Sweet 16 - South Regional
March 21, 2018
By Brian Edwards
Editor's note: Brian Edwards is on fire during March Madness. His guaranteed plays are on a 46-34 run (57.5%, +9.8 Units!) since Dec. 8, so don't miss out on tonight's pay-if-it-wins-only selection!
Games played at Philips Arena from Atlanta, GA
No. 7 Nevada vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago (CBS, 7:05 p.m. ET)
Opening Odds: Nevada -1 ½, Total 143
-- As of Wednesday morning, most books had Nevada (29-7 straight up, 18-14 against the spread) listed as a 1.5-point favorite with a total of 143.
-- Eric Musselman must love him some Music City. His team pulled off a pair of wild comeback victories to make just the school’s second-ever appearance in the Sweet 16, prompting him to rip his shirt off during the on-court celebration. First, Nevada rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to force overtime against Texas. With the Longhorns losing star center Mo Bamba to his fifth foul in the final seconds of regulation, UNR’s Caleb Martin scored nine points in overtime to spark his team to an 87-83 win in a pick ‘em affair. The Wolf Pack made all six of its field-goal attempts in OT. Caleb Martin finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds, one steal and five assists compared to only one turnover in 43 workmanlike minutes of action. Kendall Stephens nailed 5-of-11 launches from 3-point range on his way to scoring a team-best 22 points. Cody Martin had 15 points, six assists, four rebounds and four blocked shots, while Jordan Caroline finished with 14 points, eight boards and five assists compared to just one turnover. Caroline made 1-of-2 free throws in the final seconds to force the extra session.
-- Nevada fell behind 10-0 to start Sunday’s Round of 32 showdown vs. second-seeded Cincinnati. The Wolf Pack trailed 44-32 at halftime and by 22 at the under-12 television timeout. At this point according to Todd Dewey’s Monday column in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, William Hill posted Nevada’s in-game money-line odds at 22/1 and 35 bettors got a taste of the Wolf Pack. Two of those 35 gamblers made $100 wagers and cashed out for $2,200. Then when Nevada was down by 12 points with nine minutes remaining, one bettor at William Hill wagered $1,200 on UNR’s +900 money-line odds to secure a $10,800 payout.
-- I didn’t get any of those lucrative in-game payouts on Nevada in its 75-73 comeback win over UC as an 8.5-point underdog, but I was on UNR for a +375 return to win outright ahead of tip-off. Let’s take a moment to consider the gravity of this improbable rally. Remember, the Bearcats were ranked second in the nation in scoring defense and field-goal percentage ‘D’ for the entire season behind only Virginia. Nevertheless, Nevada found a way to scratch back from a 22-point deficit with less than 12 minutes remaining. The rally, one that ranks as the second-best in Tournament history behind only BYU’s comeback from a 25-point deficit to nip Iona in the 2012 First Four, started with a 16-0 run during a critical four-minute stretch. Mick Cronin offered some help when he didn’t take out Jarrod Cumberland after being called for his fourth foul with nearly six minutes left. This gamble proved to be costly when Cumberland fouled out with more than four minutes remaining on a senseless reach-in 65 feet from the basket with UNR already in the double bonus. The Wolf Pack went ahead on Josh Hall’s short shot in the lane with 10 seconds left for its first and only lead of the game.
-- Nevada made just 6-of-18 (33.3%) from distance and only 9-of-16 FTs (56.2). Furthermore, it was dominated on the glass by the Bearcats to the tune of a 44-29 margin. The Wolf Pack made up this difference by committing only two turnovers compared to 13 assists. Cody Martin was the hero, logging 40 minutes of playing time and producing 25 points, six rebounds, one steal and seven assists without committing a turnover. Hall had the game-winning bucket and finished with 14 points and six boards. Caroline added 13 points, seven rebounds, two steals and five assists compared to one turnover, while Kendall Stephens had 13 points and four boards. Caleb Martin finished with 10 points and five rebounds after missing a good chunk of the first half due to foul trouble.
-- Nevada is ranked 16th in the nation in scoring (83.0 points per game) and 20th in 3-point accuracy (39.6%). UNR is 19th in the country at defending the 3-point line, forcing foes to make merely 31.6 percent of their treys.
-- Nevada has posted a 4-3 SU record and a 3-3-1 spread record in seven neutral-court games this year. The Wolf Pack has compiled an 8-3-2 ATS mark with three outright defeats in 13 games as a single-digit favorite.
