Thursday – Session 4Editor's note: Brian Edwards went 4-1 last night by going 2-1 in the NIT and 2-0 in the First Four. His guaranteed plays have cashed at a 43-32 clip (57.3%, +8.99 Units!) since Dec. 8, so don't miss out on tonight's pay-if-it-wins-only selection!
East Region – Pittsburgh – PPG Paints Arena
#9 Alabama vs. #8 Virginia Tech (-2, 141 ½) – 9:20 PM EST – TNT
-- As of Wednesday night, most betting shops had Virginia Tech (21-11 straight up, 17-11 against the spread) listed as a two-point favorite with a total of 141.5. The Crimson Tide was available to win outright for a +110 return (risk $100 to win $110).
-- This is an 8/9 matchup in the East Region that’ll take place in Pittsburgh, with the winner advancing to face top-seeded Villanova (assuming the Wildcats don’t become the first team to lose to a 16 seed since the Tournament expanded the field to 64 in 1985). TNT will have the telecast around 9:20 p.m. Eastern or 30 minutes after the conclusion of ‘Nova-Radford.
-- Alabama (19-15 SU, ATS) ended the regular season on a five-game losing streak, but freshman sensation Collin Sexton made sure the Crimson Tide received an NCAA Tournament invite with a pair of brilliant performances at last week’s SEC Tournament in St. Louis. With his team trailing by one with four seconds remaining, Sexton took the inbounds pass and went the length of the floor with the quickness and released a long finger-roll shot in the lane that caught nothing but nylon just after the horn sounded. Sexton’s shot lifted Alabama to a 71-70 win over Texas A&M as a 3.5-point favorite. Sexton had 27 points and five assists against the Aggies, while Dazon Ingram finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals.
-- The win over A&M likely had Alabama “in” the field, but it removed all doubt in Friday’s quarterfinals. Auburn took a 41-31 lead over ‘Bama to halftime, but Sexton sparked a huge run to start the second half by knocking down a trio of 3-balls in the first several possessions. The Tide would outscore the Tigers 50-22 in the final 20 minutes to collect an 81-63 victory as a 6.5-point underdog, hooking up money-line supporters with a payout in the +235 neighborhood (risk $100 to win $235). Sexton scored 31 points by sinking 10-of-16 field-goal attempts, 6-of-8 launches from 3-point range and 5-of-5 attempts from the free-throw line. Ingram added 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
-- Alabama has compiled a 10-8 spread record with seven outright victories in 18 games as an underdog.
-- Sexton averages team-bests in scoring (19.0 points per game) and assists (3.5 APG). Junior center Donta Hall (10.9 PPG) is the team’s second-leading scorer and paces ‘Bama in rebounding (6.8 RPG), field-goal percentage (72.1%) and blocked shots (2.1 BPG). However, Hall missed Saturday’s SEC Tourney semifinals loss to Kentucky after sustaining a concussion in the second half vs. Auburn on a scary fall. Hall did practice in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, although Avery Johnson maintained that he was a game-time decision. Johnson said it was probably 60/40 that he would play. I’m saying I’ll be extremely surprised if Hall isn’t on the court for tip-off.
-- Buzz Williams’s club has lost back-to-back games and three of its past four, including a 71-65 loss to Notre Dame as a two-point underdog at the ACC Tournament. Va. Tech led the Fighting Irish by 13 at halftime and by as many as 21 points early in the second half. However, Mike Brey’s team outscored the Hokies 45-18 in the final 15 minutes. Justin Bibbs and Justin Robinson shared team-high scoring honors with 15 points apiece in the losing effort. Robinson handed out seven assists and had three steals.
-- Virginia Tech owns a 7-3 record both SU and ATS in 10 games as a single-digit ‘chalk’ this year.
