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NCAAB News and Notes Sunday 3/29

NCAAB News and Notes Sunday 3/29

South Regional Final
By Brad Young

The South Region has gone according to form, with the top-two ranked teams colliding Sunday for a shot at the Final Four. This is the only region where a Big East team is not guaranteed a slot in Detroit for the Final Four. Sunday’s earlier matchup in the Midwest Region has Big East power Louisville playing Michigan State out of the Big Ten.
North Carolina has remained the 2/5 favorite to cut down the nets in Memphis, while Oklahoma has seen its odds improve from an opening 6/1 to a current 7/2. The Tar Heels also remain the ‘chalk’ to capture the national championship at Detroit’s Ford Field at 2/1. The Sooners opened as a 30/1 longshot to win this tournament, but now entertain a 6/1 status.

There also always seems to be a North Carolina-Duke connection deep into March. Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel was a guard for the Blue Devils during his playing days, hitting one of the most famous shots in that heated rivalry back in 1995. Now he will take his best shot trying to keep the Tar Heels out of another Final Four.

Caesars Palace installed North Carolina as a seven-point ‘chalk’ over Oklahoma, with the total set at 164 ½. CBS Sports will provide coverage of the South Regional final beginning at 5:05 p.m. ET from FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee.

Second-seeded Oklahoma (30-5 straight up, 16-13 against the spread) knocked off third-seed Syracuse Friday as a ‘pick,’ 84-71. The Sooners have won and covered all three of their NCAA Tournament games.

Oklahoma entered halftime with a 13-point advantage, 39-26, and finished the contest by outrebounding the Orange, 35-26. The Sooners also connected at a stellar 54-percent clip (32-of-59) from the field, and 43 percent (9-of-21) from behind the arc.

Player of the Year candidate Blake Griffin led all scorers with 30 points and 14 rebounds, becoming the first player since 1969 to record at least 25 points and 10 rebounds his first three NCAA Tournament games. Guard Tony Crocker added 28 points, after scoring just eight points the first two rounds. They were the only two Oklahoma players to reach double digits in scoring against Syracuse.

The Sooners maintain an impressive 13-4 SU and 12-5 ATS road record, winning those affairs by an average score of 76-67. Oklahoma is in its first regional final since 2003, gunning for its first Final Four appearance since 2002.

Top-seeded North Carolina (31-4 SU, 14-17 ATS) punched its Elite 8 ticket by roughing up Gonzaga Friday night as an eight-point ‘chalk,’ 98-77. The Tar Heels have also won all three of their NCAA Tournament games SU and ATS.

North Carolina enjoyed an 11-point halftime advantage, 53-42, and finished the contest by outrebounding the Bulldogs, 40-28. Coach Roy Williams’ squad shot a robust 53 percent (36-of-68) from the field, and 58 percent (11-of-19) from 3-point land. However, the one chink in the Tar Heels’ armor was their dismal 56-percent shooting (15-of-27) from the free-throw line.

Four starters reached double digits in scoring, led by forward Tyler Hansbrough’s 24 points and 10 rebounds. Point guard Ty Lawson contributed 19 and nine assists, while backcourt mate Wayne Ellington added 19 and seven rebounds.

North Carolina sports a 17-3 SU and 10-9 ATS road record, winning those games by an average score of 89-73. The victory over Gonzaga gave the university 99 wins in the NCAA Tournament, atop the list over such schools as Kentucky and UCLA. Kentucky actually has 100 tournament wins, but the NCAA has vacated two of those victories due to violations.

The Tar Heels have advanced to the regional finals for the third consecutive year, losing to eventual champion Kansas last season in the national semifinals.

The biggest matchup on the floor figures to be between North Carolina's Hansbrough and Oklahoma's Griffin.  Hansbrough was The Associated Press Player of the Year in 2008, an award that Griffin appears to have an inside track on this season.  These two schools haven't collided in the NCAA Tournament since 1990 when North Carolina upset top-seeded Oklahoma in the second round.

