NCAAB News and Notes Thursday 3/26

NCAAB News and Notes Thursday 3/26

East Regional Preview
by Robert Ferringo

It wasn’t always pretty and it wasn’t always easy, but the chalk survived the opening weekend in the East Regional. It took overtime (Xavier), a double-digit second half comeback (Villanova), some clutch plays in a game that was tied in the last 60 seconds (Duke), and a late pull away against a plucky No. 16 seed (Pittsburgh), but the top four seeds are alive and well and heading to Boston this weekend for a crack at the Final Four.

Here is a breakdown of the East (Boston) Regional:

Xavier (+7) vs. Pittsburgh (7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 26)


The opening game in this regional will pit the top-seeded Panthers against the No. 4 seeded Musketeers.

I can honestly say that there probably hasn’t been a more unassuming, underrated team in the entire field than this Xavier crew. The X-Men were a ridiculous 75-to-1 underdog to win the East Regional at the tournament’s outset. Yeah, you read that right: Xavier wasn’t 75-to-1 to win the entire tournament, they were 75-to-1 just to win the East! And this is despite the fact that if you compare the postseason resumes of these two schools over the last several year the Musketeers have outperformed the Panthers by a mile.

Over the last four NCAA Tournaments the Musketeers have been the single best bet on the board, posting a gaudy 7-2 record against the spread. They have two starters, Derek Brown and C.J. Anderson, back from an Elite Eight squad from last year and they feature five guys (of eight) that played 10 or more minutes per game for that team. Coach Sean Miller is one of the best in the business and you know he’s going to have his guys ready to play in this one.

From a matchup perspective, I actually like the big bodies that Xavier has to throw at DeJuan Blair. Blair is pretty much unstoppable on the offensive glass. But Xavier is one of the best rebounding teams (No. 18 offensive rebounding, No. 36 defensive) in the country and boasts two 6-8 starting power forwards and a seven-foot center off the bench to compete. What’s more is that it has been proven that Pittsburgh is vulnerable when Blair gets in foul trouble. Because Xavier pounds the ball inside on offense that increases the odds of Blair being put in tough positions and also puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the officials in this game.

Pittsburgh really labored to get through the opening weekend, struggling against No. 16 East Tennessee State and then tussling with No. 8 Oklahoma State. In both instances the Panthers were looking at a one- or two-possession game in the last four minutes. Further, Pittsburgh is 0-3 ATS this postseason and all four of their losses this year have been either on the road or on a neutral court.

The area that Pittsburgh in which has a sizeable advantage is at point guard. Levance Fields is a seasoned PG that has proven himself in big games while his counterparts, freshman Terrell Holloway or sophomore Dante Jackson, are unproven on this stage.

This game is absolutely going to live up to its billing. Both teams are methodical on offense, relying on powerful inside games for motion and senior shooting guards to hit big shots. Xavier has an experience edge and a free throw edge. But Pittsburgh has proven itself against the top teams in the country this year. Xavier has lost 14 games over the past two seasons, but only half of them have been by more than seven points.

Villanova (+2.5) vs. Duke (10 p.m., Thursday, March 26)

The Blue Devils are out of the opening weekend for the first time in three years and now it seems like all of the momentum is in the Blue Devils’ camp. Duke will head to Boston as a favorite and are clearly playing well enough to advance and take another crack at Pittsburgh for the right to head to the Final Four.

Duke has won 10 of 11 games and has been on fire since winning the ACC Tournament. They’ve taken down five straight, and although they are just 2-3 ATS in those games they are playing their sharpest ball of the season. Also, in their two biggest nonconference games of the year – at Purdue and against Xavier on a neutral court – the Blue Devils laid out absolute ass-kickings winning by 16 and 18 points. The Blue Devils rely heavily on the three-point shot, something that the Wildcats have struggled to defend this year. And if Duke is hitting from deep they can be tough to stop.

That said, Villanova is the wildcard in this region and I think that they matchup pretty well with the Blue Devils. Villanova relies on a tight eight-man rotation that features four guards and four forwards. None of their forwards are particularly dominating, but their size alone should give them an advantage over the smaller, faster Blue Devils. Dante Cunningham, Nova’s leading scorer, needs to have a big game if the Wildcats are going to get it done. But I don’t see any of the Dukies matching up particularly well against him.

Villanova’s backcourt is full of gritty, tough-as-nails bulldogs that won’t at all be intimidated by matching up with the Blue Devils. Scottie Reynolds is as good as anyone that’s going to be on that court and has proven that he’s capable of carrying the scoring load for the Wildcats. The key will be how Nova’s sophomore Coreys – Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes – perform on the perimeter. They need to knock down shots and they have to be able to defend the athletes that the Blue Devils will throw at them. If they do that, then the Wildcats can win this one outright. But if they don’t step up then this one could get ugly and the more experienced, more battle-tested Duke group could bury the team from the Big East.

Further, Villanova has shown a stunning ability to collapse for full halves. They blew a 15-point lead in the Big East Tournament against a wounded Marquette team before stealing a comeback win. They then mailed it in for about 25 minutes in the first round against American before pulling through with an overwhelming push to turn a 15-point deficit into a 13-point win. That type of inconsistency makes for a dicey bet this time of year.

Another thing to consider is that Duke has not performed well against the Big East and even though they enter Boston as a favorite they should expect a very pro-Villanova, pro-Big East crowd in that region. Duke is just 2-8-1 ATS against teams from the Big East over the last several years.

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East Regional Semifinals
By Judd Hall

Aren’t there supposed to be some Cinderellas in the NCAA Tournament?

It’s pretty apparent that they weren’t to be found in the East Region with the top four seeds making it to the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston. While it doesn’t give the water cooler crowd a team with a glass slipper to follow, it gives the bettors some great games to watch and back.

Xavier Musketeers vs. Pittsburgh Panthers – 7:27 p.m. EDT

--Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Pittsburgh (30-4 straight up, 16-11-1 against the spread) as an eight-point “chalk” with a total of 138. That line took a bump on Monday as the Panthers are now favored by seven and the total moved up to 139.

--That line adjustment no doubt has been directly effected by the close calls the Panthers have already had in the tournament. In the first round, Pitt led by just three points late against East Tennessee State before finally pulling away for a 72-62 victory. And Jamie Dixon’s squad battled into the final minute with its 84-76 win over Oklahoma State. So the good side is Pittsburgh is 2-0 SU, but gamblers didn’t profit by backing them as they went 0-2 ATS.

--Pitt has been able to reach the Sweet 16 this season thanks to DeJuan Blair and Sam Young. Blair bullied his way to 27 points and 16 rebounds in the opening round win over the Buccaneers. Young practically took down the Cowboys on his own with 32 points and eight boards.

