Game to be played at Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, IA
Connecticut took the drama out of Selection Sunday with a dramatic run to the American Athletic Conference title over the weekend. The Huskies, seeded ninth in the South Region, will begin their quest for a fifth national title when they meet No. 8 Colorado in the first round on Thursday at Des Moines, Iowa.
UConn may not have even been in the NCAA field if it weren’t for freshman guard Jalen Adams’ miraculous 62-foot game-tying prayer at the third-overtime buzzer in its four-overtime win over Cincinnati on Friday. The Huskies steamrolled their way past Temple and Memphis after that to win its first AAC title and the automatic NCAA bid. Some felt that Colorado was a bubble team, but the Buffaloes earned their way into the 68-team field with a fifth-place finish in the Pac-12. Thursday’s winner will most likely face the tournament’s top-seeded Kansas in the second round if the Jayhawks get past Austin Peay.
TV: 1:30 p.m. ET, TNT
LINE HISTORY: The point spread opened with UConn as three-point favorites. The line fluxuated a bit early – even getting as high as 4 at one point – but it seems to have settled in at Cunnecticut -3. The total started at too high of a number in the mind of the betting public. This game had a starting number of 134.5 and was quickly bet all the way down to 131.5.
ABOUT CONNECTICUT (24-10, 16-13-1 ATS, 13-16-1 O/U): Running through conference tournaments on the way to the NCAA is nothing new for the Huskies, who embarked on magical rides to the national title in 2011 with the heroics and Kemba Walker and then again in 2014 paced by guard Shabazz Napier. This year’s Huskies needed another strong finish to earn a bid and got it thanks to the resurgence of Daniel Hamilton, who has three straight double-doubles and scored a career-high 32 points in 55 minutes against Cincinnati in the ACC quarterfinals. Adams has also blossomed into a budding star, scoring a career-high 22 points against Cincinnati while getting extended playing time while Shonn Miller and Sterling Gibbs both scored team-high 13 points in Sunday’s championship game.
ABOUT COLORADO (22-11, 19-11 ATS, 15-15 O/U): The Buffaloes nearly erased a 22-point deficit but fell short in their last outing, an 82-78 loss against Arizona in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. Colorado, however, got a much-needed win in its conference tournament opener, blowing out Washington State and are in the field for the fourth time in six years under coach Tad Boyle. The Buffaloes won 11 straight games early in the season before ending the campaign losers of six of their last 11, but are a formidable bunch ranked fourth in the nation in rebounding (42.4 per game) and own big victories over Arizona and Oregon, which earned the No. 1 seed in the West Region.
* Huskies are 15-3 ATS in their last 18 NCAA Tournament games.
* Buffaloes are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
* Over is 4-0 in Huskies last 4 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
* Under is 6-2 in Buffaloes last 8 games following a straight up loss.
No. 16 Austin Peay Governors vs. No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (-26, 152)
Game to be played at Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, IA
Kansas is the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed and will tip off tourney play Thursday against 16th-seeded Austin Peay in a South Region matchup in Des Moines, Iowa. Of course, a No. 16 seed never has beaten a No. 1, but there is definite later-in-the-bracket concern about the Jayhawks, who have been ousted by lower-seeded teams in five of the last six NCAA tourneys and have failed to advance past the second round in each of their last two appearances.
Coach Bill Self has seen the complete March range in his 13 seasons at the Kansas helm, also guiding the program to five Elite Eight appearances, including a national title in 2008. This will be the fifth time the Jayhawks have been a No. 1 seed under Self and the first time since 2013, when they lost to fourth-seeded Michigan in the Sweet 16. “We’ve had some (NCAA Tournaments) where we’ve under-performed … but, really, there’s pressure on everyone in this tournament,” Self told the media after the South bracket had been revealed. “We’ve done a lot of good things this season, winning our 12th straight (regular-season) Big 12 championship and winning the Big 12 Tournament, but to have a truly successful season, we know you have to have success later in March.” Austin Peay, meanwhile, is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008 after winning the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament title on March 5 as an eighth seed.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, TNT
LINE HISTORY: The Kansas Jayhawks opened as 26-point favorites and the total opened at 152. Both numbers have stayed relatively steady and any wobble in either number was quickly returned to the opening figure.