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Midwest Region Finals
By Brian Edwards

With a trip to the Final Four in Detroit at stake, top-seeded Louisville and No. 2 seed Michigan State will square off in the Midwest Region finals Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Louisville (31-5 straight up, 22-14 against the spread) as a 5 ½-point favorite with a total of 134. As of early Saturday night, most books had the Cardinals as 6 ½-point ‘chalk’ with the total adjusted to 138. The Spartans are plus-250 on the money line (risk $100 to win $250).

Rick Pitino’s team dealt out woodshed treatment in Friday’s 103-64 win over No. 12 seed Arizona. The ‘Ville easily took the cash as a 9 ½-point favorite. Earl Clark led the way with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Terrence Williams finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Michigan State (29-6 SU, 19-12-1 ATS) advanced to the Elite Eight by rallying past Kansas for a 67-62 win as a one-point favorite. Kalin Lucas scored seven of his 18 points in the final 49 seconds, including the go-ahead bucket. Lucas, who drained all five of his free-throw attempts at crunch time, also had seven assists and four steals.

Lucas doesn’t have the name recognition or the ‘street cred’ of KU’s Sherron Collins, but Tom Izzo had the better player when it counted Friday night. Collins had a brilliant shooting night, knocking down 9-of-13 attempts on his way to 20 points. However, he committed six turnovers, including a pair of give-aways in the waning moments.

Goran Suton added 20 points, nine rebounds and five steals.

During a difficult time for the people of Michigan given the colossal struggles of the auto industry, Michigan St. has the opportunity to lift the spirits of the people of its home state. The Spartans can do so by going to the Final Four in Motown next weekend.

To beat Louisville and its non-stop pressure defense, it is critical for Izzo’s bunch to covet the basketball. In other words, Michigan St. can’t turn the ball over. When the Cardinals create turnovers, they can go on scoring sprees that are tough to recover from, especially for a Spartans team that thrives in a half-court setting and sometimes struggled to get buckets.

Louisville hasn’t tasted defeat since Notre Dame ran it out of the Joyce Center back on Feb. 12. Since then, the Cards have won 13 in a row, posting a 9-4 spread record over that stretch. They advanced through the first weekend of the tournament with non-covering victories over Morehead St. and Siena as double-digit ‘chalk.’

Michigan St. has won nine of its last 10 games, posting a 7-3 spread record during that span.

U of L is 7-6 ATS in 13 games as a single-digit favorite. However, the Cards are 5-1 ATS in their last six such situations. The Spartans have been underdogs five times this season, compiling a 3-2 record both SU and ATS. They won as ‘dogs at Illinois, at Minnesota and at Texas.

The ‘under’ is 19-13 overall for the Spartans. Totals have been a wash (17-17) for Louisville, but we should mention a 3-1 run for the ‘over’ in its last four outings.

CBS will have the telecast for this 2:20 p.m. Eastern tip.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Michigan State’s Raymar Morgan sustained a broken nose in Friday’s win over Kansas. He will play using a protective mask (think of the Pistons’ Rip Hamilton).

--Michigan St. and Louisville haven’t met since 1999 when the Spartans won a 69-57 decision as 8 ½-point home favorites.

--How about the finish for our purposes in UConn’s 82-75 win over Missouri on Saturday? We’ll start with the total (150 ½) that appeared on its way to an easy ‘over’ when the Huskies led the Tigers 44-38 at intermission. But UConn’s shooting went cold in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Therefore, ‘over’ backers were only able to cash thanks to solid work from the Huskies at the charity stripe in the final minute. Most books closed Jim Calhoun’s team as a 5 ½-point favorite for side wagers. With 18 seconds left, UConn went ahead 80-72 on a pair of free throws from A.J. Price that also gave bettors the ‘over.’ Next, Zaire Taylor drained a 3-pointer with eight ticks left to cut Mizzou’s deficit to five. After an immediate foul, Craig Austrie buried two free throws to get UConn ahead of the number. The game then ended with Missouri going the length of the floor against minimal resistance and Taylor going in for an easy bunny. With two seconds remaining, Taylor missed the easy look to send UConn backers into a jubilant state.

