Friday's NCAA First Round Previews

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Early Day Shocker Cashes In!
Sam Houston State (+10.5) Baylor 59-68 COVERED!
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BYU (-5) Florida 99-92 & (Over 146)
And the Thursday 3-Teamer Cashes In!
San Diego State (+3.5) Tennessee 59-62 WON!
Wake Forest (+5) Texas 81-80 WON!
Washington/Marquette Over 143 WON!

And we've got hot early steam going Friday!
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Let's keep the ball rollin' with a look at the remaining 16 NCAA Tournament Opening Round Games to be played on Friday but first this quickie reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are all over the NCAA Tournament along with the NIT, the CBI and College Insider Tournament, too -- and don't forget the NBA -- and you can snap up all the Game-Day Winners from here thru June.
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Editor's Note: The NCAA Tournament First-Round Games will be made available after 10 a.m. ET for the day-time action and then anytime after 1 p.m. ET for the night games. We'll have the Game-Day Winners this Saturday and Sunday after 10 a.m. both here online and at 1-800-323-4453.


Here's a region-by-region look at all 16 NCAA Tournament Games to be played on Friday, March 19th:

MIDWEST REGION -- Bradley Center -- Milwaukee, WI

#10 GEORGIA TECH (22-12) vs. #7 OKLAHOMA STATE (22-10) -- 7:15 p.m. ET
As we told you earlier this week in Jim Sez, the NCAA Tournameent Committee folks should get a tip-of-the-cap if -- for no other reason -- half of the 32 first-round games were really on-paper competitive games with Las Vegas pointspreads of 4-points-or-less. Here's one such game -- note Okie State was a 1-point fav at last check -- and nobody should be surprised when/if this clash of power conference teams goes right down to the wire.

Consider that G-Tech's been galvanized by that nifty run through the ACC Tournament that ended with a tight 65-61 loss to 9 1/2-point favorite Duke while the OSU Cowboys played better-than-.500 ball in the rough/tough Big 12 (see 9-7) and two-guard James Anderson (22.9 ppg) is ready/willing/able to carry Travis Ford's team for more than a couple of tourney rounds.
Put it this way: If Anderson needs 25-or-more shots to get his 23-or-so points here, than Tech figures to be the survive-and-advance team.

#15 UC-SANTA BARBARA (20-9) vs. #2 OHIO STATE (22-7) -- approximately 9:45 p.m. ET
Now that the O-State Buckeyes feel as if they've been blessed with a 'higher power' -- a/k/a Evan Turner (19.5 ppg, 9.4 rpg and 5.8 apg) -- fans of this Big 10 team are looking for a lengthy run in this year's NCAA Tournament following last week's Big 10 Tourney title.
However, Thad Matta's club (a 17 1/2-point favorite here) shouldn't expect to put things into cruise control considering UC-Santa Barbara averages seven steals a game and isn't afraid to bomb away from beyond the three-point arc -- if Gauchos G Orlando Johnson (17.9 ppg) gets some open looks from downtown here, this could be closer than 'they' think!

Spokane Memorial Arena -- Spokane, WA

#12 NEW MEXICO STATE (22-11) vs. #5 MICHIGAN STATE (24-8) -- 7:20 p.m. ET
Now that the media's weighed in and told you everything bad about Michigan State (see injuries, one-game suspensions, etc). we will remind folks that head coach Tom Izzo is a scintillating 31-11 in NCAA Tournament play (a .738 winning rate) and his teams never lose opening-round tourney games.

No doubt that M-State Spartans practiced hard following that early exit in the Big 10 Tourney and no doubt star point guard Kalin Lucas (14.8 ppg and 3.9 apg) received a stern talking-to in regards to his tentative play/decision-making but it'll shock us if Sparty doesn't come rip-roaring out of the locker room here -- and so well-coached New Mexico State (see Marvin Menzies) better batten down the hatches in the first 6 or 7 minutes here.

#13 HOUSTON (19-15) vs. #4 MARYLAND (23-8) -- approximately 9:50 p.m. ET
No doubt that the Maryland Terrapins were an under-the-radar 'name team' this 2009-10 season -- yes, they did share ACC first-place regular-season honors with golden boy Duke -- but now Gary Williams' gang must prove it can play shutdown defense against this Houston crew that has no conscience and could hurl up as many as 80 field-goal attempts here.

The Cougars' Aubrey Coleman (26 ppg) was a real missing-in-action guy in that Conference USA title upset win against UTEP but he won't be shy about getting off his shots here and you wonder if ultra-emotional Maryland G Greivis Vasquez (19.6 ppg and 6.3 apg) will get into a proverbial 'spitting match' with Lewis here to see who's best on the block. Stay tuned.


