of the tournament. Unfortunately, Xavier choked late and eventually fell in overtime to the Buckeyes and their former coach Thad Matta. Xavier is one of four schools in the field of 65 that have at least five players averaging double digits, led by the speedy point guard Drew Lavender (10.7 PPG, 4.7 APG).

Prior to their SEC tournament run, Georgia was just 2-11 on the road. Xavier owns a 10-5 mark away from home.

**No. 16 Portland State vs. No. 1 Kansas (Midwest – Omaha, 12:25 p.m.)**

The first of 12 double-digit favorites take to the court Thursday, as No. 1 seed Kansas (-23) meets No. 16 Portland State. Oddsmakers are expecting the blowout victory and the Jayhawks to score rather easily. KU is averaging 81.5 PPG, ranked 10th in the country. Plus, they’re shooting 50.5 percent from the field, which is the third best nationally. Kansas has watched the ‘over’ go 16-14 on the year. Portland State earned an automatic bid, first in school history after winning the Big Sky tournament. The Vikings’ offense (74 PPG) can score albeit against a weaker competition, which has helped the ‘over’ cash to a tune of 18-10. If you want to get a better gauge on PSU, take a look at their three non-conference losses to UCLA (69-48), Washington State (72-60) and Washington (84-65). The Huskies managed to put up the most points, while the Bruins’ defense absolutely stifled them. All three of the schools shot better than 50-plus percent from the field, including an eye-opening 65 percent by WSU. If Kansas’ defense steps up, then a possible cover seems very doable.

**No. 12 Temple vs. No. 5 Michigan State (South – Denver, 12:30 p.m.)**

An expected defensive match from Denver, as Temple and Michigan State go head-to-head. The Owls enter the tournament on a roll, capturing the Atlantic 10 tournament with three straight wins and covers. The Owls’ defense stepped it up in the conference battles, surrendering 45 and 64 in the semifinals and finals. Temple owns a 3-4 SU and 5-1 ATS mark versus schools in this year’s tourney, while Michigan State has gone 4-5 SU and 4-4-1 ATS. Toss in the fact that the Owls own an impressive 11-8 SU and 13-5 ATS record on the road and it seems like catching seven points looks easy. As we all know, it’s never easy when it comes to betting on sports and that’s the case here. The Spartans could easily be a No. 4 or even a No. 3 seed if they didn’t choke in the Big Ten finals to Wisconsin, losing a 65-63 contest in the last minute where they held a late lead too. Head coach Tom Izzo is battle tested and most would expect MSU’s defense to concentrate on Temple’s best player, Dionte Christmas (20.2 PPG). The Spartans are led by point guard Drew Neitzel (14.2 PPG, 4 APG), who is a senior leader that is known to make big shots.

**No. 11 Kentucky vs. No. 6 Marquette (South – Anaheim, 2:30 p.m.)**

As VI handicapper Brian Edwards pointed out in his Bracket Analysis piece, “Kentucky and Marquette have a history in the NCAA Tournament. In fact, the Golden Eagles have dealt UK two of its most painful defeats over the last two decades. Dwyane Wade’s triple-double led Tom Crean’s team past top-seeded Kentucky in the Elite Eight round of the 2003 Tournament. Back in the 1994 Tournament, Marquette shocked UK in a second-round matchup in St. Petersburg.”

Fast forward to 2008 and now it’s the Golden Eagles (-6) listed as favorites against the Wildcats. Kentucky started slow this year under new head coach Billy Gillespie with a 7-9 mark before closing with an 11-3 run. Marquette is a very experienced team, led by the backcourt of Jerel McNeal (14.3 PPG) and Dominic James (13 PPG). The Eagles often live and die by the jumper too much, attempting 20 shots from 3-point land per game. When Marquette has connected on 50-plus percent from the field this year, they own a perfect 9-0 record. Kentucky has gone 6-6 SU and 5-7 ATS on the road while Marquette owns a 10-6 both SU and ATS record away from home.

“When it comes to backing a team in the first round of the tournament, nobody has been better than Kentucky of late. The Wildcats are 16-0 SU in this round, which makes the short number seem doable if you go with trends,” said handicapper Marc Lawrence.

**No. 11 Baylor vs. No. 6 Purdue (West – Washington D.C., 2:50 p.m.)**

Baylor was said to be the last at-large bid invited into this year’s NCAA Tournament and the run ‘n gun Bears have their work cut out for them against a tenacious Purdue defense (60.8 PPG). While the Bears’ offense is legit, their defense is allowing 74.4 PPG. Baylor finished the year with a 5-8 record, including a humbling loss to Colorado (91-84) in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. Purdue also ended the year with a rude awakening by falling in the Big 10 tourney to Illinois, 74-67. If the game is tight, then the free throw shooting edge goes to Baylor (74.2%) in this matchup, even though Purdue (70.6%) is commendable as well. The betting public often falls in love with high-scoring teams and Baylor fits that criteria. Gamblers should make a note that the Bears are just 3-8 SU and 5-5 against teams in this year’s tournament. Meanwhile, Purdue has stepped up with a 4-3 SU and 6-1 ATS ledger against similar foes.

**No. 9 Kent State vs. No. 8 UNLV (Midwest – Omaha, 2:55 p.m.)**

This battle pits a pair of schools that like to play games in the sixties. An off shooting night for either squad will have them struggling to bust 55, with an expected slow tempo forecasted. Kent’s defense is very good and has gotten better as the season progressed. In the Mid-American tournament, Kent gave up 57, 47 and 45 en route to the championship. The Rebels don’t run these days and their defense is much better compared to great teams led by Jerry Tarkanian. Head coach Lon Kruger’s club has only given up 65 points or more once in the past eight games. The total is hovering around 125 points, while Kent State is a short favorite (-2) despite being the higher seed.

The Golden Flashes rely heavily on guard Al Fisher (14 PPG), who is either on or off. The Rebels have a solid guard as well, with Wink Adams (16.6 PPG). Kent owns an impressive 12-6 SU and 10-8 ATS record on the road. UNLV is a respectable 6-5 both SU and ATS outside of Sin City. The Rebels opened up some eyes last year in the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen with wins against No. 10 Georgia Tech and No. 2 Wisconsin before falling to No. 3 Oregon.

**No. 13 Oral Roberts vs. No. 4 Pittsburgh (South – Denver, 3:00 p.m.)**

The Panthers have become a fashionable pick after watching the school win four straight games last weekend en route to capturing the Big East championship. Pittsburgh went 3-1 ATS during its title run, while the ‘over’ went 3-1 as well. The ‘over’ has gone 10-1 in the Panthers last 11 contests, which has improved the season ledger to 17-13. Pittsburgh has gone 11-1 in its non-conference games this year and is 10-7 SU and 9-8 ATS on the road.

Oral Roberts head coach Scott Sutton is very confident, “I believe we’re very capable of winning a couple games and we’re no strangers to upsets. Last year, we went into Allen Field house and knocked off then No. 3 Kansas (78-71). Anything can happen in any game, especially this time of the year.“

The Golden Eagles’ strength comes from their great defense (61 PPG) and the squad has five players that average 9 PPG or more. Plus they have two sharp shooters in Robert Jarvis (40.9%) and Moses Ehambe (40.2%) that can stroke it from beyond the arc.

The total on this game opened at 130 but has dipped to 127 at most books, most likely due to the defensive tendencies by each school and perhaps the high altitude in Denver.

**No. 14 Cornell vs. No. 3 Stanford (South – Anaheim, 5:00 p.m.)**


Perhaps we should call this matchup the “Battle of the Brains”, considering both schools are held highly on the academic front. The last game of the first session looks like an easy win on paper for Stanford, but this Cornell team was clearly the best team in the Ivy League (14-0) this year. The Big Red can fill it up from the outside, averaging 77 PPG. The team is hitting 49 percent of its shots, including a blistering 41.3 percent from downtown. And you don’t want to foul Cornell either, with the school hitting 76.3 percent from the free throw line. Talent is lacking, evidenced in losses to Syracuse (80-64) and Duke (81-67) during the regular season. Keep an eye on Ryan Wittman (15.4 PPG), who has drilled 46.6 percent of his attempts from downtown.

The problem for Cornell in this matchup will come in the paint, since the Ivy squad doesn’t boast a player over 6’9”. That’s going to be a problem facing the 7-foot Lopez twins. Brook is the bettor of the two, averaging 19.2 PPG and 8.5 boards. He posted 20, 30 and 15 during the school’s recent Pac 10 run.

“Trends favor Stanford in this matchup, considering the Ivy League has gone 0-9 SU and 1-8 ATS in their last nine NCAA Tournament appearances,” added VI expert Marc Lawrence.

Stanford is 11-0 SU and 4-7 ATS as a double-digit favorite this year. They are 6-0 SU and 4-2 ATS in their previous six games against Ivy schools, winning by an average of 28.5 PPG.

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Thursday Night Tip Sheet
By Brad Young

Easily one of the best sporting days of the year is here with the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. There is nothing like being in a Las Vegas sportsbook during the first two days of the Big Dance.

Over the years, I have seen 50-year-old guys in 30-year-old Hofstra t-shirts two sizes too small with a beer and a stogie in one hand and a fistful of tickets in the other. This is taking place at nine o’clock in the morning, with fans screaming at four different games. Like I’ve said in numerous radio spots or columns, it is my favorite day of the year with New Year’s Day ranking a close second.

Maybe it’s because my alma mater, The University of Arizona, has advanced to 24 consecutive NCAA Tournaments while the football team has played on New Year’s Day just once. Now let’s take a look at Thursday’s late action.

**Belmont (15) versus Duke (2)**

-Caesars Palace installed Duke as a decided 19 ½-point ‘chalk’ versus Belmont, with the total set at 154. CBS Sports will provide coverage of this contest beginning Thursday at 7:10 p.m. ET from Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

-Belmont (25-8 straight up, 1-0 against the spread) won the Atlantic Sun Conference by cruising past Jacksonville as a 6½-point favorite, 79-61. The Bruins also won the regular season title by two games.

