Thursday – Session 2

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Midwest Region – Pittsburgh – PPG Paints Arena
#15 Iona vs. #2 Duke (-19 ½, 157) – 2:45 PM EST – CBS

In the last seven seasons, Duke (26-7 SU, 20-11 ATS) has reached the Final Four only one time, coming back in 2015 when the Blue Devils captured the championship. Duke is back in the NCAA tournament for the 22nd consecutive season, while trying to rebound after losing to surprising South Carolina in the second round last March.

The Blue Devils are led by fantastic freshman Marvin Bagley, III, who is averaging 21.1 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per contest, while coming off three consecutive double-doubles. Duke lost in the ACC semifinals to rival North Carolina, 74-69 as four-point favorites, as the Blue Devils own a 3-4 ATS record the last seven games overall. Since posting a perfect 6-0 ATS record in the 2015 championship run of the tournament, Mike Krzyzewski’s team is 2-3 ATS the past five tournament contests.

Iona (20-13 SU, 15-14 ATS) grabbed the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title by knocking off Fairfield in the championship game, 83-71. The Gaels are back in the Big Dance for the third straight season, but suffered double-digit defeats in the opening round to Oregon in 2017 and Iowa State back in 2016. Iona has won only one NCAA tournament game in 13 tries, coming back in 1980 against Holy Cross. The Gaels posted a 3-3 ATS record as an underdog this season, including covers as double-digit ‘dogs in losses at Syracuse and Rhode Island.

South Region – Dallas – American Airlines Center
#11 Loyola-Chicago vs. #6 Miami-FL (-1 ½, 134) – 3:10 PM EST – truTV

One of the biggest stories in college basketball from a mid-major conference standpoint came out of Chicago as the Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago (28-5 SU, 19-9-1 ATS) cruised to a Missouri Valley title. For years, the MVC was owned by Wichita State, who bolted for the American Athletic Conference, as the Ramblers took advantage by posting an 18-3 conference mark, while picking up a solid road win at Florida in December.

Miami (22-9 SU, 11-15 ATS) finished as the third seed in the ACC tournament, but was blown out by North Carolina in the quarterfinal round. The Hurricanes won their final four games of the regular season by a combined eight points, while compiling an 0-7 ATS record in their last seven contests in the favorite role. In non-conference play, UM put together an 11-1 record, while going 4-2 ATS as a favorite with the two non-covers against New Mexico State and Middle Tennessee.

The Hurricanes were also a 1 ½-point favorite in their opening round game last season, but were blown out by Michigan State, 78-58. Loyola-Chicago is making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1985, while the last team other than Wichita State to win the MVC tournament was Northern Iowa, who knocked off Texas in the first round of the 2016 tournament at the buzzer.

West Region – Boise – Taco Bell Arena
#12 South Dakota State vs. #5 Ohio State (-8, 146 ½) – 4:00 PM EST – TNT

Ohio State (24-8 SU, 15-15 ATS) began Big 10 play with a bang by starting 9-0, but the Buckeyes are currently on a 2-3 run the past five games. The Buckeyes lost to Penn State for the third time this season in a 69-68 defeat in the Big 10 tournament quarterfinals, but OSU is back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015. From 2010-13, the Buckeyes reached the Sweet 16, including a pair of Elite Eight appearances, but couldn’t escape the first weekend in 2014 and 2015.

The first test for the Buckeyes will be the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State (28-6, 19-9 ATS) out of the Summit League. The Jackrabbits are back in the Big Dance for the third straight year after winning the Summit tournament, capped off by defeating state rival South Dakota, 97-87 as 1 ½-point underdogs in the championship. South Dakota State is currently on an 8-2 ATS run, while winning 19 of its past 20 games overall.

In the last two tournaments, the Jackrabbits failed to get out of the first round, but managed to cover as underdogs in losses to Gonzaga in 2017 and Maryland in 2016. South Dakota State owns a 5-4 ATS record as a ‘dog this season, including outright wins over Iowa, Buffalo, and Ole Miss. The Buckeyes posted a 3-5 ATS mark as a favorite against teams outside the Big 10 this season, while losing to Butler, Clemson, North Carolina, and Gonzaga in non-conference play.

Midwest Region – Wichita – Intrust Bank Arena
#9 North Carolina State vs. #8 Seton Hall (-2 ½, 157) – 4:30 PM EST – TBS

The 8/9 game is always competitive in the tournament as both Seton Hall and North Carolina State enter Thursday’s play with exact records. The Pirates (21-11 SU, 13-12 ATS) are back in the NCAA tournament for the third straight season as a 14-2 start helped cement Seton Hall’s at-large bid. Seton Hall split its final 12 games of the season, which includes a pair of losses to Villanova and blowing a second half lead in a Big East tournament defeat to Butler.

However, Seton Hall has covered the number in five consecutive games, although four of those ATS wins came in the underdog role. In the last two appearances in the NCAA tournament, the Pirates lost by six points to Arkansas in 2017 and a 16-point defeat to Gonzaga in 2016. The last time Seton Hall won an NCAA tournament game came back in 2004, while N.C. State is seeking its first tourney victory since 2015, when the Wolfpack reached the Sweet 16.

N.C. State (21-11, 13-12 ATS) closed the regular season with a 5-1 record before getting tripped up by Boston College in the ACC tournament. The Wolfpack picked up road wins at North Carolina and Syracuse in the conference play, while its top victory away from Raleigh came at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in November against Arizona as a 12 ½-point ‘dog. Since the end of January, N.C. State has compiled a 7-4 ATS record the last 11 games, while sailing the OVER in four consecutive contests on the highway.

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