2016-NCAAB-March Madness-Saturdays most interesting games preview
South Regional – Des Moines, IA (CBS, 7:45 p.m. ET)
Connecticut vs. Kansas
– This is a South Region game in Des Moines, IA., with the winner moving on to the Sweet 16 in Louisville to face the Maryland-Hawaii winner. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. Eastern on CBS.
– The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas opened Kansas (31-4 straight up, 22-11 against the spread) as an eight-point favorite with a total of 139. As of early Friday night, however, the Jayhawks were favored by 8.5 points with the total adjusted to 140. The Huskies were +375 on the money line (risk $100 to win $375).
– Kansas moved into the Round of 32 by blasting Austin Peay 105-79 as a 24.5-point favorite. The 184 combined points soared ‘over’ the 150.5-point total. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk scored a team-high 23 points off the bench in 24 minutes thanks to 9-of-11 shooting from the field. Perry Ellis added 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting, while Landen Lucas scored 16 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked a pair of shots.
– Kansas has won 15 games in a row while cashing tickets at a frenetic 13-2 ATS clip. Bill Self’s team hasn’t tasted defeats since losing at Iowa State way back on Jan. 25.
– KU has been a single-digit ‘chalk’ 15 times, producing a 10-5 spread record.
– Bill Self owns a 37-16 (69.8%) career record in the NCAA Tournament, ranking his winning percentage as the seventh-best among active head coaches and the fourth-best among coaches remaining in this year’s field.
– UConn (25-10 SU, 17-13 ATS) is rolling with five consecutive wins both SU and ATS, including Thursday’s 74-67 come-from-behind win over Colorado as a 3.5-point favorite. The Huskies trailed by nine at intermission, but they dominated the second half. Daniel Hamilton was the catalyst with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Rodney Purvis finished with 19 points and five boards. Sterling Gibbs was also in double figures with 12 points and his 3-pointer from the corner gave UConn its first lead of the game about six minutes into the second half.
– UConn has only been an underdog six times, posting a 2-3-1 spread record with a pair of outright victories.
– UConn is 1-2 SU in three games against RPI Top-25 foes. The Huskies’ best wins came at home vs. SMU, on a neutral court vs. Cincinnati and at Texas. They also beat teams in the tourney like Michigan, Tulsa and Temple. In 35 games, UConn lost by a double-digit margin only twice – vs. Maryland (by 10) on a neutral court and at SMU.
– UConn head coach Kevin Ollie owns a perfect 7-0 record in NCAA Tournament games. The last coach to win his first seven games in the Tournament was Michigan’s Steve Fisher but in his eighth Tourney game, the defending national champs featuring Terry Mills, Rumeal Robinson and Loy Vaught got smashed by Loyola-Marymount in the 1990 second round as Jeff Fryer drained 11 3-pointers for Paul Westhead’s team that would advance to the Elite Eight in memory of its late teammate Hank Gathers. LMU lost to eventual national champ UNLV.
– The ‘under’ is 16-14-1 overall for the Huskies, but the ‘over’ is 6-2 in their eight outings.
– The ‘under’ is 19-12-1 overall for KU, but the ‘over’ is 4-1-1 in its last five contests.
Midwest Regional – Denver, CO (TNT, 8:40 p.m. ET)
Gonzaga vs. Utah
– This is a Midwest Region matchup between 11th-seeded Gonzaga and third-seeded Utah in Denver. The winner will advance to the Midwest semifinals to face a double-digit seed (Syracuse-Middle Tennessee winner) in Chicago. This game is slated to tip at 8:40 p.m. Eastern.
– The Westgate opened this game as a pick ‘em with a total of 139. The side remains a pick, while the total has been slightly adjusted to 139.5.
– Utah (27-8 SU, 17-15 ATS) advanced to the Round of 32 by capturing an 80-69 win over Fresno State as an 8.5-point favorite. The 149 combined points jumped ‘over’ the 139-point tally. Lorenzo Bonam scored a team-high 17 points by draining 7-of-10 attempts from the field. Jako Poeltl produced 16 points, 18 rebounds and four assists, while Brandon Taylor contributed 16 points, six assists and four steals. Jordan Loveridge buried 4-of-8 from downtown and finished with 16 points, three rebounds and three steals.
