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Big Dance Journal, Friday

   by Larry Ness - 03/18/2016

Big Dance Journal (Friday, Mar 18)

There was little ‘love’ shown the three No. 16 seeds on Thursday, as No. 1 seeds moved to 127-0 all-time in first round games. Kansas, North Carolina and Virginia took care of business rather easily. North Carolina led Florida Gulf Coast just 41-40 at the half but midway through the second half led 68-48 and eased to a 16-point non-covering win (Kansas won by 26 points and Virginia won by 36, with both teams covering). In a scheduling quirk, none of the four No. 2 seeds were in action Thursday (naturally, all four will play Friday), while both No. 3 seeds won (1-1 ATS) and the three No. 4 seeds in action each won, scoring 94 (Iowa St), 93 (Duke) and 85 (Kentucky) points, going 2-1 ATS. The top-four seeds finished Thursday 8-0 SU and 5-3 ATS.

As noted in yesterday’s journal, the 5 vs 12 and 6 vs 11 first round games could produce upsets and that they did. TWO of the three No. 5 seeds lost, with Indiana’s convincing 99-74 win over Chattanooga being the exception. 5th-seeded Baylor lost for the second straight year in the first round (last year lost as a No. 4 seed to Georgia St), falling 79-75 Yale. The Bulldogs were making their first NCAA appearance since 1962 and Thursday’s win was the school’s first-ever NCAA tourney win. Yale’s James Jones is in his 17th year as head coach. At how many other schools would a coach still be around after 16 non-NCAA appearances? Only in the Ivies! By the way, Ivy League schools have proved they are no patsies, going 4-3 SU in first round games since 2010 (year Cornell advanced to the Sweet 16).

5th-seeded Purdue led UALR 65-52 with 3:33 to go in regulation but went on a 12-0 run to make it a game. Josh Hagins (31 points) hit a 30-foot shot to send the game to OT and UALR won 85-83 in double overtime. Thirty years ago, Little Rock upset Notre Dame as a No. 14 seed. One year ago Chris Beard was the head coach at Angelo State. However, he signed 10 newcomers after getting the job last spring, and now has 30-4 UALR 40 minutes from the Sweet 16 (last year’s team was 13-18!). Here’s the rub. How long do you think Beard will stay in Little Rock?

BOTH 11-seeds bested their 6th-seed opponents but the pointspread in those games hardly qualified them as upsets. Wichita St has this tourney’s two most experienced players in guards VanVleet (averaging 15.0 PPG in two wins) and Baker (13.5 PPG), plus entered the Big Dance with the nation’s stingiest defense (allowing 59.2 PPG). It should come as no surprise that the Shockers won by 20 points while holding Vandy to 50 points on Tuesday (‘Dores shot 30.2%) or that Thursday, Arizona was held to 55 points (Wildcats shot 41.7%) in a 10-point Wichita st win. Gonzaga may have been the No. 11 seed but the Bulldogs were a two-point favorite over )No. 6 Seton Hall and won handily, 68-52.

Also note that in all three 8 vs 9 games, the 9-seed was favored in each contest and went 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS (Providence was a 2 1/2-point choice over USC but won just 70-69. When all the dust had settled Thursday night, favorites went 13-2 SU (Arizona/Wichita St game was a pick-em) and 9-6 ATS. Add in the First Four games and the tally stands 16-3 SU by the favorites and 12-7 ATS. “Over players” were 10-6 on Thursday, after three of the First Four games went under. That’s 11 overs and nine unders, so far.

The first Round concludes with 16 more games on Friday. Holy Cross, a 23-point underdog to Oregon, is the final 1 vs 16 matchup of the 2016 tourney. All four No. 2 seeds play today with Michigan St laying 18 points against Middle Tennessee St, Villanova laying 17 1/2 points to NC-Ashville, Oklahoma laying 14 1/2 points to CS-Bakersfield (1st-ever NCAA appearance) and Xavier laying 13 points to Weber St. Completing the group of top-four seeds in action (8-0 SU and 5-3 ATS so far) are 3-seeds Texas A&M (13 1/2 point favorites over Wisconsin-Green Bay) and West Va (an eight-point choice over SF Austin) plus the lone 4-seed playing on Friday, Cal (a 4 1/2-point favorite over Hawaii).

Maryland (-9 1/2) will try to even 5-seeds record over 12-seeds at 2-2 in this year’s tourney when it meets 12th-seeded South Dakota St. No. 6 seeds are already 0-2 vs 11-seeds this tourney and Friday it’s 6-seeds Notre Dame (-3 1/2) against Michigan plus Texas (-4 1/2) against Northern Iowa. Once again, a 9-seed (Cincinnati), is favored over an 8-seed (St Joe’s), this time by two points (remember, 9-seeds were 3-0 SU & 2-1 ATS vs 8-seeds on Thursday). The only other game Friday in which the lower-seed is favored, is No. 10 VCU, which is a four-point choice over No.7 Oregon St.

Saturday’s journal available by 10:00 ET in the morning.

Good luck...Larry

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