-- Caleb Martin is averaging 18.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He’s hit 40.1 percent of his 3-pointers. Caroline averages 17.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, while Cody Martin averages 14.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.5 blocked shots per game. Finally, Stephens (13.4 PPG) is shooting at a 44.4 percent clip from 3-point land and making 92.2 percent of his free throws.
-- Loyola-Chicago (30-5 SU, 21-9 ATS) won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and the league’s regular-season title. Then it beat Miami at the buzzer in the Tournament’s opening round before getting another game-winning bucket with 3.6 seconds remaining to knock off Tennessee in the Round of 32.
-- Loyola-Chicago beat UM 64-62 on Donte Ingram’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer from well beyond the top of the key. The Ramblers won outright 1.5-point underdogs. Clayton Custer, who was injured and didn’t play during three of his team’s losses this season, had 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point territory. He also handed out four helpers without committing a turnover. Ingram finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot, while Aundre Jackson had 12 points.
-- Loyola-Chicago led the entire second half against third-seeded Tennessee until Grant Williams converted a three-point play the hard way to put the Volunteers up one with 20 ticks left. The Ramblers worked for the last shot and Custer, with some help from his own shooter’s touch, a friendly roll or a kind iron, got his mid-range jumper to fall with 3.6 seconds remaining. UT had one final shot and got a good look, but Jordan Bone’s top-of-key 3-point attempt at the horn was off the mark.
-- Loyola-Chicago has been an underdog seven times, compiling a 5-1-1 spread record with five outright victories. The Ramblers faced only one team in the field before making the Tournament. They went to Gainesville on Dec. 6 and led by as many as 13 points in the first half. After the Gators trimmed the deficit to three at halftime, they would get to within one just once in the second half. Loyola-Chicago held on for a 65-59 win as a 16.5-point underdog. Jackson made 10-of-12 FGAs and three of his 3-pointers in a game-high 23-point effort.
-- Loyola-Chicago is ranked third in the nation in FG percentage (50.6%) and 19th in 3-point accuracy (39.8%). The Ramblers are fifth in the country in scoring defense, limiting opponents to 62.2 PPG.
-- Custer leads the Ramblers in scoring (13.3 PPG), assists (4.2 APG), steals (1.5 SPG) and 3-point accuracy (46.0%). Ingram averages 11.5 points and 6.4 RPG while shooting at a 39.6 percent clip from downtown. Cameron Krutwig (10.4 PPG) paces Loyola-Chicago in FG percentage (59.8%) and blocked shots (0.7 BPG), while Jackson (11.1 PPG) and Marques Townes (11.0 PPG) are also scoring double figures.
-- The ‘under’ has cashed in seven straight games for the Ramblers to improve to 19-12 overall.
-- The ‘over’ has cashed in three in a row for UNR and is 5-1-1 in its past seven contests. The ‘over’ is 19-15-1 overall for the Wolf Pack.
No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State (CBS, 9:35 p.m. ET)
Opening Odds: Kentucky -5 ½, Total 138 1½
-- This is a rematch of an 8/9 first-round game in the 2014 NCAA Tournament when I lost a Kansas St. +6 wager after Kentucky captured a 56-49 win. Julius Randle paced the winners with 19 points and 15 rebounds. Meanwhile, Kansas State true freshman Marcus Foster scored a team-best 15 points in the losing effort. Foster would eventually transfer to Creighton and his career ended last weekend at the hands of his former team.
-- As of Wednesday morning, most books had fifth-seeded Kentucky, suddenly the highest seed left in the region, listed as a 5.5-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 138.5. Bruce Weber’s team was available on the money line for a +210 payout (risk $100 to win $210).
-- Since losing its fourth straight game on Valentine’s Day at Auburn, Kentucky (26-10 SU, 19-17 ATS) is on a 9-1 run both SU and ATS in its last 10 games. The only hiccup came in the regular-season finale at Florida when the Gators ran the ‘Cats out of the gym to complete a season sweep. John Calipari’s team immediately regrouped, though, and then ripped off three straight victories to win the SEC Tournament.
-- Calipari wasn’t happy when UK was sent to Boise to play on a Thursday after it had to play three games in three days from Friday-Sunday at the SEC Tourney. As it turned out, the committee couldn’t possibly have been nicer to his program. Arizona, a potential Round of 32 foe, was blown out by Buffalo. Virginia, the Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed and a potential opponent in the South Region semifinals, was sent packing by UMBC in a lopsided defeat. So now, UK is the ‘chalk’ to win the region and gets to play in the city Big Blue Nation dubbed ‘Catlanta decades ago.
