Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 7:00 AM
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT:
WE CHECK OUT MORE “FIRST FOUR” ACTION
PLUS WE ZIP ‘ROUND THE LAND WITH
THURSDAY’S TOP “BIG DANCE”
AND KEY POINTSPREAD QUESTIONS
There’s been plenty written about how this is “Kentucky’s tournament to lose” as the 34-and-oh Wildcats are, in fact, even money to win this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Still, the rest of the field simply cannot think that way – we remember 30 years ago when everyone (and we mean everyone) had crowned the Georgetown Hoyas as the national champion only to have Villanova throw the “perfect game” and win one of the most exciting sports events in this country going back the past 100 years.
And who can forget the 1991 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (34-1) who – like the ’85 Hoyas – were attempting a repeat national title only to get beaten in the Final Four national semifinal game by Duke.
Just about everyone in the hoops world thought UNLV was gonna reign supreme but the basketball gods intervened and said no, no, no!
Guess what we’re trying to say here is that right here and right now it looks like Kentucky is gonna smoke the field, go 40-and-oh and win the school’s ninth national championship but sometimes strange things happen to those so-called “unbeatable” teams and they stub their toe along the way to cutting down the nets.
You know the deal …
In many NCAA Tournament cases in recent years past, it’s the team that got hot at the right time that won it all – see UConn in 2011 and 2014 and aforementioned ‘Nova dating back to 1985 – and so even though 95 percent of the brackets we’ve seen flashed up on the TV screen or submitted by pals in office pools have Kentucky scrawled in as the 2015 national champ, remember the hand of fate often has a role in saying who wins it all and who doesn’t.
Okay, we’ll bang out Wednesday’s “First Four” matchups in just a moment but first this key reminder …
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have been steamrolling their way through the month of March with loads of College Basketball winners and it ain’t gonna stop anytime soon!
Get with America’s #1 Handicapper for The Network March Madness Package that features all of the NCAA Tournament Games and also get the other post-season tournaments such as the NIT, CBI and CIT Tournies too.
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Lots of day-time action – Notre Dame vs. Northeastern tips off the busy NCAA Tournament Thursday card at 12:15 p.m. ET, so don’t “sleep in” – this week and so make sure you’re in the winner’s circle!
Here’s what is on tap for the NCAA Tournament on this Wednesday night with “First Four” action from Dayton:
#16 ROBERT MORRIS (19-14) vs. #16 NORTH FLORIDA (23-11) – 6:40 p.m. ET, truTV
Winner gets Duke – gulp! – on Friday night in Charlotte and gotta believe team that shoots more 3’s wins here as both clubs like to rev it up and chuck it up from deep with Bobby Morris nailing 39.1 percent of its triples while the N. Fla. Ospreys hit triple tries at a respectable 38 percent … watch Rodney Prior of the RM Colonials as he’s averaging team-best 15.2 ppg and may get off 25 shots here!
#11 BOISE STATE (25-8) at #11 DAYTON (25-8) – approximately 9:10 p.m. ET, truTV
Everyone’s bloody mad here – Dayton (and we agree with ‘em) shouldn’t have been seeded so darn low as we figured ‘em to be in one of the #8 vs. #9 games while Boise State’s P.O’ed that it must play this NCAA Tournament game on the road as most of the 12,000-plus fans here will be pulling for the Flyers.
If Boise State – a 4-point and growing underdog here – is gonna pull off the upset, then scoring leader Derrick Marks (19.3 ppg) must be a major threat from downtown as he drilled home 66-of-150 trifectas this year (a solid 44 percent) while Dayton likely needs 50-or-more combined points from the threesome of Jordan Sibert, Kendall Pollard and Dyshawn Pierre.
Hey, we’ll be watching for any “home court advantage” with the whistles here!
Now let’s check out some Thursday action in the NCAA Tournament with a site-by-site look:
NCAA TOURNAMENT –
At Memorial Arena – Jacksonville, FL
The $64,000 question in this bracket is this:
Are any of these power conferences favorites – that’s Baylor, North Carolina, Arkansas and Xavier – good enough to crank out a couple of SU (straight-up) and ATS wins this first week/weekend of tourney play?
Baylor sported the Big 12’s best defense (allowed just 60.3 ppg) but couldn’t come back in last weekend’s conference tourney semifinal loss to Kansas;
North Carolina won/covered three in a row in last week’s ACC Tournament before getting doused by Notre Dame (and a sparkling 20-2 Irish run);
Arkansas has run hot-and-cold spreadwise this year with a mediocre 17-16 ATS mark;
And Xavier must find out what’s in the tank after winning a pair of Big East Tourney games before getting creamed by 17 points against Villanova and facing off with an Ole Miss that came from down 17 points to best BYU 94-90 on Tuesday night will represent a major challenge to the Musketeers.