There's no rest for the money-hungry, and as the first round careens to its conclusion on Friday night, the Jim Hurley Network isn't passing up chances for more cash-ins before the second round starts tomorrow. Our on-scene sources are close to the action and they've been texting, faxing and e-mailing in some outstanding information that our handicappers are incorporating into their data analysis. They've locked in on three strong games, and those plays have been confirmed by contact with our Vegas pipeline, which informs us the public is going the other way, thus giving us gift points in the line. It's a Friday Night Triple Crown that ensures you can watch & win!

or call the office at 1-800-323-4453


WEST REGION -- HSBC Arena -- Buffalo, NY

#9 FLORIDA STATE (22-9) vs. #8 GONZAGA (26-6) -- 7:10 p.m. ET
Is this finally the year that the 'Zags make a real run for it?

Okay, so the answer is probably not but Mark Few's gang does have something to prove after getting torched by rival Saint Mary's in the West Coast Conference Championship Game and here there will be major questions regarding Gonzaga's ability to handle FSU's ornery half-court defense. Remember that the Seminoles are the country's best field-goal percentage defense and the ACC squad is quite adept at blocking shots in the paint.

Expect one major key here to be just how Gonzaga's senior G Matt Bouldin handles Florida State's defensive heat 'cause he's been ultra-sloppy as a ball-handler in recent games.

#16 VERMONT (25-9) vs. #1 SYRACUSE (28-4) -- approximately 9:40 p.m. ET
The news flash from Orange Nation earlier this week was that injured center Arinze Onuaku won't be able to play in either of Syracuse's first two NCAA Tourney games -- yes, head coach Jim Boeheim told ESPN radio this week that is 'if' the 'Cuse makes it to the second round -- but the fact is this Big East bunch needs to get more minutes for its bench players here and so don't be surprised if reserve guard Scoop Jardine comes off the pines and proves to be a major spark.

Okay, so let's not forget also that Syracuse has been spending the whole week hearing about that Vermont upset win against the Orange years ago -- maybe that will annoy the likes of megastar Wes Johnson (15.7 ppg and 8.5 rpg), Andy Rautins and mates here.

Bradley Center -- Milwaukee, WI

#11 MINNESOTA (21-13) vs. #6 XAVIER (24-8) -- 12:25 p.m. ET
Here's one of the more intriguing opening-round games on the docket -- consider that this one's a pick 'em affair at press time despite Minny being a double-digit seed and you get the sense that Xavier's not inspiring all kinds of confidence.

Okay, so the Musketeers are led by a rookie head coach in Chris Mack and this Atlantic-10 team was a tad erratic in last week's A-10 mini-tourney (Richmond beat 'em 89-85 in OT in the semifinal round) but there's lots of defensive stoppers on hand and G Jordan Crawford (19.7 ppg) isn't afraid to take the big shot.

If the Golden Gophers want to carry over their success from last week's Big 10 Tournament (three wins before getting pounded by Ohio State) than Tubby Smith's crew must not blow so many in-close shots -- and do-it-all guard Lawrence Westbrook -- an 84 percent free-throw shooter -- must make a slew of trips to the charity stripe here.

#14 OAKLAND (26-8) vs. #3 PITTSBURGH (24-8) -- approximately 2:55 p.m. ET
The Pitt Panthers are playing their first NCAA Tournament game since last year's electrifying Elite 8 loss to Villanova and so Jamie Dixon's club may want a real quick start here to get a good taste in their mouths -- and if 10 1/2-point pup Oakland wants to stay in the hunt than the Summit League champs better cut down on its turnovers (14 a game) and drill a few treys (not normally a team strength).

No question the Big East Panthers were 'overachievers' this 2009-10 season but now's the real deal and all eyes will be on ace shooter Ashton Gibbs (16.2 ppg) to see if he's a guy that can carry a team's offense at 'Big Dance' time.

EAST REGION --Veterans Memorial Arena -- Jacksonville, FL

#12 CORNELL (27-4) vs. #5 TEMPLE (29-5) -- 12:30 p.m. ET
Now that everyone has declared both Cornell and Temple were 'seeded badly' here the violins can be put away and let's see who is really the king of this East Coast 'small guys' matchup:

The favored Owls play mind-numbing defense -- especially from beyond the three-point arc (see 28 percent) -- but the $64,000 question here is can Temple make enough shots in the paint while dealing with Big Red center Jeff Foote, a seven-footer with skills.
The Ivy League champs gave Kansas that major run-for-the-money game this '09-'10 season and they could quickly become America's Darlings with a win here and odds are someone's gonna have to step it up if/when ace scorer Ryan Wittman (17.5 ppg) gets silenced.