ABOUT AUSTIN PEAY (18-17, 13-15-1 ATS, 19-9-1 O/U): The Governors enter the Big Dance on a six-game win streak, including four victories in four days at the Ohio Valley tourney in Nashville. The Clarksville, Tenn., program is led by 6-8 senior Chris Horton, who is averaging a team-best 18.9 points and 12 rebounds and was named the Ohio Valley Tournament MVP despite being limited by an ankle injury suffered late in the first half of the title game. Guards Josh Robinson (16.7 points) and Khalil Davis (11.2) also are averaging double figures while freshman guard Jared Savage is coming off a career-high 24-point outing in the Ohio Valley championship game, with all the scoring coming on an 8-of-10 showing from 3-point range.
ABOUT KANSAS (30-4, 21-11 ATS, 12-19-1 O/U): The Jayhawks enter the Big Dance as one of the nation’s hottest teams, riding a 14-game win streak which includes three Big 12 Tournament victories by an average of 12 points apiece. Guard Devonte’ Graham was named the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player after scoring a career high-tying 27 points in the 81-71 championship game win over West Virginia, and he was joined on the all-tournament team by senior forward Perry Ellis, who totaled 58 points in the three games and is averaging a team-best 16.7 points per contest. Guards Wayne Selden Jr. (13.3 points), Frank Mason III (13.1) and Graham (11.7) also are averaging double digits for Kansas while forward Landen Lucas (6.3 rebounds) and Ellis (5.9) are the team’s pace-setters on the glass.
* Governors are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 neutral site games.
* Jayhawks are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games.
* Over is 10-1 in Governors last 11 games following a ATS win.
* Under is 24-6 in Jayhawks last 30 NCAA Tournament games.
No. 14 Buffalo Bulls vs. No. 3 Miami Hurricanes (-14, 148.5)
Game to be played at Dunkin Donuts Center, Providence, RI
Jim Larranaga – who coached George Mason to the 2006 Final Four – looks to conjure up some old March magic as his Miami squad returns to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 when it takes on Buffalo in a South Region first-round game Thursday in Providence, R.I. The Hurricanes, the No. 3 seed in the West region, come in having won nine of their last 11, while the Bulls took the Mid-American Conference tournament championship for the second straight season.
Miami sports a balanced offense, with four players averaging in double figures – led by Sheldon McClellan (15.8 points), Angel Rodriguez (11.8) and Davon Reed (11.5), each of whom hit more than 40 3-pointers this year. The Hurricanes are also solid defensively, holding opponents to 66.6 points on 43 percent shooting from the field. Buffalo became the first team in 14 years to defend its MAC tournament title despite being the No. 3 seed, upsetting top-seeded Akron on Saturday. The Bulls also feature four double-figure scorers, with Lamonte Bearden and Blake Hamilton leading the way at 13.6 and 13.1 points, respectively.
TV: 6:50 p.m. ET, TNT
LINE HISTORY: Miami opened at -13.5 and were quickly bet up to -14. After sitting at -14 for about 24 hours the line settled back down to -13.5. The total opened and 149.5 and has gradually dropped to it’s current status of 148.5.
ABOUT BUFFALO (20-14, 17-13-2 ATS, 18-13-1 O/U): After making a trip to the Big Dance last season, Buffalo should be a little more relaxed when it takes the floor against Miami. The Bulls weren’t expected to come back to the NCAA Tournament, especially early in the season under first-year head coach Nate Oats, but the team seems to be coming together at just the right time and could give the Hurricanes a tough go. “Nobody was predicting this back in October, November,” Oats told reporters. “So I can’t say enough about the character of these guys. We got hot at the right time. It’s the best basketball we played all year. And we picked the right time to do it, for sure.”
