Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM

Saturday - Session 1

East Region (Jacksonville, FL)
No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 3 LSU (CBS, 12:10 PM EST)

Opening Odds: LSU -2 ½, 145

Both LSU and Maryland escaped their first round matchups by a combined seven points against mid-major competition. The Tigers (27-6 SU, 19-13-1 ATS) finished atop the SEC standings at 16-2 with the only two losses coming to Arkansas by one point and an overtime setback to Florida. Unfortunately for LSU, the Tigers were one and done in the SEC tournament as they fell to the Gators for the second time this season, 76-73.

LSU still received a three-seed and didn’t have to travel far by going to Jacksonville to face Ivy League champion Yale. The Tigers jumped out to a 45-29 halftime lead and owned an 18-point advantage with 18:00 remaining in regulation. Yale stormed all the way back to cut the deficit to three in the final seconds before LSU drilled a pair of free throws to win, 79-74. The Tigers failed to cash as 6 ½-point favorites, as Skylar Mays led LSU with 19 points.

Maryland (23-10 SU, 16-16-1 ATS) stumbled to the finish in Big 10 play by splitting its final six games following a 10-4 start in the league. The Terrapins lasted only one game in the Big 10 tournament, but managed an invite to the Big Dance for the fourth time in five years. Maryland needed to rally from a 12-point first half deficit on Thursday to edge a tough Belmont squad, 79-77. The Terps erased a 40-34 halftime hole by scoring the first 14 points of the second half, but couldn’t grab the cover as 3 ½-point favorites.

Five Big 10 teams are taking the court on Saturday, including Maryland. Four clubs from the SEC were victorious on Thursday, as the Big 10 is guaranteed to have at least one team reach the Sweet 16 with Michigan State facing Minnesota on Saturday. The winner of the Spartans/Gophers matchup will face whoever escapes this early contest with a victory, meaning Michigan State or Maryland could potentially square off with a second straight conference foe assuming Maryland advances.

The Terps are flipped to an underdog here after being favored against Belmont as Maryland owns a 6-4 ATS mark when receiving points this season. LSU compiled a solid 14-4 ATS record since the start of January, but the Tigers are 0-2 ATS the last two games. The Tigers are seeking their first Sweet 16 appearance since reaching the Final Four in 2006.

Midwest Region (Jacksonville, FL)
No. 7 Wofford vs. No. 2 Kentucky (CBS, 2:40 PM EST)

Opening Odds: Kentucky -5 ½, 138 ½

The second SEC team to take the court in the round of 32 also did not win the conference tournament, but has huge aspirations for Minneapolis. Kentucky (28-6 SU, 18-16 ATS) basically showed up in its first round matchup with Southland conference champion Abilene Christian and exited with a 79-44 rout to easily cash as 20-point favorites.

The Wildcats played without sophomore star P.J. Washington (14.8 ppg), who sat out with a foot injury and is not expected to suit up on Saturday. Kentucky led by 26 at halftime and didn’t let off the gas pedal as the Wildcats shot 54% from the floor, while Keldon Johnson posted 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting. The Wildcats have never been bounced in the first round since John Calipari took over as head coach in 2009, while not escaping the opening weekend only once as they lost to Indiana in the 2016 second round.

Kentucky will have its hands full with Wofford (30-4 SU, 20-11 ATS), who pulled away late from Seton Hall on Thursday, 84-68. The Terriers have won 21 straight games and were last defeated on December 19 against another SEC squad – Mississippi State. In the first round matchup against the Pirates, Wofford grabbed a 40-30 halftime lead before Seton Hall tied the game at 57-57 with 9:26 remaining. The Terriers led 67-66 with 4:20 to go, but Wofford opened things up with a 17-0 run to grab their first ever NCAA tournament victory.

Senior guard Fletcher Magee knocked down seven three-pointers for Wofford and scored 24 points as the Terriers not only cashed as three-point favorites, but improved to 12-1 ATS the last 13 games. The lone ATS defeat during this stretch came as a hefty 22 ½-point favorite in a 95-84 win over VMI last month. Wofford posted a 3-4 ATS record in the underdog role this season, including double-digit losses to North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Mississippi State, while the biggest victory as a ‘dog came at South Carolina in a 20-point blowout in November.

The cover in Thursday’s game was only the second in the last seven opportunities for UK, who own a 5-3-2 ATS record in the past 10 NCAA tournament contests since 2016. The last team from the Southern Conference to reach the Sweet 16 was Davidson back in 2008 behind Stephen Curry, as the Wildcats reached the Elite Eight before falling to Kansas.

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

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

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