Thursday’s West Region First Round betting preview

Games to be played at Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Providence, RI

No. 13 UNC-Wilmington Seahawks vs. No. 4 Duke Blue Devils (-10.5, 157)

A Tar Heel State showdown is on tap Thursday in Providence, R.I., where fourth-seeded Duke will take on No. 13 seed UNC Wilmington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament’s West Region. While the Blue Devils are in the NCAA Tournament for the 21st consecutive season, the Seahawks are making their first appearance in a decade.

The Blue Devils are the defending national champions, but they’ve struggled at times after losing big man Amile Jefferson to a broken foot just nine games into the season and won just one game in the ACC tournament before losing to Notre Dame in overtime in the quarterfinals. The Seahawks have been in tournament mode for more than a week after having to scrape through three close games in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. They won their first two games in the tournament by a total of five points and needed overtime to dispatch Hofstra in the championship game. The in-state foes have met only once before, with Duke winning 67-57 in overtime on Feb. 8, 1982.

TV: 12:15 p.m. ET, CBS

LINE HISTORY: Duke opened as 9.5-point faves and all the early money has been on the Blue Devils, who have been bet up a whole point to sit at -10.5. The total has been bet up a half point from 156.5 to 157. Check out the complete line history here.

MATCHUP CHART:

ABOUT UNC WILMINGTON (25-7, 15-13 ATS, 16-12 O/U): The Seahawks were a fixture in the NCAA Tournament in the early 2000s but have only one win – a 93-89 overtime triumph over No. 4 seed USC in 2002. Wilmington employs a guard-oriented lineup with four starters listed at 6-5 or shorter and likes to push the pace. Junior guard Chris Flemmings (16.1 points, 5.9 rebounds) is the team’s top scorer and rebounder, but backcourt mates Denzel Ingram (12.5 points) and Craig Ponder (11.1 points) also can hurt defenses.

ABOUT DUKE (23-10, 13-17-2 ATS, 14-18 O/U):
The Blue Devils took a huge hit when they lost Jefferson, a post presence and veteran leader, and their youth has shown at the defensive end. There is plenty of offensive firepower with sophomore guard Grayson Allen (21.6 points) leading the way, but two of the team’s top three – Brandon Ingram (16.8 points, 6.8 rebounds) and Luke Kennard (11.9 points) – are freshmen who are unproven on the big stage. Allen, Ingram and junior guard Matt Jones (10.8 points) all love to shoot from the outside and are the first trio in program history to each make at least 70 3-pointers in a season.

TRENDS:

* NC-Wilmington is 1-4 ATS in their last five games overall.
* Duke is 0-5 ATS in their last five games overall, but 6-0 ATS in its last six NCAA Tournament games.
* Over is 7-1 in UNC-Wilmington’s last eight neutral site games.
* Under is 8-2 in Duke’s last 10 games overall.

No. 12 Yale Bulldogs vs. No. 5 Baylor Bears (-5, 136.5)

Baylor was among the best teams in the nation’s best conference this season and hopes the high level of competition puts it in a position to succeed in the NCAA Tournament beginning with Thursday’s West Region first-round game against Yale in Providence, R.I. The fifth-seeded Bears are coming off a 70-66 loss to No. 1 Kansas on Friday in the Big 12 tournament semifinals and have lost three of their last four games – all against ranked teams.

Baylor should also be extra motivated after a stunning 57-56 loss to No. 14 seed Georgia State in the first round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament. “Last year, we didn’t like how it ended,” Bears coach Scott Drew told reporters. “We had had a lot of success in the tournament, and that was the first time we really got stung. I know the returning players and coaches are motivated to make sure we do better.” The No. 12 seed Bulldogs are playing in their first NCAA Tournament since John F. Kennedy was president after winning their first Ivy League title since 1962. Yale, which went 13-1 in the Ivy League, is riding a five-game winning streak and has won seven of eight since captain Jack Montague was expelled from school after an alleged sexual assault incident.

LINE HISTORY:
The No. 5 seed Bears opened as 5.5-point favorites, but money has come in on the Bulldogs, with Baylor now sitting at -5. As for the total, bettors like the over with the number moving up a point and a half from 135 to 136.5. Check out the complete line history here.

MATCHUP CHART:



ABOUT YALE (22-6, 11-6-2 ATS, 11-8 O/U):
The Bulldogs are expected to control the game with a slow tempo and frustrate the athletic Bears. Yale is led in scoring by senior forward Justin Sears and sophomore guard Makai Mason, who each average 15.8 points despite Sears scoring only nine total points in the last two games. Sears grabs a team-best 7.5 rebounds while senior forward Brandon Sherrod (12.5 points, 7.1 rebounds) is also a major contributor.

ABOUT BAYLOR (22-12, 12-14-1 ATS, 15-12 O/U): The Bears have five players who score roughly two-thirds of their points, led by senior forward Taurean Prince (15.5 points, 6.1 rebounds). Baylor will need senior forward Rico Gathers (11.4 points, 9.1 rebounds) to contribute offensively and control the boards against a solid rebounding team which is 20th nationally at 40.4 per game. Sophomore guard Al Freeman (11.5 points) and sophomore forward Johnathan Motley (11.0 points) are also offensive factors while senior point guard Lester Medford (9.1 points, 11th nationally with 6.5 assists) runs the show.

TRENDS:

* Yale is 6-0 ATS in its last six neutral site games.
* Baylor is 4-1 ATS in its last five games overall.
* Under is 4-0 in Yale’s last four games following an ATS win.
* Under is 4-0 in Baylor’s last four games overall.

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