--If UConn freshman point guard Kemba Walker (23 points, five assists and five rebounds in 25 minutes) from the Bronx wants to transfer if the Huskies go on probation, I think my Gators would be very interested.

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South Regional final: Preview and pick

No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 North Carolina (-7, 164)

North Carolina is peaking at the right time.

In the tournament, the Tar Heels have looked like the dominant team people envisioned when NBA prospects Danny Green, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson decided to return for another year in Baby Blue.

UNC has another gear that most teams don’t, including today’s Elite Eight opponent Oklahoma.

The Tar Heels have put up triple digits nine times this year. They dropped 98 on Gonzaga, owner of the second-best field goal percentage defense in the nation.

In contrast, Oklahoma, an exceptional offensive team, has scored more than 90 only five times this season.

The Sooners were very impressive in blowing out Syracuse Friday. The 13-point final margin doesn’t tell the true story of Oklahoma’s dominance over the Orange from the almighty Big East.
But it’s hard not to look good, when your third guard, Tony Crocker, has a career day.

Crocker registered a goose egg in the second round against Michigan, was one for his last 16 behind the arc and had not scored in double digits in more than a month.

Against Syracuse, he hit six of his first eight 3-pointers and finished with 28 points. Don’t expect the same kind of performance against the Heels.

Of course, Blake Griffin, the most dominant player in the game, makes the Sooners very scary to bet against. Griffin had 30 points and 14 rebounds against Syracuse.

“He’s every bit as good as advertised,” Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn told reporters.

North Carolina has a lot more big bodies to throw at Griffin than Syracuse did. Expect Hansbrough, Deon Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Ed Davis to use their fouls generously against Griffin, a 59-percent free-throw shooter.

Even as impressive as Oklahoma looked, oddsmakers opened the Tar Heels as 7.5-point favorites. The Sooners got the early action, as the line quickly dropped to seven, with a few 6.5’s out there.

That early money is going against Carolina’s coaching advantage and big-game experience. The core of the Tar Heels—Hansbrough, Green, Ellington and Lawson—will be playing in their 13th NCAA tournament game today.

On the other hand, Oklahoma’s top guns will be playing in only their fifth NCAA tourney contest.

Tar Heel backers do have to be wary of Lawson’s injuries. He rolled his left ankle in Friday’s win over Gonzaga and is still playing with a jammed toe on his right foot. Lawson played only 27 minutes against the Zags and said the ankle injury was not anything serious. But there is no questioning that North Carolina is not the same team without Lawson.

If the junior point guard goes out early, it could be lights out for the Tar Heels.

The same could be said for the Sooners, if Griffin gets into foul trouble.

Ask yourself which seems to be the more likely scenario: Lawson not gutting it out or Griffin picking up a couple early fouls?

On paper, the Sooners don’t have the firepower to go toe-to-toe with UNC, if Lawson is at the controls.

OU doesn’t have the caliber of point guard to control the tempo, either. They’re going to have to slow things down by playing through Griffin on almost every possession.

Even if the Sooners manage to slow the pace, North Carolina will make a few runs. Will the Sooners be able to answer?

Final Score Prediction: UNC 90, Oklahoma 77

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Midwest Regional final: Preview and pick

Michigan State Spartans vs. Louisville Cardinals (-6.5, 138)

It's No. 2 vs. No.1 in the Midwest final for a trip to the Final Four. The coaches have been there before but only one will get to go back again in 2009.

Teams that are able to win the necessary six games for an NCAA title usually have a close call or two. Second seeded Michigan State (29-6 SU, 19-12-1 ATS) has already survived a pair of thrillers with some clutch play in the final minutes.

In the second round, the Spartans and USC were tied at 69 with just under four minutes to play. The Trojans failed to score for the rest of the game. The circumstances were more desperate against Kansas in the Sweet 16. Down by five with just over three minutes to go, Michigan State outscored the defending champions 12-2 to close out a 67-62 victory.

The Spartans have a strong backcourt to counter the full-court press defense of Louisville. Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas and defensive standout Travis Walton won't panic against the pressure.

