Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM
Thursday - Session 3
Editor's Note: Brian Edwards is off to a flying start in both the NCAA Tournament and the NIT, going 6-0 on Tuesday and Wednesday! Don't miss any of his plays for Friday or his next pay-if-it-wins-only selection!
West Region (Des Moines, IA)
No. 10 Florida vs. No. 7 Nevada (TNT, 6:50 PM EST)
Opening Odds: Nevada -2 ½, 133 ½
-- As of Wednesday night, most books had seventh-seeded Nevada (29-4 straight up, 17-14 against the spread) installed as a 2.5-point favorite with a total of 133.5. The Gators were +120 on the money line (risk $100 to win $120).
-- Nevada is mired in a 1-7 ATS slump in its past eight games, losing three of those games outright. The Wolf Pack lost 65-57 at San Diego State, 81-76 at Utah State and 65-56 vs. San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference Tournament semifinals.
-- Eric Musselman’s squad was without senior forward Jordan Caroline at the MWC Tournament. He sat out due to an Achilles issue but is listed as ‘probable’ vs. UF. Caroline averages 17.3 points and 9.6 rebounds while shooting at a 38.0 percent clip from 3-point land.
-- In the MWC semifinal loss to the Aztecs, Nevada had an abysmal 5/12 assist-to-turnover ratio, made only 37.9 percent of its field-goal attempts, connected on merely 6-of-24 launches from downtown (25.0%) and hit just 6-of-13 free-throw attempts (46.2%). Cody Martin had 16 points and six rebounds, while Tre-Shawn Thurman finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. Caleb Martin was limited to 24 minutes of action before fouling out. He had only eight points and four rebounds.
-- Nevada is No. 25 at KenPom.com, producing a 7-1 record against K-Pom Top-100 opponents. The Wolf Pack’s other defeats came against San Diego St. (twice; No. 122) and at New Mexico (No. 183). They also lost at Utah St. (No. 33) by an 81-76 count.
-- Nevada’s best home wins came over BYU, South Dakota State (and The Daum-inator), Utah State, Fresno State and San Diego State. The Wolf Pack won at USC, at Utah, at Fresno State and downed Arizona State on a neutral floor.
-- Caleb Martin averages 19.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.8 blocked shots per game. Cody Martin averages 11.7 points, 5.1 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 0.7 BPG. He has a stellar 167/62 assist-to-turnover ratio.
-- Nevada is 5-3-1 ATS with two outright losses in nine games as a single-digit ‘chalk.’
-- Florida (19-15 SU, 16-18 ATS) ripped off five consecutive wins over a two-week stretch starting in mid-February. However, UF lost 61-55 to Georgia as an 11-point home favorite on March 2. Then on March 6, the Gators came out on the wrong side of a 79-78 decision vs. LSU in overtime. In its regular-season finale, Mike White’s club led at Kentucky by a 31-30 score at halftime, only to go more than seven minutes of the second half without a bucket in a 66-57 defeat. Therefore, Florida went to Nashville needing at least one and probably two victories to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament.
-- The first test came against Arkansas, a team Florida had beaten 57-51 in Fayetteville. In Nashville, UF trounced the Razorbacks 66-50 as a 3.5-point ‘chalk.’ Freshman forward Keyontae Johnson was the catalyst with 20 points and 12 rebounds on 8-of-14 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 makes from beyond the arc. Senior guard KeVaughn Allen, who finished his career 7-1 against the Hogs after starring at North Little Rock HS during his prep years, dropped 17 points in his last game against Arkansas.
-- In the SEC Tournament quarterfinals, Florida and LSU met in a rubber match after the road team prevailed in overtime of both regular-season encounters. The Tigers, playing without their head coach Will Wade, led by as many as 13 in the first half and still maintained a double-digit advantage with 13:37 remaining. But the Gators slowly trimmed the deficit and then got a huge momentum shift with a 3-pointer that counted as an away-from-the-ball foul was called. Then LSU interim head coach Tony Benford was whistled for a technical that created four FTAs. With the game tied in the closing moments, Johnson penetrated to the hole before dishing out to freshman point guard Andrew Nembhard, who caught the ball at the top of the key and drained a step-in trey with one tick remaining.