-- Robinson leads the Hokies in scoring (13.8 PPG), assists (5.6 APG) and steals (1.2 SPG). The junior guard has connected on 40.0 percent of his tries from long distance. Bibbs (13.1 PPG) had made 39.1 percent of his treys, while Kerry Blackshear Jr. averages 12.6 points and 6.1 RPG. He’s also blocked 29 starts. Chris Clarke averages 8.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 0.9 steals per game.
-- Along with Bibbs and Robinson, Ahmed Hill and Nickeil Alexander-Walker give Virginia Tech four players who have drained at least 50 treys for the season.
-- One Alabama weakness is its FT shooting, as it ranked 13th out of 14 SEC teams in FT percentage (67.2%).
-- The ‘over’ has hit in six of Alabama’s last nine games, but the ‘under’ is 21-12 overall for the Tide.
-- Totals have been an overall wash for the Hokies, but they’ve seen the ‘under’ cash in nine straight games.
South Region – Boise – Taco Bell Arena
#13 Buffalo vs. #4 Arizona (-8 ½, 158 ½) – 9:40 PM EST – CBS
-- As of Wednesday night, most spots had Arizona (27-7 SU, 14-18 ATS) listed as an 8.5-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 158.5. The Bulls were +375 on the money line (risk $100 to win $375).
-- The winner will face the Davidson-Kentucky survivor on Saturday for a ticket to the Sweet 16.
-- Sean Miller’s team has won five games in a row and eight of its past nine. UA covered the spread in all three of its wins at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Center. The Wildcats beat Colorado (83-67), UCLA (78-67 in OT) and USC (75-61), taking the cash as 4.5-point favorites in the finals against the Trojans. DeAndre Ayton dominated the lane against USC, producing 32 points and 18 rebounds while making 14-of-20 FGAs. Dusan Ristic added 16 points and five boards for the winners.
-- Ayton, the freshman center who is a future lottery pick and might be the No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s NBA Draft, leads Arizona in scoring (20.3 PPG), rebounding (11.5 RPG), FG percentage (61.6%) and blocks (1.9 BPG).
-- Arizona lost star guard Allonzo Trier to a season-ending suspension a couple of weeks ago. Trier had averaged 18.4 PPG while burying 39.1 percent of his 3-pointers.
-- Arizona has a 5-10-1 spread record with five outright L’s in 16 games as a single-digit ‘chalk’ this season.
-- Buffalo (26-8 SU, 16-12 ATS) is back in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four seasons. Since Nate Oats took over for Bobby Hurley when he left for Arizona St., he has a 63-38 overall record and has his team back in the Tournament for a second time in three years.
-- Buffalo was mired in a 2-7-2 ATS slide in its last 11 regular-season games, but it covered the spread in all three of its victories at the MAC Tournament. Oats’s squad won a 76-66 decision over Toledo in the finals as a 7.5-point favorite. Wes Clark exploded for 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field, contributing five rebounds, four steals and three assists as well. Nick Perkins scored 16 points and pulled down five boards, while Jeremy Harris finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
-- Buffalo is 3-1 ATS with one outright victory in four games as an underdog this season. The Bulls have lost by more than seven points just three times this year. They faced five foes who are in the Tournament during non-conference play, losing all five times. UB lost by six to Cincinnati on a neutral court, by 14 to South Dakota St. on a neutral floor, by 11 to St. Bonaventure at home, by seven at Syracuse and by 16 at Texas A&M.
-- Buffalo is led by C.J. Massinburg, a three-year starter who averages 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Perkins averages 16.6 points and 6.2 RPG, while Harris (15.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG) has a 76/42 assist-to-turnover ratio and hits 43.2 percent of his attempts from downtown. Clark (14.6 PPG, 5.3 APG) has buried 39.1 percent of his 3-balls.
-- The ‘under’ is on an 8-2 run for the Wildcats to improve to 17-16 overall.
-- Despite seeing back-to-back ‘unders,’ the ‘over’ is 19-12 overall for the Bulls.