Tom Izzo (4-1 in regional finals) has a typically rugged squad. MSU’s defense and rebounding (lead the nation in rebound differential) will offer a unique challenge to the overall top seed in the tournament.

Louisville fans are hoping the Cardinals haven't peaked too early. The Cardinals (31-5 SU, 22-14 ATS) were flawless in Friday's 103-64 pasting of Arizona. The easy baskets will be much harder to find against the Spartans.

The solid forward tandem of Earl Clark (14.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and Terrence Williams (12.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg) will be counted on to match the rebounding strength of Michigan State. The overall team defense (opponents shoot 39.4 percent from the field) of Rick Pitino's squad is outstanding.

These teams have been sold on the team concept by their coaches. Neither club has a player averaging more than 15 points per game.

Michigan State and Louisville are similar teams in many aspects. The difference is talent. The Cardinals have enough of an edge in this area to advance to the Final Four.

Final score prediction: Louisville 70, Michigan State 65

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Michigan State Spartans vs. Louisville Cardinals

Oddsmakers currently have the Cardinals listed as 7-point favorites versus the Spartans, while the game's total is sitting at 139.

Michigan State defeated reigning champion Kansas 67-62 in the Sweet 16 on Friday. Michigan State covered the 1-point spread, while the 129 points fell UNDER the posted total of 138.

Goran Suton led Michigan State with 20 points and nine rebounds, while Kalin Lucas added 18 in the win.

Louisville jumped out to a 19 point lead at the half, as they cruised past Arizona 103-64 in the Sweet 16 last time out. Louisville easily covered the 9.5-point spread, and the combined score sailed OVER the posted total of 139.

Earl Clark led the way with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Jerry Smith added 16 in the victory for the Cardinals.

Team records:
Michigan State: 29-6 SU, 19-13 ATS
Louisville: 31-5 SU, 22-14 ATS

Michigan State most recently:
When playing on Sunday are 7-3
After playing Kansas are 2-1
After a win are 8-2

Louisville most recently:
When playing on Sunday are 5-5
After playing Arizona are 1-0
After a win are 10-0

A few trends to consider:
Michigan State is 9-1 SU in its last 10 games
Louisville is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games

Oklahoma Sooners vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

Oddsmakers currently have the Tar Heels listed as 7-point favorites versus the Sooners, while the game's total is sitting at 164.

Blake Griffin tossed in a game-high 30 points to lead Oklahoma to a convincing 84-71 victory over Syracuse in the Sweet 16 last time out. Oklahoma won the game as a pick'em, and the 155 points made it OVER the posted total of 150.5.

Griffin grabbed 12 rebounds to complete a double-double performance for the Sooners, and Tony Crocker added 28 in this contest.

North Carolina reached the Elite Eight with a 98-77 victory over Gonzaga on Friday. North Carolina covered the 7.5-point spread, while the combined score made it OVER the posted total of 163.

Tyler Hansbrough had 24 points, and Ty Lawson added 17 in that win for the Tar Heels.

Team records:
Oklahoma: 30-5 SU, 17-13 ATS
North Carolina: 31-4 SU, 15-19 ATS

Oklahoma most recently:
When playing on Sunday are 6-4
After a win are 7-3

North Carolina most recently:
When playing on Sunday are 7-3
After playing Gonzaga are 1-0
After a win are 8-2

A few trends to consider:
Oklahoma is 18-4 SU in its last 22 games
North Carolina is 17-2 SU in its last 19 games

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Michigan State vs. Louisville

Michigan State:
13-4 ATS on neutral court
17-7 ATS vs. non-conference

9-22 ATS off 3+ non-conf games
22-38 ATS on neutral court

Oklahoma vs. North Carolina

12-4 Under as underdog
35-15 Under off BB DD wins

North Carolina:
24-8 ATS vs. non-conference
15-5 ATS off BB ATS wins

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Michigan State is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games
Michigan State is 9-1 SU in its last 10 games
Louisville is 5-2 ATS in its last 7 games
Louisville is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games

Oklahoma is 18-4 SU in its last 22 games
North Carolina is 17-2 SU in its last 19 games
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of North Carolina's last 6 games

