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NCAAB News and Notes Saturday 3/28

NCAAB News and Notes Saturday 3/28

East Final Preview
By Judd Hall

Maybe the Big East is really THAT good after all.

The biggest conference in Division I basketball (16 schools deep) will send either Pittsburgh or Villanova to Detroit as the East Region’s representative in the 2009 Final Four. But the roads they took to Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden haven’t been so smooth for either club.

Pittsburgh (31-4 straight up, 29-7 against the spread) may have been a no-brainer when it comes being selected as a No. 1 seed by the selection committee. Yet they’ve have had nothing but issues during the NCAA Tournament.

The Panthers came damn close to falling against East Tennessee State in the opening round, 72-62. Oklahoma State raised Jamie Dixon’s blood pressure last Sunday, but Pitt still walked out of Dayton with an 84-76 victory. Two gritty wins for the Cats with no love for bettors as they failed to cover in both contests.

As surprising as the close finishes were for Pitt in the first weekend of tourney play, they expected to have a tough fight with the Musketeers. And sure enough Xavier jumped out to a 37-29 lead after the first half of play.

Luckily for the Panthers there was still another 20 minutes of gametime and they made the most of it. Pittsburgh held the Muskies to just 18 points in the second half thanks to completing just seven of 29 shots from the field. And Xavier couldn’t get many second chances thanks to DeJuan Blair grabbing 17 rebounds, nine coming on the defensive end. Blair also scored 10 points in the win.

Sam Young led all scorers with 19 points for Pittsburgh. Levance Fields put in 14 points with six assists in a winning effort. But Fields showed just how clutch he is by creating enough space with 56 seconds remaining to drain a three-point shot to give the Panthers the lead. And he also stole a Xavier pass 20 seconds later for an easy layup to put Pitt up for good. Dixon’s club wound up winning 60-55, but failed to cover as 6 ½-point favorites.
Villanova (29-7 SU, 18-14 ATS) had a little something to prove against the Blue Devils on Thursday. After all, they were posted as a two-point pup against Duke. The Wildcats didn’t have any problem holding their own in the first half, holding a 26-23 advantage into the intermission.

The Wildcats ran away in the second half by dropping 51 points on a Duke defense that gave up only 65.6 points per game. How did they get that kind of output? Jay Wright’s crew wound up shooting 48.6 percent from the field in the second half with help from its best players. Reggie Redding poured in 11 points and nine boards for the ‘Cats. Dante Cunningham contributed 14 points with 11 rebounds and Scottie Reynolds posted 16 points.

We shouldn’t dwell on Villanova’s offense in this game since its defense proved way too physical for the Blue Devils in the final 20 minutes. Duke’s Big 3 of Gerald Henderson, Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer combined for 35 points for the entire game. They collaborated for 19 points in the second half as the rest of the team accounted for 12 points.

In the end, ‘Nova proved too powerful as they romped 77-54 to cash tickets as a $1.50 underdog (risk $100 to win $150).

The Wildcats have to feel pretty good about their chances to make it back to the Final Four since Ronald Regan was president. Villanova took down the Panthers as a 3 ½-point home ‘dog back on Jan. 28, 67-57. Redding scored 18 points and Cunningham added 15 more in the victory at the Spectrum. Young posted 14 points with nine boards, while Fields had 11 points in defeat.

When looking at the stats of that matchup, you’ll notice that both schools hit from a decent clip from the field (Pitt: 22-53, Villanova: 21-48). Yet the Wildcats were able to triumph from beyond the arch by hitting 40.0 percent of their three-pointers. The Cats’ clamped down on the Pittsburgh’s perimeter shooting as they connected on only three of its 16 shots from downtown.

Blair snared eight rebounds and seven points in that earlier contest. But he only played 20 minutes thanks to getting his fourth foul with eight minutes left in a game that was tied up at 48 apiece. ‘Nova went on to go on a 19-9 run from that point on to win the game. Blair did return to the game, but was unable to really use his size as effectively as usual thanks to the foul trouble.

