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Wednesday's Play-In Action

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The last pair of First Four games tips off on Wednesday, Mar. 20 in the early evening as the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds take on James Madison for the right to be crushed by Indiana. The Boise State Broncos and La Salle Explorers will fight for the undisputed 13th seed in the West Region, and an opportunity to play the Kansas State Wildcats. An interesting turn of events has made one of these games more difficult to call, while the other one should be simply arithmetic.
 
#16 LIU Blackbirds -2.0 over #16 James Madison Dukes (truTV, 6:40 p.m. ET)

I was eager to back the James Madison Dukes in this game until Rayshawn Goins, the team’s best player, was suspended for acting like an idiot in public and getting arrested. Goins leads the Dukes with 12.7 points and 7.4 boards per game and will be benched for the first half in this First Four matchup. The suspension is well deserved and the coaching staff should be praised for doing the right thing. It would’ve been much easier for them to say “we’ll take care of it in-house” and play Goins on Wednesday night.
 
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This is truly a shame for James Madison, which won the Colonial Conference tournament and entered the First Four with a 7-3 straight up and 8-2 against the spread record. They had been making money hand over fist for their backers, and had capped their conference challenge with gusto. They should be the team punching their ticket to a second round slaughter against Indiana in the East Region. Without Goins, that will be a much harder goal to achieve.
 
Logically, that gives the Long Island Blackbirds of Brooklyn the inside track in this pivotal game. The little know school from Long Island is 8-2 SU and 4-0 ATS in their last 10 games. The three-time Northeastern Conference tournament champions are a strong offensive team that averages 79.5 points per game. Their defense leaves a lot to be desired, as they give up 76.4 points against on average, but without Goins in the lineup the Blackbirds should be able to mount a padded lead and protect it with ease.
 
#13 Boise State Broncos -2.0 over #13 La Salle Explorers (truTV, 9:10 p.m. ET)

Probably the biggest indicator that La Salle is in trouble is their 3-7 ATS record when playing a team with a winning record. The Explorers were busted up early in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament by Butler and enter their First Four matchup with a two game losing streak, and two failed covers. This is not going to be an easy matchup for them to win.
 
While Boise State lost in their first game of the MWC Tournament as well, they’re simply the better team. Including their loss to San Diego State last week, Boise is 6-4 SU and 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games which makes them a known and formidable play. One of the main reasons to back Boise is Derrick Marks, a dynamic scoring guard who averaged 16.3 points per game this season and can light it up against average defenses. La Salle won’t be able to keep Marks under wraps, and if they try to, there are a few other players on Boise State who can step up and play off of their double teamed star.
 
Neither of these teams will have a chance in the second round against No.6 Kansas State, which boasts Rodney McGruder and a team that is viscious on the defensive side. I like Boise State to advance past the opening round, and depending on how Marks plays we’ll see if they can cover against the Wildcats later this week.

  
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