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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Sunday 3/29


NCAA tournament

First-ever Izzo-Pitino coaching matchup; Pitino is 32-4 against a lower-seeded opponent in this tournament, best mark of all the active coaches. Louisville won last 13 games, covering 10 of the 13- they lost 70-64 to Minnesota on neutral court, in only game vs Big 11 foe this year. State is 9-1 in last 10 games, 3-2 vs spread as an underdog- they were down 11 to Kansas early in game Friday, rallied to win despite shooting 39% for night. The #1 seed is 5-1 in regional finals this season and last.

North Carolina was simply too quick for Gonzaga, scoring 98 points on 11-19 shooting from arc, with only nine turnovers; we have pick on this game in box below. Oklahoma beat Syracuse because they got huge game (28 points) from Crocker; if Blake Griffin/Hansbrough cancel each other out, which side wins 4-on-4 game? Sooners will need huge game from its supporting cast to advance to Detroit- they're 1-2 as an underdog so far this season, losing at Texas/Missouri, beating Purdue on neutral floor.

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OU-UNC, Bonus Nuggets
By Brian Edwards

When Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green decided to return to school after testing the NBA waters last offseason, they did so in anticipation of this moment. After losing in the Elite Eight to Georgetown two seasons ago and falling to Kansas in last year’s national semifinals, the nucleus of the 2008-2009 North Carolina team came back to avenge those disappointments and win it all in Detroit next weekend.

The Tar Heels can get one step closer to their goal if they advance past second-seeded Oklahoma in the finals of the South Region at FedEx Forum in Memphis. Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened North Carolina (31-4 straight up, 14-19 against the spread) as a six-point favorite with a total of 160.

As of early Sunday morning, most books had UNC at seven with the total in the 164-165 range. Oklahoma (30-5 SU, 16-13-1 ATS) is plus-250 on the money line (risk $100 to win $250).

The Sooners came into the NCAA Tournament as losers of four of their previous six games after starting the season with a 25-1 record. Since then, however, Jeff Capel’s squad has caught fire all over again.
OU hammered Morgan St. 82-54 as a 15-point favorite in the first round. Next, the Sooners captured a 73-63 victory over Michigan as 7 ½-point ‘chalk.’ Blake Griffin punished the Wolverines with 33 points and 17 rebounds.

Then on Friday night, Oklahoma cooled off red-hot Syracuse by jumping on the Orange from the get-go and cruising to an 84-71 triumph as a one-point favorite. Griffin went off again, tallying 30 points and 14 boards on 12-of-15 shooting from the field. Tony Crocker busted up the ‘Cuse’s traditional 2-3 matchup zone with 28 points thanks to six 3-pointers.

North Carolina covered the number for the third straight time in Friday’s 98-77 win over Gonzaga as an eight-point favorite. Tyler Hansbrough was the catalyst with 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Lawson added 19 points, nine assists and four boards. Ellington chipped in with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Before spanking the ‘Zags, UNC destroyed Radford 101-58 as a 25-point favorite. With Lawson returning from a three-game absence in the second round against LSU, the Tar Heels collected an 84-70 victory behind 21 second-half points from Lawson.

Oklahoma is 1-2 both SU and ATS in three previous games as an underdog. The Sooners beat Purdue in New York City but lost at Texas and at Missouri.

UNC has been abysmal in single-digit favorite situations, limping to a 2-5 spread record.

The ‘over’ is 17-11 overall for Oklahoma, 19-14 overall for UNC. This is the highest total the Sooners have seen all year. The previous high for OU was 158 ½ and totals were a wash (4-4) in its eight games with tallies in the 150s.

Tip-off is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. Eastern on CBS.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--There was zero doubt in my mind that Pitt’s Levance Fields was going to make both free throws to tie the game with 5.5 seconds left.