#13 WOFFORD (26-8) vs. #4 WISCONSIN (23-8) -- approximately 3 p.m. ET
There has been a real different chemistry on this Wisky Badgers team ever since forward Jon Leuer returned to the lineup following a wrist injury and everyone's quick to tell you Bo Ryan's club is deeper and more talented than it was at season's start -- now here's a prove-it game against a Wofford bunch that more often than not is a one-man offense.

Message to the Big 10 bunch: Stop forward Noah Dahlman (17.4 ppg) and this one's all yours!

HSBC Arena -- Buffalo, NY

#15 MORGAN STATE (27-9) vs. #2 WEST VIRGINIA (27-6) -- 12:15 p.m. ET
Had to love hearing John Denver's 'Country Road' recording blare over the Madison Square Garden speakers last Saturday night after West Virginia copped the Big East Tournament title with that 60-58 win against Georgetown and now the big question is whether Bob Huggins' crew has come down from that high?

If Da'Sean Butler (17.2 ppg) keeps making these late-game shots, then maybe this is real magic with this year's Mountaineers but if he's needed to save 'em late in Round One here, than that's a problem!

#10 MISSOURI (22-10) vs. #7 CLEMSON (21-10) -- approximately 2:45 p.m. ET
Both of these power conference teams whimped out in the opening games of their respective mini-tournies last week but maybe -- just maybe -- that was the strategy for Mizzou boss-man Mike Anderson who didn't think his Tigers could greatly improve their Big Dance seed unless they won the Big 12. So, Missouri got blasted by Nebraska and instead wound up as a double-digit seed (as punishment?) but possibly caught a break with this first-round foe.

Keep in mind Clemson's 0-5 in this tourney under head coach Oliver Purnell and no doubt the ACC Tigers were one of the toughest teams to figure from mid-January on -- could someone make sure star forward Trevor Booker gets his 'touches' here?

SOUTH REGION -- Veterans Memorial Arena -- Jacksonville, FL

#16 ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF (18-15) vs. #1 DUKE (29-5) -- 7:25 p.m. ET
No reason to ramble on here 'cause the Dookies are 23-point favorites and now facing the worst team left in the 64-team field ... belated congratulations to APB on that 61-44 win over Winthrop in the 'play-in' game but even we had to turn away from the TV set as that was just too ugly.

In case you were wondering, Duke starts five seniors/juniors -- and that just doesn't happen very much anymore.

#9 LOUISVILLE (20-12) vs. #8 CALIFORNIA (23-10) -- approximately 9:55 p.m. ET
The news filtered out on Wednesday that California F Omondi Amoke was tossed from the team for the remainder of this season -- the stats show he was averaging just 4.5 ppg and 4.6 rpg but the reality of the situation is the Pac-10 team needs any/all bodies on board here against a Louisville team that presses/traps and often gets opponents in foul difficulties. Still, the only way Cal is gonna win here and throughout the tourney is if star G Jerome Randle (18.7 ppg) takes complete command and you better believe Cardinals coach Rick Pitino will be having Randle shadowed from baseline-to-baseline here.

Note on the 'Ville: They could hurl up more than 25 triples here if left open but the big question is will erratic PG Edgar Sosa always be looking for the open shooter or will be he looking to shoot it himself?

Spokane Memorial Arena -- Spokane, WA

#13 SIENA (27-6) vs. #4 PURDUE (27-5) -- 2:30 p.m. ET
Please don't tell us this is any big upset should the Siena Saints prevail: Not only is the Vegas price tag on this tilt a mere four points but everyone (and we mean everyone!) is picking the MAAC champs to best the Boilermakers here.

As we've been apt to say in the past ... not so fast, my friends!

Purdue may be without ultra-valuable F Robbie Hummel (15.7 rpg and 6.9 rpg) but dynamite G E'Twaun Moore (16.7 ppg) is more than capable of taking over a game at a moment's notice and don't you just think this Big 10 team is sick-and-tired of getting 'beat up' in the media for the past four or five days?

#12 UTAH STATE (27-7) vs. #5 TEXAS A&M (23-9) -- approximately 4:55 p.m. ET
Hey, this marks the third consecutive year that the A&M Aggies played a team from the 'Beehive State' in the opening round of the NCAAs -- Texas A&M dispatched BYU in each of the past two years -- and now Mark Turgeon's team looks to senior G Donald Sloan (17.9 ppg) to make all the crunch-time hoops here. Sloan symbolizes the here-and-now Aggies with his mental toughness and ferocious play but note Utah State is a team that had won 17 games in a row prior to last Saturday's 69-63 loss to 10-point dog New Mexico State in the WAC Championship Game.