I fully expect Villanova to use dribble penetration to get up close and personal with Blair in this contest. Although the sophomore forward has done a good job of keeping his nose clean as he’s had just three personal fouls in each NCAA Tournament tilts so far.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants expects a close game as they’ve tabbed the Panthers as 2 ½-point favorites with a total of 140. Bettors can back Villanova for a modest plus-115 return (risk $100 to win $115).

The Wildcats are just 4-5 SU and 5-4 ATS when listed as single-digit ‘dog. Although they’ve paid off well recently going 3-1 SU and ATS in the last four games.

Pittsburgh has done well as a single-digit “chalk” when you look at its 8-3 SU record. But the Panthers are just 6-5 ATS in this situation. Keep an eye on the ‘under’ though in this spot as it is 9-2 during those matches.

There have been eight times that the Nos. 1 and 3 seeds have met in the Elite Eight, splitting it down the middle with four wins apiece. While the matchups look even, bettors backing the No. 3 seed has profited since they are 5-3 ATS in those matches. It’s important to not that the higher seed is on a 3-0 SU and ATS run right now. The ‘over’ is 6-2 in this spot as well.

The Panthers own a 6-4 SU and ATS record in their last 10 head-to-head scuffles with ‘Nova since 2002. The ‘under’ is 7-1 in the previous eight meetings.

Villanova is 4-1 ATS in its last five NCAA Tournament contests when installed as an underdog.

Tip-off for this game is at 7:05 p.m. EDT on CBS.

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Game of the day: Villanova vs. Pittsburgh
By Alex Smart

Villanova Wildcats vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (-2.5, 142)

How sweet it is

In Thursday's Sweet 16 matchup with Duke at the TD Banknorth Garden, Nova's swarming defense never allowed the Blue Devils offense to settle into a groove. A misleading three-point halftime lead ballooned into a 23-point second half spread, holding Duke to just 16-of-60 shooting (26.7 percent) and 5-for-27 from beyond the arc.

The efficient Blue Devils backcourt of Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson went an embarrassing 4-of-32 from the floor and the undersized Wildcats even dominated the glass, outrebounding Duke 46 to 32.

"Hopefully that will be some magical power that helps us beat Pitt,” guard Scottie Reynolds told reporters.

Pitt’s senior point guard, Levance Fields, drained a key 3-pointer to help the Panthers take down Xavier 60-55. Jamie Dixon's squad trailed by eight at halftime and fought diligently to take the lead late. But when it trailed by a deuce with 50.9 seconds remaining, Fields pulled up from the top of the key and sent the clutch shot straight through the net.

"We haven't played our best basketball, but the good thing is we've found a way to make plays when we've needed them,” Fields told the media following the game.

Saturday night will mark Pitt's first Regional Final appearance since 1974.

Cats on the prowl

It didn't take long after the release of this year's bracket for both Pitt and Villanova to recognize that the Big East could prove its worth with an Elite Eight showdown between Pennsylvania powers.

"When coach handed us the brackets, he only gave us the four teams in our area. We looked up and knew Pittsburgh was in that area," said Wildcats senior, Dante Cunningham. "That's something we kind of looked forward to."

Cunningham may want to take a step back and reassess the situation. When Nova beat Pitt in Philadelphia January 28, DeJuan Blair was hardly a factor. Blair was in foul trouble throughout the contest and finished with seven points and eight rebounds in 23-minutes.

Since the loss, Blair has solidified himself as a premier player in the country, earning co-Player of the Year honors. Again, Villanova will be outmatched in size but its quickness could cause Pitt to turn the ball over. The Panthers coughed up the ball 17 times in the first matchup at the Wachovia Center.

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East region preview and pick

No. 3 Villanova Wildcats vs. No. 1 Pittsburgh Panthers (-2, 142)

After three rounds of the NCAA tournament and an 0-3 ATS record, I think it’s pretty safe to assume two things about Pittsburgh: They hate dopes like me who keep expecting them to explode and they don’t care about style points.

“Survive and advance” has become the motto for the grind-it-out Panthers (31-4 SU, 16-12-1 ATS), who escaped Xavier thanks to a clutch 3-pointer by guard Levance Fields. A big problem for Pittsburgh has been defensive rebounding where they’ve allowed the opposition to grab a staggering 40 rebounds on Pittsburgh’s glass in the tournament.