– Utah had the nation’s seventh-strongest schedule. The Utes went 3-5 against RPI Top-25 opponents, 11-7 versus the Top 50 and 19-8 against the Top 100. They own neutral-court wins over Texas Tech, Duke, Temple, California and Southern Cal. Their best road triumphs came at Colorado and at USC.
– Poeltl averages team-highs in scoring (17.6 PPG), rebounding (9.2 RPG), field-goal percentage (64.9%) and blocks (1.6 BPG).
– Gonzaga (27-7 SU, 16-15-1 ATS) was in danger of potentially missing the Tournament for the first time since Mark Few took over at the school for the 1999-2000 season. However, the Bulldogs caught fire at the right time and have now won six in a row both SU and ATS. Five of those victories have come by double-digit margins.
– Few’s team advanced Thursday night by thumping Seton Hall 68-52 as a two-point ‘chalk.’ The 120 combined points stayed way ‘under’ the 146-point tally. Domantas Sabonis dominated in the paint with 21 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, two blocked shots and one steal. The key to victory was the Bulldogs’ domination on the glass with a 47-32 rebounding advantage. Gonzaga’s defense forced Seton Hall star Isaiah Whitehead into a miserable 4-of-24 shooting performance. Whitehead missed all 10 of his 3-point launches. The Pirates were an atrocious 8-of-21 from the charity stripe and 4-for-21 from long distance.
– Kyle Wiltjer scored 13 points and had seven rebounds against Seton Hall, but he was only 5-of-14 from the field. The senior, who is in his second year with Gonzaga after transferring from Kentucky, averages a team-best 20.5 PPG and makes 42.6 percent of his 3-pointers.
– Sabonis averages 17.5 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. The son of Russian legend and former Portland Trail Blazer star Arvidas Sabonis is shooting 60.8 percent from the field.
– Totals have been an overall wash (16-16) for the Bulldogs, but they’ve seen the ‘over’ go 3-1 in their last four outings.
– The ‘over’ is 19-13-1 overall for Utah after hitting in each of its last four games.
East Regional – Raleigh, NC (TBS, 9:40 p.m. ET)
Providence vs. North Carolina
– This is an East Region showdown in Raleigh, N.C., between No. 1 seed North Carolina (29-6 SU, 16-18-1 ATS) and ninth-seeded Providence. The winner moves on to Sweet 16 in Philadelphia to face the winner of Kentucky-Indiana.
– The Westgate opened UNC as a 9.5-point favorite with a total of 151. Since then, they’ve adjusted the Tar Heels to 10-point ‘chalk.’ The Friars are +450 on the money line (risk $100 to win $450).
– North Carolina knocked off Florida Gulf Coast by an 83-67 count Thursday night, but it failed to cover the number as a 22.5-point favorite. The 150 combined points slipped ‘over’ the 148-point total. It was the sixth straight victory for Roy Williams’s club, but its four-game string of spread covers came to an end. Brice Johnson was the catalyst with 18 points, eight blocked shots, seven rebounds and three assists without a turnover. Joel Berry II finished with 14 points and six boards, while Justin Jackson and Isaiah Hicks had 12 points apiece. Marcus Paige scored 10 points and dished out five helpers compare to just one turnover.
– Johnson is the catalyst for this ultra-talented UNC squad. The senior forward averages team-highs in scoring (16.6 PPG), rebounding (10.5 RPG) and field-goal percentage (61.5%).
– Providence (24-10 SU, 18-15 ATS) advanced to the Round of 32 by beating Southern Cal 70-69 on a layup by Rodney Bullock off a baseline inbounds pass with 1.4 seconds remaining. Nevertheless, gamblers backing the Trojans cashed tickets as two-point underdogs. Ben Bentil scored 19 points and pulled down the nine rebounds pace PU. Kris Dunn scored 16 points and had four rebounds and four assists. Bullock finished with 16 points, 10 boards, two steals, two blocks and one assist without a turnover.
– PU has thrived in 14 games as an underdog, compiling a 9-5 spread record with eight outright victories.
– This is a rematch of the 2014 NCAA Tournament matchup won by UNC 79-77 as a 4.5-point ‘chalk.’ Paige had 19 points and four assists compared to only one turnover for the Tar Heels. Brice Johnson had 16 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots, while Kennedy Meeks finished with 12 points and five boards.
– The ‘over’ is 19-14 overall for the Friars.
– The ‘over’ is 18-17 overall for UNC.
– Tip-off is slated for 9:40 p.m. Eastern on TBS.