West Region – Wichita – Intrust Bank Arena
#14 Montana vs. #3 Michigan (-11, 135) – 9:50 PM EST – TBS
-- As of Wednesday night, most spots had third-seeded Michigan (28-7 SU, 22-11 ATS) listed as an 11-point favorite with a total of 135. The Grizzlies were +550 on the money line (risk $100 to win $550).
-- Michigan won the Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City thanks to wins over Iowa (77-71 in overtime), Nebraska (77-58), Michigan St. (75-64) and Purdue (75-66). John Beilein’s squad has now won nine games in a row while going 8-1 ATS, including the spread cover as a four-point underdog in the win over the Boilermakers in the finals. Mo Wagner led the way with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field despite being limited to 17 minutes of playing time due to foul trouble. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman added 15 points and four assists without a turnover, knocking down 3-of-5 attempts from downtown. Jon Teske added 14 points, while Zavier Simpson contributed 10 points, five boards, five assists and two steals.
-- Michigan has been a double-digit favorite 11 times, posting a 6-4-1 spread record with zero outright defeats.
-- Michigan is ranked ninth in the nation in scoring defense, limiting opponents to 63.5 PPG.
-- Wagner paces the Wolverines in scoring (14.5 PPG), rebounding (7.1 RPG) and FG percentage (52.9%). Simpson (7.5 PPG) leads the team in assists (3.6 APG) and steals (1.2 SPG), while Abdur-Rahkman averages 12.6 PPG and has a stellar 116/23 assist-to-turnover ratio. Charles Matthews also averages 12.6 PPG.
-- Montana (26-7 SU, 19-11-1 ATS) is a No. 14 seed after winning the Big Sky Tournament with an 82-65 win over Eastern Washington in the finals this past Saturday night in Reno. Michael Oguine scored 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, 3-of-4 makes from 3-point range and 6-of-6 net splashers from the charity stripe. Ahmaad Rorie added 15 points and five assists, while Fabijan Krslovic finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
-- Montana has won six straight games since losing 79-77 at Idaho in overtime on Feb. 17. The Grizzlies played four games against teams from major conferences this season. They won 83-78 at Pittsburgh in overtime as three-point underdogs, before dropping a 70-57 decision at Penn St. as 12.5-point ‘dogs two days later. Then on Nov. 29, Montana lost 70-54 at Stanford and three weeks later it lost 66-63 at Washington. However, the Grizzlies covered the number as four-point ‘dogs against the Huskies.
-- Montana went 14-0-1 ATS during a 15-game stretch from Dec. 3 to Feb. 3. The Grizzlies have covered at an 18-7-1 clip in their past 26 outings.
-- Montana owns a 3-2 spread record with one outright win in five games as an underdog. The Grizzlies have lost by a double-digit margin just twice this season, losing by 16 at Stanford and by 13 at PSU.
-- Rorie averages team-highs in scoring (17.2 PPG) and assists (3.2 APG), while Jamar Akoh (13.1 PPG) paces the Grizzlies in rebounding (6.7 RPG), FG percentage (57.9%) and blocked shots (0.7 BPG). Oguine averages 15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game.
-- Montana is seeking its first NCAA Tournament win since beating Nevada by an 87-79 count in 2006. The Grizzlies are in the Tournament for the first time since ’13.
-- Totals have been an overall wash (16-16-1) for the Wolverines, but they’ve seen the ‘over’ go 5-0-2 in their past seven outings.
-- The ‘over’ is 19-12 overall for the Grizzlies after cashing in each of their past three games.
-- TBS will have the broadcast 30 minutes after San Diego St. vs. Houston concludes. The Aztecs and Cougars tip at 7:20 p.m. Eastern.
East Region – Dallas – American Airlines Center
#11 St. Bonaventure vs. #6 Florida (-5 ½, 143) – 9:55 PM EST – truTV
-- As of Wednesday afternoon, most books had Florida (20-12 SU, 15-15 ATS) listed as a 5.5-point favorite with a total of 143. The Bonnies were +205 on the money line.