ABOUT MIAMI (25-7, 18-12-1 ATS, 15-16 O/U): While everyone wants to go into the NCAA Tournament on a roll, more than half of the field will be coming off a loss, like the Hurricanes are after a loss to Virginia in the ACC tournament semifinals. In fact, Larranaga wasted no time reminding his team that last year’s national champion, Duke, also lost in the ACC tournament semis, so there are bigger and better things to focus on. “Nobody’s down on themselves because we have bigger things to worry about,” forward Kamari Murphy told reporters. “Like Coach told us, Duke was in this exact situation last year and went on to win the title, so a tournament is a new season for us. We have to take one game at a time and hope to keep winning and compete for a national championship.”
* Bulls are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 neutral site games.
* Hurricanes are 12-3 ATS in their last 15 non-conference games.
* Over is 14-2 in Bulls last 16 Thursday games.
* Over is 8-1 in Hurricanes last 9 NCAA Tournament games.
No. 11 Wichita St. Shockers vs. No. 6 Arizona Wildcats (-1.5, 136.5)
Game to be played at Dunkin Donuts Center, Providence, RI
Not only did Arizona receive a lower seed than expected, it must travel
almost 2,600 miles to face a well-seasoned backcourt duo in the first
round of the NCAA Tournament. The sixth-seeded Wildcats take on 11th
seed Wichita State, featuring senior guards Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker,
on Thursday in the South Regional at Providence, R.I.
“We’ve had obstacles. We’ve had adversity strike us,” Arizona coach Sean
Miller, whose team went 3-3 in its last six games, told reporters. “The
resilience of this team really stands out.” The Wildcats took NCAA top
seed Oregon to overtime before losing in the Pac-12 tournament
semifinals and boasts three players that average at least 15 points.
Arizona will be tested by the Shockers, who rolled away from Vanderbilt
70-50 in the First Four game at Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday as Baker and
VanVleet totaled 28 points. “No doubt they’ll have momentum,” Miller
told the Arizona Republic. “. … But I also know this: Rest at this time
of year is real important. Sometimes, you can get beat up in your own
conference tournament and it’s a quick turnaround.”
TV: 9:20 p.m. ET, TNT
LINE HISTORY: The spread and total were late arriving based on Wichita St. being involved in the First Four game on Tuesday night. Arizona opened as -1.5 favorites and the total sits at 136.5.
ABOUT WICHITA ST. (25-8, 19-12 ATS, 13-17-1 O/U): Baker scores 14.2 per game and VanVleet chips in with 12.1 while
combining for 102 makes from 3-point range for the Shockers, who have
won seven of their last eight contests. Half of their points came from
bench players Tuesday as Anton Grady scored 11, Conner Frankamp eight
and Markis McDuffie seven. “It just speaks volumes to our depth,
VanVleet told reporters. “We worked so hard on the young guys. And for
them to step up in those moments is huge for our team. This time of
year, that’s what you need.”
ABOUT ARIZONA (25-8, 16-17 ATS, 22-11 O/U): Forward Ryan Anderson returns to New England where he played three
seasons with Boston College and looks to rebound from a 2-for-13
shooting performance against Oregon. Anderson averages 15.5 points, 10.1
rebounds and shoots 54.7 percent from the field while senior guard Gabe
York scores 15.2 per game – 21.8 over the past four contests. Freshman
guard Allonzo Trier has made an impact by averaging 15 points, and 7-0
senior Kaleb Tarczewski (9.4 points, 9.3 boards) could be a key against
Wichita State’s relatively small front line.
* Shockers are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 neutral site games.
* Wildcats are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 non-conference games.
* Under is 6-1 in Shockers last 7 vs. Pacific-12.
* Over is 4-1 in Wildcats last 5 non-conference games.