Here’s the games in Jacksonville in chronological order with regional seeds and team records included:
#14 Georgia State (24-9) vs. #3 Baylor (24-9), 1:40 p.m. ET
#11 Ole Miss (21-12) vs. #6 Xavier (21-13), approximately 4:10 p.m. ET
#13 Harvard (24-7) vs. #4 North Carolina (24-7), 7:20 p.m. ET
#12 Wofford (28-6) vs. #5 Arkansas (26-8), approximately 9:50 p.m. ET
At Consol Arena – Pittsburgh, PA
Interesting to note here we have a pair of oh-so-very-close Las Vegas lines and a pair of twin-figure prices … but might those heavy-duty favorites be overrated here?
Consider that Notre Dame (-12 vs. Northeastern) comes off an emotionally grueling ACC Tournament championship and plays a well-rested Northeastern squad that is red-hot with six wins in its last seven games since mid-February.
Meanwhile, Big East Tournament champ Villanova (- 22.5 vs. Lafayette) might find it difficult to get back to an emotional high here after winning the school’s first Big East Tourney since 1995 and keep in mind Lafayette head coach Fran O’Hanlon is a good friend of ‘Nova boss Jay Wright … hmmm.
The two short price tags involve Texas (- 1.5) versus Butler and N.C. State (- 1.5) versus LSU:
Note that Texas is a rotten 4-10 ATS (against the spread) in its last 14 head-to-head games against Big East teams while N.C. State’s laying a tiny price but note the Wolfpack come into the tourney on a neat 6-2 ATS spread run.
Here’s the games in Pittsburgh in chronological order with regional seeds and team records included:
#14 Northeastern (23-11) vs. #3 Notre Dame (29-5), 12:15 p.m. ET
#11 Texas (20-13) vs. #6 Butler (22-10), approximately 2:45 p.m. ET
#16 Lafayette (20-12) vs. #1 Villanova (32-2), 6:50 p.m. ET
#9 LSU (22-10) vs. #8 N.C. State (20-13), approximately 9:20 p.m. ET
At KFC Yum Center – Louisville, KY
Is it possible that the top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats will be double-digit betting favorites right up until this year’s Final Four? You may want to look twice to make sure that price tag against “#68” Hampton is correct, okay?
Fact of the matter is John Calipari’s club has been a double-digit betting fav in nine of its last 10 games with the lone exception back on March 3rd when 9.5-point favored Kentucky failed to cover the price in an 8-point road win at Georgia.
Meanwhile, here’s some key pointspread notes on some other tourney teams here in “The ‘Ville”:
Purdue has covered 10 of its last 14 games overall and goes against Cincinnati – the Bearcats get a round of applause for being 15-13 versus the vig despite going without head coach Mick Cronin for a majority of this season;
Iowa State is a healthy “two-touchdown” betting favorite here against Conference USA Tournament champ UAB and did you realize the I-State Cyclones are a heady 4-0-1 vig-wise in their last five games plus Fred Hoiberg’s team charged back from double-digit deficits to win all three of their Big 12 Tournament games last week;
And SMU is a nifty 15-7-3 ATS overall in its last 25 games – now the Mustangs are 3.5-point favs against a UCLA crew that’s covered seven of its last nine tilts despite public cries they don’t belong here.
Here’s the games in Louisville in chronological order with regional seeds and team records included:
#14 UAB (19-15) vs. #3 Iowa State (25-8), 12:40 p.m. ET
#11 UCLA (20-13) vs. #6 SMU (27-6), approximately 3:10 p.m. ET
#9 Purdue (21-12) vs. #8 Cincinnati (22-10), 7:10 p.m. ET
#16 Hampton (17-17) vs. #1 Kentucky (34-0), approximately 9:40 p.m. ET
At Rose Quarter – Portland, OR
This bracket includes one of those instances where the lower-seeded team (see #10 Ohio State) is favored over the higher-seeded team (see #7 VCU) but ask us and we’ll say that’s because the NCAA Tournament committee “blew it” here … the Buckeyes should not have been considered one of the last five or six at-large teams into the field but instead Thad Matta’s crew should be in one of those famed #8 vs. #9 games and the reality here is poor VCU may pay the price for the committee’s sin.
Note Ohio State – a 3.5-point fav here – didn’t exactly surge to the finish line with just three spread wins in its last eight games but here’s a little-known factoid about VCU – the Atlantic-10 Tournament champs enter the NCAA’s at just 14-20 versus the vig this 2014-15 season.
Finally, Georgetown – a 7-point favorite against vogue pick Eastern Washington – is just 11-16-1 against the odds this year and that includes a pair of spread failures last week in the Big East Tournament.
Here’s the games in Portland in chronological order with regional seeds and team records included:
#15 Texas Southern (22-12) vs. #2 Arizona (31-3), 2:10 p.m. ET
#10 Ohio State (23-10) vs. #7 VCU (26-9), approximately 4:40 p.m. ET
#12 Stephen F. Austin (29-4) vs. #5 Utah (24-8), 7:25 p.m. ET
#13 Eastern Washington (26-8) vs. #4 Georgetown (21-10), approximately 9:55 p.m. ET
Note: Get more NCAA Tournament Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez.