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Thursday's Prime-Time Tips

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Editor's note: Brian Edwards went 2-0 in the NIT on Monday and is on a 35-22 run since Feb. 21. Check out Brian's daily selections, including his latest pay-if-it-wins-only pick.

**North Carolina A&T vs. Louisville**

--Louisville (29-5 straight up, 20-14 against the spread) and its fans will revel in taking over Rupp Arena this weekend, especially since the host school in Lexington saw its season end with an embarrassing loss at Robert Morris in the NIT. The Cardinals are the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament although the Midwest region looks like the toughest with power programs and Hall of Fame coaches (Duke and Michigan St.), not to mention dangerous and athletic teams like Memphis and Missouri.

--Most books have made U of L the +450 ‘chalk’ to win its first national championship since 1986. The Cardinals are the even-money favorites to win the Midwest region.

--Most shops have installed Louisville as a 26-point favorite with the total in the 123-124 range. 5Dimes has issued the Aggies with 75/1 odds to win outright (risk $100 to win $7,500).

--Louisville owns a 13-7 spread record in 20 games as a double-digit favorite.

--Rick Pitino’s team rolled through the Big East Tournament with wins over Villanova (74-55), Notre Dame (69-57) and Syracuse (78-61). Trailing the Orange 35-22 at halftime of the finals, U of L poured it on in the second half to capture the victory as a 5.5-point ‘chalk.’ Montrezl Harrell enjoyed a monster game from off the bench, scoring 20 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 24 minutes of playing time. Peyton Siva added 11 points, eight assists and four steals.

--The Cardinals are led by junior guard Russ Smith, who averages 17.9 points per game. Siva dishes out a team-high 5.9 assists per contest, while Gorgui Dieng averages a double-double (10.3 PPG, 10.1 RPG) and provides a defensive presence in the paint.

--North Carolina A&T (20-16 SU, 7-1 ATS) advanced with Tuesday’s First Four win over Liberty by a 73-72 count as a three-point favorite in Dayton. The Aggies got a defensive stop as time expired. Jeremy Underwood exploded for a team-high 19 points, making all six of his shots from the field and 5-of-6 from the charity stripe. Bruce Beckford added 16 points and nine rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor.

--Totals have been an overall wash (3-3) for the Aggies in their six games with a total.

--Totals have also been an overall wash (14-14) for the Cardinals, but they have seen the ‘over’ hit in each of their last four games.

--Tip-off is scheduled for 6:50 p.m. Eastern on TBS.

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**South Dakota St. vs. Michigan**

--This is a 4/13 matchup that will be played at The Palace of Auburn Hills (obviously favoring the fourth-seeded Wolverines). Most spots are listing Michigan (26-7 SU, 14-16-1 ATS) as an 11.5-point favorite with the total in the 138-139 range. The Jackrabbits are +550 on the money line (risk $100 to win $550).

--John Beilein’s team is mired in an abysmal 2-10 ATS slump, losing six of those games outright. Michigan dropped a 68-59 decision to Wisconsin as a two-point favorite in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. Trey Burke had 19 points and seven assists, but he made only 8-of-22 shots and committed four turnovers. Tim Hardaway Jr. shook off a turned ankle to score 14 points and grab nine boards despite getting only nine looks from the field.

--Burke and Hardaway lead the way for the Wolverines, but they get solid contributions from a trio of freshmen in Mitch McGary (57% FGs, 5.5 RPG), Glenn Robinson III (10.6 PPG) and Nik Stauskas (45% 3’s, 87% FTs).

--Since allowing a big lead to get away in a loss at Murray St. on BracketBuster Saturday, South Dakota St. (25-9 SU, 16-13 ATS) has won four in a row while going 3-1 versus the number. Scott Nagy’s squad beat North Dakota 73-67 as a one-point underdog in the Summit League Tournament finals. Nate Wolters scored a game-high 27 points while also pulling down six rebounds, dishing out six assists and making four steals. Jordan Dykstra added 18 points and seven boards.

--Wolters is one of the nation’s most underrated players, averaging 22.7 points, 5.8 assists and 5.6 rebounds per contest. Dykstra is also a terrific player. The six-foot, eight-inch power forward can bang in the lane and step out and stroke it from 3-point land. Dykstra, who averages 12.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, drains 3’s at a 43.0 percent clip. In his freshman and sophomore seasons, Dykstra made 51.5 and 47.3 percent of his treys, respectively.