-Belmont jumped out to a 45-23 halftime advantage, finishing the contest by shooting 51 percent (28-of-55). Guard/forward Shane Dansby led the offense with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting, while Matthew Dotson added 14 and four rebounds.

-The Bruins are 14-7 SU and 1-0 ATS on the road, winning those affairs by an average score of 79-76.

-Duke (27-5 SU, 17-13 ATS) dropped to 1-2 SU and ATS its last three games after falling to Clemson in the ACC Tournament as a 4 ½-point ‘chalk,’ 78-74.

-The Blue Devils shot 43 percent (26-of-60) from the field, but the Tigers connected at a 51-percent clip (28-of-55). Duke guard Greg Paulus scored 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting in a losing effort.

-The Blue Devils are 12-4 SU and 7-9 ATS away from home, winning those matchups by an average score of 80-73.

**Arizona (10) versus West Virginia (7)**

-Caesars Palace opened West Virginia as a two-point favorite over Arizona, with the total listed at 138. This game is scheduled to start at 9:40 p.m. ET from Verizon Center in Washington D.C.

-Arizona (19-14 SU, 16-14 ATS) dropped to 1-2 SU and ATS its last three games after falling to Stanford in the Pac-10 Tournament as a 2 ½-point underdog, 75-64. The Wildcats are appearing in their 24th consecutive NCAA Tournament, the longest current streak.

-Arizona was outscored by the Cardinal in the second half, 40-29, finishing the game by getting dominated on the boards, 50-27. Four of the Wildcats’ five starters reached double digits in scoring, led by Jerryd Bayless who had 18 points on 4-of-14 shooting.

-Arizona is 8-8 SU and 9-6 ATS on the road, winning those games by an average score of 70-67.

-West Virginia (24-10 SU, 14-13 ATS) was riding a four-game SU winning streak before falling to Georgetown in the Big East Tournament as a three-point underdog, 72-55. The Mountaineers are just 1-3 ATS their last four games.

-West Virginia was outrebounded, 36-19, while allowing the Hoyas to shoot 53 percent (32-of-60) from the field. Forward Joe Alexander has 12 points and five rebounds in a losing effort.

-The Mountaineers are 10-7 SU and 8-8 ATS on the road, winning those games by an average score of 70-65.

**Cal State Fullerton (14) versus Wisconsin (3)**


-Caesars Palace lists Wisconsin as an 11½-point ‘chalk’ over Cal State Fullerton, with the total set at 136. This contest from Omaha, Nebraska’s Qwest Center is scheduled to begin at 9:40 p.m. ET.

-Cal State Fullerton (24-8 SU, 18-8 ATS) won the Big West Conference Tournament by upending Cal Irvine in the final as a six-point favorite, 81-66. The Titans were locked in a three-way tie atop the regular season standings with UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge.

-Cal State Fullerton prevailed by shooting 53 percent (29-of-55) from the field while also winning the rebounding battle, 35-28. Guard Josh Akognon led all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-16 shooting.

-The Titans are 13-5 SU and 12-3 ATS on the road, winning those affairs by an average score of 81-73.

-Wisconsin (29-4 SU, 16-14 ATS) won the Big Ten Tournament after beating Illinois in the title game as a seven-point ‘chalk,’ 61-48. The Badgers have alternated ATS wins and losses their last five games.

-Wisconsin shot 49 percent (25-of-51) from the field, but just two players reached double digits in scoring. Forward/center Brian Butch scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, while forward Marcus Landry added 10 and six rebounds.

-The Badgers are 13-2 SU and 10-5 ATS on the road, winning those outings by an average score of 64-55.

**Kansas State (11) versus Southern Cal (6)**

-Caesars Palace installed Southern Cal as a three-point favorite over Kansas State, with the total set at 141. This contest is scheduled to start at 7:10 p.m. ET from Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

-Kansas State (20-11 SU, 11-14 ATS) had won back-to-back outings SU before falling to Texas A&M in the Big XII Tournament as a 1 ½-point ‘chalk,’ 63-60. The Wildcats have failed to cover their last seven games.

-Freshman sensation Michael Beasley had 25 points on 10-of-21 shooting along with nine rebounds in the setback, while Bill Walker added 10 and six assists.

-Kansas State has struggled to a 5-9 SU and 3-11 ATS road record, dropping those matchups by an average score of 77-74.

-Southern Cal (21-11 SU, 18-11 ATS) had strung together three victories in a row SU before falling to rival UCLA in the Pac-10 Tournament as an eight-point underdog, 57-54.

-The Trojans led the Bruins at halftime, 34-28, but were outscored in the second half, 29-20. USC shot 43 percent (20-of-47) from the field, led by guard OJ Mayo’s 15 points and six rebounds.

-The Trojans are 10-6 SU and 11-5 ATS on the road, winning those contests by an average score of 68-62.

-Kansas State beat USC back in 2006 as a 3 ½-point neutral-court underdog, 68-55.

**George Mason (12) at Notre Dame (5)**

-Caesars Palace opened Notre Dame as a 6½-point ‘chalk’ over George Mason, with the total listed at 142. This game is slated to start at 9:50 p.m. ET from Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.

-George Mason (23-10 SU, 14-16 ATS) swept through the Colonial Athletic Conference Tournament by beating William & Mary in the final as an 8 ½-point favorite, 68-59. The Patriots finished three games behind Virginia Commonwealth in the regular season standings.

-George Mason won the rebounding battle, 31-26, while shooting 49 percent (24-of-49) from the field. Guard/forward Folarin Campbell enjoyed a solid game with 20 points along with six rebounds and four assists.

-The Patriots are 10-9 SU and 8-11 ATS away from home, winning those games by an average score of 70-68.

-Notre Dame (24-7 SU, 14-14 ATS) was riding a four-game SU winning streak before losing to Marquette in the Big East Tournament as a one-point underdog, 89-79. The Fighting Irish are 1-2 ATS their last three games.

-Notre Dame entered halftime with a 38-32 advantage, but was dominated in the second half, 57-41. All five starters reached double digits in scoring, led by Kyle McAlarney’s 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting.

-The Fighting Irish are a modest 7-7 SU and ATS on the road, winning those matchups by an average score of 77-74.

**Winthrop (13) versus Washington State (4)**

-Caesars Palace lists Washington State as a nine-point ‘chalk’ over Winthrop, with the total set at 113. This game is scheduled to begin at 7:20 p.m. ET at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. The 113 points is the lowest total of any first-round game in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

-Winthrop (22-11 SU, 2-1 ATS) won the Big South Tournament by pummeling UNC Asheville as a one-point underdog, 66-48. The Eagles finished the regular season tied with UNC Asheville atop the standings.

-Wintrhop broke open a close game by outscoring the Bulldogs, 44-30, in the second half. The Eagles controlled the glass, 38-27, while shooting 41 percent (21-of-51) from the field. Guard Michael Jenkins led all scorers with 33 points on 11-of-19 shooting.

-Washington State (24-8 SU, 14-15 ATS) takes the court for the first time since losing to Stanford in the Pac-10 Tournament as a two-point underdog, 75-68. The Cougars are just 1-3 ATS their last four games.

-Wazzu shot 44 percent (22-of-50) from the field, but was outrebounded by the taller Cardinal, 35-27. Guard Kyle Weaver enjoyed a solid effort with 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting while grabbing 12 rebounds.

-The Cougars are 14-4 SU and 9-7 ATS on the road, winning those matchups by an average score of 67-59.

**Mississippi Valley State (16) versus UCLA (1)**

-Caesars Palace installed UCLA as a decided 32-point ‘chalk’ over Mississippi Valley State, with the total set at 122. This game is set to start at 9:55 p.m. ET from Honda Center in Anaheim, California. This is the highest line of any opening-round game in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

-Mississippi Valley State (17-15 SU, 0-1 ATS) won the SWAC Tournament by slipping past Jackson State as a three-point favorite, 59-58. The Delta Devils have won their last nine games.

-Mississippi Valley State was outrebounded, 36-28, and shot just 37 percent (22-of-60) but forced 18 turnovers. The Delta Devils got balanced scoring, led by Chris Watson’s 10 points off the bench.

-Mississippi Valley State is 9-11 SU and 0-1 ATS away from home, dropping those contests by an average score of 68-59.

-UCLA (31-3 SU, 19-12 ATS) continued its winning ways by taking the Pac-10 Tournament title by holding off Stanford as a 3 ½-point ‘chalk’, 67-64. The Bruins are just 1-3 ATS their last four outings.

-UCLA outrebounded the Cardinal, 39-34, shooting 38 percent (27-of-71) from the field. Guard Darren Collison stepped up with 28 points, while center Kevin Love added 12 and six rebounds.

-The Bruins are a solid 12-1 SU and 9-3 ATS on the road, although Anaheim is just 43 miles from their campus. UCLA has been winning its road endeavors by an average score of 70-61.

**Texas A&M (9) versus Brigham Young (8)**

-Caesars Palace lists Texas A&M as a two-point ‘chalk’ over Brigham Young, with the total set at 129. This contest is scheduled to start at 7:25 p.m. ET from Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

-Texas A&M (24-10 SU, 16-12 ATS) won its first two games in the Big XII Tournament before falling to Kansas as an 11-point underdog, 77-71. The Aggies have covered their last three outings.

-Texas A&M outrebounded the Jayhawks, 29-23, but allowed them to shoot 54 percent (28-of-52) from the field. Aggies forward Bryan Davis netted 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting while grabbing seven rebounds in the setback.

-Texas A&M is 8-6 SU and 9-5 ATS on the road, dropping those affairs by an average score of 64-63.

-Brigham Young (27-7 SU, 16-13 ATS) had won six games in a row SU before losing to UNLV in the Mountain West Conference Tournament final as a one-point road favorite, 76-61.

