No. 10 VCU Rams vs. No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners (-6.5, 147.5)
Game to be played at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
Buddy Hield will try to lead Oklahoma back to the Sweet Sixteen and show he’s the best player in the nation still in the tournament when the second-seeded Sooners meet No. 10 VCU in a West Region game Sunday in Oklahoma City. Hield, who came into the tournament second in the nation in scoring at 25 points a game, scored 27 in an 82-68 victory Friday against Cal State Bakersfield, including 16 in the second half to keep the Sooners from joining Michigan State as the second No. 2 seed to lose Friday.
The Rams posted a nice win against No. 7-seed Oregon State in Friday’s first round, getting 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds from JeQuan Lewis and 20 points and eight rebounds from Mo Alie-Cox in the 75-67 victory. An extra day of rest should be beneficial for VCU leading scorer Melvin Johnson (17.4), who tweaked his ankle on March 11 and was held to single digits in back-to-back games before scoring 12 against Oregon State on 5-for-15 from the field. VCU started four guards against the Beavers, so it should be interesting how long Oklahoma goes with 6-9 starting forward Khadeem Lattin. Look for 6-7 freshman Dante Buford to make an early substitution if Lattin can’t keep up with VCU’s small lineup.
TV: 5:15 p.m. ET, CBS
LINE HISTORY: The second-seeded Sooners opened as 6.5-point favorites over the Rams and the line has yet to move off that number. The total meanwhile, has been bet up a point and a half from 146 to 147.5. Check out the complete line history here.
ABOUT VCU (25-10, 21-9 ATS, 15-15 O/U): Korey Billbury is another Ram who’s better than what he showed against Oregon State, when he was held to six points in 30 minutes while shooting 2-for-6 from the floor. Billbury, a 6-4 senior guard who came into the tournament second on the team in scoring (11.4), produced his season high of 22 points against then-No. 22 Cincinnati on Dec. 19 and put up 19 in the Atlantic-10 Tournament title game last week against St. Joseph’s. Billbury could inherit the task of guarding Hield, however, and that could take some of the punch out of his offensive game.
ABOUT OKLAHOMA (26-7, 12-19 ATS, 14-17 O/U): This matchup could quickly evolve into a long-range shooting contest and the Sooners should be well prepared for that scenario, as Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard are each shooting over 42 percent from 3-point distance this season. Cousins and Woodard are both 6-for-8 from long distance over the last two games, good to know if VCU forces Hield to give up the ball to his backcourt mates like West Virginia did in its Big 12 Tournament semifinal win against the Sooners last week. Ryan Spangler is the other Oklahoma player averaging double figures in scoring (10.8), but it’s a big drop off from there.
* VCU is 14-3 ATS in its last 17 NCAA Tournament games.
* Oklahoma is 0-4 ATS in its last four neutral site games.
* Over is 8-3 in VCU’s last 11 neutral site games.
* Under is 10-1 Oklahoma’s last 11 games overall.
No. 11 Northern Iowa Panthers vs. No. 3 Texas A&M Aggies (-6.5, 127)
Game to be played at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
Northern Iowa has already provided a stunning moment for the ages in the NCAA Tournament, but it can take its run to a new level with a victory Sunday against No. 3 seed Texas A&M in the second round of the West Region at Oklahoma City. Paul Jesperson’s buzzer-beating heave from beyond half court banked in to lift the No. 11 seed Panthers to a remarkable 75-72 victory over Texas in the first round.
It marked the third straight tournament appearance in which Northern Iowa won a game and puts the program a victory away from its second Sweet 16 berth. “This is what it’s all about,” Jesperson told reporters. “When you start the season, this is what your end goal should be. … I’m glad the shot went in. I’m glad we live to see another day.” The Aggies present a more formidable obstacle and rolled to their first tournament win in six years with a 92-65 rout of Green Bay on Friday. Danuel House scored 20 points and Texas A&M shot 56.1 percent to win for the ninth time in 10 games, moving a step closer to its first Sweet 16 since 2007.
TV: 7:40 p.m. ET, truTV
LINE HISTORY: Texas A&M opened as 6.5-point faves, but bettors are believing Northern Iowa has a bit more magic in them moving the line to Aggies -6. The total has stood pat at its opening number of 127. Check out the complete line history here.
