Saturday's Early Action
March 22, 2013
By Kevin Rogers
Half the teams in the 64-team NCAA Tournament field have been bounced, as the matchups start to get a little bit better heading into Saturday. The two contests taking place at the Palace of Auburn Hills in suburban Detroit involve Michigan schools with both Michigan State and Michigan taking the court in separate contests. We'll take a look at the Wolverines first who tip things off against the champions of Conference USA.
(4) Michigan vs. (5) VCU - 12:15 PM EST - CBS
Both the Wolverines and Rams are fresh off blowouts in second round action to kick off the tournament on Thursday. Michigan routed upstart South Dakota State from the Summit League, 71-56 to cash as 11 ½-point favorites. The Wolverines shot 50% from the field, as the duo of Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr. each put up 21 points in the victory. Star guard Trey Burke was limited to just six points on 2-for-12 shooting, but Michigan busted the game open after outscoring the Jackrabbits, 41-30 in the second half.
VCU isn't a surprise team in March Madness following its unlikely run to the Final Four in 2011. The Rams took care of MAC champion Akron in the second round, 88-42, as the Rams built a 50-25 cushion at the half to easily cash as 7 ½-point favorites. Everything seemed to go right for Shaka Smart's club, which shot a blistering 54% from the floor, while limiting Akron to just 35% shooting.
The Rams owned a 1-3 ATS record in the role of an underdog this season, as the three losses came to St. Louis (twice) and Duke. VCU put together a 6-13 ATS record down the stretch, but the Rams won eight times and didn't cover since the start of January. This is the third straight NCAA Tournament in which the Rams reached at least the round of 32, as VCU is 7-1 ATS as an underdog in the tourney under Smart.
Michigan has been a horrible team to back the last two months, as John Beilein's team owns a 3-10 ATS record the past 13 contests. All three covers came as favorites of at least 9 ½ points, as the Wolverines are 0-7 ATS the last seven times when laying seven points or less. Michigan is listed as a three-point favorite, as the total is set at 142 ½.
(3) Michigan State vs. (6) Memphis - 2:45 PM EST - CBS
The Spartans put together one of the better defensive efforts in the tournament opening victory over Valparaiso on Thursday, 65-54 as 9 ½-point favorites. Michigan State limited Valpo to 35% shooting, while allowing the Crusaders to score just 18 points in the first half. Tom Izzo's team will step up in class as the Spartans take on C-USA champ Memphis, who survived a late scare from St. Mary's.
The Tigers held off the Gaels, 54-52 to barely cash as 1 ½-point 'chalk,' as St. Mary's missed a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer. Josh Pastner's club held a 10-point halftime lead and withstood St. Mary's rally in spite of the Gaels shooting just 33% from the floor. Memphis won its seventh straight game and advanced to the round of 32 even though it was held to a season-low in points.
Michigan State split its final eight games of the season, but three of those losses came by four points or less to Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio State. The Spartans are on a solid 6-1 run to the 'under' the last seven contests, while holding six straight opponents to 61 points or less. Since 2008, Michigan State is 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS in the round of 32, including last season's four-point escape past St. Louis.
Memphis has lost just once since mid-December, falling at Xavier on February 26. The Tigers are 25-1 SU and 13-11 ATS in the last 26 games, while being listed as an underdog for the third time in this stretch (2-0 SU/ATS). Under Pastner, Memphis is just 1-2 SU and 2-1 ATS in three NCAA Tournament action, while looking for its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2009.
The Spartans are 5 ½-point favorites, while the total is listed at 130 ½.
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