-The Cougars were leading at halftime, 37-33, but were outscored in the second half, 43-24. BYU shot 44 percent (20-of-45) from the field, but was outrebounded by the Rebels, 35-23. Guard Fimmer Fredette paced the offense with 17 points off the bench on 5-of-8 shooting.

-The Cougars are 11-6 SU and 10-7 ATS away from home, winning those games by an average score of 68-63.

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Re: Thursday NCAA News and Notes

Travel Tolls
By Judd Hall

“To the victor go the spoils.”

We’ve all heard that famous phrase at one time or another…Especially in our gambling ventures.

The same cliché works well in college basketball, too. Your team finishes the regular season well and they’ll receive a lofty seed in the tournament. They also get a few opening round matches as close to their campus as humanly possible.

So if the top programs are playing near home, then their opponents are almost certainly getting the shaft. Unless they really enjoy frequent flyer miles, then they’re as happy as pigs in slop. The Top 4 seeds of each region this season are an average of just 500 miles away from their home sites. UCLA is just 26 miles away from home, playing in Anaheim. Meanwhile, Connecticut will be in Tampa, a total of 1,276 miles from Storrs.

Will the close proximity to home be a benefit or hindrance to the higher-seeded clubs? VegasInsider.com expert handicapper Tom Freese believes it could be detrimental. “My friend coached college basketball for 18 years and I was with him every step of the way. He always said that "I hope they send us to Alaska."

Freese continues, “He always wanted to be far away from home because he always said the further away from home, the fewer distractions we’ll have to keep us from the task at hand.”

Truth be told, being close to home to appear to really matter one way or another. Top 4 seeds in the NCAA Tournament have gone 30-2 straight up and 21-10-1 since 2006. The ‘under’ went 19-13 in that stretch as well.

So we know the top seeds will be fine, but that doesn’t account for the rest of the field. Reason being is there are a lot of programs far from home come Thursday and Friday.

There are 20 teams that will be playing at least two time zones away from their base of operations in this year’s bracket, six of them will be facing off in contests against one another. Compare that with 14 clubs last season in that spot and nine teams in 2006.

Are there any games that this could possibly make a difference in?

Look at the Notre Dame-George Mason contest, for example. The sportsbooks have made the Irish 6 ½-point favorites, with the total coming in at 142.

The Fighting Irish played in a very tough Big East Conference, finishing second with a 14-4 SU league mark. Notre Dame also boasts the top scoring offense from that league, racking up 80.6 points per game. The Irish even has the No. 1 three-point percentage in the Big East, making 41.0 percent of their shots beyond the arc.

All should be well for Notre Dame, right? Wrong. George Mason won its way into the tourney this season, make no mistake about that fact. However, you must admit the Pats earned their way in. Mason has a quality defense, allowing just 62.3 PPG. And they turn the ball over just 12 times a game.

Last year, ND was a 3 ½-point “chalk” against Winthrop in the first round of the championship. The Irish led the Eagles in the same offensive categories. Meanwhile, Winthrop led in scoring defense and turnovers per game.

The Eagles ended up pulling the 11th seed over sixth seed upset, 74-64 in Spokane, Washington: on the other side of the nation for both programs

This season, the Fighting Irish and Patriots will be traveling out to Denver, Colorado for their opening round scuffle. Call me crazy, but the similarities seem to be more than just mere coincidence.

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NCAA Tournament Trends
By Marc Lawrence

Attention all cardiologists and pacemaker patrons: PLEASE STAND BY. The biggest event in the world of College Basketball is set to tip-off March 20th as 64 participants take to the floor in the most celebrated 'Dance' of the year - namely the NCAA Tournament! To help choose your partner, we share ROUND by ROUND coverage of how teams have fared most recently in the Tourney. This week we'll cover Rounds One and Two. Next week we'll look at action in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds, before concluding with Final Four weekend.

Included in this chart are each team's overall Straight-Up (SU) and Against The Spread (ATS) records as they enter onto the road to the Louisiana Superdome. Get your remote control and nitroglycerin ready as it's time for the 2008 NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT to begin as we begin our journey to San Antonio. Enjoy...

NCAA 1st Round Notes:

#1 Seeds off BB SU wins and favs of < 25 points are 11-1 ATS (2-0 LY)
#2 Seeds are 4-18-3 ATS vs opponents off a SU win (0-1-1 LY).
#3 Seeds off a SU favorite loss are 25-1 SU & 18-7-1 ATS (2-0 LY)
#4 Seeds are 18-6 ATS as favorites of < 9 points (8-1 L4Y)
#9 Seeds are 2-6 ATS as favorites of 3 > points
Dogs of 3 > points off a DD SU loss are 11-2 ATS L4Y

Conference Tournament Champs in this round:

ACC: 0-5 ATS…
Atlantic 10: 5-3 ATS…
Big 10: 2-4 ATS…
Big 12: 2-5 ATS…
Big East: 2-12 ATS…
Big West: 0-3 ATS…
Colonial: 10-4 ATS…
Conf USA: 1-3 ATS…
Horizon: 4-2 ATS…
MAC: 5-2 ATS…
Missouri Valley: 1-4 ATS…
Mountain West: 2-6 ATS…
Pac 10: 2-4 ATS…
Sunbelt: 3-4 ATS…
Southeastern: 4-2 ATS…
WAC: 2-6 ATS… West Coast: 1-5 ATS

BEST team SU records in this round:
Kentucky 16-0, Connecticut 13-0, Purdue 9-0, Gonzaga 4-0, North Carolina 14-1, Duke 10-1, Georgetown 8-1, Wisconsin 5-1, Kansas 15-2.

WORST team SU records in this round:
BYU 0-5, Arkansas 0-4

BEST team ATS records in this round:
Butler 4-0, Indiana 4-0, Kent State 3-0-1, Georgetown 7-1, Purdue 5-1, UCLA 5-1, Mississippi State 4-1

WORST team ATS records in this round:
Marquette 0-5, Oregon 0-5, Arkansas 0-4, Gonzaga 0-3, Connecticut 1-8, Duke 1-4, Oklahoma 1-4

BEST Conference ATS records in this round:
Big 10: 6-0-1, Southeastern: 4-1, Horizon: 6-2, Missouri Valley: 12-5, Coloniall: 6-3, Big West: 6-3

WORST Conference ATS records in this round:
West Coast: 0-4, WAC: 0-3, Ivy League: 1-6, Big East: 4-8

NCAA 2nd Round Notes:


#1 Seeds are 1-11 ATS off 3+ SU & ATS wins (0-2 LY)
#4 Seeds are 4-15 ATS S/'02 (1-3 LY)
#5 Seed dogs are 10-3 AST S/'99 (2-1 LY)
#7 Seed dogs of 3 > points are 10-22 ATS (1-13 ATS vs opp off BB SU wins)
#8 Seeds are 20-11 ATS S/'95 (9-1 ATS vs opp off BB SUATS wins)
#9 Seed dogs off a SU dog win are 4-13 ATS
#10 Seeds are 13-3 ATS
#13 or worse Seeds are 4-22 SU & 7-18-1 ATS

BEST team SU records in this round:
Duke 9-0, UCLA 8-0, Georgetown 5-0, Kansas 5-0, Michigan State 6-1, Arizona 4-1, Pittsburgh 4-1

WORST team SU records in this round:
Mississippi State 0-3, Xavier 1-6

BEST team ATS records in this round:
Kansas 7-0, Vanderbilt 3-0, Purdue 5-1, Louisville 5-1-1, Arizona 4-1, Memphis 4-1, Texas 4-1

WORST team ATS records in this round:
Stanford 0-6, Villanova 1-4, Wisconsin 1-4

BEST Conference ATS records in this round:
PAC 10: 10-0 vs opp of BB SUATS wins…
Southeastern: 12-2 as dogs 2 > pts…
Big East: 12-3 as dogs…
Big 12: 19-6…
Missouri Valley: 9-5 (5-0 dogs < 7 pts).

WORST Conference ATS records in this round:
Big West: 0-4…
Big East: 1-7 as favs…
ACC: 2-12 as favs < 10 pts…
WAC: 1-5 as DD dogs…
Southeastern: 5-15 as favs…
Conf USA: 5-14 off SUATS win

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Re: Thursday NCAA News and Notes

ASA: Overrated/Underrated
March 19, 2008

Once March Madness comes around and the NCAA Tournament brackets are released, determining who the haves and the have-nots are can be an arduous task. Obviously teams like North Carolina and UCLA are highly likely to go deep in to the tournament while programs like Morgan State and American are highly likely to go home quickly. Here’s a look at some teams in between, three that are underrated and three that are overrated:

Underrated

South Alabama – The Jaguars suffered an unfortunate loss to Middle Tennessee State in the semifinals of the Sun Belt tourney and that will hurt their seeding in the NCAA Tournament. South Alabama has done more than enough to earn itself an at-large bid to the dance, though, and will not be an easy out. The Jags are 37th in the nation in RPI, bolstered by non-conference wins over Mississippi State and San Diego, close three-point losses at Ole Miss and Vanderbilt and a season sweep of Sun Belt rival Western Kentucky. Because of its conference affiliation, South Alabama will be overlooked in the tourney but it shouldn’t be. The Jags play solid offensively and defensively and will be hungry to prove they belong.

San Diego – West Coast Conference headlines have been dominated by Gonzaga and St. Mary’s this year, leaving San Diego out in the cold. The Toreros proved what they’re capable of in the conference tourney, beating both the Gaels and the Zags en route to winning the WCC’s automatic bid. Momentum plays a big role come NCAA Tourney time and San Diego has momentum to spare. The Toreros are 13-2 SU and 12-3 ATS in their last 15 games, highlighted by two wins over St. Mary’s and another over Gonzaga. They likely won’t garner a seed any higher than 12 but they could pull off a big first-round upset.

Mississippi State – Many experts felt the SEC had a down year this season. Mississippi State wasn’t one of those teams that fell short of expectations. The Bulldogs won the SEC West with a 12-4 record, finishing behind just Tennessee for best record in the entire league. Mississippi State plays phenomenal defense, which can carry any team deep into the brackets. The Bulldogs, anchored by human fly swatter Jarvis Varnado, are second in the nation in both blocked shots and field-goal percentage defense. Senior forward Charles Rhodes and junior guard Jamont Gordon are two of the most underappreciated players in the country. They’ll have their coming out parties in the tournament.

Overrated

Washington State – The Cougars, like Mississippi State, have one of the country’s best defenses. Unlike the Bulldogs, Washington State doesn’t have the offense to keep up. It shot up the standings behind a weak non-conference schedule but has been frustratingly inconsistent since. The Cougars went just 11-7 (8-10 ATS) in Pac-10 play and bettors never knew which team would show up. Would it be the team that swept USC or the team that went 5-4 (3-6 ATS) in conference home games? Washington State has very few impressive wins on its resume after being swept by UCLA, Stanford and Arizona. The Cougars are prime candidates to be upset in the opening round.

St. Mary’s – The Gaels have experienced a very similar season progression as Washington State. They have made a name for themselves behind wins over bad teams while picking up very few impressive wins. St. Mary’s has shown little ability to beat a good team away from home, falling at Southern Illinois, Texas, San Diego and Gonzaga while also losing at home to Kent State. The Gaels didn’t post a single road win over a team with a winning record this season. They won’t be facing any sub-.500 teams in the tournament, which could lead to an early exit.

Michigan State – Tom Izzo and his Spartans are usually a good bet come March but 2008 just doesn’t seem like Michigan State’s year. Like the previous two overrated nominees, the Spartans have struggled mightily away from home. They went just 3-6 SU and ATS in Big Ten road contests, falling at Iowa and Penn State. Michigan State averaged just 53.8 points per game in those six losses and is susceptible to long stretches of offensive ineptitude. The Spartans have an impressive history of NCAA Tournament success, leading to them being overrated nearly every March. Unless Michigan State is able to turn it around in the Big Ten Tournament, the Spartans could be a prime candidate for an early-round dismissal.

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Re: Thursday NCAA News and Notes

Total Talk

“One of the most telling tales when analyzing totals is determining the expected tempo. Teams that attempt over 60 shots per game normally average 70 points per game or more, while schools that play in the sixties are only taking 50 attempts a game,” said Manos.

“Anytime you have totals of 145 or more, you can be assured that you have high-tempo teams playing and vice versa with totals 132 or less. What often happens in the tournament is that you have a fast-paced team versus a half-court offense and that’s where the handicapping comes in.”

“Everybody knows it’s much easier to slow a game down than speed it up, but don’t be surprised to see teams that normally play in the half-court take advantage of easy points on the fast break, since points are always at a premium.”

To clarify Manos’ comments further, North Carolina is the highest scoring team in the tournament with an average of 88.7 PPG. The Tar Heels earned this number by attempting an eye opening 66 shots per game. Conversely, Wisconsin averages 49 attempts per game, which has translated into 67.3 PPG.

Along with tempo, Manos pointed to balanced scoring as another factor in totals handicapping. “When betting overs, I try to find teams that have multiple players averaging double digits on the stat sheet. If you’re a one-dimensional team offensively, the greater chance you’re going to get shut down,” explained Manos.

In this year’s field of 65, only four schools have five or more players that are averaging double-digit points. They include Xavier, Clemson, Duke and the Governors of Austin Peay.

Let’s take a closer look at some high and low totals for the first round.

Highest Totals

Belmont – Duke (154)


Anytime you have two teams, Belmont (80.1) and Duke (84.1), averaging 80 points per game you can surely expect a shootout. As Manos mentioned above, the tempo is set up for a run ‘n shoot style too, with both schools attempting 60-plus shots per game. More importantly, the Blue Devils attempt 24 3-pointers per game and connect on 38.4 percent of them. Belmont loves to chuck the long ball just as much, hoisting up 29 bombs per game. They’re hitting at a 36.5 clip. Free throw shooting for both teams is just under 70 percent, but most wouldn’t expect many attempts with most of the action coming from outside the paint. BCS schools Alabama (83) and Xavier (90) both lit up Belmont in non-conference battles.

Portland – Kansas (146)

The Jayhawks are averaging 81.5 PPG, ranked 10th in the country. Plus, they’re shooting 50.5 percent from the field, which is the third best nationally. Kansas has watched the ‘over’ go 16-14 on the year, while Portland State has turned a better profit with an 18-10 ‘over’ ledger. If you want to get a better gauge on Portland State, take a look at their three non-conference losses to UCLA (69-48), Washington State (72-60) and Washington (84-65). The Huskies managed to put up the most points, while the Bruins’ defense absolutely stifled them. All three of the schools shot better than 50-plus percent from the field, including an eye-opening 65 percent by WSU. This ‘over’ ticket should come down to Kansas’ defense.

Siena – Vanderbilt (154)

Even though this is one of the 150-plus totals on the board, gamblers should note that Siena has an opportunistic defense (71.1 PPG) that is great off the ball and creates turnovers. And that’s translated into an 18-12 ‘under’ ledger. Vanderbilt lives and dies by the three, and fortunately the school does a pretty good job of hitting from downtown (40.4%). The Commodores are also great from the free throw line (73.6%), which is always a plus for the late bonus free throws. As good as Vandy’s offense is, the defense (74.6 PPG) hasn’t held up its side of the bargain. Here’s a nice stat – the ‘over’ has gone 11-3 in Vanderbilt’s 14 non-conference games. The Commodores broke 80-plus points in all but three of those battles.

Boise State – Louisville (146)

This game has the potential to see the winner, most likely Louisville, break the century mark. Boise State brings forth a great offense (82 PPG, 50%FG) and it will face a tough test against a Louisville defense (38%FG) that is known for shutting down opponents. Boise is a very good shooting team from the outside, hitting 39% from 3-point land. The key to the total is not the offense of Boise, rather their inept defense. The Broncos are giving up 75 PPG, which is ranked 298 out of 328 schools. Louisville has talent, shooters, big men that can pound you and more importantly, they press! BSU will keep shooting until the final horn sounds.

Lowest Totals

Winthrop – Washington State (111)


The lowest total on the board in the first round is between defensive gurus in Winthrop (58.2 PPG) and Washington State (57.1 PPG). The Eagles (53) and Cougars (49) both are unselfish and keep their attempts a bare minimum. WSU is known to play to the tempo presented, evidenced by giving up 73, 70 and 75 in its last three Pac 10 battles. The ‘over’ cashed in all three. Gamblers should make a note that Winthrop is a pathetic 59.5 percent from the charity stripe, which always helps ‘under’ tickets.

Mississippi Valley State – (UCLA 122)

Mississippi Valley State is arguably the worst offensive team in the 65-team field. The Delta Devils are averaging 62.7 PPG and are connecting on just 40.6 percent of their shots. You put that anemic attack up against a UCLA defense that is holding teams to 59.1 PPG and you have serious trouble. The team total on MVS is hovering around 45 points and that number might be tough to eclipse for the Devils. Especially when you look at their non-conference losses to Pittsburgh (78-45), Washington State (71-26) and even Baylor (82-50), who doesn’t even play defense.

Kent State – UNLV (126)

This battle pits a pair of schools that like to play games in the sixties. An off shooting night for either squad will have them struggling to bust 55, with an expected slow tempo. Kent’s defense is very good and has gotten better as the season progressed. In the Mid-American tournament, Kent gave up 57, 47 and 45 en route to the championship. The Rebels don’t run these days and their defense is much better from the great teams in the nineties. Head coach Lon Kruger’s club has only given up 65 points or more once in the past eight games.

South Alabama – Butler (125.5)

Butler owns the fifth-best defense in the country, giving up 57.8 PPG. The Bulldogs love to slow the pace down, attempting an average of 50 shots per game. South Alabama likes to play at a notch higher than Butler, attempting 54 shots and averaging 75.5 PPG. The Jaguars only have three players on their team that can score, led by Demetric Bennett (20.1 PPG). If he’s off, South Alabama will be lucky to bust 50 points.

St. Joseph’s – Oklahoma (126.5)

The ‘under’ has been golden for both St. Joseph’s (18-13) and Oklahoma (18-12) this year. The Hawks’ defense was amazing during their Atlantic 10 run, watching the team hold their four opponents to 62, 47, 53 and 69. The ‘under’ went 3-1 during the tournament. The Sooners have closed the year with seven straight ‘under’ tickets. The Sooners’ offense ranked near the bottom of the Big 12 in three major categories, FG% (44.2), FT% (68.1) and 3-PT% (34.8).

Line Moves

The following numbers have jumped after the opening line came out on Sunday. This time of the year is hard to define steam or sharp action from public, since the handle for the NCAA Tournament as a whole is comparable to the Super Bowl.

# Baylor – Purdue 143 to 141 (Differing styles meet in the nation’s capitol)
# Winthrop – Wash St. 114 to 111 (See above)
# Pittsburgh – Oral Roberts 130 to127 (Panthers just played four straight in the Big East tournament and now travel to Denver. Perhaps tired legs in the high altitude?)
# Boise State –Louisville 143 to 147 (See above)

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Re: Thursday NCAA News and Notes

UCLA big men on the mend from injuries heading into NCAA tournament
ASSOCIATED PRESS

LOS ANGELES (AP) -UCLA's Kevin Love and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are on the mend from injuries sustained in last weekend's Pac-10 tournament, although coach Ben Howland was vague on whether Mbah a Moute would play in Thursday's NCAA tournament opener.

Love, the Pac-10 player and freshman of the year, strained his lower back in the opening minute of Saturday's title game against Stanford. He and the rest of the Bruins (31-3) returned to practice Tuesday after taking two days off.