-- Nembhard’s game-winner gave Florida a 76-73 win as a 3.5-point underdog. He finished with 20 points, four rebounds and six assists without a turnover. All five starters were in double figures including Johnson, who had 16 points, 10 boards, four assists and four steals. Kevarrius Hayes finished with 11 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-7 FGAs.
-- In the SEC Tournament semifinals, Florida dropped a 65-62 decision to Auburn when the officials swallowed their whistles in the final seconds despite the fact that multiple AU players were intentionally fouling Nembhard while he was in the air trying to launch a potential game-trying 3-pointer. UF had led 34-30 at intermission. The game was decided by UF’s 18 turnovers compared to just four for the Tigers, who had 56 FGAs compared to only 38 for Florida. The Gators shot at a 60.5 percent clip and dominated the glass with a 29-16 rebounding edge. Jalen Hudson had 16 points, four rebounds and four assists, while Hayes finished with 16 points, 12 boards and two blocked shots.
-- Florida is in the NCAA Tournament for the third year in a row and the 20th time in program history (The first came in 1987 when the M&M Boys led UF past N.C. St. and Purdue before losing to eventual runner-up Syracuse in the East Region semifinals at the Meadowlands.). White has a 4-2 record in six NCAA Tourney games. UF owns a 43-17 record in 60 all-time Tournament games, advancing to 11 Sweet 16 appearances, 10 Elite Eights and five Final Fours. The Gators have two national titles, one runner-up finish in 2000, and are the last program to repeat as national champs (Duke in ’91 and ’92 was the last to do it beforehand).
-- Like UF, Nevada is also in the Tournament for a third straight season. Musselman led the Wolf Pack to the Sweet 16 last year before losing by one to Loyola-Chicago in a thriller. They have a 6-8 record in 14 Tournament games.
-- The ‘under’ is 19-13 overall for Nevada, but the ‘over’ has hit in four of its last six games.
-- The ‘under’ is 23-11 overall for the Gators, who have seen the ‘under’ go 16-3 in their games played on the road or at a neutral venue.
Midwest Region (Jacksonville, FL)
No. 15 Abilene Christian vs. No. 2 Kentucky (CBS, 7:10 PM EST)
Opening Odds: Kentucky -21, 132
-- As of Wednesday night, most spots had second-seeded Kentucky (27-6 SU, 17-16 ATS) listed as a 22-point favorite with a total of 132. The Wildcats had 20/1 odds to win outright at The Westgate SuperBook. For first-half bets, UK was favored by 13 points with a total of 61.5 points, and the Wildcats were +900 on the money line (risk $100 to win $900).
-- This is the opening game of the Evening Session at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Jacksonville, FL. The winner will face the survivor of the 7/10 matchup between Wofford and Seton Hall on Saturday.
-- Kentucky star P.J. Washington is listed as ‘probable’ with a foot injury, but he’s been seen by media members in a walking boot several times this week. Washington is UK’s leading scorer (14.8 PPG) and rebounder (7.6 RPG).
-- Kentucky should have fresh legs after playing only twice at the SEC Tournament. John Calipari’s team beat up on Alabama 73-55 as a 12.5-point favorite in the quarterfinals. Tyler Herro was the catalyst with 20 points, six rebounds, two steals, two assists and one block. Washington contributed 10 points, 12 boards, four assists, four blocked shots and a pair of steals. After nearly missing a month injured, senior center Reid Travis returned to provide eight points, seven rebounds and three rejections in 23 minutes of playing time.
-- Kentucky allowed a late lead to get away in the semifinals, dropping the rubber match with Tennessee by an 82-78 count. The ‘Cats led by seven with 2:45 remaining, only to get outscored 17-6 to end the game. The Volunteers won outright as 1.5-point underdogs. All five UK starters were in double figures led by Washington’s 16 points. Ashton Hagans had 10 points and 12 assists, while Keldon Johnson finished with 15 points and six boards.
