Friday’s NCAA Tournament first round betting preview: South Region

The South Region of the NCAA tournament sees the bulk of its Round of 64 games tip off Friday. Here’s your March Madness betting cheat sheet for those contests:

No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks vs. No. 9 Seton Hall Pirates (+1, 146.5)

Played at Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, South Carolina

Seton Hall, back in the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season, needs to be at its very best if it has designs on advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. The ninth-seeded Pirates, who lost in the first round as a No. 6 seed last season, face eighth-seeded Arkansas on Friday in the South Region in Greenville, S.C.

The tournament selection committee was not kind to the Pirates, who have the unenviable task of knocking off a 25-win team in Arkansas before a potential matchup Sunday with top-seeded North Carolina. The unquestioned leader of the Pirates is 6-10 junior forward Angel Delgado, who leads the nation with 26 double-doubles and 13.1 rebounds per game. The Razorbacks, who lost to Kentucky in the SEC tournament final Sunday, return to the tournament after a one-year absence led by the quartet of Dusty Hannahs, Daryl Macon, Jaylen Barford and Moses Kingsley. Kingsley, a 6-10 senior forward from Nigeria who averages 11.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks, is the only member of the foursome who was with the Razorbacks when they lost to North Carolina in the second round in 2015.

TV: 1:30 p.m. ET, TNT

LINE HISTORY: Arkansas opened as big as -2.5 and action on Seton Hall trimmed that spread to -1. The total opened 146.5. Check out the complete line history here.

BETTING STATS:


ABOUT SETON HALL (21-11): After Delgado, the Pirates look to Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez to do the bulk of the scoring. The juniors, who combine to average 32.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists, are strong 3-point shooters at 36 percent or better. Ismael Sanogo, who returned from injury in a two-point loss to NCAA overall No. 1 seed Villanova in the Big East tournament, averages 5.7 rebounds and is the one of the top defenders for coach Kevin Willard, who guided his team to five straight wins to close the regular season.

ABOUT ARKANSAS (25-9): While Hannahs and Macon are the top scorers and 3-point shooters, the Razorbacks have success by sharing the ball. Hannahs scored 20 or more points only three times despite averaging 14.6 points and Macon (13.3) overcame a tough stretch during conference play to average 16.6 over the final three games. Barford, meanwhile, came on during the season’s final month with eight straight games in double figures.

MATCHUP CHART:


TRENDS:

* Pirates are 19-7 ATS in their last 26 games as underdogs.
* Razorbacks are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 vs. Big East.
* Over is 5-1-1 in Pirates last 7 NCAA Tournament games.
* Under is 5-1 in Razorbacks last six overall.

Click here for a complete list of hot and cold trends.

No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. No. 16 Texas Southern Tigers (+26.5, 154.5)

Played at Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, South Carolina

North Carolina has some unfinished business to take care of in the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels’ mission to complete their task begins on Friday when the No. 1 seed in the South Region takes on 16th-seeded Texas Southern in Greenville, S.C.

Last season, North Carolina advanced to the national championship game before losing to Villanova on a 3-pointer at the buzzer. This time around, both schools are No. 1 seeds and could potentially meet in the title game once again, but the first step for the Tar Heels is to get past the SWAC champion Tigers. Texas Southern has won nine straight games and certainly won’t be intimidated after playing Arizona, Louisville, Cincinnati and Baylor earlier this season. That said, the Tigers lost each of those games by 20-plus points and may be overwhelmed by a Tar Heels team that has never failed to make the Elite Eight as a No. 1 seed under coach Roy Williams.

TV: 4 p.m. ET, TNT

LINE HISTORY:
North Carolina opened as a 26-point favorite and was bet up to -26.5. The total opened at 154.5 points. Check out complete line history here.

BETTING STATS:


ABOUT TEXAS SOUTHERN (23-11, 2-6 ATS): The Tigers are not an elite defensive team as they rank 168th nationally in points allowed per game, but they held Grambling State to 57 points in the SWAC semifinals and limited Alcorn State to 50 to win the tournament title. Kevin Scott had 15 points and 12 rebounds in that one and has really upped his rebounding in the last five games. Zach Lofton leads the team in scoring at 17 points per game but has totaled 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting in the last two contests.

ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (27-7, 16-14-2 ATS):
The Tar Heels were a surprise No. 1 seed according to some experts after they lost to Duke in the semifinals of the ACC tournament, although they did defeat Wisconsin, Florida State, Notre Dame, Duke and Louisville earlier in the season. Justin Jackson has emerged as the best player on the team – and in the ACC, according to the league’s award voters – after averaging 18.1 points to lead four double-digit scorers for North Carolina. Joel Berry II (14.8 points) has combined with Jackson to make 166 3-pointers, while Kennedy Meeks (12.6 points, 9.1 rebounds) posted 19 points and 12 boards in the semifinal loss to Duke.
 
MATCHUP CHART:


TRENDS:

* Tigers are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games as an underdog of 13.0 or greater.
* No. 1 seeds went 11-6-1 ATS in last year’s NCAA tournament
* Tar Heels are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 NCAA Tournament games.
* Over is 4-0 in Tar Heels last 4 NCAA Tournament games.

Click here for a complete list of hot and cold trends.

No. 7 Dayton Flyers vs. No. 10 Wichita State Shockers (-6, 145)


Played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Wichita State won 30 games, but that was only good enough to earn a No. 10 seed in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers, who won both the regular season and tournament titles in the Missouri Valley Conference, will take on seventh-seeded Dayton on Friday in Indianapolis.

Wichita State is making its sixth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament and needs to avoid looking ahead to a possible revenge game against No. 2 seed Kentucky. The Shockers were an undefeated No. 1 seed in 2014 when they fell 78-76 in the second round against an eighth-seeded Wildcats squad. The Flyers won the Atlantic 10 regular-season title and bring plenty of experience with seniors Charles Cooke, Kendall Pollard and Scoochie Smith guiding the school to its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament. Dayton will need to turn its momentum quickly after a disappointing end to the season that saw it drop the regular-season finale to George Washington before bowing out against ninth-seeded Davidson in its first A-10 tournament game.

TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, CBS

LINE HISTORY:
Wichita State opened as a 7.5-point favorite and action on Dayton has moved the line down to WSU -6. The total opened at 148 points and is down to 145. Check out the complete line history here.

BETTING STATS:


ABOUT WICHITA STATE (30-4): The Shockers were knocked down the seeding despite their 30-win pedigree because of a weak strength of schedule, but coach Gregg Marshall doesn’t see any difference between his team this year and clubs of the past few seasons. “We had an undefeated team, and we have a team that went to the Final Four,” Marshall told reporters. “This team’s comparable. It really is. We’ve got so many weapons defensively. We play hard, try to play smart. … We’re very deep, pretty big, athletic, skilled, and talented. It’s a good formula.” Wichita State does not have a player averaging more than Markis McDuffie’s 11.8 points but has five players averaging at least 9.2.

ABOUT DAYTON (24-7): The Flyers won nine straight before stumbling down the stretch but remain confident behind seniors like Cooke, who leads the team in scoring at an average of 16.1 points and recorded double figures in each of the last nine games. Smith, who is third on the team in scoring (13.5) and paces Dayton in assists (4.5), and Cooke combined for 26 points in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season but Pollard was held to four points on 2-of-7 shooting as the seventh-seeded Flyers fell to No. 10 seed Syracuse 70-51. Pollard and Smith were freshmen on the 2013-14 squad that reached the Elite Eight and helped the team win two games in the Tournament as sophomores in 2014-15.

MATCHUP CHART:


TRENDS:

* Shockers are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 NCAA Tournament games.
* Flyers are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 NCAA Tournament games as underdogs.
* Under is 10-4 in Shockers last 14 games as favorites.
* Over is 11-1 in Flyers’ last 12 overall.

Click here for a complete list of hot and cold trends.

No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats vs. No. 11 Kansas State Wildcats (+3.5, 130.5)

Despite leading his program to its best season in 15 years, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin wasn’t particularly happy with the NCAA Tournament committee’s opinion of his team on Selection Sunday or where it had to go to prove itself. The sixth-seeded Bearcats attempt to earn a bit more respect Friday when they head to Sacramento, Calif. to face No. 11 seed Kansas State in first-round action of the South region.

