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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 16, 2012 at 11:39 AM

Of course, it only seemed as if all the favorites won in Thursday's NCAA Tournament games but we shall be the first to tell you that chalk sides actually went 9-6-1 ATS (against the spread) with the only real significant outright winners being VCU and Colorado - hope you had them movin' on in your little office bracket pool!

Yes, the first full day of the NCAA Tournament didn't have any overtime games, no buzzer beaters and only one tilt decided by 3 points or less (see VCU's 62-59 triumph over 7-point fav Wichita State) but maybe that means we are all "due" for a slew of great finishes the rest of this weekend and remember that everyone's searching to be the new champion now that lifeless Connecticut has been dismissed from this tourney.

Okay, so the Huskies had a real up-and-down season in 2011-12 with plenty of internal drama but falling behind 36-14 en route to that 77-64 loss to 1 ½-point underdog Iowa State really was humbling stuff for Hall of Fame head coach Jim Calhoun.

Might it be time to finally say goodbye, Jimmy?

While UConn was getting spanked in Louisville there were plenty of positive storylines making the rounds on Thursday including a one mo' time feel for the VCU Rams, a dominant showing by Gonzaga over West Virginia (so much for the home region advantage there, right?) and how about Indiana?

The real-life Hoosiers - who haven't won a tourney game in many a moon - wasted 6-point pup New Mexico State last night and might Tom Crean's gang be a sleeper to get to the Final Four all of a sudden?

Let's show you how Thursday's action went on a game-by-game basis from a pointspread perspective in schedule book rotation order:

(at Pittsburgh)      
Syracuse - 15.5 UNC Asheville Syracuse 72-65
Kansas State - 5.5 Southern Miss Kansas State 70-64
Ohio State - 17.5 Loyola-Md. Ohio State 78-59
West Virginia - 1 Gonzaga Gonzaga 77-54
(at Louisville)      
Kentucky - 26.5 Western Kentucky Kentucky 81-66
Connecticut - 1.5 Iowa State Iowa State 77-64
Marquette - 5.5 BYU Marquette 88-68
Murray State - 5.5 Colorado State Murray State 58-41
(at Albuquerque)      
Baylor - 8 South Dakota State Baylor 68-60
UNLV - 5.5 Colorado Colorado 68-64
Vanderbilt - 5.5 Harvard Vanderbilt 79-70
Wisconsin - 8.5 Montana Wisconsin 73-49
(at Portland)      
Wichita State - 7 VCU VCU 62-59
Indiana - 6 New Mexico State Indiana 79-66
New Mexico - 4.5 Long Beach State New Mexico 75-68
Louisville - 5.5 Davidson Louisville 69-62

We'll get to some of Saturday's Round of 32 games in a moment but first this key reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers roars into the College Basketball post-season as we'll have NCAA Tournament, NIT and CBI and CIT winners too all through the month of March plus there's plenty of NBA Winners when you sign up today and be sure to check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the winning selections. Note that the special check-in times are anytime after 11 a.m. ET for all the weekday afternoon games and then after 1 p.m. ET for all the Monday-through-Friday night action. Also, the winning selections are available after 10 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday. Go ahead and sign up now for the NCAA Tournament and all the other post-season College Basketball Tournies!



#6 MURRAY STATE (31-1) vs. #3 MARQUETTE (26-7) - at Louisville
The really good news coming from Murray State's 17-point win against Colorado State was that the Racers survived-and-advanced into weekend play even though Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year Isaiah Canaan hardly had a vintage game: Canaan finished up a wobbly 4-of-13 shooting from the floor and seemingly disappeared from action for minutes at a time and yet M-State ran away and hide in the second half while holding the CSU Rams to just 33.3 percent shooting from the floor (that's 16-of-48 FG makes) for the game.

True, Colorado State missed some wide-open triples (the Rams drained just 3-of-14 trifectas) but the $64,000 question here is can Steve Prohm's crew shut down a Marquette team that scored more points than anyone else had in Thursday's 16 tourney games? The Golden Eagles - who toyed with a slowish BYU bunch for much of that 20-point win - had some one-two punch going with Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder (25 points and 16 rebounds) joining forces with G Darius Johnson-Odom (20 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists) but - again - the story of who moves on to Sweet 16 action here will be whether Marquette gets "easy hoops" against this underrated Murray State defense and can Canaan finally show his star-like stuff?


#1 SYRACUSE (32-2) vs. #8 KANSAS STATE (22-10) - at Pittsburgh
Now that everyone has beaten that "dead horse" into the ground (see the two late-game whistles that went the Orange's way in the 72-65 non-cover win against UNC-Asheville), it's time to move on to this Round of 32 tilt that should rightfully have Jim Boeheim's bunch a tad nervous.

Naturally, the absence of Syracuse C Fab Melo for the whole NCAA Tourney is a big factor whether some hoop experts out there believe it or not but what surely bothered the Big East's regular-season champs in Thursday's second-round win was more indifferent play and no real sense of urgency: Is it us or did anyone else notice that key reserve Dion Waiters scored 12 points in the first half against Asheville and than never scored again (say what!) while the Orange starting five managed just 41 total points ... ugh!

If the 'Cuse don't light a personal fire under their butts here (and we mean you, Kris Joseph who shot 3-of-10 from the floor the other day including 0-for-5 from beyond the arc) than K-State could spring the mild upset as 4 ½-to-5-point betting favorites: Hey, the Wildcats were a one-man gang for much of Thursday's 70-64 win as G Rodney McGruder poured in 30 points but at crunch time frosh point guard Angel Rodriguez "grew up" with seven of his 13 points scored in the game's final 2:10 and that little late-game momentum surge could help the Big 12 guys in starting off this game.

A real key here: Kansas State G Will Spradling - who missed all three of his triple tries against Southern Miss - better find those quickie wing openings for 3's here because with or without Melo the 'Cats cannot expect the front court to save 'em on the offensive end of the floor.


#5 NEW MEXICO (28-6) vs. #4 LOUISVILLE (27-9) - at Portland
The early price tag on this tilt at the Rose Garden has the U of L Cardinals favored by a single point and - ask us - this is a true flip-the-coin game where one missed free throw or one turnover late could decide the fate of these two well-coached outfits:

Let's just say that Rick Pitino's Cards were not the same team with PG Peyton Siva (17 points and 6 assists in that 69-62 win against Davidson) off the court after he fouled out of Thursday's matinee clash and so the oft-emotional Siva better play more than 25 minutes here or it could well be "curtains" for the Big East Tourney champs.

On the flip side. New Mexico boss-man Steve Alford - who somehow is now just 5-5 SU (straight-up) in NCAA Tourney games as a head coach - wants/needs defensive stopper Kendall Williams to get in Siva's grill from the get-go and make other 'Ville players handle the rock and so we'll see how that strategy plays out here.

One item on Los Lobos: They shot it at 50 percent from the floor (that's 25-of-50) in beating Long Beach State and really needed to fend off the 49ers late. Hmmm.

NOTE: There's much more NCAA Tournament coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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