Center DeJuan Blair had 10 points and 17 rebounds against Xavier but was far from dominant, missing easy shots inside and getting out-worked and out-positioned for rebounds. If he doesn’t toughen up and get some help from his teammates, it will be tough for the Panthers to reach the Final Four.

Villanova (29-7 SU, 18-14 ATS) has advanced by finding its identity on offense during the second half of a 14-point comeback against American in the opening round. The Wildcats have become relentless at attacking off turnovers and don’t settle for jump shots on offense, as they take the ball to the rim and draw contact or create open looks for teammates.

In a beat down of Duke on Thursday night, Villanova allowed the Blue Devils to shoot just 26.7 percent from the floor and just 5-of-27 from beyond the arc. Duke’s big three of Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson were a combined 9-of-45 from the field.

The pressure of Villanova’s smaller, guard-oriented lineup has given opponents fits in the tournament and did the same to Pittsburgh in a 67-57 win in Philadelphia earlier this season.

The Wildcats forced 17 turnovers and allowed Pitt to make just 3-of-16 3-pointers. Villanova trailed by five at the half, but continually got to the line in the final stanza and held a commanding edge in free throws, making 19-of-28 attempts compared to just 10-of-17 from the Panthers.

Pittsburgh is too talented and plays at such a slow pace it is nearly impossible to blow the team out, but the pressure on Fields and the rest of the guards will be too much. The Panthers will be run out of the tournament in the second half by Villanova‘s depth and talented guards.

Scottie Reynolds and Dante Cunningham will be cutting down the nets in Beantown.

Final score prediction: Villanova 70, Pittsburgh 62

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West Regional preview and pick

Connecticut Huskies vs. Missouri Tigers (+5.5, 150)

Missouri’s breakout season and run to the Elite Eight has been a nice sidebar in the NCAA tournament. Connecticut’s dominance has been the lead headline.

After they face each other for a trip to the Final Four Saturday, neither story should change.

Both clubs rolled in their Sweet 16 contests, Connecticut toppling Purdue 72-60 and Missouri dismantling the nation’s stingiest defense in a 102-91 romp over Memphis.

Even so, each result spells bad news for the Tigers. For starters, UConn practically slept walk through its game against a gritty Purdue club and still won by double figures.

Guard A.J. Price was just 5-for-15 from the field, getting most of his points late in the second half. Hasheem Thabeet got 15 points and 15 rebounds despite looking disinterested a good portion of the night.

Jeff Adrien missed all the wide-open 15-footers, which were cash over the past few weeks, and the Huskies turned the ball over repeatedly while generally looking out of sync.

They were fortunate that Purdue struggled to hit shots or they might have been in trouble. You can count on coach Jim Calhoun emphasizing the point that another such sub-par performance will result in a trip home.

It’s not going to happen against Missouri, which saw all five starters score in double figures. It broke down the Memphis defense with surprising ease on its way to a 24-point lead, then held on for dear life as Memphis fought back.

The Tigers, like every team that faces the Huskies, will have matchup problems, but maybe more than most. This is because everything they like to do, on both ends of the floor, is negated by Connecticut’s strength.

Purdue learned the hard way that full-court pressure isn’t the way to rattle the Huskies. The Boilermakers tried it a few times in the second half and it resulted in uncontested dunks which took Purdue out of the game. The Huskies are athletic and gifted enough to punish Missouri’s pressure with easy layups.

Missouri’s offense relies on DeMarre Carroll and J.T. Tiller getting into the lane and making something happen with either a driving shot attempt or a dump-off pass. Thabeet will wipe away all such forays into the paint. Missouri will be forced to take more outside shots than it wants. Matt Lawrence, who scored 13 against Memphis, is Missouri’s main outside threat. He will have to step up for the Tigers to have a chance.

Taking Thabeet out of the game with foul trouble would free up the lane, but also would result in trips to free throw line, where Missouri struggles.

In the end, all signs point toward a Connecticut victory and a trip to the Final Four.