A little over an hour after losing to SMU in the American Athletic Conference title game Sunday, Cincinnati learned it was being shipped out to the west coast for the third time in four years – both previous trips to Spokane, Wash. resulted in early tournament exits. “I think that it’s pretty obvious that nobody was really impressed with (the Bearcats winning 29 games),” Cronin told reporters. “. … (In three of the four years our seniors) go the NCAA Tournament, they’re in Spokane twice and Sacramento once. It’s really not easy for their families.” The Wildcats notched their first NCAA Tournament victory in five years under coach Bruce Weber on Tuesday, upending fellow No. 11 seed Wake Forest 95-88 in First Four action at Dayton, Ohio. In addition to shooting 66 percent from the field, Kansas State fell one point short of its best offensive output of the season and topped its scoring average entering the contest by 24 points.
 
TV: 7:27 p.m., truTV

LINE HISTORY: Cincinnati opened as a 3.5-point favorite while the total opened at 130.5. Check out the complete line history here.

BETTING STATS:


ABOUT KANSAS STATE (21-13): Wesley Iwundu entered Tuesday as the only Big 12 player among the top 15 in scoring (12.5 points), field-goal percentage (47.5), free-throw percentage (75), rebounding (6.4) and assists (3.4) and only improved on those marks – finishing with a career-high 24 points (6-of-9 from the floor, 11-of-13 from the line), six boards and seven assists. Sophomore guard Kamau Stokes (11.9 points) continued to commit turnovers at a high rate – at least four in eight of his last 11 outings – but made up for it with a career-high 22 points. Senior forward D.J. Johnson (11.4 points) shot 8-for-9 on Tuesday to improve his Big 12-best field-goal percentage to 62.6 and is 13-of-15 from the floor since the end of the regular season.

ABOUT CINCINNATI (29-5):
Troy Caupain (10.1 points, team-high 4.6 assists) became the program’s leader in career assists during Sunday’s 71-56 setback against SMU, getting the two he needed to pass Deonta Vaughn’s school record of 511, and he and Vaughn are the only two players in school history with more than 1,200 points and 500 assists in a career. Although Jacob Evans (team-high 13.7 points) had a rare off-day versus the Mustangs with 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting, the sophomore guard still averaged 17 points on 16-of-28 from the field – including 8-of-10 beyond the arc – during the AAC tournament. After ending the regular season as a 64.4-percent foul shooter, fellow All-AAC tournament selection Gary Clark (10.7 points, 7.9 boards overall) went 22-of-24 from the free-throw line during the thee-day event.

MATCHUP CHART:



TRENDS:

* Wildcats are 5-0 ATS in their last five games overall.
* Bearcats are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 vs. Big 12.
* Over is 5-1 in Wildcats last 6 neutral site games as an underdog.
* Under is 44-17 in Bearcats last 61 non-conference games.

Click here for a complete list of hot and cold trends.

No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 15 Northern Kentucky Norse (+20, 152.5)

Played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Kentucky begins its bid for a ninth NCAA Tournament title when it meets No. 15 Northern Kentucky on Friday in the first round of the South Region in Indianapolis and coach John Calipari made it clear how the Wildcats can reach the pinnacle. “What happens for us the rest of the way will all be based on how we play … it’ll be all based on defense,” Calipari said after the Wildcats won the SEC title with an 82-65 victory over Arkansas on Sunday.

Kentucky, which won the NCAA title in 2012, finds itself in a difficult region that includes No. 1 seed North Carolina, No. 3 UCLA, No. 4 Butler and No. 8 Arkansas, as UCLA (11), Kentucky and North Carolina (tied for third with five) won the most NCAA Tournament titles. The Wildcats are once again loaded with freshmen talent led by the backcourt of Malik Monk (20.5 points per game) and De’Aaron Fox (SEC-most 4.9 assists). The Norse won the Horizon League tournament as the No. 4 seed with a 59-53 victory over Milwaukee on March 7 in its fifth Division I season, and first with postseason eligibility. “We got another game to play,” 6-7 sophomore forward Drew McDonald, who leads Northern Kentucky in scoring and rebounding, told reporters. “I got the chills just thinking about it.”

TV:
9:40 p.m. ET, CBS

LINE HISTORY: Kentucky opened as a 19-point favorite and has been bet up to -20 while the total has moved from 154 points to 152.5. Check out the complete line history here.