--To get past the Musketeers, the Panthers will need a bettor effort out of Jermaine Dixon and Levance Fields. Dixon scored six points against OSU, which is all the scoring he’s done in the NCAA Tournament. Fields is averaging 9.5 points per game and 7.0 assists per game in the NCAA Tournament.

--Xavier (27-7 SU, 10-10 ATS) has found its way in the regional semifinals again after beating the Badgers 60-49. While the Muskies ended up covering as 3 ½-point favorites, the game was much tougher than the score shows. Wisconsin held a 27-25 advantage at halftime, and were up 37-36 with nine minutes left in the game thanks to its Big Ten tested defense. But the X-men used their defense to hold the Badgers scoreless for almost four minutes in the second half to pull ahead for good.

--B.J. Raymond put up 15 points and grabbed four boards for the Musketeers. Derrick Brown posted eight points in a winning effort as well. They were the only two players on Xavier to score in the double-digits.
   
--The Muskies are one of the more balanced teams left in the tournament as they average at least three players in double-digit scoring every night. And they’ve had seven different players be the top scorer in a given game all season long.

--When you look at both rosters the teams almost mirror each other as they start guys that are no bigger than 6-foot-9. Yet Xavier picks up 37.9 rebounds per game and the Panthers get 40.0 boards a night. Keep an eye on the Muskies as they try and stop Pitt’s Blair, who grabs 12.3 rebounds every match and 5.3 of those are on the offensive glass. If the X-men can force into foul trouble, they have a legit shot at winning this game outright.

--Pittsburgh won the last meeting between these squads back in 1998 as a seven-point road ‘dog, 94-76.

--Despite the bad start to the tourney, the Panthers have been a good wager when listed as single-digit favorites with an 8-3 SU and 7-4 ATS during the season. The ‘under’ is 8-3 in those contests.

--Xavier has only been a single-digit pup three times this year, but have been profitable by going 2-1 SU and ATS in those tests.

--The Muskies aren’t scared of teams from the Big East as evidenced by their 5-2 SU and 4-3 ATS mark since 2004. The ‘under’ is 4-3 in those matches.

Villanova Wildcats vs. Duke Blue Devils – 9:57 p.m. EDT

--LVSC has opened the Blue Devils as 2 ½-point favorites with a total of 149. While the line has held close at most betting shops, the total has moved down to 148.

--Duke (30-6 SU, 17-17-1 ATS) doesn’t get a lot of respect outside of Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps and the other fanboys at ESPN. But it’s hard to disparage a team that has won the ACC Tournament in three of the last five seasons and have been invited to the big dance every year since 1995. Although, the regional semifinals seem to be as far as the Blue Devils can get nowadays, bowing out at this point in three of their last five trips.

--Mike Krzyzewski’s crew got to Boston thanks to surviving against the Longhorns last Saturday, 74-69. The Blue Devils didn’t do bettors any favors as they failed to cover as seven-point favorites.

--The Blue Devils relied heavily on their NBA quality talent, Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson. Singler put up 17 points and seven rebounds and Henderson dropped in 24 points with six boards. Jon Scheyer posted 13 points in a winning effort as well.

--As much as they don’t want to admit it, Duke’s success directly hinges on that trio performing. Just look at the Dukies’ six losses as an example. Singler, Henderson and Scheyer accounted for 68.9 percent of their points in those defeats. It will be a tall order for the Blue Devils to advance if they must count on guys like Brian Zoubek and Greg Paulus (sorry Dickie V.).

--Villanova (28-7 SU, 17-14 ATS) is making its fourth trip to the Sweet 16 since 2005 after overtaking the Bruins last Saturday as a 2 ½-point favorite, 86-69. The Wildcats were able to spread the wealth against UCLA as six players were in the double-digits. Dante Cunningham scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Dwayne Anderson registered 10 points and 11 rebounds in the victory.

--The ‘Cats have moved into playing an offense predicated on more ball movement when in the half court. They don’t have a true center but Cunningham has done an admirable job this year with 16.3 PPG and 7.3 RPG this season. If there is any problem with him playing the position is that he has can be prone to getting into foul trouble.

--‘Nova house an aggressive, but effective man-to-man scheme on the defensive side of the court. They give up 67.1 PPG to be in the middle of the pack in the Big East. But the Wildcats did have a seven-tilt stretch during February that they allowed 83.3 PPG. It would appear that Jay Wright has fixed that issue during tournament season.

--Duke has gone 2-0 SU in the two meetings they’ve had against the Wildcats since the 1997 campaign. Bettors haven’t been able to back one team or the other to cover as they’re both 1-1 ATS.

--The Blue Devils are 9-4 SU and 5-7-1 ATS when listed as single-digit favorites. But they’re only 2-8-1 ATS in their last 11 matches against Big East foes.

--Villanova hasn’t fared well as a single-digit pup this year as they’re 2-5 SU and 3-4 ATS.

--The ‘under’ is 8-2 in the Wildcats’ past 10 non-conference fixtures.

--Coach K’s program has watched the ‘under’ go 7-2 in its last nine matches versus the Big East.

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West Region Tips
By Brian Edwards

The atmosphere for the West region semifinals in Glendale took a decided turn Wednesday morning when a Yahoo! Sports report revealed that Connecticut committed major rules violations in the recruitment of former player Nate Miles. In essence, this is Georgia’s 2003 version of the Tony Cole-Jim Harrick fiasco.

There’s one difference in this instance, however. ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap broke the UGA story during the last week of the regular season. This comes on the eve of UConn’s Sweet 16 showdown against Purdue during what could be Jim Calhoun’s last run at a third national championship.

Whether or not this situation impacts the Huskies and serves as a distraction remains to be seen. Let’s take a closer look at Thursday’s doubleheader in Glendale.

**Purdue vs. Connecticut**

--Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened UConn (29-4 straight up, 13-14 against the spread) as a seven-point favorite with a total of 135. As of late Wednesday afternoon, most books were using either seven or 6 ½, while the total was in the 134-135 range. The Boilermakers are plus-250 on the money line (risk $100 to win $250).

--Purdue (27-9 SU, 15-17 ATS) advanced to the Sweet 16 as a No. 5 seed with wins over Northern Iowa and Washington. The Boilermakers were ahead of the number for most of the game against the Panthers, but they failed to cover as 8 ½-point favorites in a 61-56 victory. Matt Painter’s team took the cash in its 76-74 second-round win over the Huskies as a one-point underdog. JaJuan Johnson scored a team-high 22 points to lead the Boilers past Washington.

--Calhoun addressed the allegations when facing the media following UConn’s Wednesday afternoon practice. Calhoun said that he told his team at breakfast, “Fellas, you probably are going to see something on TV. It is something that occurred a year or two ago, whatever it may be. Just to let you know very simply, the university is taking very good care of it. They will look into it.