ABOUT NORTHERN IOWA (23-12, 20-13-1 ATS, 14-20 O/U): Jesperson’s 14 points made him one of five Panthers in double figures Friday, a group led by Wes Washpun (17 points), and one of the top foul-shooting teams in the country went 25-of-32 from the line. To keep pace with the Aggies, Northern Iowa will hope for more from second-leading scorer Matt Bohannon, who is averaging seven points on 25.7 percent shooting over his last five contests. Sophomore forward Klint Carlson is trending in the other direction with an average of 11 points – nearly four above his season mark – with a 58.3 percent mark from the floor in the same span.
ABOUT TEXAS A&M (26-8, 16-12-2 ATS, 13-17 O/U): The senior-laden Aggies played with a chip on their shoulders after feeling slighted by Kentucky coach John Calipari’s comments that his team deserved to be the higher-seeded of the SEC squads. “There is still more respect to be earned,” House told the media. “People were really upset about (Calipari’s comments), and it really bothered us.” Center Tonny Trocha-Morelos seemed motivated with a career high-tying 15 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals in 21 minutes, while freshman Tyler Davis chipped in 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
* Northern Iowa is 12-3-1 ATS in its last 16 games overall.
* Texas A&M is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games overall.
* Under is 5-1 in Norther Iowa’s last six games overall.
* Over is 4-1 in Texas A&M’s last five games overall.
No. 8 St. Joseph’s Hawks vs. No. 1 Oregon Ducks (-6.5, 157)
Game to be played at Spokane Arena, Spokane, WA
Oregon and Saint Joseph’s achieved the same goal by reaching the Round of 32 following first-round wins, but the paths each school took to get there on Friday couldn’t have been any more different. The top-seeded Ducks eye a 10th straight victory and a berth into the Sweet 16 on Sunday when they face the eighth-seeded Hawks in a second-round contest of the West Region in Spokane, Wash.
Coming off its highly impressive showing in its 88-57 rout of Utah last weekend in the Pac-12 tournament championship game, Oregon crushed Holy Cross 91-52 in the first round Friday, registering its largest margin of victory this season for the second straight game. “We handled our business like we were supposed to; that’s what we were supposed to do. We set the tone … and never gave them confidence,” freshman guard Tyler Dorsey told The Oregonian. Later that same night, Saint Joseph’s got a go-ahead 3-pointer from Isaiah Miles with eight seconds remaining and held on for a 78-76 victory over Cincinnati when it was ruled that the ball was still on the fingertips of the Bearcats’ Octavius Ellis on a potential game-tying dunk as time expired. “In a small way, I wish it hadn’t ended like that. I wish it would have ended with Isaiah making the 3 and us getting a stop. From what I could see it was the right call,” Hawks coach Phil Martelli told reporters.
TV: 9:40 p.m. ET, TBS
LINE HISTORY: The No. 1 seed Ducks opened as 6-point favorites and have been bet up to -6.5 after their impressive opening round victory. The total hasn’t moved from its opening number of 157. Check out the complete line history here.
ABOUT OREGON (29-6, 23-10-1 ATS, 20-13-1 O/U): Eight players scored at least seven points versus the Crusaders even though no Duck played more than 26 minutes, including Chris Boucher (12.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, three blocks), who finished with 20 points and five boards in only 17 minutes. First-team All-Pac-12 selection Elgin Cook (14.4 points, 5.2 rebounds), who became the first player in school history to appear in three NCAA Tournaments during his career Friday, also had a field day in 26 minutes, tallying 11 points and a career-high 13 boards. The Ducks have been a model of efficiency in their two most recent blowout victories, committing only seven turnovers in each game while shooting a combined 53.6 percent from the field.
ABOUT SAINT JOSEPH’S (28-7, 20-12 ATS, 15-17 O/U): Atlantic-10 Player of the Year DeAndre Bembry (17.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists) has almost singled-handedly carried the Hawks in the last two games, averaging 26.5 points, 5.5 boards, 4.5 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals while playing 79 of a possible 80 minutes. Miles (team-high marks of 18.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, who was named the A-10’s Most Improved Player, has been nearly as impressive over the same span, averaging 22.5 points and 9.5 boards while shooting 62.9 percent from the field. Fellow senior Aaron Brown (10.4 points) has failed to reach double figures only once in his last 11 outings and is averaging 16.5 points over his last six contests.
* St. Joe’s is 6-0 ATS in its last six neutral site games.
* Oregon is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games overall.
* Over is 12-2 in St. Joe’s last 14 games overall.
* Over is 4-0 in Oregon’s last four non-conference games.