-- Kentucky has posted a 6-9 spread record in 15 games as a double-digit favorite.
-- Abilene Christian (27-6 SU, 16-13 ATS) is led by Jaren Lewis, who averages team-bests in scoring (13.7 PPG), rebounding (6.2 RPG) and blocked shots (0.6 BPG). Jaylen Franklin (10.2 PPG) averages team-highs in assists (4.9 APG), FG percentage (54.0%) and steals (1.8 SPG). He has a 161/69 assist-to-turnover ratio. Jalone Friday (13.1 PPG) and Payten Ricks (11.7 PPG) also average double figures and shoot it well from deep with 37.7 and 40.8 percentages on attempts from beyond the arc.
-- Abilene Christian has won six straight games while going 5-1 ATS. The Wildcats beat New Orleans 77-60 as 4.5-point favorites in the finals of the Southland Tournament. Lewis led the way with 20 points, six rebounds and three steals, while Franklin produced 16 points and six assists.
-- ACU is ranked 19th in the nation in scoring defense, limiting opponents to 63.1 PPG. The Wildcats are ranked 17th in the country in 3-point accuracy (38.6%) and 41st in FG percentage (47.4%).
-- ACU is No. 145 at K-Pom, facing only one for in the Top 150. Texas Tech destroyed the Wildcats 82-48 in Lubbock on Dec. 15.
-- The ‘over’ has hit in back-to-back games for the Wildcats to improve to 15-14 overall.
-- The ‘under’ is on a 6-2 roll for Kentucky to improve to 21-12 overall.
South Region (Hartford, CT)
No. 11 Saint Mary's vs. No. 6 Villanova (TBS, 7:20 PM EST)
Opening Odds: Villanova -4, 130
-- As of Wednesday night, most books had Villanova (25-9 SU, 20-14 ATS) installed as a 4.5-point favorite with a total of 130. The Gaels were +180 on the money line (risk $100 to win $180).
-- Villanova went to New York City for the Big East Tournament in a serious slump. Jay Wright’s team had gone 2-4 both SU and ATS in its last six regular-season games. The Wildcats had lost by double-digit margins at Georgetown and at Xavier. However, ‘Nova beat Providence (73-62), Xavier (71-67 in overtime) and Seton Hall (74-72 in the finals) to win the league’s automatic bid and draw a No. 6 seed.
-- Eric Paschall led ‘Nova past The Hall in the finals at MSG in NYC by scoring 17 points and pulling down eight rebounds. Saddiq Bey added 16 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a pair of blocked shots. Phil Booth finished with 16 points, four boards and three assists, while Jermaine Samuels contributed 12 points and seven rebounds.
-- Villanova owns a 10-9 spread record in 19 games as a single-digit favorite.
-- Villanova has won two of the past three national championships. The key pieces that remain from those teams are Booth and Paschall, a pair of seniors. Booth averages team-highs in both scoring (18.6 PPG) and assists (3.8 APG), while Paschall (16.5 PPG) averages a team-best 6.2 RPG. Collin Gillespie (11.1 PPG) has a 94/51 assist-to-turnover ratio and paces the Wildcats in FT accuracy (83.5%). However, Gillespie is slumping and has scored in double figured only three times in the past 10 outings.
-- Saint Mary’s (22-11 SU, 19-14 ATS) was looking at an NIT bid until it went to Las Vegas and won the WCC Tournament with a 60-47 victory over Gonzaga as a 15-point underdog. Jordan Ford led the way with 17 points, while Jordan Hunter added 12 points and 15 rebounds. Tanner Krebs finished with 13 points and three steals.
-- Saint Mary’s has compiled a 2-4 spread record with one outright win in six games as an underdog.
-- Saint Mary’s has won seven of its past eight games with the lone defeat coming in its regular-season finale against Gonzaga.
-- Ford paces the Gaels in scoring (21.3 PPG) and has scored at least 15 points in eight consecutive contests. Malik Fitts (15.3 PPG, 7.6 RPG) is another double-figure scorer who has drained 40.3 percent of his 3-balls. Hunter provides an interior presence and averages 7.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots per game.
