Friday's Afternoon Action
March 21, 2013
By Kevin Rogers
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The second set of games on Friday afternoon involves eight teams from seven different conferences. The only two teams from the same league are Indiana and Illinois (Big Ten), while two squads needed victories in the First Four just to make it to Friday action (La Salle and James Madison). We'll begin with an intriguing matchup at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia between a Big East club against a tournament veteran from the Missouri Valley Conference.
(7) Creighton vs. (10) Cincinnati - 2:45 PM EST - CBS
The Blue Jays are fresh off their second straight MVC Tournament title after slipping past Wichita State, 68-65 as 1 ½-point favorites. Creighton has won and covered five consecutive contests, but that came following a dreadful 0-8 ATS run throughout most of February. Cincinnati enters the tournament at 3-5 SU and 1-7 ATS the final eight games of the season, including a 62-43 blowout defeat to Georgetown in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament.
The Bearcats cashed 'unders' at nearly an automatic rate this season, going 22-4 to the 'under.' Mick Cronin's team put together a 2-4 ATS record in the underdog role, which certainly looks better than the 9-14 ATS mark as a favorite. Cincinnati's offense has struggled to score recently by putting up 61 points or less in six straight contests, while losing five of the last six games away from home.
Creighton is coming together at the right time following a three-game skid in mid-February, including a pair of victories over a Wichita State team that routed Pittsburgh in Thursday's tournament action. The Blue Jays are also an 'under' team, posting a 13-4 mark to the 'under' the previous 17 games. Creighton won its tournament opener last March over Alabama in a one-point triumph, but fell short in the round of 32 to North Carolina, 87-73 as 8 ½-point underdogs.
(4) Kansas State vs. (13) La Salle - 3:10 PM EST - truTV
The Explorers needed to beat Boise State in Dayton on Wednesday night just to make it to this point, as La Salle travels to Kansas City for a meeting with K-State. The Wildcats lost to rival Kansas at the Sprint Center for the third time this season in last Saturday's Big 12 championship. K-State returns to this venue in a big home-court advantage spot, especially with La Salle going from Brooklyn (A-10 Tournament) to Philadelphia to Dayton to Kansas City in the span of a week.
La Salle snapped a two-game skid with Wednesday's 80-71 triumph as short 'dogs against Boise State, as the Explorers shot a blistering 63% from the field. The offense picked up after getting shut down by St. Louis and Butler in losses to close the season, while La Salle broke the 72-point mark for the sixth time in eight contests (6-2 to 'over'). The Explorers grabbed just their second cover in eight tries as an underdog in Wednesday's win, but four of those ATS defeats came when receiving less than two points.
K-State is participating in the Big Dance for the fourth straight season, while winning its first game each of the last three times. The Wildcats are playing in their first tournament with Bruce Weber as head coach, as Kansas State cashed in victories over North Texas ('10), Utah State ('11), and Southern Mississippi ('12) in the first round the past three tourneys. This was a very consistent team all season, losing consecutive games only once, while K-State posted a 10-3-1 ATS record the last 14 times as a favorite.
(1) Indiana vs. (16) James Madison - 4:10 PM EST - TBS
The Hoosiers grabbed a top seed in the East, but stumbled down the stretch by splitting their final six contests. All six losses this season for Indiana came against NCAA Tournament teams, as Tom Crean's club looks to take that next step following a Sweet 16 appearance last March. James Madison will attempt to be the first 16-seed to upset a 1-seed, but the Dukes need to slow down an Indiana offense that ranked sixth in the country in field-goal percentage at 48.6%
The Dukes owned the third-best ATS record in the country at 22-10, including covers in eight of the last nine trips to the court. JMU took care of LIU-Brooklyn in the Wednesday's First Four contest in Dayton, 68-55 in a pick-em spot. The Dukes are listed as a double-digit underdog for just the second time this season, as James Madison was trounced in the season opener at UCLA receiving 16 points in a 100-70 loss.
It's obviously tough to compare Indiana's competition in the Big 10 opposite James Madison's foes in the Colonial. The Hoosiers put together an 11-7 ATS record when laying at least 10 points, but two of those non-covers came as favorites of at least 24 points in which Indiana failed to cash by less than three points. In 12 non-conference victories, IU won by an average of 32.8 points per game, although 10 of those victories came in Bloomington.
(7) Illinois vs. (10) Colorado - 4:40 PM EST - TNT
An intriguing matchup closes out the afternoon action in Austin, as the Big 10 meets the Pac-12. Illinois pulled off upsets this season over top seeds Gonzaga and Indiana, while also knocking off Ohio State at home towards the start of conference season. The Illini battled inconsistency throughout Big 10 play, but a 7-4 record down the stretch was enough for an at-large bid.
Colorado won the Pac-12 Tournament last season, while the Buffaloes scratched and clawed their way to an at-large bid with a 21-11 record this season. Tad Boyle's club stepped up with a season sweep of Oregon and a home blowout of Arizona in the final five weeks to improve their tournament credentials. The Buffaloes were one of the best 'under' teams in the country by posting the 'under' in 15 of the final 19 games.
Illinois was a tough team to figure out at times, as John Groce's squad failed to cover five times in the role of a double-digit favorite. However, the Illini compiled a 4-8 ATS record in the last 12 opportunities as an underdog since upsetting Ohio State in early January. The 'under' cashed in eight of the last 11 games for Illinois, while scoring 55 points or less in three of the previous four trips to the court.
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