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Friday, Mar 17

   by Larry Ness - 03/17/2006

Day One of the 2006 men's tournament featured a little of everything. There were blowouts, close calls for some high seeds, some pointspread 'nightmares' and as always, upsets. The NCAA defines a major upset as the winner being seeded five or more places beneath the loser.

Using that definition, Montana and Texas A&M's wins (both 12-seeds) over Nevada and Syracuse (both five-seeds) fit the bill, as does Wisconsin-Milwaukee's (11-seed) win over sixth-seed Oklahoma. Alabama's (10) win over Marquette (7), falls short.

My free play for Friday is on Southern Illinois over West Va at 2:45 ET. I just missed a 3-1 NCAA Thursday, as Wilmington blew an 18-point second half lead vs George Washington. I do have a big Friday in store, including my 20* NCAA 1st Round Game of the Year. Check the purchase picks page for all my BKB plays in both CBB and the NBA for Friday.

As far as pointspread upsets go, only Montana's win over Nevada is of note. The Wolf Pack opened a seven-point favorite in that game and were bet down to 5 1/2. Oklahoma was a three or 3 1/2 point favorite over Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette a two-point choice over Alabama, so neither of those outcomes should be considered much of a surprise. In the case of the Texas A&M/Syracuse game, Syracuse opened a one-point choice but A&M closed a one or 1 /2-point favorite.

Texas A&M and Montana's upsets came in the now-famous (or infamous) 5/12 matchups. Washington (also a five-seed), avoided the curse by beating 12th-seeded Utah State, 75-61. The last of the four 5/12 matchups will be played tonight at 7:10 ET, when Pittsburgh takes on Kent State. Pitt, the five-seed, is favored by 6 1/2 points.

Duke was the only one of the four No. 1 seeds in action on Thursday and the Blue Devils did little to dispel the notion that they are no more than a two-man team. Redick and Williams each scored 29 points, accounting for all but 12 of Duke's points in an uninspiring 70-54 win over Southern. The remaining three No. 1 seeds (U Conn, Villanova and Memphis) all play Friday.

Three high seeds, No. 2 Tennessee. No. 3 Gonzaga and No. 4 Boston College, were lucky to win on Thursday. Tennessee needed an off-balance jumper by Lofton with 2.9 seconds left to get by 15th-seeded Winthrop. Gonzaga, a three-seed, needed a late comeback and a 35-point effort from Adam Morrison to get past Xavier (14), 79-75. The win extended the Bulldogs' winning streak to a nation-best 19 games but it should be noted that the team is just 7-12 ATS in those wins.

As for BC, the Eagles trailed Pacific (13) 71-65 with just under three minutes to go but somehow forced OT. Pacific also took a six-point lead in the first OT but again BC tied it. In the second OT, the Eagles outscored the Tigers 14-2, leaving Pacific bettors (at plus-eight) shaking their heads.

It was not fun to have had NC-Wilmington, either. The Seahawks were 2 1/2 or three-point underdogs versus George Washington but led 64-46 with 11:11 left in regulation. GW used a 19-0 run to help send the game into OT and then Wilmington blew an 85-81 lead with 2:06 left, before losing 88-85!

Day One also had its share of blowouts as Wichita State began the day with an easy 86-66 win over Seton Hall, Florida had little trouble with South Alabama (76-50) and UCLA posted the day's largest margin of victory, beating Belmont by 34 points (78-44).

The Big East set a record on Sunday when it received eight bids but yesterday was hardly a good day for its schools. Besides Seton Hall and Syracuse losing, Marquette lost to Alabama (90-85), giving the Big East an 0-3 Thursday. Alabama's win gave the SEC a perfect 4-0 day (Fla, LSU and Tenn also won), while the ACC (Duke and BC), the Big-10 (Illinois and Indiana) and the Pac-10 (UCLA and Washington) all went 2-0.

There are 32 more first round games Friday (all on CBS), beginning with Davidson vs Ohio State (12:15 ET) and ending with the latest scheduled tip-off, UAB versus Kentucky at about 9:45 ET.

The NIT is also playing, although it's hardly getting much ink. After home teams went just 4-4 SU (3-5 ATS) in the tourney's eight opening round games on Tuesday, home teams have ruled the day in the first round. Wednesday, home teams went 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS and last night, were a perfect 4-0 SU and ATS! Of note, all four visiting teams last night were playing their second game in three days, while the home team was playing for the first time.

The NIT's first of four No. 1 seeds played last night, as Michigan beat UTEP, 82-67. Two more No. 1 seeds play tonight, Louisville hosting Delaware State at 7:00 ET (Cards are favored by 16 points) and Cincinnati hosting NC-Charlotte at 8:00 ET (Bearcats are favored by 6 1/2 points).

Again in tonight's action, all four visiting teams will be playing their second games while the home teams are playing for the first time. Tonight however, the visitors do have an extra day of rest. The NIT's final No. 1 seed (Maryland) plays tomorrow for the first time, four days after the tournament began!

Miami came back from a 25-point deficit last night against the Celtics (trailed 59-34 in the second quarter) to win, 107-104. It matched the league's largest comeback win this year. Miami has now won 13 of 14 games and is a season-high 22 games above .500 at 43-21. However, the Heat are in no danger of catching the Pistons, as they trail Detroit by 8 1/2 games in the Eastern Conference.

Seattle beat Philly last night (anyone care?) and despite Kevin Garnett's 22nd consecutive double-double (he owns a league-best 51 on the year!), the T-wolves lost to the Warriors, 105-97. It marks Minnesota's seventh straight loss (tying New Orleans for the longest current losing streak), its eighth straight road loss and its 21st loss in its last 24 road games!

Tonight's NBA schedule contains 11 games, highlighted by Ron Artest's return to Indianapolis (Kings at Pacers) and a huge Western Conference showdown, the Suns at the Spurs. The Kings lost their first two games with Artest but have since gone a remarkable 15-5 SU and 16-3-1 ATS! At 33-31, the Kings are now in the 7th playoff spot out West, just two games behind Memphis. As for the Pacers, they occupy the East's sixth playoff spot, 4 1/2 games inside the "cut line." The game tips at 7:05 ET and the Kings are favored by 1 1/2 points with a total of 194.

The Spurs recently beat the Suns in Phoenix 117-93, but Nash missed that game, as did Barbosa. Phoenix comes into this game winners of 14 of their 16 and with a record of 19-10 (19-9-1 ATS) on the road. The Spurs have gone 23-5 since losing to Detroit back on Jan 12 and are 28-4 at home this year, although just 17-15 ATS. San Antonio is favored by 5 1/2 points (205 1/2).

Ness Notes is available by 1:00 ET Monday through Friday. Larry's feature story, "32-to-16" will run Saturday and Sunday.

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