-- Randy Bennett’s team is ranked 29th in the country in scoring defense, limiting foes to 64.4 PPG. At the other end, the Gaels are 34th in the nation in 3-point accuracy (37.8%), 42nd in FG percentage (47.4%) and 48th in FT shooting (74.5%).
-- These schools last met in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament when Saint Mary’s won a 75-68 decision as a four-point underdog. Omar Samhan buried 13-of-16 FGAs and scored a game-high 32 points. Matthew Dellavedova added 14 points for the Gaels.
-- The ‘over’ has hit in four consecutive Villanova games, but it has seen the ‘under’ go 19-12-2 overall.
-- The ‘under’ is on a 38-17-2 run for the Gaels in their past 57 games. They’ve seen the ‘under’ go 8-1 in their last nine games to improve to 19-13-1 overall this season.
West Region (Salt Lake City, UT)
No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (truTV, 7:27 PM EST)
Opening Odds: Gonzaga -27, 152 ½
-- As of Wednesday night, most spots had Mark Few’s team listed as a 27.5-point favorite with a total of 152.5. William Hill was offering FDU on the money line for 50/1 odds!
-- Gonzaga (30-3 SU, 21-12 ATS) has compiled a 17-10 spread record in 27 games as a double-digit ‘chalk.’
-- Gonzaga has a 4-3 record against teams in the field. The Bulldogs have wins over Saint Mary’s (twice), Duke and Washington, but they’ve lost to Saint Mary’s, North Carolina and Tennessee. Other notable scalps include neutral-court wins over Arizona and Illinois, in addition to victories at Creighton and at home over Texas A&M.
-- Gonzaga is led by Rui Hachimura, who averages 20.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.1 SPG. He’s hitting 60.9 percent of his FGAs and 46.9 percent of his treys. Brandon Clarke (16.5 PPG) leads the Bulldogs in rebounding (8.4 RPG), FG percentage (69.3%) and blocked shots (3.0 BPG). Zach Norvell is averaging 15.3 PPG and has a 99/43 assist-to-turnover ratio. Josh Perkins (11.0 PPG) paces Gonzaga in assists (6.4 APG) and steals (1.4 SPG), and he has a 212/68 assist-to-turnover ratio. Perkins has played in more games (149) than any other player in the country.
-- Gonzaga leads the nation in scoring (88.8 PPG), scoring margin (23.8 PPG) and FG percentage (53.2%). The Bulldogs are 16th nationally in FT percentage (76.7%).
-- Gonzaga has been to the NCAA Tournament 21 consecutive times. The Bulldogs are the nation’s only program that’s been to four straight Sweet 16s.
-- Fairleigh Dickinson (21-13 SU, 19-13 ATS) overcame a seven-point intermission deficit to rally for an 82-76 win over Prairie View A&M in Tuesday’s First Four showdown in Dayton. The Knights covered the number as two-point ‘chalk,’ while the 158 combined points went ‘over’ the 148.5-point total. Darnell Edge splashed the nets at a 7-of-9 clip from 3-point territory in a 33-point effort. Jahlil Jenkins took over at crunch time by making plays galore and finished with 22 points, four rebounds and six assists without a turnover.
-- Edge (16.9 PPG) was a first-team All-Northeast Conference selection who led the league in 3-point accuracy at 46.9 percent. Jenkins (13.8 PPG) leads the Knights in assists (4.6 APG) and steals (1.3 SPG).
-- FDU comes to Utah on a nine-game winning streak and it has an 8-1 spread record during this span.
-- FDU is 8-6 ATS with four outright wins in 14 games as an underdog. The Knights are 3-0 ATS as double-digit underdogs with one outright victory (at Princeton).
-- FDU is fifth in the country in 3-point shooting, draining 40.4 percent of their bombs from long distance.
-- The win over PVAM was the first in the Tournament in the 75-year history of FDU’s hoops program.
-- The ‘under’ is 17-16 overall for Gonzaga.
-- The ‘under’ is 17-15 overall for the Knights.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.