Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 16, 2018 at 10:03 AM
HERE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT ACTION ON AN UBER-BUSY FIRST-ROUND FRIDAY
(PLUS, SOME TIDBITS FROM THURSDAY'S WILD ACTION)
Hey, who knew the FBI would be the least of the Arizona Wildcats' problems?
Geez, the last Pac-12 team to be alive in this year's NCAA Tournament while coming into yesterday's play was absolutely obliterated 89-68 by 9.5-point pup Buffalo and so wave bye-bye to the "conference of champions" - yes, that's a dig at announcer Bill Walton - and likely bye-bye to 'Cats head coach Sean Miller who is 95 percent certain to get the axe within the next few days.
As it turned out, Arizona was one of only three NCAA Tournament teams with the better seed that lost on Thursday - the #4 Wildcats were joined in the loser's circle by #6 Miami and #8 Virginia Tech - and the truth is tourney betting favorites went a solid 9-6-1 ATS (against the spread) on this first full day of the "Big Dance" but anyone that watched the games from noon ET to way past 1 a.m. ET knows there was plenty of late-game thrillers (see Houston over San Diego State, Loyola over Miami and Gonzaga over UNC-Greensboro) and a whole bundle of great hoops action.
Player of the Day? That's easy as Houston G Rob Gray netted 39 points including the scoop shot winner with 1.1 second remaining to nip 4.5-point dog San Diego State.
Play of the Day? The 360-degree spin-o-rama dunk by Texas Tech freshman Zaire Smith in the Red Raiders' come-from-behind 70-60 non-cover win against Stephen F. Austin.
Moment of the Day? Loyola G Donte Ingram drained the top-of-the-key triple just a nano-second before the buzzer went off to trip up Miami. Your prayers were answered, Sister Jean!
Roll out the basketballs again …It's time for another super-busy day/night of NCAA Tournament action and we'll get the show on the road in just a moment with a batch of Friday previews but first this key reminder: Don't miss out as we bring you all the winners in this year's NCAA Tournament along with all the other College Basketball Tournies plus get all the daily/nightly NBA action too as Jim Hurley's Network of Handicappers and Bloggers keep ripping it up on the hardwood - just check it out right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Make sure you're all aboard for all the "March Madness" winners!
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Went 3-2-1 in the Thursday openers, winning with Loyola-Chicago, San Diego State, and S.F. Austin, and pushed with South Dakota State
WEST - at Charlotte
#10 PROVIDENCE (21-13) vs. #7 TEXAS A&M (20-12) - 12:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Just thought we'd let y'all know … there are only six NCAA Tournament first-round games (out of 32) that pit power conference squads up against one another and here's one of 'em! Ed Cooley -- the pants-splitting head coach of the Providence Friars - really has a challenge at hand here after his team played overtime in three consecutive Big East Tournament games last week and PC really needs active PG Kyron Cartwright (team-leading 5.4 assists per game) to deliver against an A&M squad that may need to win with defense here 'cause the Aggies only shoot it at 32.7 percent beyond the arc. If Texas A&M - just 11-14 SU (straight-up) all-time in NCAA Tournament games - gets a stat-sheet stuffing game here from power forward Robert Williams than the Friars will be exiting stage left faster than you can say Ernie DiGregorio!
SOUTH - at Nashville
#10 TEXAS (19-14) vs. #7 NEVADA (27-7) - approximately 4:30 p.m. ET, TBS
Count us among the folks that were glad to see Nevada receive one of the NCAA Tournament's at-large bids after gagging it up in last week's Mountain West Conference Tournament semifinal tilt against San Diego State (a blistering 90-73 loss as 2.5-point favorites) but now the $64,000 question is whether not Eric Musselman's crew can get its ship straight against a Texas team that has a major size advantage. If Nevada - a club that won an NCAA-best 12 road games this year - can stick to its guns and play at a quick tempo (see 83.1 points per game average for 18th-best in Division 1 play) - than Texas will have to sub out some of that height for speed and that's not gonna suit the Longhorns who need F Mohamed Bamba to block a bunch of shots and collect some garbage points too. P.S., this is one of the top two or three most intriguing games on the first-round menu.
MIDWEST - at Detroit
#14 BUCKNELL (25-9) vs. MICHIGAN STATE (29-4) - 7:10 p.m. ET, CBS
Mighty Michigan State sure didn't get great treatment from the NCAA Tournament folks - to us Sparty was a borderline #1 seed that should have been no worse than a #2 seed - but the current Odds to Win it All chart says M-State is sitting behind only Villanova (+ 400), Virginia (+ 400) and Duke (+550). One of the major question marks for Michigan State - and all Big 10 teams playing in this year's "Big Dance" - is just how much rust must be scraped off after these teams have not played a game in more than a week. In short, if upset-minded Bucknell (a "two-touchdown" pup here) has any real hope of kayoing Tom Izzo's team in Round I, then the Bison need a quick-silver start and that means PG Stephen Brown (14.9 ppg and 4.3 apg) must be a major factor while the Bucknell "D" must get up-close and personal with State star Miles Bridges (16.9 ppg and 6.9 rpg).
SOUTH - at Charlotte
#16 UMBC (24-10) vs. #1 VIRGINIA (31-2) - approximately 9:20 p.m. ET, TNT
Is this really gonna be a "clear sailing" bracket for the NCAA Tournament's top seed? The Virginia Cavaliers - fresh off winning the ACC Tournament last week in Brooklyn - do appear to have a proverbial "layup" here against gritty Maryland-Baltimore County but the likes of Virginia Tech/Alabama, Wichita State/West Virginia lie ahead and so no wonder there have been so many "doubting Thomas'" out there when filling out their bracket sheets. No doubt Virginia's heady G Kyle Guy - last week's mini-tourney MVP - must step it up again here especially with the Wahoos without the conference's Sixth Man of the Year forward De'Andre Hunter who broke his left wrist. Let's see if Tony Bennett's famed "Pack Line" defense baffles a UMBC squad that plays with zero fear as G Jairus Lyles (20.2 ppg) must be quick to the trigger from downtown here.
NOTE: Plenty more NCAA Tournament previews/goodies in the next edition of Jim Sez.