-- Kentucky handled its business at Taco Bell Arena on Thursday night, capturing a 78-73 win over a red-hot and very game Davidson team. The line had been UK by six early in the week, but it closed at 4.5 to allow UK supporters to cash tickets. The game was tied at the under-8 TV timeout, but Davidson was unable to inch ahead at any point after the opening minutes of the game. Kevin Knox led the winners with 25 points and six rebounds. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 19 points, eight rebounds, five steals and seven assists compared to just two turnovers.
-- UK brought a halt to Buffalo’s Cinderella story by making a late run to pull away for a 95-75 win as a 5.5-point favorite. This was a misleading final score, however, as the Bulls trailed by only five points with 7:45 remaining. Gilgeous-Alexander was nothing short of sensational, draining 10-of-12 FGAs and both 3-point attempts in a game-high 27-point effort. SGA also had six rebounds, six assists and two steals. Hamidou Diallo added 22 points, eight rebounds and a pair of blocked shots, while Wenyen Gabriel buried 3-of-5 looks from downtown on his way to scoring 16 points and pulling down 12 rebounds to go with two blocked shots. P.J. Washington finished with 12 points, seven boards, two steals and a pair of assists.
-- Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 14.4 points, 5.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 0.5 blocked shots per game. His play has been even better over the course of the past nine games, as SGA has averaged 19.4 points, 7.6 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. During this stretch, he has a 68/22 assist-to-turnover ratio.
-- Kentucky has covered the spread in seven straight games as a single-digit favorite. For the season, UK owns a 12-7 spread record with three outright defeats in 19 games as a single-digit ‘chalk.’
-- Knox is UK’s leading scorer with a 15.7 PPG average. He also averages 5.3 RPG and makes 34.1 percent of his 3-pointers. Washington (10.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG) and Diallo (10.2 PPG) are also averaging in double figures.
-- Jarred Vanderbilt (5.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG) missed nearly three months of the regular season before making his season debut in an overtime win over Vanderbilt on Jan. 30. The 6’9” freshman center out of Houston has missed five games in a row with a sprained ankle, but he’s been upgraded to ‘probable’ vs. KSU.
-- Kansas State (24-11 SU, 15-17 ATS) played without its leading scorer and rebounder this past weekend and still advanced to its first Sweet 16 for the first time in eight years. Frank Martin led K-State to the Elite Eight in the 2010 Tournament behind the play of Rodney McGruder before bowing out against Butler.
--Weber has KSU in the Tournament for the fourth time in his six-year tenure. His team made the Round of 32 by dispatching of Creighton by a 69-59 count as a two-point underdog this past Friday in Charlotte. Barry Brown led the way with 18 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and a pair of blocked shots. Mike McGuirl buried 3-of-5 bombs from long distance in a 17-point effort, while Kamau Stokes contributed 11 points, four rebounds and three assists. The KSU defense stymied Foster, the Bluejays’ leading scorer, holding him to five points on 2-of-11 FGAs.
-- Kansas State was favored by 10.5 points in Sunday’s Round of 32 matchup with UMBC, which had become the first No. 16 seed in Tournament history to beat a No. 1 seed 48 hours earlier. KSU won a defensive struggle, 50-43, but failed to cover the spread. Brown went for 18 points again on 8-of-8 shooting from the FT line. Makol Mawien added 11 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots for the winners.
-- Kansas State gets its star Dean Wade back vs. UK. Wade, who has missed three straight games with a foot injury, practiced Monday and Tuesday and has been upgraded to ‘probable.’ Wade paces K-St. in scoring (16.5 PPG), rebounding (6.3 RPG) and FG percentage (55.0%) and averages 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocked shots per game. He has an 89/47 assist-to-turnover ratio and drains 44.0 percent of his 3-pointers.
-- Brown (16.1 PPG) leads K-St. in assists (3.3 APG) and steals (1.8). Xavier Sneed averages 10.7 points and 4.9 RPG.
-- K-State has compiled an 8-8 spread record with seven outright victories in 16 games as an underdog.
-- Kansas State faced a pair of SEC teams during the regular season, winning 84-79 at Vanderbilt as a one-point underdog. KSU rallied to beat Georgia 56-51 as a seven-point home favorite, but UGA backers took the money.
-- The ‘over’ has hit in four consecutive UK games and nine of its past 10 to improve to 22-13 overall.
-- The ‘under’ is 20-11-1 overall for Kansas St. after cashing on both of its games in the Tournament’s first weekend.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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