Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM

Thursday - Session 2

East Region (Des Moines, IA)
No. 15 Bradley vs. No. 2 Michigan State (CBS, 2:45 PM EST)

Opening Odds: Michigan State -18 ½, 133 ½

The Spartans (28-6 SU, 24-10 ATS) captured the Big 10 tournament crown after knocking off rival Michigan for the third time this season, 65-60 in Sunday’s championship game in Chicago. MSU rebounded nicely from a three-game skid in early February to win seven of its final eight regular season games, while picking up three wins in three days at the United Center for its first Big 10 tournament title since 2016.

The Braves (20-14 SU, 16-17 ATS) were one of the shocking teams to receive an automatic bid to the Big Dance as Bradley won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament as the #5 seed. Bradley’s three victories in the tournament came by a total of eight points, culminated by a victory of Northern Iowa in the championship game, 57-54 after trailing by 18 points in the second half.

Amazingly, Bradley began MVC play at 0-5 before winning nine of their next 13 games, which included a loss at Missouri State in which it scored only 37 points. The Braves are riding an 8-4 ATS run in the underdog role, while receiving double-digit points for the first time this season. Bradley will slow things down as it has drilled the UNDER in seven of the past nine games, including UNDERS in the MVC tournament against Loyola-Chicago (118) and Northern Iowa (118 ½).

Michigan State covered in nine of 15 opportunities as a favorite of 10 points or more, but failed to cash as a double-digit favorite in both NCAA tournament games last season. The Spartans held off Bucknell as 14 ½-point favorites in an 82-78 win before getting bounced by Syracuse in the second round, 55-53 as 10-point chalk. Michigan State and Bradley last met in December 2008 in East Lansing as the Spartans won, 75-59 as 15-point favorites.

East Region (Jacksonville, FL)
No. 11 Belmont vs. No. 6 Maryland (truTV - 3:10 PM EST)

Opening Odds: Maryland -3, 147

The Ohio Valley Conference doesn’t normally send more than one team to the NCAA tournament. Murray State received the automatic bid for winning the conference tournament, but Belmont (27-5 SU, 20-10-1 ATS) picked up a rare at-large bid from a mid-major conference. The Bruins were relegated to the play-in game in Dayton, but pulled away from Temple, 81-70 to cash as 2 ½-point favorites and pick up their first ever NCAA tournament win after seven losses.

Maryland (22-10 SU, 16-15-1 ATS) jumped out to a 7-1 record in Big 10 play before splitting its final 12 conference affairs. The Terrapins were one and done in the conference tournament for the third straight season after getting shocked by Nebraska, 69-61 as 6 ½-point favorites. Maryland defeated several tournament teams down the stretch by beating Minnesota, Ohio State, Iowa, and Purdue in the final month, but also suffered double-digit road losses at Michigan and Penn State.

Belmont looks to become the ninth team since the field expanded to 68 teams in 2011 to win the play-in game then grab a victory in its first round contest. The Bruins closed the regular season on a 13-game winning streak, while the only loss since mid-January came to Murray State in the OVC tournament, 77-65. Belmont has topped the 80-point mark in 12 of the past 14 games, while owning a 3-1 ATS mark in the underdog role this season.

The Terps are making their first NCAA tournament appearance since falling to Xavier in the first round of the 2017 Big Dance. Maryland has covered only once in its past four opportunities as a favorite in the NCAA tournament since 2015, as the Terps are facing Belmont for the first time ever.

Midwest Region (Salt Lake City, UT)
No. 13 Northeastern vs. No. 4 Kansas (TNT, 4:00 PM EST)

Opening Odds: Kansas -6 ½, 143

It wasn’t a typical season in Lawrence as Kansas (25-9 SU, 16-18 ATS) failed to capture at least a piece of the Big 12 regular season title for the first time since 2004. The Jayhawks reached the conference tournament title game in their backyard of Kansas City, but KU was bounced by a red-hot Iowa State squad. Kansas owns a dreadful 4-10 ATS record in its last 14 games away from Allen Fieldhouse, while losing to tournament teams Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas State, and Kentucky on the road since January.

Northeastern (23-10 SU, 18-12-3 ATS) downed Colonial regular season champion Hofstra in the tournament title game, 82-74. The Huskies are making their first appearance in the Big Dance since falling to Notre Dame in 2015 by four points, while seeking their first tourney victory since 1984.

It was a rough start to the season ATS-wise for Northeastern, who began 4-8-2 ATS the first 14 games in spite of beating Harvard and Alabama as underdogs. The Huskies caught fire from a pointspread perspective by posting a 14-4-1 ATS mark in the past 19 contests, while three of their previous four losses have come by three points or less.

Kansas is not listed as a number one or two seed for the first time since 2009, while sitting as a fourth seed for the first time since 2006, when the Jayhawks lost to Bradley in the first round. That was the last time KU was bounced in its first game of the tournament, as the Jayhawks have won in the opening round the last five years by double-digits apiece.

West Region (Hartford, CT)
No. 12 Murray State vs. No. 5 Marquette (TBS, 4:30 PM EST)

Opening Odds: Marquette -4, 149 ½

One of the more intriguing games to take place on Thursday features two of the nation’s leading scorers. Marquette guard Markus Howard averaged 25.0 points per game, including a 53-point performance in an overtime victory at Creighton in January when he knocked down 10 three-pointers. Murray State guard Ja Morant nearly equaled Howard’s average at 24.6 ppg, while putting up 36 points in the Ohio Valley title game win against Belmont.

The Golden Eagles (24-9 SU, 19-14 ATS) spent most of Big East play at the top of the conference standings by winning 12 of their first 14 league games. Marquette fell apart late by dropping its final four Big East contests to slip to second place behind Villanova, including outright home favorite losses to Creighton and Georgetown. The Golden Eagles avenged a pair of losses to St. John’s by blowing out the Red Storm in the Big East semifinals, but were two and barbeque in New York after losing by two points to Seton Hall.

The Racers (27-4 SU, 19-10 ATS) wrapped up the OVC regular season title with an impressive 18-2 mark, while last suffering a loss against Jacksonville State on January 31. Murray State posted a perfect 4-0 record in the underdog role this season, including covers in road losses at Alabama and Auburn. Last season, Murray State reached the NCAA tournament but was an early victim as the Racers lost to West Virginia, 85-68 as 10-point underdogs.

Marquette and Murray State have met only once and it occurred in the 2012 NCAA tournament when the Golden Eagles beat the Racers in the second round, 62-53 as five-point favorites. The last time Marquette made the tournament was 2017 when the Golden Eagles were blown out by eventual Final Four participant South Carolina, 93-73 in the first round.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

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