"As far as we're concerned and I'm concerned, we are here to beat Purdue and I want you to know that. If you vary from that ... you will look back and say, 'I was worried about something that didn't really affect me one way or the other' and yet we let opportunities slip by."

--UConn was probably the most impressive of the No. 1 seeds in the first weekend of NCAA Tournament action. The Huskies destroyed Chattanooga by a 103-47 count as 20-point favorites. Next, they spanked Texas A&M 92-66 as 10 ½-point ‘chalk.’ A.J. Price was sensational against the Aggies, scoring 27 points to go with eight assists and five rebounds. Jeff Adrien added 23 points and eight boards.

--Purdue owns a 3-2 spread record in five games as an underdog. Meanwhile, UConn is 5-5 ATS in 10 games as a single-digit favorite.

--UConn’s future number to win the national championship has been adjusted to plus-500 at most spots (risk $100 to win $500). Purdue has the second-longest future odds at plus-5200 (risk $100 to win $5,200).

--Even though the ‘over’ has hit in three straight UConn games, the ‘under’ is still 16-11 overall for the Huskies. Totals have been a wash (16-16) for Purdue.

--Tip-off on CBS is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Eastern.

**Memphis vs. Missouri**

--LVSC opened Memphis (33-3 SU, 23-12 ATS) as a six-point favorite with a total of 143. As of late Wednesday night, most books had John Calipari’s team as a 4 ½-point ‘chalk’ with the total in the 141-142 range. Missouri is plus-175 on the money line (risk $100 to win $175).

--Missouri (30-6 SU, 19-10 ATS) has been perfect so far in the postseason, winning all five games both SU and ATS, including Sunday’s thrilling 83-79 victory over Marquette as a 2 ½-point favorite. Leo Lyons scored a team-hight 18 points for Mizzou, which also got a huge lift from Kim English with his 17 points off the bench. Most importantly, English drained back-to-back free throws at a crucial juncture in the final minute.

--Memphis hasn’t tasted defeat since losing to Syracuse on Dec. 20. Since then, it has won 27 consecutive games while posting a 19-7 spread record. After getting a tough test from Cal-State Northridge in an 81-70 opening-round win, Memphis trounced Maryland 79-60 as a nine-point favorite. Tyreke Evans was the catalyst against the Terrapins, producing 19 points, five assists, four rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.

--Memphis is only 2-4 ATS in six games as a single-digit ‘chalk.’

--Mike Anderson’s squad is 3-2 ATS in five underdog spots.

--Mizzou has a 2-2 record in four games against teams left in the NCAA field. Memphis is 1-2 in three games against teams that are still ticking.

--The ‘under’ is 22-12 overall for Memphis even though the ‘over’ hit in both of its wins last weekend.

--The ‘under’ has cashed in four of Mizzou’s last five games, but it has seen the ‘over’ go 15-14 overall.

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Game of the day: Purdue vs. Connecticut
By Matt Fargo

Purdue Boilermakers vs. Connecticut Huskies (-6.5, 134.5)

Odds

This game opened at -6.5 and is staying steady with the line moving to -7 in some places. The total has also remained stable, opening at 134.5 and holding on that number.

Series history


This will be the fifth meeting between Purdue and Connecticut, but the first since 1992. The Boilermakers have won all the previous four meetings.

The teams

Connecticut was the preseason favorite to win the Big East Conference and it nearly met expectations, finishing a game behind Louisville. Pundits are once again saying that the Huskies could be the team to beat based on two dominant performances to open the NCAA tournament.

The Huskies steamrolled UT-Chattanooga in the first round and followed that up with another blowout against Texas A&M in the second round. The offense has been unstoppable, scoring 103 and 92 points while the defense allowed the two opponents to shoot a combined 33.3 percent from the floor (43-129).

Connecticut is now 15-2 away from home on the season. And of those 15 wins, seven victories came against teams that are in the field of 64 as well as four others against teams that played in postseason tournaments.

The Huskies are ranked third in shooting defense in the nation, allowing 37.4 percent from the floor and they are now first in the country in rebounding margin at +11, passing Michigan St. for the top spot. If there is a liability, it comes from the free throw line where Connecticut is hitting just 67.6 percent on the season including a disturbing 60 percent over the last five games.

When Purdue is healthy, it is one of the tougher teams in the country and it cannot be overlooked to pull off a huge upset. The Boilermakers won their first two games in tight fashion, defeating Northern Iowa and then taking out Washington after nearly blowing a big lead. Purdue has now won five straight games, all on a neutral floor to improve to 11-6 away from home. Momentum is big this time of year and Purdue definitely has that going.

When Purdue clicks on offense, it is tough to beat because the defense comes to play in every game. That has been the case in the first two games of the tournament. The Boilermakers have held their two opponents to 39.7 percent shooting (48-121).

The offense has yet to find its rhythm as Purdue is shooting only 40 percent (46-115) through the first two games and it certainly won’t be any easier here. Robbie Hummel has scored only 16 total points so his offense needs to turn around. He has been held to single-digits in seven of his 12 games since returning from injury.

Against the numbers

The Huskies, being a high profile team are often overvalued and it showed at times with their numbers. Connecticut is 15-14 against the number including an 11-13 ATS mark as a favorite. They have had more success on the road than at home, going 17-6 ATS in road and neutral court games.

Fading the Huskies down the stretch paid huge dividends. They went a money-burning 1-6 ATS in their final seven games prior to the start of the Big Dance. However, they have easily covered the two big numbers since. The Huskies are 5-5 ATS as a single-digit favorite this season

Purdue has been a disappointment for its backers as it is 16-17 against the number this season. After a four-game ATS winning streak to end January, the Boilermakers are 6-9 ATS in their last 15 games despite going 3-2 ATS since postseason play started.

Purdue has been an underdog only three times this season, going 1-2 against the number with the lone ATS victory being against Washington last time out. It has covered five of its last six tournament games as an underdog of fewer than seven points.

Intangibles

The Huskies are 27-4 in first and second round NCAA tournament games under head coach Jim Calhoun… The Huskies' 82-point combined margin of victory was the most in the opening rounds since Duke dispatched its first two opponents by the same total in 1999…Travel could be on Purdue’s side as it stayed out west after playing in Portland, being in Arizona since Sunday and has been working out on the Arizona St. campus… Purdue played four games against teams seeded No. 2 or better in the NCAA tournament and went 1-3 in those games (defeating Michigan St. at home).

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West Regional: Round 3 preview and picks
By JOSH NAGEL

No. 1 Connecticut Huskies vs. No. 5 Purdue Boilermakers (+7, 134.5)

Let’s approach this game like investigators would a crime scene; they identify their prime suspect and look for evidence to eliminate him. We’ll start by looking for reasons to take Purdue and see if there is any ground for eliminating the Boilermakers.