If the Utah State Aggies are gonna pull the mild upset here (A&M's favored by just 3 points) than Stew Morrill's club must show some real athleticism -- or they'll drop to 6-21 all-time in NCAA Tourney action.



By Jim Hurley:

Caught your breath yet?

Day One of this year's NCAA Tournament was one for the ages - not only did three games go overtime (including a double-OT affair between BYU and Florida) but half of the 16 "Big Dance" games either were decided by three points or else were part of the OT landscape.

The big-shots from the Big East?

They got trampled as 13-point favorite Georgetown lost to Ohio while Notre Dame and Marquette also were beaten and #2 seed Villanova had more than a few whistles go its way late in a wild 73-70 OT non-cover win against 18 ½-point dog Robert Morris.

The SEC had two teams get ousted (see Florida and Vanderbilt) and the only real superpowers that looked super were Kentucky and Kansas State.

Heck, the power conferences altogether were raked over the coals - note that in head-to-head games between members of the so-called "Super Six" (that's the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC) versus non-power conference teams, the big boys went a dismal 2-8 ATS (against the spread).

Overall, NCAA Tournament Day One Betting Favorites registered a shabby 4-12 spread mark and - when you add in this past Tuesday's result of Arkansas-Pine Bluff belting 3 ½-point fav Winthrop 61-44 in the proverbial "play-in game" you can see that NCAA Tourney chalk-eaters entered Friday's action having covered just 23.5 percent of their plays ... egads.

We'll re-cap much of Thursday's NCAA Tournament action within our Saturday Second-Round Previews below but first this vitally important message:

Extra, extra: Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are all over the NCAA Tournament along with the NIT, the CBI and College Insider Tournament, too - and don't forget the NBA -- and you can snap up all the Game-Day Winners from here thru June. Call us at the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or check us out right here online -- get in on the fun-and-profits right from the start of the thrilling College Basketball Post-Season. Editor's Note: The NCAA Tournament Second-Round Games on this Saturday and Sunday are available after 10am ET both days here online and at 1-800-323-4453.




Ford Center - Oklahoma City, OK

#1 KANSAS (33-2) vs. #9 NORTHERN IOWA (29-4) - 5:40 p.m. ET
Maybe the best thing about the KU Jayhawks' 90-74 non-cover win against Lehigh in Round I was that the tourney's top seed really did have to break a sweat - Bill Self's guys got in an early hole and then got angry with lots of violent dunks and lots of in-the-paint rough stuff.

Center Cole Aldrich (11 points and 8 rebounds) didn't have to be a monster in that victory but he must stake his claim in the lane here and "nudge" Northern Iowa's seven-foot center Jordan Eglseder away from the basket plus somebody's got to get a hand in the face of three-point specialist Ali Farokhmanesh after he banged home a corner trey to beat UNLV 69-66 - hey, we warned you about this Panthers' gunner in our Round I Previews!

Dunkin Donuts Center - Providence, RI

#14 OHIO (22-14) vs. #6 TENNESSEE (26-8) - approximately 3:35 p.m. ET
The biggest upset on Day One was Ohio's thorough spanking of dead-tired Georgetown - hey, kudos to the Bobcats who were clearly the better team on Thursday night but John Thompson III's team never did have any lift in their legs after playing four games in four days in last week's Big East Tournament. Now, John Groce's club looks to follow up that 97-83 win with another gem here and G Armon Bassett (32 points versus the Hoyas) holds the key as he'll be needed to hold off Tennessee's presses/traps and score a bunch too.

Hey, the Vols nearly went to sleep in the second half of that 62-59 win against San Diego State on Thursday night but managed to survive-and-advance as Melvin Goins connected on 4-of-5 triple tries and Tennessee nailed 14-of-18 free throws - now Bruce Pearl's guys must force the action here and get to the charity stripe 25-or-more times ... or else!


Ford Center - Oklahoma City, OK

#2 KANSAS STATE (27-7) vs. #7 BYU (30-5) - approximately 8:10 p.m. ET
The $64,000 question here is how much juice does BYU have in its tank following that 99-92 2-OT win against the not-so-mighty Gators?