BETTING STATS:


ABOUT NORTHERN KENTUCKY (24-10): McDonald, a first-team all-Horizon League selection, averages 16.4 points and 7.7 rebounds after recording 14 and 12 versus Milwaukee for his 11th double-double of the season. Senior guard Cole Murray (10.2 points) helped the Norse lead the Horizon in 3-pointers made at 8.7 per game by making a league-best 3.1, shooting 40.4 from beyond the arc overall while hoisting 244. Junior guard Lavone Holland II (14.3 points, team-high 4.1 assists) and freshman forward Carson Williams (10.5 points, 5.8 rebounds) are Northern Kentucky’s other top scoring threats.

ABOUT KENTUCKY (29-5): Monk and Fox (16.1 points) receive much of the attention, but Bam Adebayo could be the key to the Wildcats’ success. The 6-foot-10 forward averages 13.2 points and 7.8 rebounds, and has the ability to be an intimidating presence in the paint with a team-leading 52 blocks. Sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe (12.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists) is considered a seasoned veteran at Kentucky and is arguably the Wildcats’ best all-around player.

MATCHUP CHART:


TRENDS:

* Norse are 5-0-1 ATS in their last six games overall.
* Wildcats are 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine NCAA Tournament games.
* Over is 6-1 in Norse last seven overall.
* Under is 5-1 in Wildcats last six NCAA tournament games.

Click here for a complete list of hot and cold trends.

No. 3 UCLA Bruins vs. No. 14 Kent State Golden Flashes (+18, 161.5)

Played at Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California.

UCLA ended the regular season ranked No. 3 in the nation in the coaches’ poll, but was eliminated in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament, leaving the Bruins seeded third in the South Region heading into their first-round game Friday against 14th-seeded Kent State in Sacramento. The Bruins showed few vulnerabilities while going unbeaten in nonconference play, then came back to beat the three Pac-12 teams that defeated them earlier in the season, but UCLA couldn’t capitalize on its strengths in the 86-75 semifinal loss to Arizona.

A major area of concern for UCLA is the health of freshman Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf. Ball injured his left thumb Friday night when it was jammed by an air ball in the first half against Arizona and he finished with one of his least productive games of the season, totaling eight points, five assists and six rebounds – the first time since Dec. 1 he didn’t reach double figures in at least one of those categories. Leaf sprained his left ankle March 1 and missed the following game against Washington State, but has been close to his scoring (16.2) and rebounding (8.3) averages in the last two games. Kent State earned its first tournament berth since 2008 by beating rival Akron in the Mid-Atlantic Conference tournament final on Saturday, its fourth win in six days.

TV: 9:57 p.m. ET, truTV

LINE HISTORY: UCLA opened as a 17-point favorite and has been bet up to -18. The total opened at 161.5 points, the highest total on the board for the Round of 64. Check out the complete line history here.

BETTING STATS:


ABOUT UCLA (29-4): Bryce Alford is the only current UCLA player who experienced the runs to the Sweet Sixteen in 2014 and 2015, and the senior guard is surely enjoying the moment after the Bruins missed out on the postseason a year ago. His shooting percentages have skyrocketed over the previous three seasons, but he does enter this tournament showing recent flashes of his past. He shot 1-for-10 from 3-point range against Arizona and is a combined 5-for-25 from beyond the arc in the past three games, a trend that can’t continue if UCLA hopes for another deep run.

ABOUT KENT STATE (22-13):
The Bruins and Kent State have two common opponents in Oregon State and Western Michigan, with UCLA going 3-0 in those games and the Golden Flashes 0-2. Look for Kent State to pass the ball inside to 6-8 forward Jimmy Hall, who leads the team in scoring (18.9), rebounding (10.5), assists (2.6) and blocked shots (1.4). Hall received solid help against Akron from 6-1 sophomore guard Jaylin Walker, who scored a career-high 30 points, and Walker’s ability to penetrate to the basket might give UCLA problems.

MATCHUP CHART:


TRENDS:

* Golden Flashes are 5-1 ATS in their last six games as underdogs.
* Bruins are 4-1 ATS in their last five NCAA Tournament games as favorites.
* Under is 8-1 in Golden Flashes last nine overall.
* Under is 5-1 in Bruins last six overall.

Click here for a complete list of hot and cold trends.


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