Unfortunately, the evidence is overwhelming. Although Purdue is a rock-solid team playing its best basketball of the season at the right time, the Boilermakers simply don’t have the personnel to keep up with Connecticut, which has been the tournament’s most impressive team thus far.

A.J. Price looks like Richard Hamilton and Ben Gordon combined, mixing an array of outside shots with drives to the hoop and pinpoint assists. Hasheem Thabeet, in the mold of Emeka Okafor before him, has dominated in the middle and Jeff Adrien provides balance with his consistent shooting from 12 to 18 feet. A talented and surging Texas A&M team got obliterated by 23 points in the second round through no fault of its own; UConn was just that much better.

Purdue is similar to Texas A&M, except slightly less talented. It took a near-perfect game for the Boilermakers to defeat Washington 76-74 in the second round. Washington is similar to UConn, except only a fraction as talented. The Boilermakers deserve respect for how far they have come – many pundits had them out in the first round – but this is where they likely meet their match.

In order to win, much less cover the spread, Purdue will have to accomplish the following: Shoot at least 50 percent, stay with UConn on the boards, get Thabeet in foul trouble, and keep the score in the 60s and turn it into a rugby match. The Boilermakers will be fortunate if they can accomplish two or three of these and it won’t be nearly enough. Purdue is big on fundamentals and heart, but the talent gap here is just too wide.

Final score prediction: Connecticut 82, Purdue 69

No. 3 Missouri Tigers vs. No. 2 Memphis Tigers (-4.5, 141.5)

For two schools that share the same nickname, Memphis and Missouri also have a lot of similarities on the basketball court.

Their flashes of dominance sprinkled with maddening bursts of inconsistency makes handicapping this game akin to that e-mail break-up with a woman who won’t leave you alone … it’s the conversation you don’t want to have unless there’s no other choice.

There’s almost no particular outcome that would come as a surprise here; both teams are erratic enough to show up on an off-day and get blown out; both are strong enough to take the game down to the wire.

Memphis looked like a Final Four-caliber club in its second-round drubbing of Maryland, pouncing on the Terrapins from the opening tip and squashing any hopes of an upset by refusing to let up. Missouri squandered a double-digit lead in the second half to Marquette, only to come back and salvage a win with a furious comeback in the final minute. Such resilience also is the sign of a team capable of making a deep run in the tournament.

Memphis might be slightly more physical, but Missouri might get the nod for better athleticism. The Big 12 team hails from the much stronger conference, but Memphis has better non-conference wins against the likes of Gonzaga and Tennessee.

Throw all of this information in a blender and what do you get? A toss-up cocktail. In the face of mounting evidence that points toward an even match-up, the logical conclusion is to take the points.

Final score prediction: Missouri 77, Memphis 75 

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East Regional: Round 3 preview and picks
By DAVE CAREY

No. 4 Xavier Musketeers vs. No. 1 Pittsburgh Panthers (-7, 138.5)

Don’t look for recent history to help predicting this outcome – the team’s haven’t met in more than a decade.

Instead, let’s look at what we know about Pitt (30-4 SU, 16-11-1 ATS) and Xavier (27-7 SU, 18-12-2 ATS) through the first two rounds of the tournament.

The Panthers struggled with two lesser opponents who stayed in the game with aggressive pressure from their guards and a team rebounding approach on offense to convert as many second chance points as possible. This helped keep East Tennessee State around till the final minutes and let Oklahoma State flirt with its biggest win since advancing to the Final Four in 2004.

But Pitt has survived and advanced, thanks to the consistent play of stud DeJuan Blair (15.8 ppg, 12.3 rpg) and a Herculean effort from swingman Sam Young (32 points) in an eight-point win over the Pokes.

The Musketeers opened the tournament by pummeling Portland State with hot outside shooting and cruised to an easy win. Against Wisconsin in the second round, they struggled to get their offense on track early and relied on their athleticism late to pull away for the win.

Xavier had multiple double-digit scorers in both games and utilizes a very balanced attack led by guard B.J. Raymond (14.1 ppg).

The Musketeers’ defensive style of play will keep the game close early as Pitt grinds teams down rather then blow them out. Ultimately, Xavier does not have the ability to pressure Pitt’s backcourt enough to win and the Panthers should finally advance past the round of 16.

Final score prediction: Pitt 75, Xavier 64

No. 3 Villanova Wildcats vs. No. 2 Duke Blue Devils (-2.5, 148.5)

Did anyone else see what the Wildcats did to UCLA on Sunday?

Villanova (28-7 SU, 17-14 ATS) bullied the Bruins in front of a de facto home crowd to end the team’s streak of three straight Final Fours. But the Wildcats won’t be able to do the same against the Blue Devils, who are used to playing against the nation’s top teams and actually tackled a difficult non-conference schedule, unlike UCLA.

The key for Villanova securing a place in the Elite Eight, however, is simple: it must play the same style of physical, challenging defense against Duke that it used against UCLA.

The Blue Devils (30-6 SU, 17-17-1 ATS) have trouble with athletic teams that can frustrate their perimeter-oriented attack on offense and take their guards off the dribble on defense to create for opposing teammates. In other words, exactly what Villanova is built to do.

But the Wildcats are bipolar. Will the team that trailed American by 14 show up or the team that blew out UCLA and showed no mercy to the final horn?

Duke has balance led by Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson and is one of the most consistent teams in the country in terms of effort and defense. That trademark Duke intensity will keep this game close the whole way, but Villanova’s team speed and athleticism will wear down the Blue Devils who won’t be able to keep up with Scottie Reynolds or guard Dante Cunningham.

Final score prediction: Villanova 72, Duke 68

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JAMES MADISON (21 - 14) at OLD DOMINION (23 - 10)
Top Trends for this game.
JAMES MADISON is 21-11 ATS (+8.9 Units) in all games this season.
JAMES MADISON is 21-11 ATS (+8.9 Units) in all lined games this season.
JAMES MADISON is 10-2 ATS (+7.8 Units) in road games this season.
JAMES MADISON is 10-2 ATS (+7.8 Units) in road lined games this season.
OLD DOMINION is 3-12 ATS (-10.2 Units) in all tournament games over the last 3 seasons.
OLD DOMINION is 73-102 ATS (-39.2 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record since 1997.

Head-to-Head Series History
OLD DOMINION is 3-3 against the spread versus JAMES MADISON over the last 3 seasons
OLD DOMINION is 4-2 straight up against JAMES MADISON over the last 3 seasons
3 of 6 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons


VILLANOVA (28 - 7) vs. DUKE (30 - 6)
Top Trends for this game.
VILLANOVA is 5-13 ATS (-9.3 Units) after scoring 80 points or more over the last 2 seasons.
VILLANOVA is 8-1 ATS (+6.9 Units) versus good offensive teams - scoring 77+ points/game after 15+ games this season.
VILLANOVA is 9-2 ATS (+6.8 Units) versus good offensive teams - scoring 77+ points/game this season.
DUKE is 6-16 ATS (-11.6 Units) in a neutral court game where the total is 145 to 149.5 since 1997.
DUKE is 33-54 ATS (-26.4 Units) in March games since 1997.