-- UF has advanced to at least the Elite Eight in its past five NCAA Tournament appearances, compiling a 16-5 record during that stretch. The Gators are a remarkable 28-6 in their last 34 NCAA Tournament games dating back to 2006. Damn!
-- Florida has been to five Final Fours in 20 all-time Tournament appearances. The Gators are 45-18 in 63 Tournament games. They’ve won by at least 12 points in each of their last five first-round games in the Tournament.
-- Mike White’s team closed the regular season with three straight wins both SU and ATS vs. Auburn (72-66), at Alabama (73-52) and vs. Kentucky (80-67). However, UF lost an 80-72 decision to Arkansas as a four-point ‘chalk’ in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals last Friday. The Razorbacks dominated the boards with a 40-28 rebounding edge. Keith Stone kept the Gators in it by hitting 8-of-10 FGAs, 4-of-5 launches from 3-point land and 2-of-3 FTAs. Stone finished with 22 points, five rebounds, one steal and one assist without a turnover in 24 minutes of action coming off the bench. Chris Chiozza added 16 points and six assists, while KeVaughn Allen had 11 points and four assists compared to just one turnover.
-- Jalen Hudson paces UF in scoring with a 15.3 PPG average. The transfer from Virginia Tech is draining 40.9 percent of his 3-pointers. Egor Koulechov, a grad transfer from Rice, is averaging 13.6 points and 6.5 RPG. Koulechov has buried 40.5 percent of his treys and 87.4 percent of his FTs. Allen (11.2 PPG) leads the Gators in FT percentage (90.1%), while Chiozza (11.2 PPG) averages 6.1 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
-- Florida has been a single-digit favorite 17 times this year, posting an 8-8-1 spread record with seven outright defeats.
-- St. Bonaventure (26-7 SU, 16-14 ATS) advanced to Dallas to face the Gators by rallying past UCLA for a 65-58 win as a 2.5-point underdog. Courtney Stockard, who was nursing a hamstring injury sustained in last Friday’s A-10 Tournament quarterfinals that forced him to miss a semifinals loss to Davidson this past Saturday, was listed as ‘questionable’ right up until game time against the Bruins. Nevertheless, the junior swingman stole the show at the First Four in Dayton. Stockard scored 26 points to go with four rebounds and four steals, while Matt Mobley added 14 points, seven boards and three assists. Senior guard Jaylen Adams had miserable night, making only 2-of-16 FGAs, but he came through in the clutch with the go-ahead bucket that put the Bonnies in front to stay.
-- The win over UCLA was the first for St. Bonaventure since 1970 when it was led by a future NBA stalwart in Bob Lanier. That Bonnies’ outfit in 1970 won 25 games, but the victory over the Bruins gave them a school-record 26 wins.
-- St. Bonaventure has won 14 of its past 15 games with the lone defeat coming to red-hot Davidson when Stockard was resting his sore hamstring. This is the Bonnies’ first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2012 and they got there by way of an at-large berth for the first time in 18 seasons.
-- Mark Schmidt’s team has been an underdog nine times this year, producing a 5-4 record both SU and ATS.
-- Adams paces the Bonnies in scoring (19.4 PPG), assists (5.3 APG) and steals (1.6 SPG). The senior guard has drained 44.4 percent of his 3-balls and 85.0 percent of his FTs. Mobley (18.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG) has hit 38.1 percent of his attempts from long distance, while Stockard averages 13.3 points and 6.3 RPG.
-- The ‘over’ is 16-14 overall for the Bonnies.
-- The ‘under’ was on an 8-1 run for Florida until the ‘over’ appeared in its past two contests. The ‘under’ is 16-14 overall for the Gators.
-- This game will tip 30 minutes after the conclusion of Texas Tech vs. Stephen F. Austin on TruTV. The Red Raiders and the Lumberjacks are set to collide at 7:27 p.m. Eastern.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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