--Like I said on Selection Sunday, this tournament has a 1985 feel. If Louisville beats Michigan St., we'll have three Big East teams in the Final Four just like in '85 when 'Nova cut the next down at Rupp Arena by shocking Georgetown. The Hoyas had beaten St. John's (Chris Mullin, Marc Jackson, Bill Wennington and Walter Berry) in the semifinals, while Rollie Massamino's team had beaten Memphis (Keith Lee, Andre Turner and the late Baskerville Holmes).

--Good move by Billy Gillispie in taking the high road at his farewell meeting with the Lexington press on Saturday.

--Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel uses today's column to tell the Big Blue Nation that he told you so about Billy Donovan.

--Scottie Reynolds’s game-winning shot to lift Villanova past Pitt was a Bryce Drew-Tyus Edney Combo. The catch on the second pass off the inbound was Drew-esque and his quick use of the dribble into the lane had the Edney Factor (beating Missouri in the second round of the '95 tourney).

--Pitt completely blew it by not getting Blair more touches. For Jerome Lane’s sake, Blair didn’t miss all night but got only nine shot attempts. Throw the big man the ball in the post.

--Malcolm White can be added to the transfer list, deciding to leave Ole Miss.

--The lines for Tuesday’s NIT semifinal games at MSG are set. Notre Dame is a four-point favorite against Penn St., while Baylor is a one-point ‘chalk’ vs. San Diego St.

--Oregon St. is a one-point home underdog in Monday's Game 1 of its best-of-three series against UTEP in the CBI finals. Game 2 and Game 3 (if necessary) will be played in El Paso.

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(at Indianapolis)

(2) Michigan State (29-6, 19-12-1 ATS) vs. (1) Louisville (31-5, 22-14 ATS)

After a couple of shaky performances in the first two rounds of the Big Dance last weekend, Louisville came out Friday and proved why it received the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, waxing Arizona 103-64 and covering easily as a 9½-point favorite. The Cardinals are riding a 13-game winning streak (9-4 ATS), and have advanced to their second consecutive regional final.

In Friday’s other regional semifinal, Michigan State survived its second consecutive scare, rallying from a 13-point first-half deficit for a 67-62 victory over No. 3 seed Kansas, covering as a one-point favorite. The Spartans, who barely held off USC 74-69 as a four-point chalk in a second-round contest, are 3-0 SU and ATS in the Tournament and 9-1 SU (7-3 ATS) in their last 10. Tom Izzo’s squad is in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2005, when it lost the national championship game to North Carolina.

Louisville built up a 21-point halftime lead against the 12th-seeded Wildcats and outscored them 54-36 over the final 20 minutes. Five players scored in double digits for the Cardinals, who shot 57.6 percent from the field (14-for-29 from three-point range) and held Arizona to 38.1 percent shooting.

Goran Sutton had a season-high 20 points and nine rebounds to pace Michigan State against the Jayhawks, but it was the play of guard Kalin Lucas that proved the difference, as he scored seven – including going 5-for-5 on free throws – in the final 49 seconds. Michigan State won despite getting outshot 45.3 percent to 39 percent and despite getting outrebounded 31-26, but the Spartans were nearly perfect from the foul line (16-for-17) and had just 13 turnovers while forcing 19.

The Cardinals reached the regional final last season, falling to North Carolina 83-73 as a 5½-point underdog and they’re once again shooting for their first Final Four appearance since 2005. Coach Rick Pitino owns a 38-12 SU Tournament record while coaching Providence, Kentucky and Louisville.

Under coach Tom Izzo, Michigan State is now 30-10 SU in the Tournament, reaching four Final Fours, seven Sweet 16s and winning one national championship (2000). The last time the Spartans were in the regional final was in 2005, when they beat Kentucky 94-88 in overtime, covering as a 1½-point chalk.

These teams last met on Jan. 2, 1999, with Michigan State prevailing 69-57 as an 8½-point favorite.