Head-to-Head Series History
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.


XAVIER (27 - 7) vs. PITTSBURGH (30 - 4)
Top Trends for this game.
XAVIER is 10-2 ATS (+7.8 Units) in a neutral court game where the total is 135 to 139.5 since 1997.
XAVIER is 13-5 ATS (+7.5 Units) in road games in non-conference games over the last 2 seasons.
XAVIER is 15-7 ATS (+7.3 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record this season.
XAVIER is 71-44 ATS (+22.6 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record after 15 or more games since 1997.

Head-to-Head Series History
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.


MISSOURI (30 - 6) vs. MEMPHIS (33 - 3)
Top Trends for this game.
MISSOURI is 0-7 ATS (-7.7 Units) in road games against Conference USA opponents since 1997.
MEMPHIS is 22-12 ATS (+8.8 Units) in all games this season.
MEMPHIS is 22-12 ATS (+8.8 Units) in all lined games this season.
MEMPHIS is 20-11 ATS (+7.9 Units) as a favorite this season.
MEMPHIS is 78-52 ATS (+20.8 Units) after scoring 80 points or more since 1997.
MEMPHIS is 156-107 ATS (+38.3 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record since 1997.
MEMPHIS is 11-4 ATS (+6.6 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record after 15 or more games this season.
MEMPHIS is 32-12 ATS (+18.8 Units) versus good offensive teams - scoring 77+ points/game after 15+ games since 1997.
MEMPHIS is 55-33 ATS (+18.7 Units) versus good offensive teams - scoring 77+ points/game since 1997.
MISSOURI is 19-10 ATS (+8.0 Units) in all games this season.
MISSOURI is 19-10 ATS (+8.0 Units) in all lined games this season.
MISSOURI is 7-1 ATS (+5.9 Units) in all tournament games this season.
MISSOURI is 12-5 ATS (+6.5 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record after 15 or more games this season.

Head-to-Head Series History
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.


PURDUE (27 - 9) vs. CONNECTICUT (29 - 4)
Top Trends for this game.
PURDUE is 50-78 ATS (-35.8 Units) as an underdog since 1997.
PURDUE is 62-89 ATS (-35.9 Units) in road games when playing against a team with a winning record since 1997.
PURDUE is 19-10 ATS (+8.0 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record after 15 or more games over the last 2 seasons.

Head-to-Head Series History
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Thursday 3/26

College Insider Tournament Semifinals

JAMES MADISON at OLD DOMINION

JAMES MADISON: 8-2 ATS as road underdog
OLD DOMINION: 3-12 ATS in tournament games


NCAA Tournament

Villanova vs. Duke

Villanova:
6-0 Under as neutral court dog of 6pts or less
8-1 Under off BB non-conf games

Duke:
13-4 Under when the total is 140 to 149.5
16-6 ATS off SU win/ATS loss


Xavier vs. Pittsburgh
Xavier:
6-0 Under in tournament games
13-5 ATS Away vs. non-conference

Pittsburgh:
4-1 Under in neutral court games
7-4 Under off an Over


Maryland vs. Memphis
Missouri:
0-7 ATS Away vs. Conference USA
11-17 ATS as an underdog

Memphis:
17-7 Under off DD win
20-11 Under as favorite


Purdue vs. Connecticut
Purdue:
17-5 ATS if underdog last game
6-3 ATS as neutral court dog

UConn:
1-8 ATS off BB wins by 10+ points
10-1 Over on neutral court

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Thursday 3/26

JAMES MADISON vs. OLD DOMINION
James Madison is 9-3 ATS in its last 12 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of James Madison's last 6 games
Old Dominion is 5-10-2 ATS in its last 17 games when playing at home against James Madison
Old Dominion is 8-1 SU in its last 9 games when playing at home against James Madison

PURDUE vs. CONNECTICUT
Purdue is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
Connecticut is 3-6 ATS in its last 9 games
Connecticut is 18-3 SU in its last 21 games

XAVIER vs. PITTSBURGH
Xavier is 5-2 ATS in its last 7 games
Xavier is 18-5 SU in its last 23 games
Pittsburgh is 12-2 SU in its last 14 games

MISSOURI vs. MEMPHIS
Missouri is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games
Missouri is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
Memphis is 13-5 ATS in its last 18 games
Memphis is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games

VILLANOVA vs. DUKE
Villanova is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Villanova's last 5 games
Duke is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Thursday 3/26

Tips and Trends

West Region: #5 Purdue vs. #1 Connecticut


Purdue: The Boilermakers certainly haven't had the easiest road to get to the Sweet 16, but they have enjoyed an impressive run in beating Northern Iowa and Washington by a combined seven points. “It has been a long road for us,” Purdue guard E’Twaun Moore said. “The end of the season was rocky, so this is a great reward for our team to be here.” The Boilermakers will have their work cut out for them again here, as the Huskies have seen their last two national championships run through Phoenix.

Purdue is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games overall.
The OVER is 8-2 in Purdue's last 10 games as an underdog.
   
Key Injuries - NONE

PROJECTED SCORE: 66 (OVER - Total Play of the Day)

UConn (-6.5, O/U 134): The Huskies have a cloud hanging over their head after a report came out on Wednesday that the school broke NCAA rules in recruiting Nate Miles. UConn head coach Jim Calhoun told his players they have nothing to worry about and tried to keep them focused on advancing to the Elite Eight. “As far as we’re concerned and I’m concerned, we’re here to beat Purdue, and I want you to know that,” Calhoun said he told the players. “That’s basically the kind of the things that we talked to the kids about, then we shut it off.”

UConn is 3-6 ATS in its last 9 games overall.
The OVER is 6-2 in UConn's last 8 games vs. Big Ten.

Key Injuries - NONE

PROJECTED SCORE: 72


East Region: #3 Villanova vs. #2 Duke

Villanova: The Wildcats are a guard-heavy team, but make no mistake about who they lean on for leadership. Senior forward Dante Cunningham is part of the winningest class in school history and has come a long way from three years ago when he played with Allan Ray and Randy Foye. Cunningham was named the Big East's Most Improved Player this past season and could very well be the difference in this game. “He takes pride in what the guys before him did for him, and he’s trying to leave the same legacy,” Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds said. “He’s trying to leave his mark on Villanova basketball.”

Villanova is 14-3 SU in its last 17 games overall.
The UNDER is 8-2 in Villanova's last 10 non-conference games.
   