''He seemed to be in good spirits,'' Howland said. ''He might have been a little sore.''

Love is receiving treatment on his back, but he was not limited in practice. The center is expected to start Thursday against 16th-seeded Mississippi Valley State (17-15), coming in on a nine-game winning streak. The third-ranked Bruins have won 10 in a row and they are hte tournament favorite to win it all in March at 4-1.

Mbah a Moute sprained his left ankle for the second time this season in Friday's Pac-10 tourney semifinal win against Southern California and didn't play in the title game. He didn't practice Tuesday because he had a final exam, but he did some light shooting. The junior forward, a veteran of consecutive Final Four appearances, was off crutches and in a walking boot Sunday.

''I assume if he's able to do some light shooting he's not in the walking boot, but I don't know,'' Howland said. ''If he's able to go, we'll play him on Thursday.''

The Bruins will make the 46-mile trip to Anaheim on Wednesday after a morning practice in Westwood. They are scheduled to practice again for 40 minutes that day in front of fans at Honda Center, like all tournament teams. But Howland doesn't like the arrangement.

''You have everybody scouting each other so you won't have a real practice where you'll work on strategic stuff,'' he said. ''You don't really practice.''

Tuesday, the top-seeded Bruins focused on mental preparation for the Delta Devils, who got into the NCAAs for the first time since 1996, defeating Jackson State by one point to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament. Their lineup is dominated by upperclassmen, including 6-foot-10 senior Larry Cox, who will contend with Love in the post. UCLA is favored by 32 points.

Howland has played his starters major minutes this season, but the team's bench saw extra time after the injuries to Love and Mbah a Moute in the Pac-10 tourney. Sophomore forward James Keefe could see more minutes after scoring eight points and defending well in the Bruins' 67-64 victory over Stanford.

''He rebounded well. He finished around the basket, he changed some shots and he was quick to the ball,'' Howland said. ''On the defensive end, he was very, very aggressive.''

Of the four No. 1 seeds - including North Carolina in the East, Memphis in the South, and Kansas in the Midwest - the Bruins have played the most games against NCAA tournament seeds. They are 14-2 against the field, North Carolina is 9-1, Memphis 6-1 and Kansas 8-2.

''I just think our team has played the toughest schedule,'' Howland said. ''Playing that many teams in the tournament, night in, night out, we have played the toughest schedule however you want to look at it.''

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Re: Thursday NCAA News and Notes

Depleted Wildcats not worried about being one and done in NCAAs
ASSOCIATED PRESS

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -Billy Gillispie's mix of joy and relief at making the NCAA tournament didn't last long.

Oh, the usually reserved first-year Kentucky coach admits he got a little emotional after the Wildcats made the tournament for the 17th straight season. Moments after Kentucky's name flashed across the screen on Sunday night, Gillispie gave the Wildcats a speech guard Ramel Bradley likened to a father telling his sons he's proud of them.

Gillispie's sentimentality ended there, because he knows it's not enough for the Wildcats to make the field of 65. The seven NCAA championship banners hanging from the Rupp Arena rafters told him that.

By the time the tournament selection show ended, video coordinator Tim Asher was stockpiling game tape of sixth-seeded Marquette (24-9), Kentucky's opponent in the opening round of the South Region on Thursday in Anaheim, Calif. Marquette opened as a 4 1/2-point favorite but that number has since moved to six points.

It's a matchup Gillispie called ''scary,'' particularly for the injury-ravaged Wildcats (18-12).

Kentucky will play without star freshman Patrick Patterson, who is out for the season with an ankle injury. The Wildcats could also be without guard Jodie Meeks, who has been limited to 11 games this year because of a stress fracture in his pelvis and a strained hip flexor.

Gillispie said during a teleconference on Monday that Meeks - the team's best shooter when healthy - will try to ''give it a go.''

Kentucky could use him to help the Wildcats keep up with Marquette's speedy backcourt of Dominic James and Jerel McNeal. The two combine for 27.3 points and more than two steals a game and can bury opponents in a flurry of shotmaking.

''They have great guards, they have really good role players that really carry out roles and they compete hard for every single play on both ends of the court,'' Gillispie said.

It's just another challenge for a team that's spent the year trying to overcome one obstacle after another, be it injuries or shocking losses to Gardner-Webb and San Diego.

The Wildcats rallied from their slow start behind a gritty determination they inherited from their coach. Though they'll be an underdog against Marquette, they're not worried about becoming the first Kentucky team in more than 20 years to be one and done in the tournament.

The last time Kentucky dropped a first-round game was in 1987, before most of the players on this year's team were born. Going home early isn't the kind of history Bradley and fellow senior Joe Crawford want to make in their final days with the Wildcats, not that they're worried about it.

After one of the more tumultuous seasons in recent memory, they think the Wildcats are ready for anything.

''We've been gaining a lot of steam, getting better,'' Bradley said. ''That's the best thing for a team.''

To beat the Golden Eagles - who knocked off Kentucky in the Midwest Regional Final in 2003 behind Dwyane Wade - the Wildcats will likely have to find a way to slow James and company down.

It's a task they think they're up for after a brutal Southeastern Conference season in which Kentucky went 12-4, with all of their conference wins coming by 10 points or less.

Still, Gillispie joked that as prepared as he expects his team to be, Marquette probably isn't the best first-round matchup for the Wildcats.

''If you could ask me who you would like to play, I would like to play a soft team that didn't play hard, that'd be the best,'' Gillispie said with a laugh.

No such luck for the Wildcats. Then again, they're used to it.

''We've faced a lot of great teams and we've had a lot of major undertakings and we haven't backed down from any one of them yet,'' Gillispie said.

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Re: Thursday NCAA News and Notes

Big Ten teams are traditional 'under' bets at Tourney time
Covers.com

Anyone who caught a glimpse of the Big Ten Tournament last weekend knows that the Big Ten style fits the Midwest mindset. This conference is to college basketball what the NFC North is to the NFL. It’s the black-and-blue conference and opposing teams will know when they just played a Big Ten team because they’ll feel it for weeks.

From top to bottom, every Big Ten team pounds on the opposition by putting a strong emphasis on defense. This style of play often leads to low-scoring games, which leads to a lot of under totals. The NCAA Tournament is no different.

Big Ten programs have historically favored the under in the Big Dance, going 32-23 in the first round. Here’s a year-by-year look at Big Ten totals in the first round of the tournament:

1999: 6-1, 2000: 5-1, 2001: 4-3, 2002: 2-3, 2003: 2-3, 2004: 2-1, 2005: 3-2, 2006: 2-4, 2007: 4-2

Of the four Big Ten teams locked into the field this year, three are in the top 38 in the nation in scoring defense with Wisconsin and Purdue both in the top 20. The Badgers lead the nation with just 54.4 points allowed per game, the Boilermakers are 20th in the country with 60.9 points allowed per game followed by Michigan State at 61.9, good for 38th in the country. If Ohio State is able to sneak into the tourney, it is 25th in the nation with merely 61.3 points allowed per game.

The four locked-in Big Ten teams in the tourney combined to go 58-52-4 in the unders this season.

Over the last seven NCAA Tourneys, within the first two rounds, Big Ten programs have gone “under” the total in 15 of the 21 games in which the total was 140 or more. Also, in tourney games featuring Big Ten squads over the same period, the over has gone 12-8 (60%) when Vegas posted a first- or second-round total of 130 or less.

We have several great spots in our crosshairs lined up for this weekend and expect each of those situations to win big. Have a great March.

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MIDWEST REGION

(16) Portland State (23-9, 16-12-1 ATS) vs. (1) Kansas (31-3, 18-14 ATS)


Kansas locked up a No. 1 seed in this event by besting Texas 84-74 as a 5½-point favorite in Sunday’s Big 12 tournament championship game. The Jayhawks have won seven straight games, with six of the wins coming by double digits. However, they’re just 5-9 ATS in their last 14 outings, all as a favorite.

This is Kansas’ 19th straight NCAA Tournament appearance, which is the second-longest active streak in the nation behind Arizona (24).

Portland State, which won the Big Sky regular-season title by three games, cruised to the conference tournament championship with a pair of double-digit routs over Idaho State (72-61 on March 11) and Northern Arizona (67-51 on March 12). The Vikings, who are making their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, have won five in a row and 14 of their last 15 games, and they’re 8-4 ATS in their last 12.

Portland State comes into this contest on ATS runs of 7-2 as an underdog this year, 4-0-1 as a neutral-site ‘dog and 5-2 on Thursdays.

Kansas is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 non-conference outings and 10-4 ATS this year as a favorite of more than 17 points. However, the Jayhawks, who advanced to the Elite Eight of last year’s NCAA Tournament, are 2-5 ATS in their last seven Tournament games (all as a favorite) and 3-15 ATS in their last 18 on Thursdays.

No. 16 seeds are 0-92 all-time in the Tournament, and last year, the four bottom seeds lost in the opening round by an average of 31.3 points per game, going 1-3 ATS.

Favorites went 21-10-1 ATS in the first round of last year’s tourney, with double-digit favorites posting a 7-2-1 ATS mark. In fact, the top five seeds in each region in 2007 combined to go 20-0 SU and 15-4-1 ATS in the opening round.

Both teams have explosive offenses, with Portland State averaging 83.8 points per game (55 percent shooting) over its last five games and Kansas scoring 81.2 (52.4 percent shooting) in its last five. Not surprisingly, the over is on streaks of 14-4-1 for Portland State overall, 5-1-1 for Portland on Thursdays, 5-2 for Kansas overall, 7-2 for Kansas in the NCAA Tournament and 12-3 for Kansas when favored in the NCAA Tournament.