Louisville, which failed to cash in its first two Tournament games last weekend, ended ATS droughts of 0-4 in non-conference play and 0-3 in the Big Dance with Friday’s rout of Arizona. Also, the Cardinals have failed to cash in five straight games against the Big Ten. On the bright side, they remain on positive ATS streaks of 39-19-1 overall (17-7-1 last 25), 15-7 as a chalk, 21-7-1 when giving less than seven points, 7-2-1 as a Tourney favorite, 4-0 when laying less than seven points in the Tournament and 11-4 on Sunday

Michigan State is on a host of positive pointspread runs, including 5-1 overall (4-1 at neutral sites), 5-0 in non-conference action, 11-4-1 in neutral-site games, 20-8-1 in the Big Dance, 8-3-1 as an underdog and 4-0 on Sunday. However, the Spartans have failed to cash in five of their last seven against the Big East.

The Cardinals are on “under” streaks of 13-7-1 in non-conference games, 7-3-1 as a neutral-site chalk, 15-5 after a victory of more than 20 points and 6-1 after scoring in triple digits in the previous game. Likewise, Michigan State comes in on “under” stretches of 10-4 overall, 38-18-1 as an underdog, 22-6 when catching less than seven points, 9-4 as a neutral-site pup, 8-3 after a SU win and 7-2 after a spread-cover.


(at Memphis, Tenn.)

(2) Oklahoma (30-5, 16-13-1 ATS) vs. (1) North Carolina (31-4, 14-19-0 ATS)

North Carolina exploded offensively for the third straight time in the Tournament, pounding No. 4 seed Gonzaga 98-77 on Friday, easily cashing as a 7½-point favorite as it improved to 3-0 SU and ATS in the Big Dance. The Tar Heels, who have scored 101, 84 and 98 points in this event, are back in the regional final for the third straight season and a victory today would put them in the Final Four for the second consecutive year and the third time since 2005.

Oklahoma also moved to 3-0 SU and ATS in the Big Dance by easily dispatching third-seeded Syracuse 84-71 as a one-point favorite. The Sooners, who were eliminated in the second round of the Tournament last year, are back in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2003 and are seeking their first Final Four berth since 2002.

Four of UNC’s five starters reached double digits in scoring Friday, with Tyler Hansbrough going for a game-high 24 points along with 10 rebounds, while gimpy point guard Ty Lawson once again shook off an injured toe and poured in 19 points with nine assists. The Tar Heels shot 53 percent from the floor, made 11 of 19 three-point tries (58 percent) and dominated the boards (40-28 rebounding edge). Roy Williams’ squad is averaging 94.3 ppg in the Big Dance while shooting 50.2 percent.

The Sooners seemingly couldn’t miss against Syracuse, shooting 54.2 percent while going 9-for-21 (43 percent) from long range. Big man Blake Griffin (12-for-15 shooting, 30 points, 14 rebounds) was marvelous as usual, and he got a lot of help from guard Tony Crocker (28 points on 9-for-17 shooting). Oklahoma is averaging 79.7 ppg and shooting 54.4 percent in the Tournament.

North Carolina, playing in the Big Dance for the 41st time, started last year’s Tournament 4-0 SU and ATS, including an 83-73 victory over Louisville as a 5½-point favorite in the Elite Eight.

Oklahoma is in its 26th NCAA Tournament and last played in the regional final in 2003, when it lost to Syracuse 63-47 as a three-point underdog. The previous year, the Sooners were upset in the Final Four, falling 73-64 to Indiana as a seven-point favorite.

North Carolina has cashed in three straight games for the first time since a 3-0 ATS run that carried over from late November to early December, and the Heels – who entered this tourney in a 7-17 ATS drought – haven’t enjoyed a 4-0 ATS run all season. Furthermore, they continue to be in ATS funks of 0-5 on Sunday, 3-7 against winning teams, 3-9 as a favorite of less than seven points, 2-7 after a SU win and 2-8 after a spread-cover. On the flip side, UNC is on positive pointspread runs of 7-1 in the Tournament (all as a favorite), 37-15 in non-conference action, 5-2 versus the Big 12 and 9-3 at neutral sites.

The Sooners have now cashed in four of their last five Tournament games, and they’re 5-2 ATS in their last seven at neutral venues. However, as an underdog, OU is in pointspread slumps of 7-20-1 overall, 2-6 at neutral sites and 4-12-1 when catching less than seven points.