Key Injuries - NONE

PROJECTED SCORE: 75 (Side Play of the Day)

Duke (-2, O/U 148): Blue Devils guard Gerald Henderson returns to the city where his father earned NBA championships with the Celtics. “It’s pretty nice to be playing in Boston, where my dad had his best years as a pro,” Henderson said. “I’m sure he’ll have fun coming back here and, hopefully, watching me having some of the same success that he had.” Henderson will also be playing against a school he followed as a youngster. “Villanova is a great place - I grew up around there,” he said. “I have a lot of friends that go there, even on the team now. Coach Wright is great in recruiting and has always been good to my family. And Duke just ended up being the right place."

Duke is 2-8-1 ATS in its last 11 games vs. Big East.
The UNDER is 7-2 in Duke's last 9 games vs. Big East.

Key Injuries - NONE

PROJECTED SCORE: 73

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Thursday 3/26

NCAAB Today

Thursday, March 26

NCAA tournament
Since 2000, #1 seeds are 7-3 vs spread when facing a 4-seed; when Pitt's Jerome Lane broke the backboard with a 1987 dunk on ESPN that made Bill Raftery famous, it was Xavier coach Sean Miller who threw him the ball. Panthers are first #1 seed since 1990 to win its first two tourney games by 10 or less points each- other two who did this lost before the Final Four. Xavier beat Cincinnati 76-66 in its only game vs Big East opponent. Pitt beat Duquesne 78-51 in only game against an A-14 foe.

#2 seeds are 6-4 vs spread in last 10 games in this round against the #3 seed. Villanova, Duke both played at home last weekend; Wildcats won 11 of last 14 games, are 14-1 outside the Big East, losing 67-58 to Texas. Duke won five in row, nine of last ten games; they're 2-0 against the Big East this season, beating Georgetown 76-67, St John's 76-69. Villanova trailed by 10 at half in first round game vs American; since then, they've outscored foes by 138-95 in their last sixty minutes played.

Since 2005, #5 seeds are 6-2 vs spread when facing a #1 seed. Unsure if rumors of recruiting violations will affect UConn here, but one thing for sure, it can't help. Huskies crushed their first two tourney foes since the six-OT loss in Big East tourney. Purdue won its last five games, allowing an average of 62.4 ppg; they're 2-2 as underdog this year. Boilermakers are 13-2 outside Big 11 this year, losing 76-60 to Duke, 87-82 in OT to Oklahoma- they beat Washington last week in Oregon, in pretty much a road game, as far as crowd support goes. .

Missouri coach Anderson has worked at both Arkansas, UAB, and has recruited Memphis heavily for both schools, so this is reunion game of sorts. We know Memphis hasn't lost since Dec 20, but Mizzou pressure will bother Memphis and its freshman PG Evans. Underdogs are 6-4 vs spread in West region semifinals the last five years Missouri won five in row, 13 of last 15 games; they're 13-2 outside the Big 12- they start two juniors, three seniors. I have a pick on this game in the box below.

CIT tournament
Road team won both James Madison-Old Dominion games, with Dukes (+9.5) winning 70-62 at ODU Jan 7, then losing 80-74 at home (-1) Jan 28-- JMU was 13-29 from arc in the two games. JMU had lost four in a row before NIT, then beat low majors Mt St Mary's, Liberty to get here. Monarchs won seven of last eight games, beating Citadel, Belmont in its first two tourney games. OSU held Belmont to 12-38 from arc Monday.

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Thursday 3/26

EAST REGION
(at Boston)

(3) Villanova (28-7, 17-14 ATS) vs. (2) Duke (30-6, 17-17-1 ATS)

After struggling to get past upstart American in the first round last Thursday, Villanova pounded sixth-seeded UCLA 89-69 Saturday as a 2½-point chalk, ostensibly playing a home game at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. The spread-cover snapped a three-game ATS slide, and the Wildcats improved to 5-1 SU in their last six starts (3-3 ATS). Dante Cunningham had 18 points to lead a balanced ‘Nova scoring attack, with six players scoring in double figures.

Duke notched its fifth straight win Saturday, topping seventh-seeded Texas 74-69 in the second round but falling short as a 7½-point chalk. Gerald Henderson led the way with 24 points, and the Blue Devils’ 7-for-14 effort from 3-point range and 21-for-27 performance at the foul line helped overcome the Longhorns’ 50 percent shooting from the floor (25 of 50). During its five-game surge, Duke has outscored opponents by just over nine points per game (74.4-65.2).

These teams have met twice since the 1997-98 season, with Duke winning both contests. The most recent clash came in November 2000, when the Blue Devils won 98-85 at home but Villanova covered as a 19-point pup.

Duke, in its 33rd NCAA Tournament, reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006. Villanova, in its 29th Tournament, has reached the third round for the second straight year, having bowed out in the Sweet 16 last year to eventual national champion Kansas 72-57 as a 12-point underdog.

The Wildcats are 11-5 ATS in their last 16 starts against winning teams and are on further ATS runs of 8-3 after a pointspread win and 5-2 against the ACC, but they also remain on ATS skids of 1-4 as a neutral-site pup and 3-7 in the Tournament. The Blue Devils are on nothing but negative ATS streaks, including 2-9 in the NCAAs, 2-10 as a Tournament chalk and 2-8-1 against the Big East.

Both of teams topped the total in each of their Tournament games last weekend. Also, the over is on runs of 10-4 for Villanova overall (4-1 last five), 4-1 for Villanova at neutral sites and 4-0 for Duke in non-conference play. However, the under is on runs of 8-2 in the Wildcats’ last 10 non-conference games, 7-2 for the Blue Devils against the Big East and 10-4 for Duke at neutral sites.

ATS ADVANTAGE: VILLANOVA


(4) Xavier (27-7, 18-12-2 ATS) (1) Pittsburgh (30-4, 16-11-1 ATS)

Top-seeded Pittsburgh got stern tests in both its games last week, fending off East Tennessee State 72-62 in the opener (falling way short as a 21-point chalk), then getting past eighth-seeded Oklahoma State 84-76 as a nine-point favorite Sunday. The Panthers needed 32 points from Sam Young on 12-for-20 shooting (60 percent) against the Cowboys, and though Pitt is 5-1 in its last six starts, it has dropped three straight ATS decisions.

Xavier won and cashed in the first and second round, whipping Portland State 77-59 as a 10-point chalk Friday and beating 12th-seeded Wisconsin 60-49 Sunday laying 2½ points. The Musketeers are now on a 3-1 SU and ATS surge, all at neutral sites, averaging 64 ppg while allowing just 52.5 in that span. They’ve held seven of their last eight opponents under 60 points, including the last four in a row.

These teams haven’t met since November 1998, when Pitt rolled 94-76 as a seven-point road ‘dog.