--Michigan is 8-7-1 ATS in 16 games as a double-digit favorite.

--South Dakota St. owns a 7-3 spread record as an underdog this year, going 1-1 ATS as a double-digit ‘dog. The Jackrabbits won outright (70-65) at New Mexico as 15-point ‘dogs with Wolters producing 28 points, seven assists and five rebounds. They got drilled 88-64 at Minnesota but Wolters did not play due to a sprained ankle.

--The ‘over’ is 19-12 overall for Michigan.

--The ‘over’ is 10-9-1 overall for the Jackrabbits.

--CBS will have the telecast at 7:15 p.m. Eastern.

**Belmont vs. Arizona**

--This 6/11 matchup will be played in Salt Lake City. Most books are listing Arizona (25-7 SU, 14-16 ATS) as a 4.5-point favorite with a total of 140. Gamblers can take the Bruins to win outright for a +170 return (risk $100 to win $170).

--Arizona beat Colorado 79-69 as a 4.5-point favorite in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals behind a team-high 18 points from Nick Johnson. In the semifinals, the Wildcats allowed a double-digit second-half advantage to get away in a 66-64 loss to UCLA.

--Belmont (26-6 SU, 14-15 ATS) played from behind nearly the entire game but still found a way to capture a 70-68 overtime win over Murray St. in the Ohio Valley Tournament finals. However, the Racers took the cash as 7.5-point underdogs. Kerron Johnson was the hero, hitting a jumper to force OT at the end of regulation before scoring the game-winner with 1.2 seconds remaining in the extra session. J.J. Mann produced a team-high 18 points and seven rebounds for the winners.

--Belmont has been an underdog three times this season, going 1-2 both SU and ATS. The Bruins won 70-62 at Stanford as seven-point ‘dogs, but they lost 75-65 at VCU and 89-60 at Kansas.

--Rick Byrd’s squad had its best wins over South Dakota St. (76-49), Middle Tennessee (64-49) and Ohio (81-62).

--Sean Miller’s team is mired in a 7-14 ATS slide in its last 21 games. The Wildcats have lost outright in five of their last 10 games after getting off to a 20-2 start.

--Arizona has been a single-digit favorite 15 times this year, posting a 6-9 spread record.

--Sportsbook.ag has Arizona with 50/1 odds to cut the nets down in Atlanta. Belmont's future number is 750/1 at the offshore website. 

--The ‘under’ is 17-9-1 overall for Arizona.

--Although the ‘under’ has connected in four of its last six games, the ‘over’ is 13-9 overall for Belmont.

--Tip-off is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. Eastern on TNT.

**California vs. UNLV**

--This 5/12 matchup in San Jose is a rematch of a regular-season game played in Berkley, where UNLV captured a 76-75 win on Quintrell Thomas’s tip-in with 1.2 seconds remaining. However, California took the cash as a 1.5-point home underdog, while the 151 combined points slithered ‘over’ the 147-point total. Anthony Bennett led the way for the Runnin’ Rebels with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Allen Crabbe finished with a team-high 18 points for the Golden Bears.

--Most books are listing UNLV (25-9 SU, 13-20 ATS) as a three-point favorite with a total of 131. Bettors can take Cal to win outright for a +135 payout (risk $100 to win $135).

--California (20-11 SU, 12-16-1 ATS) carried a seven-game winning streak into its regular-season finale at home against arch-rival Stanford. But the Cardinal took it to the Bears in an 83-70 victory as a 5.5-point road underdog. Then at the Pac-12 Tournament, Mike Montgomery’s squad suffered a 79-69 loss to Utah in overtime as an eight-point ‘chalk.’ Justin Cobbs scored a game-high 26 points in the losing effort.

--UNLV has won seven of its last nine games, beating Air Force and Colorado St. by double-digit margins to make the Mountain West Conference Tournament finals on its home floor at the Thomas & Mack Center. But New Mexico won the MWC Tourney by collecting a 63-56 win as a 2.5-point underdog. Bryce Dejean-Jones had a team-high 19 points for the Rebels, while Bennett finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

--Bennett, the 6’8” 240-pound freshman, averages team-highs in scoring (16.1 PPG), rebounding (8.1 RPG) and field-goal percentage (53.8%).

--Crabbe and Cobbs are Cal’s leading scorers, averaging 18.7 and 15.5 PPG, respectively.

--California has been an underdog nine times this season, compiling a 3-6 record both SU and ATS.