The over is on runs of 13-5 for North Carolina on Sunday, 6-1 when North Carolina is favored by less than seven points, 13-6-1 for North Carolina after a spread-cover, 5-1-1 for Oklahoma in the Tournament, 13-5-1 for Oklahoma in non-conference play and 10-3 for Oklahoma after a spread-cover.


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Tips and Trends

Midwest Region Final: #2 Michigan St. vs. #1 Louisville

Michigan State: Spartans head coach Tom Izzo is 13-2 on the second day of NCAA tournament weekends during his career, and he knows that one more victory will get his team to the Final Four in nearby Detroit. “It will be the biggest game I’ve probably ever played in because of what you just said,” Izzo said. “For a guy like me, who just loves the state, I’ve lived there all my life, to have that opportunity to play there is just special. You know, I’m no different than a player.”

Michigan State is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games overall.
The UNDER is 10-4 in Michigan State's last 14 games overall.

Key Injuries - F Raymar Morgan (nose) is probable.

PROJECTED SCORE: 68 (Side Play of the Day)

Louisville (-6.5, O/U 138): The Cardinals are on a mission to get to the Final Four after losing last year's regional final against North Carolina. They are coming off the biggest rout in the regional semifinals since the field expanded, crushing Arizona 103-64 on Thursday. “Losing last year, we kind of know what it takes to lose - meaning that, last year we didn’t play 40 minutes,” Louisville's Terrence Williams said. “This year, we know that coming out, to get to the Final Four, you have to play all 40 minutes. You have to play your game.”

Louisville is 9-4 ATS in its last 13 games overall.
The OVER is 9-4 in Louisville's last 13 games as a favorite.

Key Injuries - NONE


South Region Final: #2 Oklahoma vs. #1 N. Carolina

Oklahoma: The Sooners will look to ride the best big man in the country to the Final Four on Sunday in what should be a classic matchup between Blake Griffin and North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough. “You have everything that’s right about college basketball with these two kids,” Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel said. “Tyler staying in school for four years and breaking every record at North Carolina and in the ACC. And then Blake, you know, turning down the money last year and coming back. Both of them have been great ambassadors for college basketball.”

Oklahoma is 3-0 SU & ATS in its last 3 games overall.
The UNDER is 8-1-1 in Oklahoma's last 10 games as an underdog.

Key Injuries - NONE

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

North Carolina (-7, O/U 164): While Hansbrough hasn't been nearly as dominant as Griffin this season, he remains the ACC's all-time leader in points scored and has received plenty of help from his teammates. The Tar Heels figure to have a big matchup advantage at point guard now that Ty Lawson appears to be getting healthier as the tournament goes on. “My toe is feeling good,” Lawson said Saturday. “It didn’t really swell up last night. It’s not much pain in it. It’s getting better.”

North Carolina is 3-0 SU & ATS in its lsat 3 games overall.
The UNDER is 3-1 in North Carolina's last 4 games overall.

Key Injuries - PG Ty Lawson (toe) is probable.


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Re: NCAAB News and Notes Sunday 3/29

NCAA Tourney Research
By Indiancowboy

Oklahoma vs. UNC

Give Oklahoma and Coach Capel a lot of credit for moving to the Elite 8 here defeating Morgan State, Michigan and Syracuse. This team put up 82, 73 and 84 points in their last 3 contests against Morgan State, Michigan and Syracuse and has allowed 54, 63 and 71. I would not be surprised to see this game go over as UNC has dropped 101, 84 and 98 in their last 3 contests. This team has given up 58, 70 and 77 points as they defeated Radford, LSU and Gonzaga. I know it's a lot of points, but I lean on UNC here and it's hard for me to get a beat on the side as this is the first time UNC faces someone like Gonzaga that has the Griffin brothers who can be a presence down low. Remember, Gonzaga vs. UNC totaled 175 so there is no reason an up and down team like Oklahoma can't score that many points as well, but I hesitate b/c Oklahoma plays sound defense - and they put up 155 points in total against Syracuse who is an up and down team and this total sits at 164 which makes me hesitate.

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