ATS ADVANTAGE: PORTLAND STATE and OVER


(9) Kent State (28-6, 17-12 ATS) vs. (8) UNLV (26-7, 17-11-2 ATS)

UNLV, which reached the Sweet 16 of last year’s NCAA Tournament, earned the automatic berth by capturing the Mountain West tournament championship on Saturday, hammering BYU 76-61 as a one-point favorite in a game played on its home floor. The Runnin’ Rebels, who have qualified for the Big Dance in back-to-back years for the first time since the Jerry Tarkanian days of the early 1990s, have won four in a row and seven of their last eight (5-2-1 ATS).

Kent State won both the regular-season and conference tournament titles in the Mid-American Conference and is back in the NCAAs for the fifth time in the last 10 years, the first since 2006. The Golden Flashes have won five straight (4-1 ATS) and 11 of their last 12 (8-4 ATS).

Kent State has been a strong bet along several fronts lately, going 8-2 ATS in their last 10 overall, 6-2 ATS in their last eight non-conference games, 21-9-1 ATS in their last 31 at neutral sites, 19-3-1 ATS in their last 23 as a favorite at neutral sites and 16-2 ATS in their last 18 on Thursdays.

The Runnin’ Rebels sport positive ATS trends of 23-8-1 in non-conference action, 8-2 in postseason play, 42-20-3 against teams with a winning record, 4-1 at neutral sites and 5-1-1 as a neutral-site underdog. Last year, UNLV went 2-1 ATS in its three NCAA Tournament games.

For UNLV, the under is on streaks of 7-3-1 overall and 16-5-1 as an underdog. For the Flashes, the over is on runs of 8-3 at neutral sites and 5-0-1 on Thursdays, however the under is 6-1-1 in Kent’s last eight non-conference affairs.

ATS ADVANTAGE: UNDER


(11) Kansas State (20-11, 11-14 ATS) vs. (6) USC (21-11, 18-12 ATS)

USC lost to UCLA 57-54 in the semifinals of the Pac-10 tournament on Saturday, but cashed as an eight-point underdog. The Trojans, who are back in the Big Dance for the second straight year, are on a 6-2 run (5-3 ATS). Last year, Tim Floyd’s team advanced to the Sweet 16 after knocking off Arkansas and Texas in the first two rounds.

Kansas State received one of the final at-large berths into the Field of 65, as the committee overlooked the fact that the Wildcats struggled big time down the stretch, losing five of their final seven games. That includes a one-and-done effort in the Big 12 tournament, as Kansas State got eliminated in a 63-60 loss to Texas A&M as a 1½-point favorite on Friday. The Wildcats, who have failed to cash in seven straight games, are in the Tournament for the first time since 1996. They’ve lost their last five Tournament games by an average of 11 points per contest.

These teams met two years ago in a preseason tournament in Las Vegas, and Kansas State prevailed 68-55 as a two-point underdog.

The Wildcats are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games as a neutral-site underdog. However, they’re 3-8 ATS in their last 11 non-conference outings and 1-5 ATS in their last six when catching less than seven points. Meanwhile, USC is on ATS streaks of 20-8 in non-conference play, 6-2 in the NCAA Tournament, 16-5 following a straight-up loss and 35-17 against winning teams.

This contest pits two of the best freshman in the country against one another, with Player of the Year candidate Michael Beasley (26.5 points, 12.5 rebounds per game) of Kansas State matched up against USC’s O.J. Mayo (21 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists per game).

No. 6 seeds are 14-6 SU in the first-round of the Tournament over the last five seasons.

For K-State, the over is on streaks of 19-7 overall, 7-2 in non-conference games and 4-1 as an underdog. However, five of the Wildcats’ last six games against the Pac-10 Conference have stayed low, and the under is on further runs for the Trojans of 7-0 at neutral sites, 22-7 in non-conference play and 4-1 against the Big 12.

ATS ADVANTAGE: USC


(14) Cal State Fullerton (24-8, 18-8-1 ATS) vs. (3) Wisconsin (29-4, 17-13 ATS)

Wisconsin captured both the Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships, and the Badgers come into the Big Dance having won 10 in a row (8-2 ATS). That includes victories over Michigan (51-34), Michigan State (65-63) and Illinois (61-48) over the weekend to claim the league tournament title.

The Badgers are in the NCAA Tournament for the 10th straight year, but their last two stays were brief. They lost to Arizona in the first round of the 2006 event, then got bounced in the second round by UNLV last season, losing 74-68 as a six-point favorite.

Cal State Fullerton looked very impressive in rolling to the Big West tournament championship, recording double-digit wins over U.C. Riverside (81-69), Cal State Northridge (83-68) and U.C. Irvine (81-66) on consecutive days. The Titans, back in the Big Dance for the first time in 30 years, have won six in a row and 14 of their last 16, and they’re 10-2-1 ATS in their last 13 lined outings.

Cal State Fullerton is on pointspread streaks of 16-5-1 overall, 5-2 in non-conference play, 8-2-1 following a victory and 5-1-1 as an underdog. Meanwhile, Wisconsin is a middling 7-8 ATS as a double-digit chalk this year (1-3 ATS when laying between 10 and 12 points).

This game features a classic contrast in styles. Fullerton averages 82.5 points per game – sixth-best in the nation – while Wisconsin leads the NCAA in points-allowed, surrendering just 53.8 ppg. The Badgers have held eight of their last 10 opponents to 57 points or fewer, giving up 48, 42, 41 and 34 in four of those contests.

All four No. 3 seeds won their opening-round games last year, going 3-1 ATS.

The Titans are on over streaks of 7-3 at neutral sites, 4-0 as a neutral-site underdog and 13-3 on Thursdays, but the under is 5-2 in Fullerton’s last seven overall. Meanwhile, for Wisconsin, the under is on runs of 6-1 overall, 5-1 on Thursdays and 4-0 in non-conference games. However, the over is 4-0 in the Badgers’ last four NCAA Tournament games.

ATS ADVANTAGE: NONE


WEST REGION

(14) Georgia (17-16, 16-13 ATS) vs. (3) Xavier (27-6, 13-16 ATS)


Xavier easily won the Atlantic 10 regular-season title, but bowed out early in the conference tournament, losing 61-53 to St. Joseph’s in a semifinal matchup as a 9½-point favorite. The Musketeers, who are making their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance and seventh in the last eight years, are 13-2 in their last 15 games, with both defeats coming against St. Joe’s.

Georgia completed a stunning run to the SEC tournament championship on Sunday, beating Arkansas 66-57 as a 7½-point underdog. The Bulldogs, who won just four games through the entire SEC season, won four times in three days in the weather-delayed tournament to capture the automatic bid as a No. 12 seed and end a six-year NCAA Tournament drought.

While Xavier has been winning on the court, it has been burning money, going 6-12 ATS in its last 18 games (5-12 ATS as a favorite), including 1-4 ATS in the last five. On the bright side, the Musketeers are on positive ATS streaks of 23-7 at neutral sites, 11-5 in non-conference games and 6-1 in NCAA Tournament contests.

The Bulldogs have cashed in four straight and five of their last six, going 5-0 SU and ATS as an underdog. For the season, Georgia is 6-3 ATS as a single-digit underdog.

Xavier is on a 5-2 “under” tear, while Georgia has stayed low in five of its last six contests. However, the over is 7-1 in Xavier’s last eight NCAA Tournament contests.

ATS ADVANTAGE: NONE


(15) Belmont (25-8, 4-2 ATS) vs. (2) Duke (27-5, 16-13-2 ATS)


Duke grabbed a No. 2 overall seed despite playing inconsistently down the stretch, going 5-4 in its last nine games after starting the season 22-1. After knocking off Georgia Tech 82-70 in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament on Friday, the Blue Devils got eliminated by Clemson, falling 78-74 as a 4½-point favorite on Saturday. Mike Krzyzewski’s club has also followed up a 7-0-1 ATS streak by going 3-7-1 ATS in its last 11, all as a favorite.

Duke’s 13th straight NCAA Tournament showing is the fourth-longest active streak in the nation.

Belmont qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year by winning the Atlantic Sun championship, capped by a 79-61 rout of Jacksonville as a 6½-point favorite in the tournament championship game on March 8. The Bruins are riding a 13-game winning streak coming into this contest, and they’re 16-1 in their last 17.

Belmont, which rarely plays lined contests, is 2-5 ATS in its last seven as an underdog, including 1-4 ATS as a neutral-site pup.

In addition to its overall 3-7-1 ATS slump, Duke is mired in pointspread funks of 1-4 in neutral-site games (all as a favorite), 1-6 in NCAA Tournament contests and 1-7 in NCAA Tournament games as a favorite. Last year, the Blue Devils left the floor quickly in the Big Dance, getting bounced by Virginia Commonwealth 79-77 as a six-point favorite in the opening round. One positive for Duke: It went 6-3 ATS as a favorite of more than 17 points this season.

Duke ranks third in the nation in scoring at 84.1 points per game. Meanwhile, the Bruins average 79.3 points per game, and they’ve scored 74 points or more in all but three contests this season, hitting the 80-point barrier 18 times.

No. 2 seeds went 4-0 (2-1-1 ATS) in first-round action in 2007.

For Belmont, the over is on streaks of 7-1 overall and 6-0 in non-conference games. However, for Duke, the under is on streaks of 4-0 overall, 5-0 in neutral-site games, 23-9 in non-conference action and 7-2 as an NCAA Tournament favorite.

ATS ADVANTAGE: UNDER


(10) Arizona (19-14, 16-14-1 ATS) vs. (7) West Virginia (24-10, 14-13-1 ATS)

West Virginia had a four-game winning streak snapped in the semifinals of the Big East tournament, losing 72-55 to Georgetown as a three-point underdog on Friday. The Mountaineers come into this contest on a 2-4 ATS slump.

Despite going 3-6 in its last nine games, Arizona received a controversial at-large berth, extending its streak of NCAA Tournament appearances to 24 in a row, the longest active streak in the nation. The Wildcats routed Oregon State 87-56 in the opening round of last week’s Pac-10 tournament, then got bounced the next night by Stanford 75-64 as a 2½-point underdog.