Gotta believe that star G Jimmer Fredette (37 points versus Florida) will get his fair share of looks against a K-State crew that played a tad loosey-goosey in its easy 82-62 win/cover against North Texas - and if you're not a big-time believer yet in guards Denis Clemente (17 points and 6 assists) and Jacob Pullen (15 points in 28 minutes against the Mean Green) than you really haven't been paying attention

HP Pavilion - San Jose, CA

#13 MURRAY STATE (31-4) vs. #5 BUTLER (29-4) - 3:20 p.m. ET
Go ahead and raise you hand if you predicted that five double-digit wins were gonna win their opening-round games on Thursday!

No doubt Murray State was a "hot item" as it seemed everyone was picking the Racers to get past soft Vandy - and they did thanks to that buzzer-beating basket by Danero Thomas who only shot 5-of-12 in that high-wire 66-65 win against the Commodores but sure picked the right time to swish one. Now, Murray State goes from the frying pan to the fire as Butler enters this second-round tilt with mucho momentum after slamming over-hyped UTEP 77-59 (a 50-point second half for the ultra-talented Bulldogs).

Watch Butler guard Shelvin Mack here after he poured in a game-high 25 points against the Miners - the guy connected on 7-of-9 triples and was laughing after hitting the last couple of ‘em!



New Orleans Arena - New Orleans, LA

#1 KENTUCKY (33-2) vs. #9 WAKE FOREST (20-10) - approximately 8:15 p.m. ET
Well, at least somebody that was supposed to rock-n-roll in Round One did so!

John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats whipped up on overmatched East Tennessee State 100-71 as "forgotten star" Eric Bledsoe led the way with 29 points and now the SEC powerhouse has an extra advantage here as they catch Wake Forest off its draining 81-80 OT win against 5-point fav Texas - betcha didn't think the Demon Deacons would recover from that eight-point OT deficit, right?

All hail Wake guard Ish Smith (19 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists - and that game-winning jumper too)!

HP Pavilion - San Jose, CA

#3 NEW MEXICO (30-4) vs. #11 WASHINGTON (25-9) - approximately 5:50 p.m. ET
Here's a matchup of two teams that truly bobbed-and-weaved their way to first-round wins - New Mexico's back-and-forth 62-57 non-cover win against Montana was a major game of streaks but in the end the Lobos overcame some free-throw woes (see 13-of-23 FTs) and were able to squeeze by even though star player Darington Hobson was hobbled by a bum wrist that limited him to 11 points (although he did play 38 minutes).

On the flip side, Washington was down by 15 points with 13-plus minutes left en route to an electrifying 80-78 win against Marquette - might that Big East team also have been dragging at the end after a tough mini-tourney in NYC last week?

All we know is the Huskies' Quincy Pondexter (18 points including the game-winning bank shot with 1.7 seconds left) is a certifiable star even if half the country still doesn't know his name!


Dunkin Donuts Center - Providence, RI

#2 VILLANOVA (25-7) vs. #10 ST. MARY'S (27-5) - 1:05 p.m. ET
Gotta wonder what ‘Nova head coach Jay Wright was trying to accomplish by sitting guards Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher at the start of that OT win against Robert Morris - maybe some folks believe it lit a fire under Reynolds who canned a gigantic triple shot in the extra session and finished with 20 points but his 2-of-15 FG shooting line told it all while Fisher was a total non-factor with 6 points and 2 assists in 25 minutes of play - yuck.

Now that both will get the starting nods here, look for the Big East Wildcats to step up the tempo of this game from the start and do their best to take St. Mary's big man Omar Samhan (29 points and 12 rebounds in convincing 80-71 triumph over Richmond) out of this game.

If the upset-minded Gaels, however, continue to bury enough treys (eight of ‘em versus the Spiders), than this one could have a wire-job look to it at game's end.
New Orleans Arena - New Orleans, LA

#3 BAYLOR (26-7) vs. #11 OLD DOMINION (27-8) - 5:45 p.m. ET
The Baylor Bears were very much a vogue pick to get to this year's Final Four - but the Big 12 crew ain't getting there if they play all their tourney games like Thursday's sloppy 68-59 non-cover win against 10 ½-point dog Sam Houston State. Baylor only drilled 5-of-20 trifectas and the hyped guard combo of LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter teamed up for just 15 points and 5 assists.

Old Dominion, meanwhile, showed major gumption in coming from behind to nip Notre Dame 51-50 as the well-coached Monarchs held the Irish to 21-of-59 from the floor (that's 35.6 percent) - if ODU can hold Baylor to less than 40 percent shooting here than another power conference club could find itself on the ropes.

NOTE: Get our NCAA Tournament Sunday Previews in the next Jim Sez.


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