Pitt has reached the Sweet 16 after getting bounced in the second round last year and is on its sixth consecutive trip to the NCAAs under sixth-year coach Jaime Dixon. But Dixon’s troops have failed to get beyond the third round on their last five attempts. Xavier is aiming to reach the Elite Eight for the second straight year, after going 3-0 SU and ATS last year before falling to UCLA in the regional final.

The Panthers are on pointspread dives of 1-5 in the Big Dance, 1-4-1 as a neutral-floor chalk and 1-4 as a Tournament favorite. On the flip side, the Musketeers are on a plethora of positive pointspread streaks, including 5-2 overall, 4-0 in non-conference play, 6-1 in the Tournament, 7-1 as a Tournament pup, 11-4-1 against winning teams, 36-16-1 on neutral courts and 13-4 as a neutral-court ‘dog.

The over is 7-3 in Pitt’s last 10 Tournament tilts (1-1 this year), 7-2 in Xavier’s last nine Tournament starts (0-2 this year) and 6-2 in the Musketeers’ last eight non-conference games. However, the under is on runs for the Panthers of 5-1 at neutral sites and 5-2 outside the Big East, and the under for Xavier is on stretches of 9-2-1 overall (4-0 in the last four games) and 7-0 at neutral sites.

ATS ADVANTAGE: XAVIER


WEST REGIONAL
(at Phoenix)

(3) Missouri (30-6, 19-10 ATS) vs. (2) Memphis (33-3, 23-12 ATS)

Memphis, which survived a scare against No. 15 seed Cal State-Northridge in an 81-70 first-round as a 20-point favorite, had no such trouble with 10th-seeded Maryland in Saturday’s 89-70 rout as a 10-point chalk. Freshman sensation Tyreke Evans had 19 points in the Tigers’ 26th consecutive SU win, leading five players in double figures as Memphis hit a scorching 58.5 percent from the floor in moving to 5-2 ATS in its last seven starts.

Missouri heads to the Sweet 16 on a 5-0 SU and ATS roll, drumming No. 14 seed Cornell 78-59 as a 12-point first-round chalk, then hanging on late to beat sixth-seeded Marquette 83-79 Sunday as a 2½-point favorite. Leo Lyons had 18 points against the Golden Eagles to lead five players in double digits, as the Tigers blew a 16-point lead before holding on for the win and cover. Mizzou, which shot 48.4 percent and held Marquette to just 38.3 percent, is now 13-2 SU and 12-3 ATS in its last 15 starts and its 30 victories are the most ever in school history.

Memphis and Missouri had a home-and-home series earlier this decade, with the host winning and cashing each time. Missouri rolled 93-78 in December 2002 giving 8½ points, and Memphis snuck out a 61-59 win as a 1½-point favorite a year later.

Memphis, which brought the nation’s fourth-ranked defense to its 22nd NCAA Tournament, reached the national championship game last year before falling short to Kansas in overtime. The Tigers have made it to at least the Elite Eight each of the last three years. Meanwhile, Missouri got through to the third round to one-up their last Tournament appearance six years ago, when they bowed out to Marquette in the second round.

Memphis is on several ATS upswings, including 15-5 overall, 6-1 outside Conference USA, 12-3 against winning teams and 4-1 against the Big 12. Meanwhile, Missouri’s current 5-0 ATS run has come entirely on neutral courts, and the Tigers are on further pointspread pushes of 4-0 against winning teams, 8-2 in the Tournament and 4-1 as an NCAA pup, but they also carry negative ATS streaks of 1-4 against Conference USA foes and 2-5 as a neutral-site ‘dog.

The over is on identical 8-1 tears for both Memphis and Missouri in NCAA Tournament play, but the under for Memphis is on streaks of 8-2 overall, 8-1 against the Big 12 and 13-3 against teams with a winning percentage above .600. Also, Mizzou is on “under” runs of 4-1 overall and 5-1 on neutral courts.

ATS ADVANTAGE: MEMPHIS


(5) Purdue (27-9, 15-17 ATS) vs. (1) Connecticut (29-4, 14-15 ATS)

Purdue stretched its winning streak to five games by getting through the first two rounds in a pair of tight games, besting No. 12 seed Northern Iowa 61-56 as an 8½-point favorite, then squeaking past fourth-seeded Washington 76-74 Saturday as a one-point pup. Center JaJuan Johnson led the way against Washington with 22 points – nine above his season average – and four blocks. The Boilermakers ended a two-game ATS hiccup and cashed for just the fourth time in their last 10 starts.

Connecticut coasted through the first two rounds, pounding Chattanooga 102-47 giving 20 points, then drilling ninth-seeded Texas A&M 92-66 Saturday as a 10½-point chalk. In Saturday’s rout, A.J. Price (27) and Jeff Adrien (23) combined for 50 points as the Huskies shot a sterling 57.9 percent (33 of 57) while holding the Aggies to just 41.3 percent, including 3 of 15 from three-point range (20 percent). Although UConn’s two spread-covers in the tournament ended an 0-3 ATS slide, the Huskies are still just 3-6 ATS in their last nine starts.

Purdue’s win Saturday followed a pair of second-round exits the past two years, including an 85-78 loss to Xavier last year getting 2½ points. The Boilermakers are on their 23rd NCAA trip, but this is their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2000, when they beat Gonzaga to reach the regional final before losing to Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

Connecticut, in its 29th NCAA Tournament, reached the third round for the first time since 2006 following a pair of first-round exits the past two years. Three years ago, UConn beat Washington in overtime to reach the round of eight, then got stung by Tournament darling George Mason 86-84 in overtime to miss out on the Final Four.

The Boilermakers are on ATS skids of 1-5 after a spread-cover and 2-5 after a SU win, but they also carry positive ATS streaks of 12-5-1 catching points, 4-1 as a neutral-site pup and 6-2 as an NCAA underdog.

Prior to last week, the Huskies had dropped seven straight ATS decisions in the Tournament – all from the favorite’s role – and were on an 0-13 ATS freefall in postseason play. Despite those numbers, UConn is on positive ATS runs of 5-0 after a SU win of more than 20 points, 5-1 on neutral courts, 4-1 as a neutral-site chalk and 5-2 outside the Big East.

The over for Purdue is on a bundle of runs, including 8-3 on neutral floors, 4-1 in the Tournament, 6-1 on Thursday, 8-2 with the Boilermakers as an underdog and 5-1-1 as a Tournament pup. Likewise, the over for UConn is on tears of 6-0 in the Big Dance, 21-7 at neutral sites, 14-3 with the Huskies as a chalk and 6-2 against Big Ten competition.

ATS ADVANTAGE: OVER

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Thursday 3/26

West Regional Preview
by Robert Ferringo

March is a time for the guards. If you don't have good guard play you can't win this time of year. But as I look around the West Region all I can think is, "Damn, those guys are big."