Final score prediction: Connecticut 88, Missouri 76 

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West Region Finals
By Brian Edwards

We’re down to two teams left standing for the West Region finals Saturday in Glendale. Top-seeded UConn (30-4 straight up, 14-14 against the spread) will take on No. 3 seed Missouri on CBS at 4:40 p.m. Eastern.

Despite dealing with drama galore stemming from allegations of recruiting violations that surfaced on the eve of Thursday’s game against Purdue, Jim Calhoun’s team advanced nonetheless by beating the Boilermakers 72-60 as a seven-point favorite.

Hasheem Thabeet led the Huskies with 15 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots. Craig Austrie finished with a team-high 17 points, while A.J. Price had 15 points, seven assists, four rebounds and a pair of steals. Stanley Robinson chipped in 10 points and 11 boards.

Missouri (31-6 SU, 20-10 ATS) pulled a mild upset in Thursday’s 102-91 win over second-seeded Memphis. Mike Anderson’s team won outright as a 4 ½-point underdog, hooking up money-line backers with at least a plus-170 payout. J.T. Tiller scored a team-high 23 points, while Leo Lyons had 15 points and 12 rebounds. DeMarre Carroll added 17 points, six assists, six rebounds, two steals and one blocked shot.

The victory over John Calipari’s squad was Missouri’s sixth straight both SU and ATS. The 193 combined points leaped ‘over’ the 142-point total with more than eight minutes left.
UConn has covered the spread in all three of its tournament victories over Chattanooga, Texas A&M and Purdue. The Huskies have won by an average of 31.3 points per game.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened UConn as a six-point favorite with a total of 150. As of early this morning, most books had the Huskies at 5 ½ with the total in the 149-150 range. Missouri is plus-200 on the money line (risk $100 to win $200).

UConn owns a 6-4 spread record in 10 games as a single-digit favorite. Meanwhile, Missouri has compiled a 4-2 spread record in six games as an underdog.

UConn and Mizzou have faced three common opponents – Marquette, Fairfield and Chattanooga. The Tigers beat Marquette 83-79 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, while UConn won a 93-82 decision at Marquette during the regular season.

Missouri beat Fairfield 87-59, while UConn spanked Fairfield by a 75-55 score. Mizzou also blasted Chattanooga 103-75 and the Huskies trounced the Moccasins 103-47 in the NCAAs opening round.

The ‘under’ is 16-11 for UConn, while the ‘over’ is 16-14 for Missouri. The ‘over’ is on a 9-1 run for the Tigers in their last 10 NCAA Tournament games.

UConn has had six totals that ranged between 149 and 156. In those six contests, the ‘under’ has cashed at a lucrative 5-1 clip.

Missouri had 15 totals of 149 ½ points or more. The Tigers saw the ‘over’ go 9-6 in those 15 spots.

Under Anderson, Missouri utilizes the “40 Minutes of Hell” approach (think the 1990s Arkansas squads with players like Corey Beck, Clint McDaniel, Al Dillard and Scotty Thurman). That means the Tigers press the entire game.

Like Memphis, UConn will want to attack Missouri’s press to score. That should get gamblers the up-and-down pace they’re looking for if backing the ‘over.’

Unlike Memphis, I think UConn’s backcourt of A.J. Price and Craig Austrie will be better suited to handling Missouri’s full-court pressure. Tyreke Evans is a terrific player, as evidenced by his 33 points against the Tigers, but he’s not a pure point guard like Price. Evans committed five turnovers in Thursday’s loss.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--The ‘under’ has cashed in six straight head-to-head meetings between Pitt and Villanova.

--Once Billy Donovan took himself out of the running at Kentucky, it only took a couple of hours for Anthony Grant to accept Alabama’s offer that’s believed to be worth at least $2 million per year. As we’ve discussed all week, Grant was holding off taking over the Crimson Tide program because he would’ve replaced Donovan at Florida had Billy D decided not to give UK the Heisman – again. ‘Bama has a good one in Grant, who took VCU to the NCAA Tournament twice. In three games, the Rams beat Duke, lost to Pitt in overtime and lost by one to UCLA.

--Louisville's Rick Pitino owns a 9-0 career record in Sweet 16 games.