Arizona has followed up a 6-0 ATS run by going 4-6 ATS in its last 10 (2-3 ATS as a favorite). The Wildcats are also 8-18 ATS in their last 26 on Thursday. On the flip side, they’re on ATS upticks of 4-0 after a straight-up defeat, 6-1 in the Tournament, 6-2-1 in non-conference games and 16-7 at neutral sites.

The Mountaineers, who missed out on the Big Dance last year after qualifying the two previous seasons, are 6-0-1 ATS in their last two Tournament appearances. They’re also 20-7 ATS in their last 27 games as a favorite of less than seven points, 42-20-1 ATS in their last 63 non-conference games and 29-14-1 ATS in their last 44 as a favorite. However, they have failed to cash in four of their last five neutral-site outings.

No. 7 seeds swept No. 10 seeds in last year’s NCAA Tournament, going 4-0 ATS in the process.

The over is on streaks of 6-1 for West Virginia overall, 8-3 for West Virginia on Thursdays, 11-5-1 for West Virginia at neutral sites, 4-1 for Arizona in the NCAA Tournament, 4-1-1 for Arizona against the Big East and 6-1 for Arizona as an underdog.

ATS ADVANTAGE: OVER


(11) Baylor (21-10, 13-10 ATS) vs. (6) Purdue (24-8, 17-11-1 ATS)

Purdue went one-and-done in the Big Ten tournament, falling to Illinois 74-67 in overtime on Friday as a 4½-point favorite. The Boilermakers have split their last six games (3-2-1 ATS) since an 11-game winning streak (10-1 ATS), and they’re back in the Tournament for the second straight year.

Baylor earned an at-large berth – their first since 1988 – despite stumbling into the Tournament on a 5-8 SU slump (6-7 ATS). In Thursday’s opening round of the Big 12 tournament, the Bears were stunned by last-place Colorado 91-84 despite being an 8½-point favorite.

These teams played a home-and-home series in 2003-04 and 2004-05, with the visitor winning both contests. Baylor cashed as a double-digit ‘dog in each contest.

The Bears are on ATS hot streaks of 8-1 at neutral sites, 5-0 as an underdog at neutral sites, 4-1 as an underdog overall and 13-3-1 as a pup of less than seven points. Purdue also sports several positive ATS trends, including 4-1 in the Tournament, 12-2 as a favorite of less than seven points, 6-1 as a favorite of any price, 7-3 in neutral-site contests and 20-9-1 following a non-cover. However, the Boilermakers have failed to cash in four straight non-conference outings.

The under is 8-1 in Purdue’s last nine contests as a chalk and 4-1 in Baylor’s last five neutral-site affairs. Otherwise, the Bears, who are one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation, have a bevy of “over” streaks, including 21-7 overall and 13-3 as an underdog.

ATS ADVANTAGE: NONE


WEST REGION

(9) Texas A&M (24-10, 15-13 ATS) vs. (8) BYU (27-7, 16-11-3 ATS)


BYU fell apart in the second half of Saturday’s Mountain West tournament championship game against UNLV in Las Vegas, losing 76-61 as a one-point road underdog. Despite that setback, the Cougars’ 15-2 spurt to the finish line was enough to garner them their second consecutive NCAA Tournament at-large berth. Last year, the Cougars got bounced in the first round, losing 79-77 to Xavier but cashing as a 2½-point underdog.

Texas A&M played inconsistent basketball down the stretch, losing six of its final 10 games. However, the Aggies went 2-1 in last week’s Big 12 tournament (3-0 ATS), getting eliminated by eventual champion Kansas 77-71 on Saturday but cashing as a 10½-point pup. Last year, Texas A&M, which is making its third consecutive Tournament appearance, advanced to the Sweet 16 of the Big Dance, where they suffered a heartbreaking 65-64 loss to Memphis as a 3½-point favorite.

The Aggies are 12-4 ATS in their last 16 postseason (conference and postseason tournament) contests. They’re on further positive pointspread surges of 13-3 at neutral sites, 4-1 in the NCAA Tournament, 5-1 as a neutral-site favorite and 12-5 following an outright defeat.

Despite the loss to UNLV, BYU is on ATS streaks of 4-1-2 overall, 6-2 at neutral sites and 4-0 on Thursdays. However, the Cougars have been a terrible underdog bet of late, going 22-56-2 in their last 80 as a pup (2-7 ATS in the last nine) and 19-41-1 ATS in their last 61 as a pup of less than seven points. They’re also 1-5 ATS in their last five non-league outings.

The under is 5-1 in the Aggies’ last six overall, 4-1 in their last five Tournament games, 5-1 in their last six at neutral sites and 4-0 in their last four on Thursdays. The under is also 7-1 in BYU’s last eight non-conference games, but the Cougars have topped the total in 13 of their last 16 on Thursdays and eight of their last 11 at neutral venues.

ATS ADVANTAGE: TEXAS A&M


(16) Mississippi Valley St. (17-15, 1-3 ATS) vs. (1) UCLA (31-3, 19-12-2 ATS)

UCLA begins its quest for a third straight trip to the Final Four after a terrific season that saw Ben Howland’s squad claim both the regular-season and conference-tournament championships. In Saturday’s tournament finale, the Bruins held off Stanford 67-64 for their 10th consecutive victory, but the Bruins came up just short as a 3½-point favorite.

Not only is UCLA riding a 10-game winning streak, but it has won 15 of its last 16 games. The only negative: The Bruins are 3-5 ATS in their last eight after going 7-1 ATS in their previous eight.

Mississippi Valley State closed the regular season on a nine-game winning streak, knocking off Grambling (79-73), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (70-59) and Jackson State (59-58) over a four-day stretch last week to claim the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament title. That victory gave the Delta Devils their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1996.

UCLA has hammered its last two opening-round opponents in the NCAA Tournament, routing Weber State 70-42 as a 20-point favorite last year and destroying Belmont 79-44 as a 16½-point chalk in 2006. As for current pointspread trends, the Bruins are on a 13-3 roll following a non-cover and are 4-2 when laying 20 or more points this season, and they’ve cashed in 36 of their last 53 Thursday contests.

Mississippi Valley State rarely is on the betting board, but it is 1-5 ATS in its last six against teams with a winning percentage higher than .600.

UCLA, which has one of the best defensive teams in the nation, has played to the under in four of its last five NCAA Tournament games overall and eight of its last nine Tournament contests as a favorite. The under is also 11-5 in its last 16 non-conference tussles. However, the Bruins have topped the total in four of their last five overall and six of their last seven on Thursdays.

ATS ADVANTAGE: UCLA

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EAST REGION

(13) Winthrop (22-11, 3-2 ATS) vs. (4) Washington State (24-8, 16-15 ATS)


Washington State started the season 14-0 but was mediocre from there, going 10-8 over its final 18 games, all in Pac-10 play. The Cougars last week opened conference tournament play with Thursday’s 75-70 victory over Oregon as a four-point favorite, then fell the next night to Stanford 75-68 as a 2 ½-point underdog. Once a perennial Pac-10 doormat, Wazu is back in the Tournament for the second straight year, having lost to Vanderbilt 78-74 as a 2½-point chalk in the second round of last year’s event.

Winthrop returns to the Big Dance for the fourth straight year and the eighth time in the last decade after capturing another Big South tournament championship. The Eagles’ last victory was one of their easiest of the conference season, a 66-48 rout of North Carolina-Ashville as a one-point road underdog. Winthrop went 3-0 in conference tournament play and is 13-4 in its last 17 games.

Last year, the Eagles stunned No. 6 seed Notre Dame in the opening round, winning 74-64 as a  3½-point underdog. They bowed out in the next round, losing to Oregon 75-61 as a 2½-point pup, ending a 3-0 ATS run in NCAA Tournament action. Finally, despite rarely appearing on the betting board, Winthrop still has a bunch of positive ATS trends, including 13-6 overall, 12-4 in non-conference games, 10-3 as an underdog and 10-2 at a neutral venue.

The Cougars are just 2-4 ATS in their last six and 6-10 ATS in their last 16, going 5-6 ATS as a favorite during this stretch. They’re also 1-4 ATS in their last five neutral-site contests and 5-11 ATS in their last 16 against winning teams. However, Wazu is 5-2 ATS in its last seven as a chalk.

No. 4 seeds were 4-0 SU and ATS in opening-round Tournament games last March.

For Winthrop, the under is on streaks of 7-1 overall, 8-1 at neutral sites, 4-1 in the NCAA Tournament and 5-1 as an underdog. Meanwhile, the under is 28-12-1 in Washington State’s last 41 non-conference contests, but the over is 4-1 in its last five neutral outings.

ATS ADVANTAGE: WINTHROP and UNDER


(12) Geo. Mason (23-10, 12-15-3 ATS) vs. (5) Notre Dame (24-7, 14-14 ATS)

Notre Dame, which is looking to atone for last year’s first-round NCAA Tournament exit at the hands of Winthrop, enters this contest on a 6-2 run (5-3 ATS). However, one of those losses came in the Irish’s only Big East tournament contest last week, an 89-79 setback to Marquette as a 1½-point underdog, a game they led by six points at halftime.

George Mason is back in the Big Dance for the first time since its stunning run to the 2006 Final Four as a No. 11 seed. The Patriots got here courtesy of a 3-0 run (2-0-1 ATS) through the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, as they bested William & Mary 68-59, pushing as a nine-point chalk, in the title game. Prior to the CAA tournament, George Mason had alternated wins and losses in eight straight games, going 1-6-1 ATS.

The Patriots are 5-1 ATS in their last six NCAA Tournament contests (4-1 ATS as a ‘dog). They’re also 16-5-2 ATS in their last 23 on Thursdays and 12-4 ATS in their last 16 as a neutral-site underdog, but 1-5 ATS in their last six non-conference contests and 1-4 ATS in their last five overall as an underdog.

