No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles vs. No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (-22, 148)
LINE HISTORY: The No. 1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels opened as massive 22-point favorites over the FGCU Eagles. The total opened at 148.
ABOUT FLORIDA GULF COAST (21-13, 4-3-1 ATS, 4-4 O/U):
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (28-6, 16-17-1 ATS, 17-17 O/U):
* Eagles are 13-1 ATS in their last 14 neutral site games.
* Tar Heels are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 NCAA Tournament games.
* Under is 8-0-1 in Eagles last 9 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
* Over is 5-0 in Tar Heels last 5 non-conference games.
No. 9 Providence Friars vs. No. 8 Southern California Trojans (+1.5, 149.5)
USC returns to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 when the eighth-seeded Trojans face No. 9 seed Providence, which finished fourth in the Big East and features future NBA lottery pick Kris Dunn in the backcourt, in the first round of the East Regional on Thursday night in Raleigh, N.C. The Trojans can only hope they enjoy the kind of success that their third-year had coach Andy Enfield experienced in his last trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2013 when his Florida Gulf Coast “Dunk City” squad made an unexpected run to the Sweet 16.
Ironically, Florida Gulf Coast may be taking the court just before the USC-Providence contest if it wins its First Four play-in game and faces North Carolina, the top overall seed in the East and the likely opponent for the Providence-USC winner. The Trojans, who were considered a bubble team after finishing in a three-way tie for sixth in the ultra-competitive Pac-12 Conference and then losing to Utah, 80-72, in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, exhaled when they finally saw their name appear on Sunday’s selection show. “We figured we’d get in, but it was awesome to actually see it happen,” guard Julian Jacobs said. “We’re just super-glad to be in position to compete for a championship. We can’t wait to get to North Carolina.”
TV: 9:50 p.m. ET, TBS
LINE HISTORY: Providence opened as one-point favorites over the USC Trojans. The point spread got as high as 3.5 at one point in the week but it settled down as the Friars -1.5. The total had an up-and-down week as well with an opening number of 149.5, a rise to 150.5, and a drop down to the original number of 149.5.
ABOUT PROVIDENCE (23-10, 18-14 ATS, 19-13 O/U): There might not be a better 1-2 punch in the nation than 6-9 sophomore forward Ben Bentil and Dunn, considered a potential top-five pick in this summer’s NBA Draft. Bentil leads the team in scoring (21.2 points per game) and rebounding (7.8) while Dunn is second in scoring (16.0) and also is averaging 6.4 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. Forward Rodney Bullock also is averaging in double figures (11.6) and had a team-best 18 points, including 4-of-5 3-pointers, in the Friars’ 76-68 loss to No. 1 seeded Villanova in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament on Friday.
ABOUT USC (21-12, 18-14-1 ATS, 18-14-1 O/U): The Trojans won a total of five conference games and were just 23-41 in Enfield’s first two seasons before turning things around dramatically this year. USC has five players averaging in double figures led by sophomore guard Jordan McLaughlin (13.4 points) who is also shooting 42.3 percent from 3-point range. Nikola Jovanovic, a 6-11 junior, mans the inside and is averaging 12.1 points and a team high 7.0 rebounds while Jacobs (11.8 points), Katin Reinhardt (11.5) and Bennie Boatwright (11.5) also are averaging double digits.
* Friars are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 neutral site games.
* Trojans are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record.
* Under is 7-1 in Friars last 8 neutral site games.
* Over is 6-0-1 in Trojans last 7 games following a ATS loss.
Games to be played at Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, IA
No. 12 Chattanooga Mocs vs. No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers (-12, 145.5)
After a disappointing Big Ten tournament showing, Indiana gets a chance to redeem itself as a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, taking on No. 12 Chattanooga in a first-round game in the East region on Thursday. As the top seed in the Big Ten tournament, the Hoosiers lost their opening game on a buzzer-beater against Michigan, while the Mocs come in having won five straight, including rolling to their 11th Southern Conference tournament title.
Indiana is led by one of the top point guards in the country in senior Yogi Ferrell (17 points, 5.5 assists) and has a pair of solid scorers in Troy Williams (13.1 points) and Thomas Bryant (11.6). The Hoosiers average nearly 16 assists a game as a team, shooting 50.1 percent from the field, including 41.5 percent from 3-point range. Chattanooga notched a school-record 29 victories this season with 6-5 forward Tre McLean leading the way with 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds. Justin Tuoyo, a 6-10 forward, adds 11.1 points, while senior Eric Robertson is a dangerous 3-point shooter, hitting 80 from beyond the arc on 40.4 percent shooting.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, CBS
LINE HISTORY: The point spread opened with the Indiana Hoosiers favored by 11 but was quickly bet up to -12. The total opened at 144.5 and rose slightly during the week to 145.5.