Powerful frontcourts are dominating out West and the winner of this region will be determined by which team can physically impose their will on their opponent. Tough, solid physical specimens like Jeff Adrien, Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll, Chris Kramer, Shawn Taggart and Robert Dozier are running roughshod in The Desert. They have turned their regional into an arm wrestling match; and if you want to make it out alive it's going to be by raw force and brute strength alone.

Let the little guys beware.

Here is a breakdown of the West (Glendale) Regional:

Purdue (+7) vs. Connecticut (7 p.m., Thursday, March 24)

I know that Jerome Dyson was good, but he wasn't THAT good.

Connecticut's best perimeter defender and top three-point shooter went down with a season-ending injury over a month ago and you would have thought that the Miami Heat had just lost Dwyane Wade. It seems like just about every bobblehead in the country had written off the Huskies - mainly because of the Dyson injury - even though this may have been the most consistently dominating team in the country this season. The result: an incredibly underrated No. 1 seed that won its two opening weekend games by 56 and 26 points, respectively.

The Huskies boast the best frontcourt in the country with power forward Jeff Adrien and center Hasheem Thabeet and swingman Stanley Robinson. Mix in incredibly clutch point guard A.J. Price and the Huskies clearly are a force to be reckoned with over the next two weekends. This team doesn't shoot the ball particularly well, but they rebound, defend, take care of the ball, and they impose their will.

Also, a player to keep an eye on in this game is freshman Kemba Walker. The kid has tried to pick up the scoring slack in Dyson's absence with mixed results. I think the kid has big-time potential but he is also the least experienced big-game player on the floor. I think he's definitely an X-Factor.

Purdue was exceptional last weekend. They let up on Northern Iowa a little bit after a dominating 32 minutes and then scored a serious win over Pac-10 champion Washington in front of a very pro-Huskies squad. Purdue has now won five straight postseason games, going 3-2 against the spread in the process, after taking the Big Ten Tournament title and winning their opening NCAA games.

The Boilermakers were a preseason Final Four sleeper. But an injury to leading scorer and go-to guy Robbie Hummel got their conference season off-track. However, with Hummel back and playing at 100 percent this team is clicking on all cylinders. They have some strength up front to make it interesting on the boards and they defend as well as any team in the country. Also, Purdue has better shooters than the Huskies and should be able to score some points without taking it at Thabeet.

Purdue can beat Connecticut. But I don't think that they will. The Huskies have only lost to three teams this year: Pittsburgh, Syracuse in six overtimes, and in a stunner at home to Georgetown. Clearly, they are a tough out. But they have also been feast or famine. Over the last two months they have faced 11 teams ranked in the Top 55. They have lost three of those games by an average of 9.3 points and won their eight games by an average of 12.1 points.

Missouri (+4.5) vs. Memphis (9:30 p.m., Thursday, March 24)

Memphis is still the most overrated team left in the tournament field. However, it takes a certain type of team to beat the Tigers and I think that for the first time in months they may be up against a capable foe.

Memphis is huge. Their frontcourt is 6-8 across the board and all four of their top guards are 6-5 or taller. Guys like Robert Dozier, Antonio Anderson, and Shawn Taggart just kill teams on the offensive glass and 6-6, 215 freshman Tyreke Evans is simply too strong for most opponents' guards to stop. This team plays smothering half court defense and they are athletic enough to get up and down the court to generate points.

Athleticism. That is the key to Memphis' game. And that is why smaller, less physically gifted teams that execute and shoot and take care of the ball and do all of the other wonderful things that winning teams should do still have trouble competing against the Tigers. And that is what allows Memphis to dominate teams, on defense, on the glass and on the scoreboard.

Well, here's the rub: this week Memphis might be running into one of the only teams in the NCAA Tournament field that is actually MORE athletic than they are.

Missouri's top three scorers are all 6-7 or taller. The Tigers go, legitimately, 10 deep and they play a pressing, trapping, up-and-down game that threatens to leave fans and spectators out of breath, much less opponents. Missouri is one of the most up-tempo teams in the country and they have outmuscled physical - and extraordinarily talented - teams like Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and USC.

The Tigers have played 16 games this season against teams ranked in the Top 50 and they are a hearty 11-5 straight up against that top competition. Memphis has played just seven teams in the Top 50 and are simply 4-3 in those games. I don't care about Memphis' 27-game winning streak; only five of their opponents were rated in the Top 60 while 12 of the teams the beat were rated 135 or higher and five of the teams were 197 or higher.

One of the keys to this game is actually not on the court, but on the bench. John Calipari is a proven commodity in March and had his team just two minutes away from a national championship just 12 months ago. Mike Anderson, on the other hand, is a subpar game manager who has coached exactly one Sweet 16 game in his career. Oh, and that was a 26-point loss. So score a big one for Memphis.

Memphis will be ready for the Missouri press. Missouri will be ready for Memphis' half court defense. This one is going to be an up-and-down affair. But in the end it's going to be the team that can do enough of the little things - hit three-pointers, make free throws, take care of the ball - that should come out alive.

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Thursday 3/26

NCAA Tourney Research
By Indiancowboy

Purdue vs. UConn

How exciting is this Big 10 vs. Big 12 clash. Purdue has looked a bit shaky barely getting passed Washington and having their trouble with Northern Iowa. Remember, this team lost to Oklahoma and Duke as well. Uconn has dominated in their first 2 contests and I know they are the public favorite here, but they have some great size down low and great guard play. I lean slightly on the over if anything, but Uconn is going to be a very tough matchup here.

Xavier vs. Pittsburgh

I think Xavier came on in their last game, but now they face a Pitt team who let's be honest, only beat E.T.State by 10 and Oklahoma State by 8. I think this is going to be a tough game for Pitt b/c Xavier had a great showing against Portland State and Wisconsin. Pitt better show up in the first half or they are going to have a tough hill to climb in this game.

Missouri vs. Memphis

This might be the most intriuiging game of the night. You have a Memphis team that came on strong against Maryland but faces a Missou team that beat Marquette by 4. Part of this game will be how closely the refs call this game. But, Memphis is known for their defensive presence although they yielded 70 to Maryland. Memphis has more of a inside game to complement their outside game and I think Missou relying on their outside shot a lot might catch them in the bud here. A small lean on Memphis and the under here, but this is a tight call.

Villanova vs. Duke

Everytime you doubt Duke, they surprise you. But, once again, another Big East vs. ACC clash. The trouble for Duke is that their first 2 games were semi-home games against Texas - who they won by 5 and Bighampton who they won by 20. But, now this is a neutral setting and Villanova comes off crushing UCLA. I think Villanova is the better team, but if Scheyer is able to get free and hit his shots, and Henderson is able to take his man off the dribble, then Duke does have its spots where it can do well. But, Villanova is such a disciplined and well coached team as well. I'm just staying away.

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