--John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader says hiring Billy Gillispie was a mistake by Kentucky and firing him is the right move at the right time.

Editor's note: Brian Edwards has cashed seven straight winners on totals in college hoops. He's No. 2 on VI in NCAABK 'over/under' selections with a 30-19 record (+925). Don't miss tonight's total that's a pay-if-it-wins-only selection!

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VILLANOVA (29 - 7) vs. PITTSBURGH (31 - 4)
Top Trends for this game.
VILLANOVA is 12-5 ATS (+6.5 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record after 15 or more games this season.
VILLANOVA is 9-1 ATS (+7.9 Units) versus good offensive teams - scoring 77+ points/game after 15+ games this season.
VILLANOVA is 10-2 ATS (+7.8 Units) versus good offensive teams - scoring 77+ points/game this season.

Head-to-Head Series History
PITTSBURGH is 3-1 against the spread versus VILLANOVA over the last 3 seasons
PITTSBURGH is 2-2 straight up against VILLANOVA over the last 3 seasons
4 of 4 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons

MISSOURI (31 - 6) vs. CONNECTICUT (30 - 4)
Top Trends for this game.
MISSOURI is 27-45 ATS (-22.5 Units) in road games on Saturday games since 1997.
MISSOURI is 20-10 ATS (+9.0 Units) in all games this season.
MISSOURI is 20-10 ATS (+9.0 Units) in all lined games this season.
MISSOURI is 8-2 ATS (+5.8 Units) in all neutral court games this season.
MISSOURI is 8-1 ATS (+6.9 Units) when playing with one or less days rest over the last 2 seasons.
MISSOURI is 8-2 ATS (+5.8 Units) when playing on a neutral court this season.
MISSOURI is 8-1 ATS (+6.9 Units) in all tournament games this season.
MISSOURI is 13-5 ATS (+7.5 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.

Missouri is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games
Missouri is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
Connecticut is 19-3 SU in its last 22 games
The total has gone UNDER in 16 of Connecticut's last 24 games

Villanova is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games when playing Pittsburgh
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Villanova's last 5 games when playing Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing Villanova
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Pittsburgh's last 5 games when playing Villanova

Villanova vs. Pittsburgh

8-1 Under as neutral court underdog
9-1 Under off BB non-conf games

8-1 Under vs. Villanova
0-3 ATS in NCAA Tournament

Missouri vs. Connecticut

8-2 ATS on neutral court
13-6 ATS off ATS win

7-21 ATS Away off 3 straight wins by 10+ pts
10-2 Over on neutral court

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Tips and Trends

West Regional Final: #3 Missouri vs. #1 UConn

Missouri: The biggest challenge for the Tigers will be UConn's 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet - literally. Their goal will be to minimize his impact by running and gunning up and down the floor. “I think the biggest key is we’ve got to get that big beast to run,” Missouri forward DeMarre Carroll said. “So hopefully we can get him running up and down the court, and fatigue could be a big factor in this game.” The Tigers also hope to get Thabeet into early foul trouble, as he has fouled out of two of the team's four losses.

Missouri is 16-5 ATS in its last 21 games overall.
The OVER is 9-1 in Missouri's last 10 NCAA tournament games.

Key Injuries - NONE

PROJECTED SCORE: 75 (OVER - Total Play of the Day)

UConn (-5.5, O/U 149.5): The Huskies have seen both of their previous national titles go through Arizona and will try to put themselves in position for a third trip to the Final Four in the last 10 years. They will look to control the tempo and may be tempted to run with the Tigers, who are coming off the highest-scoring game of the tournament. “They advertise it as the 40 fastest minutes in basketball,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said on Friday, “And I’m a believer. Have we truly found ourselves? If we get to Detroit, we’ll find ourselves.”

UConn is 3-0 ATS in its last 3 games overall.
The OVER is 21-7 in UConn's last 28 neutral site games.