--UNLV has been a single-digit favorite 14 times this year, going 6-8 ATS.

--Since 2003, UNLV has won four of five head-to-head meetings against Cal both SU and ATS.

--The ‘under’ is 16-9 overall for California.

--The ‘under’ is on a 7-2 run for the Rebels to improve to 17-9 overall.

--Tip-off is slated for 7:25 p.m. Eastern on TruTV.

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**Missouri vs. Colorado State**

--For this 8/9 encounter, most books are listing Missouri (23-10 SU, 14-15 ATS) as a three-point favorite with a total of 142.5. Gamblers can back the Rams on the money line for a +140 return.

--Colorado St. (25-8 SU, 13-15-1 ATS) is mired in a 2-8-1 ATS slump in its last 11 games. The Rams lost a 75-65 decision to UNLV as five-point ‘dogs in the MWC Tourney semifinals. Colton Iverson was sensational in defeat, tallying 24 points and 16 boards.

--Colorado St. senior guard Dorian Green might not be at full speed as he continues to recover from a sprained ankle that kept him out of his team’s win over Fresno St. in the MWC Tourney quarterfinals. Green tried to play in the semifinal loss to UNLV, but he clearly wasn’t himself in 18 minutes of playing time, contributing just five points without any rebounds or assists. Green averages 12.8 points, 3.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game.

--Frank Haith’s team let a comfortable lead get away in the second half of a 64-62 loss to Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals last Friday night. The Tigers committed 16 turnovers and made only 7-of-13 free throws. Alex Oriakhi finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.

--If there’s a bright side to Missouri’s early exit from its first SEC Tourney in Nashville, the Tigers will have fresh legs this weekend at Rupp Arena in Lexington. They played at this venue on Feb. 23, losing 90-83 at Kentucky in overtime. Phil Pressey had 27 points, 10 assists and four steals in the loss to the ‘Cats.

--Missouri has been a single-digit ‘chalk’ nine times this year, posting a 5-4 spread record.

--Pressey is the catalyst for the Tigers and one of the nation’s most dynamic point guards. He averages team-highs in scoring (11.6 PPG), assists (7.1 APG) and steals (1.8 per game).

--Larry Eustachy’s squad is 3-4 ATS in seven games as an underdog.

--The ‘over’ has hit at a 6-0-1 clip in the Rams’ last seven games to improve to 11-9-1 overall.

--The ‘under’ has cashed in three consecutive games for Missouri, but the ‘over’ is 15-10 overall for the Tigers.

--The winner will face top-seeded Louisville unless North Carolina A&T becomes the first No. 16 seed to ever beat at No. 1 in NCAA Tournament history.

--TBS will provide television coverage 30 minutes after the conclusion of Louisville-North Carolina A&T.

**Akron vs. Virginia Commonwealth**

--Most books are listing No. 5 seed VCU (26-8 SU, 10-17 ATS) as a 7.5-point favorite with a total of 134.5. Gamblers can take the Zips to win outright for a +320 return (risk $100 to win $320).

--Akron (26-6 SU, 14-12-1 ATS) got a tough draw by getting matched up with a VCU team that probably has the nation’s best full-court pressure defense. This is especially disconcerting for head coach Keith Dambrot because the Zips just lost their starting point guard and floor general Alex Abreu, who was suspended from the team less than two weeks ago following his arrest for multiple felonies stemming from a marijuana purchase from undercover officers. Abreu was averaging 10.3 points and 6.0 assists per game.

--Akron’s senior seven-foot center Zeke Marshall is fourth in the country in blocked shots, swatting away 3.7 shots per game. Marshall averages 13.0 points and 7.1 rebounds per contests. He is also fourth in the nation in field-goal percentage (65.4%).

--Shaka Smart’s squad is in the midst of a 2-6 ATS slump. When I backed the Rams as 7.5-point favorites vs. St. Joseph’s in the A-10 Tournament quarterfinals last Friday, they won by an 82-79 count but failed to cover after leading by 10 at halftime and by 16 with less than five minutes remaining.

--After beating St. Joe’s, VCU knocked off UMass 71-62 as an 8.5-point favorite to advance to the A-10 Tourney finals. The Rams came up short against Saint Louis, which won 62-56 as a 1.5-point ‘chalk.’

--VCU has a 4-8 spread record in 12 games as a single-digit favorite. Meanwhile, Akron has a 2-2-1 spread record with a pair of outright victories in five underdog spots. The Zips lost 69-65 to Oklahoma St. as four-point ‘dogs in the game that pushed.