Notre Dame is on positive ATS upticks of 5-2 overall, 7-3 on Thursday and 4-1 as a favorite.

All four No. 5 seeds won their opening-round games last year (3-1 ATS), and the fifth seed is 9-3 SU over the last three Tournaments.

The over is on runs of 4-0 for George Mason on Thursday, 4-0 for Notre Dame on Thursday, 17-5 for Notre Dame overall and 8-3 for Notre Dame as a favorite.

ATS ADVANTAGE: NOTRE DAME and OVER


SOUTH REGION

(12) Temple (21-12, 22-11 ATS) vs. (5) Michigan State (25-8, 13-14-2 ATS)


Michigan State limped to the finish line in the Big Ten, splitting its final 12 games (5-7 ATS), including blowing a 12-point second-half lead in Saturday’s heartbreaking, last-second 65-63 loss to Wisconsin in a conference tournament semifinal matchup. On the bright side for the Spartans, they covered as a 3½-point underdog, and they’ve now cashed in four of their last five games after going 4-12 ATS in their previous 16 contests.

The Spartans are making their 11th consecutive appearance in the Big Dance, though they haven’t made it out of the opening weekend of the Tournament since advancing to the Final Four in 2005, losing to North Carolina in the semifinals. Ironically, last year, it was the Tar Heels who knocked Michigan State out of the tourney in the second round, winning 81-67 as a 10-point chalk.

Temple is back on the NCAA’s big stage for the first time since 2002. The Owls gained the automatic bid thanks to a surprising run to the Atlantic 10 tournament title, edging St. Joe’s 69-64 as a 2½-point underdog in Saturday’s championship game. Temple is on a 7-0 SU and ATS roll, and the SU winner is 15-0 ATS in its last 15 contests.

Temple is on ATS streaks of 19-7 overall, 4-1-1 in the Tournament, 13-3 against winning teams, 4-1 on Thursdays and 8-1 as an underdog. However, the Owls have failed to cover in four of their last five versus the Big Ten.

Like Temple, Michigan State cites several positive ATS trends, including 12-5-1 in the Tournament overall, 11-2-1 as a Tournament favorite, 4-1 overall as a favorite, 7-0-1 as a chalk of less than seven points and 4-0-1 in neutral-site games.

The under is 8-1 in Temple’s last nine as an underdog and 12-3 in its last 15 as on Thursdays. However, for Michigan State, the over is 5-1 in its last six as a favorite in neutral-site games and 10-3 in the last 13 after an ATS win.

ATS ADVANTAGE: NONE


(13) Oral Roberts (24-8, 2-2 ATS) vs. (4) Pitt (26-9, 17-13 ATS)

Pitt became just the second team in Big East history to capture the conference tournament by winning four games in four days, as the Panthers ousted Cincinnati (70-64), Louisville (76-69 in overtime), Marquette (68-61) and Georgetown (74-65) en route to the crown, winning the final three games outright as an underdog. Pitt has won five in a row and seven of eight, going 5-2 ATS in the last seven.

The Panthers, who are making a school-record seventh straight Tournament appearance, made it to the Sweet 16 last year before losing to eventual West Regional champ UCLA 64-55 as a three-point ‘dog.

Oral Roberts qualified for its third straight NCAA Tournament by virtue of winning the Summit League championship. The Golden Eagles, who went 16-2 in conference, outlasted Indiana-Purdue 71-64 in the tournament final on March 11, cashing as a 3½-point favorite. Oral Roberts went one-and-done in its last two Tournament appearances (0-2 ATS), including last year’s 70-54 loss to Washington State as a seven-point underdog.

Pitt is on ATS hot streaks of 4-1 at neutral sites and 5-2 in non-conference play, but it is 2-5 ATS in it last seven NCAA Tournament tilts and 6-13-1 ATS in its last 20 on Thursdays. Meanwhile, Oral Roberts is mired in ATS funks of 4-10-1 overall, 2-6 as an underdog and 1-4 in non-conference contests.

The over is on runs of 6-1-1 for Oral Roberts on neutral courts, 9-1 for the Panthers overall, 5-1 for the Panthers in the Tournament (5-0 as a favorite) and 5-0 for the Panthers as a chalk overall.

ATS ADVANTAGE: PITT and OVER


SOUTH REGION

(11) Kentucky (18-12, 14-12-1 ATS) vs. (6) Marquette (24-9, 15-12 ATS)


Marquette followed up a five-game winning streak by splitting its final six contests, though it did go 2-1 in last weekend’s Big East tournament, routing Seton Hall (67-54) and Notre Dame (89-79) before bowing out in a 68-61 semifinal loss to eventual champ Pitt. Although the Golden Eagles failed to cash as a 2½-point favorite against Pitt, they still enter this event on an 8-3 ATS run.

Marquette has suffered back-to-back first-round NCAA Tournament exits, losing to Michigan State 61-49 as a two-point ‘dog last year.

After struggling the first two months of the season, Kentucky’s streak of 16 consecutive Tournament appearances looked to be in serious jeopardy. However, the Wildcats rallied in the SEC season, going 12-4 SU and ATS. Although they lost their only SEC tournament game – 60-56 to Georgia on Saturday – they still were deemed worthy of an at-large bid.

Kentucky is unbeaten in first-round Tournament play over the last 16 years, going just 5-5 ATS in the last 10.

The Golden Eagles sport positive ATS numbers of 4-1 in non-conference play, 7-2 as a favorite and 4-1 at neutral sites. As for Kentucky, it is on ATS streaks of 7-0 after a non-cover, 9-1-1 against the Big East, 4-1 as an underdog and 5-2 in the Tournament. However, the ‘Cats are 2-8-1 ATS in their last 11 non-conference contests and 1-4 ATS in their last five neutral-site outings.

The over is 20-9 in Marquette’s last 29 neutral-site games (7-2 as a favorite), and the over is 7-3 in Kentucky’s last 10 at neutral venues and 5-1 in the Wildcats’ last six non-conference games. However, Kentucky enters this contest having stayed under the number in nine of its last 12 overall.

ATS ADVANTAGE: OVER


(14) Cornell (22-5, 11-7 ATS)) vs. (3) Stanford (26-7, 17-16 ATS)

Stanford finished as the runner-up to Pac-10 rival UCLA in both the regular season and conference tournament, falling 67-64 in Saturday’s championship game, but covering as a 3½-point underdog. The Cardinal, who ended the regular-season in a 2-6 ATS rut, cashed in all three tournament games. Of Stanford’s seven losses this season, three were to UCLA

The Cardinal, who earned their highest seed since getting a No. 1 in 2004, will be looking to stick around longer than last year, when they got blasted 78-58 by Louisville in the opening round, failing to cash a 5½-point underdog. Stanford has lost consecutive first-round Tournament contests and hasn’t advanced past the second round since 2003.

Cornell ran the table in the Ivy League, going 14-0 (8-6 ATS), to capture just its third-ever NCAA Tournament berth and first in 20 years. The Big Red have been idle since ending the season March 8 with a 71-64 win at Princeton, cashing as a 6½-point favorite.

Stanford is 1-4 ATS in its last five NCAA Tournament games, 1-5 ATS in its last six as a chalk of 13 points or more and 2-6 ATS in its last eight non-conference contests. Conversely, the Big Red are on ATS runs of 20-7 in non-conference games and 20-6-1 as an underdog.

The under is 4-1 in Cornell’s last five non-Ivy League games and 5-0-1 in its last six as an underdog. Also, Stanford has stayed under the total in eight straight non-conference games. However, the Cardinal have topped the total in 10 of 11 overall, seven of eight in the NCAA Tournament, four straight on Thursdays and five straight at neutral venues.

ATS ADVANTAGE: CORNELL

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Early betting favors strong start for USC in NCAA tournament

Sixth-seeded team is getting 61.8% of the picks against the spread on consensus board to beat Kansas State in first round. No. 6-seeded teams have had some success reaching Final Four, but not lately.

The good news for sixth-seeded USC, which plays Kansas State in a first-round Midwest Regional game tonight in Omaha, is that sixth-seeded teams have a long history of success since the NCAA tournament began seeding teams in 1979.

Six times, a sixth-seeded team has reached the Final Four and in 1983, No. 6-seeded North Carolina State upset Houston to win the championship.

But the bad news for Taj Gibson, O.J. Mayo and the Trojans is that the last time a No. 6 team advanced to a Final Four was 1992, when Michigan did it.

Early betting action has USC getting off to a strong start in the tournament.

The Trojans, listed as 2 1/2 - to 3 1/2 -point favorites over the Wildcats on various betting boards, are getting 61.8% (1,076-665) of the picks against the spread, according to Wagerline.com's consensus board. And theSpread.com's betting chart has USC getting 77% of the bets.

It should be noted that last year, two sixth-seeded teams (Duke and Notre Dame) lost first-round games and one sixth-seeded team that won (Louisville) was helped by playing an opening game close to campus, in Lexington, Ky.

For USC, it will be the opposite case against Kansas State, which is less than a three-hour drive from Omaha. The Trojans may be the higher-ranked team but are expected to be treated like a road team against the Wildcats, who were 15-2 at home this season.

The Trojans (21-11 overall) were a strong bet away from Galen Center. They were 11-6 overall in road or neutral-site games and had an 8-3 record against the point spread in games away from home.

Final note: UCLA opened as a 35-point favorite over Mississippi Valley State, but the line had dropped to 32 by Wednesday morning.

The Bruins are expected to roll over the Delta Devils in their first-round game tonight, but bettors are not convinced that they will cover the inflated point spread.

Although UCLA is 31-3 overall, covering the line has not been a strong point for the Bruins, who are 19-12-2 against the spread.

In games where UCLA has been favored by 20 or more points, the Bruins are 4-2-1 against the spread.

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