ABOUT CHATTANOOGA (29-5, 16-13-1 ATS, 14-13-2 O/U): It’s easier to say after the fact, but Chattanooga coach Matt McCall looks back on a Feb. 20 15-point loss to UNC Greensboro as a good thing. McCall’s squad hasn’t lost since the setback, which he said showed that his team wasn’t ready for such a big moment but learned from it. “Everything was at stake (in the Southern tournament title game),” McCall told reporters. “Just trying to get the guys to understand that we’ve got to do our job and can’t get caught up in the moment, so when the moment happened, we handled it well.”
ABOUT INDIANA (25-7, 17-15 ATS, 15-17 O/U): Despite the disappointment of falling to Michigan in its Big Ten tournament opener, Indiana coach Tom Crean has his team confident it can shake off the loss and play well in the NCAA Tournament. Right after the contest, players were already talking about things they can improve on — turnovers, motion on offense — and looking forward to hitting the court in the Big Dance. “We’re still confident,” freshman OG Anunoby told reporters. “We think we can learn from it. And look forward to the next game.”
* Mocs are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
* Hoosiers are 1-4-1 ATS in their last 6 NCAA Tournament games.
* Over is 4-0-2 in Mocs last 6 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
* Under is 4-1 in Hoosiers last 5 Thursday games.
No. 13 Stony Brook Seawolves vs. No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats (-14, 143)
After some regular-season struggles, Kentucky is once again a team that nobody wants to face in the NCAA Tournament. The SEC tournament champions begin their search for another Final Four trip Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa, as the No. 4 seed in the East Region against 13th-seeded Stony Brook.
The Wildcats have won five straight games, including a strong run through the SEC tournament which they capped with an overtime victory over Texas A&M on Sunday. “I’m really proud of this basketball team, how much they’ve improved,” coach John Calipari said to reporters in his postgame press conference. “Individually, guys are becoming the best version of themselves.” Calipari’s assessment certainly includes standout point guard Tyler Ulis, who recorded 30 points against Texas A&M, and backcourt mate Jamal Murray, who is the team’s leading scorer (20.1 points). Stony Brook is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance but boasts a legitimate star in 6-8 senior forward Jameel Warney, who averages 19.8 points and 10.7 rebounds and poured in a school-record 43 points with 10 boards in the America East title game against Vermont.
TV: 9:40 p.m. ET, CBS
LINE HISTORY: Kentucky opened at -13.5 and the line was bet up to -14. The total opened at 144 and the public felt that was too high and pounded the under early in the week, prompting a drop by the books to 143.
ABOUT STONY BROOK (26-6, 0-5-1 ATS, 4-2 O/U): The Seawolves played at Vanderbilt and Notre Dame in the non-conference portion of their schedule, losing by seven and 25, respectively, although the defeat to the Commodores came in overtime. Warney has scored in double figures every game this season and averaged 30.3 points and 15.3 rebounds over three America East tournament contests. Three other Stony Brook players average at least 10 points, including Carson Puriefoy (15.1), who has knocked down at least 40 percent of his 3-pointers in four of the last five games and has drained a team-high 81 3-pointers on the year.
ABOUT KENTUCKY (26-8, 18-16 ATS, 19-14-1 O/U): The Wildcats have reached the Final Four in each of their last four NCAA Tournament appearances (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015) and – as usual – enter the Big Dance with a deep roster of reigning McDonald’s All-Americans mixed in with some veteran mainstays. One of the veterans in this case is Ulis, the diminutive sophomore who has totaled 55 points and two turnovers in his last two games and has not been held to single-digit points since early January. The freshman class for the Wildcats is highlighted by Murray, who has knocked down at least three 3-pointers in 12 of his last 13 games, and Isaiah Briscoe, who has endured an up-and-down season but registered 10 points, six assists and five rebounds in the conference title game.
* Seawolves are 0-5-2 ATS in their last 7 games overall.
* Wildcats are 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 NCAA Tournament games.
* Under is 7-2 in Seawolves last 9 neutral site games.
* Over is 5-0 in Wildcats last 5 neutral site games.