Key Injuries - NONE


East Regional Final: #3 Villanova vs. #1 Pitt

Villanova: The Wildcats are confident they can play with Pitt after knocking off Duke easily to get to the Sweet 16. However, the Panthers play a much tougher brand of basketball than the Blue Devils, and Villanova hopes to be ready for that. “We like to play ugly as well,” Wildcats forward Dwayne Anderson said. “We want guys banging for loose balls.” The Big East has already set a record for most teams by a conference in the Elite 8 with four teams, and this is just the 10th time two teams from the same conference will meet with a berth in the Final Four on the line.

Villanova is 1-4 ATS in the last 5 meetings.
The UNDER is 6-0 in the last 6 meetings.

Key Injuries - NONE


Pitt (-2, O/U 142): Panthers forward DeJuan Blair has fouled out in three of their four losses this season, including a 67-57 loss to Villanova back on January 28th. Blair insists he is a much different player since the last meeting, and he won't let his physical style of play affect this game. “I’ve been good for the whole tournament - hopefully, they’ll keep letting me play the way I am,” Blair said. “I can’t get in foul trouble for my team to win. I’ve just got to be out on court. Everybody on my team and my family and my coaches and everybody just say to stay out of foul trouble. I’ve just got to keep playing..”

Pitt is 8-3 ATS in its last 11 games vs. Big East.
The OVER is 19-9-1 in Pitt's last 29 games vs. Big East.

Key Injuries - NONE

PROJECTED SCORE: 75 (Side Play of the Day)

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(at Boston)

(3) Villanova (29-7, 18-14 ATS) vs. (1) Pittsburgh (31-4, 16-12-1 ATS)

Villanova rumbled to its second straight blowout victory in Thursday’s Sweet 16 round, ripping second-seeded Duke 77-54 behind a 51-point second half to pull the mild upset as a 2½-point underdog. Dante Cunningham doubled up with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Scottie Reynolds had 16 points. Villanova shot a mediocre 42.2 percent, but its defense stifled the Blue Devils into a 16-for-60 effort from the floor (26.7 percent), including 5-for-27 from three-point range (18.5 percent). The Wildcats are now on a 6-1 SU run (4-3 ATS).

Pittsburgh faced a far greater challenge than Villanova in its Sweet 16 contest, trailing in the final minute against fourth-seeded Xavier before Levance Fields knocked down a deep three-pointer, then got a steal and layup to ignite an 8-1 game-ending run in a 60-55 victory. However, the Panthers fell short as a 6½-point chalk, dropping to 0-3 ATS in this year’s Big Dance. In an extremely even contest, Pitt shot just 33.8 percent – though Sam Young had 19 points on 7-for-16 shooting – while the Musketeers, who started the second half with a six-minute scoreless drought, were even worse at 32.8 percent.

These Big East rivals met just once this regular season on Jan. 28, with Villanova winning outright 67-57 as a 3½-point home pup to end a four-game ATS run by Pitt in this rivalry (3-1 SU). Furthermore, the underdog is 4-1 ATS in the last five contests. However, since March 2004, ‘Nova has faced Pitt just once outside Philadelphia, with the Panthers rolling 69-57 as a seven-point home chalk in January 2008.

Villanova, in its 29th NCAA appearance, has reached the Elite Eight for the first time since 2006, when it lost to eventual champion Florida 75-62 as a one-point favorite. Pittsburgh, in its 21st NCAA Tourney, has been in the Big Dance six straight years under coach Jamie Dixon, but this is the first time the Panthers have gotten to the Elite Eight in that stretch. In fact, with Thursday’s win over Xavier, Pitt advanced past the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1974.

The Wildcats are on ATS rolls of 12-5 against winning teams, 15-7 as a neutral-site pup, 4-1 as an NCAA ‘dog, 9-3 after an ATS win and 11-4 against teams with a winning percentage above .600.

The Panthers are on an 8-3 ATS run against Big East opponents, but their pointspread numbers tail off from there, including slumps of 0-4 overall (all at neutral sites), 1-5 in the Tournament (0-4 in the last four), 1-5 as a Tourney favorite, 1-6 laying less than seven points in the NCAAs and 2-5 after a SU win.

The under for Villanova is on stretches of 6-0 against winning teams, 24-8-1 as an underdog, 19-7-1 as a pup of less than seven points and 4-0 as a neutral-site ‘dog. Likewise, the under for Pittsburgh is on tears of 4-1 overall, 6-0 against winning teams and 6-1 on neutral courts. Finally, the last six meetings in this rivalry have stayed low, with none of the six contests featuring more than 127 combined points.