--When these schools squared off last season, VCU won a 76-75 decision at Akron in overtime. However, the Zips hooked up their backers as 1.5-point home underdogs. The 151 combined points went ‘over’ the 140.5-point total thanks to OT (11 combined points scored in the extra session).

--The ‘under’ has cashed in four straight games for Akron to improve to 16-6-1 overall.

--Totals have been an overall wash (13-13) for VCU, but the ‘over’ has hit at a 7-3 pace in its last 10 games.

--This 5/12 matchup on CBS will tip 30 minutes after the conclusion of Michigan-South Dakota St. The winner gets the SDS-Michigan winner on Saturday.

**Harvard vs. New Mexico**

--After missing the NCAA Tournament every season since 1946, Harvard (19-9 SU, 13-12-1 ATS) is back in the Big Dance for a second straight year. This time around, the Crimson hopes to get its first win in school history. They lost 79-70 to Vandy last year in ‘The Brain Brawl.’

--Most books are listing third-seeded New Mexico (29-5 SU, 19-12-2 ATS) as an 11-point favorite with the total in the 125-126 range. Bettors can take the Crimson on the money line for a +550 payout (risk $100 to win $550).

--Steve Alford’s squad lost its regular-season finale 89-88 at Air Force as a four-point road favorite. The Lobos responded nicely by winning three in a row both SU and ATS in Las Vegas to win the MWC Tourney. They got a 21-point effort from Tony Snell in the win over UNLV to garner the league’s automatic bid.

--UNM has a 4-5-1 spread record in 10 double-digit ‘chalk’ situations this season.

--The Lobos are led by junior guard Kendall Williams, who averages 13.5 points, 4.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game. Snell averages 12.6 PPG and makes 84.3 percent of his free throws.

--Harvard won its last two regular-season games to wrap up the Ivy League title, but it has dropped three in a row ATS. The Crimson was able to recover from the loss of its two best players (Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry) due to suspensions in November. Wesley Saunders, a sophomore, was the main reason why. Saunders led his team in scoring (16.5 PPG), field-goal percentage (53.8%) and steals (1.9 per game).

--Tommy Amaker’s team has thrived as an underdog this year, compiling a 7-2 spread record. Even better, Harvard is 4-0 ATS as a double-digit ‘dog. The Crimson covered the number as a double-digit ‘dog in a 67-64 loss at UMass, a 60-50 loss at Memphis, a 70-69 loss at Saint Mary’s and a 67-62 win at California.

--The ‘under’ is 17-10-2 overall for UNM.

--Harvard has watched the ‘under’ go 6-2 in its last eight games to improve to 11-10 overall.

--This game will tip from Salt Lake City 30 minutes after the end of Arizona-Belmont.

**Montana vs. Syracuse**

--After playing four games in four days at the Big East Tournament last week, the last thing Jim Boeheim wanted was to play on Thursday and do so out West (San Jose) against a well-rest team from out West. Furthermore, if the ‘Cuse advances, it will face either Cal or UNLV, both of whom hail from the West coast.

--Most books are listing Syracuse (26-9 SU, 17-14 ATS) as a 12.5-point favorite with a total of 127.5. The Grizzlies are +700 on the money line.

--Montana (25-6 SU, 17-11-1 ATS) has won six in a row and has taken the cash in each of its last seven games. The lone loss over this span was a 93-87 setback at Davidson in overtime. The Grizzlies took the cash as 14-point ‘dogs in the loss to Bob McKillop’s bunch.

--Montana has been without one of its best players for five consecutive games. Mathias Ward, who averages 14.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, remains ‘out’ with a broken foot.

--Wayne Tinkle’s team has been an underdog six times, going 3-3 ATS. The Grizzlies are 1-1 ATS in a pair of double-digit ‘dog spots. They got blasted 85-60 at BYU but took the money in the aforementioned defeat at Davidson.

--Syracuse owns a 9-5 spread record in 14 games as a double-digit favorite.

--The ‘under’ is 15-14 overall for the ‘Cuse, but the ‘over’ has cashed in three of its last four outings.

--The ‘over’ is 12-10 overall for Montana even though the ‘under’ has connected in three of its last four contests.

--The winner will get the UNLV-Cal winner. 

Brian Edwards can be reached at briane@vegasinsider.com.

For daily sports gambling analysis, follow Brian Edwards on twitter at Vegasbedwards.

  
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