(at Phoenix)

(3) Missouri (31-6, 20-10 ATS) vs. (1) Connecticut (30-4, 15-15 ATS)

Red-hot Missouri ran its winning streak to six in a row both SU and ATS after knocking off second-seeded Memphis on Thursday, building up a 24-point second-half lead, then fending off a furious rally for a 102-91 win as a 4½-point underdog. All five Mizzou starters scored in double figures, led by J.T. Tiller’s 23 points, and the Tigers shot 53.2 percent to break the century mark against the nation’s seventh-ranked scoring defense (58.8 ppg) and No. 1-ranked shooting defense (37.2 percent). Memphis had been riding a national-best 27-game win streak and was on a 15-5 ATS run.

Connecticut wasn’t distracted by off-court recruiting issues, dropping fifth-seeded Purdue 72-60 as a seven-point chalk Thursday to move to 3-0 SU and ATS in this year’s Tournament. Craig Austrie scored 17 points, going 3-for-3 on three-pointers, and 7-foot-3-inch center Hasheem Thabeet had a big night with 15 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks, helping hold the Boilermakers to just 36.4 percent from the field. The Huskies, meanwhile, shot 44.6 percent and had a 42-31 rebounding edge. UConn has outrebounded its three Tournament foes by a combined 134-86.

Missouri is in its 22nd NCAA Tournament and its first since 2003. However, the Tigers have never reached the Final Four in its previous 21 appearances.

UConn, meanwhile, is a two-time national champion under Jim Calhoun and is in its 29th Big Dance. The Huskies have reached the Elite Eight for the first time since 2006, when they were upset by Tournament darling George Mason 86-84 in overtime as an eight-point chalk. Both of UConn’s national championships came with the team playing in the West Region.

The Tigers are on a 14-2 SU and 13-3 ATS blitz, and they are on additional pointspread sprees of 16-5 overall, 5-0 against winning teams, 9-2 in the Tournament and 5-1 as an NCAA pup. Mizzou’s current 6-0 SU and ATS surge has all come on neutral courts, beginning with its run to the Big 12 tourney title and continuing with its three victories in the NCAAs. The Tigers’ 31 victories are a single-season best for the school.

The Huskies were an ATS mess entering the Tournament, having dropped 13 straight postseason pointspread decisions, including seven in a row (all as a favorite) in the NCAAs. However, along with their 3-0 ATS mark in this year’s Tourney, they are riding positive ATS streaks of 6-1 on neutral courts, 5-1 as a neutral-site favorite and 6-2 outside the Big East.

The over for Missouri is on a plethora of hot streaks, including 9-1 in the Tournament, 15-7 in non-conference clashes, 7-0 with the Tigers catching points in the Tournament and 8-2 when the Tigers are a neutral-site ‘dog. UConn is also on a bundle of “over” runs, including 6-1 in the Tournament, 4-0 against the Big 12, 21-8 on neutral floors and 14-4 as a neutral-site chalk.


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NCAA Tournament Research
By Indiancowboy

Villanova vs. Pittsburgh

Pitt should really feel fortunate they have made it to the Elite 8 given how they have played. They have won their last 2 contests by a total of 13 points defeating Xavier thanks to Fields's 3 pointer and steal. This team also had its trouble with Oklahoma State. The last time these two teams met, Villanova won 67-57 at home. So, yes, Pitt does have revenge. But, Pitt ha not looked as sharp as a Villanova team that beat UCLA. Villanova crushed UCLA by 20 and Duke by 23 cementing Big East domination over this tournament. This team has yielded just 54 points to Duke, 69 to UCLA and 67 to American as their defense has been rock solid. Pitt yielded 62 to East Tennessee State (only beating them by 10), giving up 76 to Oklahoma State and 55 to Xavier. I know Pitt has revenge, but they have looked shaky and it depends on if Jamie Dixon can get his boys fired up here as the Cats will be fired up. I lean on the under slightly here with no lean on the side.

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