ALL TIMES EASTERN
Friday, March 16
12:15 pm Virginia (-13) Albany - Virginia's been an up-and-down team, but ended up tied with North Carolina at 11-5 for 1st place in the ACC. The unbalanced schedule in the conference may have helped the Cavaliers a bit, but they closed out the season only 4-4, losing their last two games to Wake Forest and NC State, two non-tournament teams. Albany won the America East tournament, have won 5 straight and 13 of their last 15, and have tournament experience. Could be a shocker and the points are enticing.
12:25 pm Georgia Tech (-1.5) UNLV - The Runnin' Rebels are a good choice for the upset, especially since they are the lower seed (7 vs. 10). The Yellow Jackets are the weakest team from the ACC, while UNLV won the Mountain West tournament and are on a 7-game roll. Both teams play an aggressive up-tempo style. UNLV should outgun the Georgians.
12:30 pm Memphis (-18) North Texas - The Mean Green of North Texas have an imposing task ahead of them. Memphis has a 22-game win streak on the line - the longest in the nation - and aren't about to stop here. At least a 20-point win for the Tigers is in the cards.
2:35 pm Notre Dame (-4) Winthrop - While there's plenty of buzz about the basketball program at Winthrop, the Fighting Irish (24-7, 11-5) have quietly put together a sensational season, finishing 4th in the expanded Big East. Undefeated at home, the Irish won only four road games, but seemed to find themselves late in the season when they won six straight before losing to Georgetown, 89-83 in the Big East tournament. The Irish average 81 points per outing and should shoot themselves past the Big South champion Eagles.
2:45 pm Tennessee (-7) Long Beach St. - Chris Lofton and Wayne Chism have been the keys for the Volunteers all season. Tennessee may be better than their record indicates, having played a solid non-conference schedule in addition to their SEC slate. Long Beach should not pose a problem.
Wisconsin (-13) Texas A&M-Corpus Christi - Alando Tucker and the Badgers should slice these guys up. The Islanders were clearly the best team in the Southland conference, but that's not saying much. Penetrating the Wisconsin defense should prove to be too much of a challenge to overcome. The Badgers should roll to a big win.
3:00 pm Nevada (-1.5) Creighton - Nevada is the higher seed, at #7, but #10 Creighton will not be impressed. The feisty Bluejays suffered a bunch of close losses through the Missouri Valley conference schedule, but won the tourney, so they can handle big game pressure. Nevada will look primarily to Nick Fazekas inside to control the tempo. Two very talented teams make this a close call. Nevada is likely to survive a possible overtime game.
5:05 pm Oregon (-9) Miami (OH) - The Ducks are on an insane roll and there's no way Miami gets in their way. Oregon could win by as many as 30.
7:10 pm Virginia Tech (-2.5) Illinois - Illinois is probably going to get treated badly by yet another ACC entrant. The Big 10 was not very competitive this season and Illinois squeaked into the tournament only by virtue of the selection committee's questionable judgment.
7:15 pm Kansas (-19) Niagara - Niagara fought their way in, winning the play-in game on Tuesday, but they're one and done against #1 seed Kansas. The Jayhawks will probably have the spread covered by halftime.
7:20 pm Arizona (-2) Purdue - Possibly the worst 8-9 matchup ever. Neither team even belongs in this tournament. Arizona ostensibly has more talent, but the Big 10 has a way of winning games they shouldn't. Arizona turns the ball over with passion and should go home losers.
7:25 pm Texas (-9) New Mexico St. - Kevin Durant may outscore the Aggies all by himself. An opening-round romp for the Longhorns.
9:40 pm Southern Illinois (-7) Holy Cross - The Salukis were one of the nation's hottest teams down the stretch, winning 13 straight before falling in the MVC tourney to Creighton. Holy Cross tied Bucknell for the Patriot League regular season title, and beat them in the tourney for the automatic bid. The Crusaders are a solid team, but losses to Duke, Syracuse, Providence, Niagara and George Mason really tell the story. They are a notch below Southern Illinois in talent and the Salukis will escort them to the tournament exit.
9:40 pm Villanova (-1) at Kentucky - Probably the toughest matchup of the day, pits Wildcats vs. Wildcats, but the ones from Kentucky deserve a slight edge only because of Randolph Morris and their interior defense. As the line suggests, this one could go either way, but Kentucky may be a little better handling the pressure of a close game.
9:50 pm Florida (-28) Jackson State - The Gators won 8 games by 28 or more points this season, plus a bunch more by 20 or more, so they're certainly capable of taking out the #16 seed here. Look for Al Horford to have another double-double and Joakim Noah to spend most of the second half on the bench cheering on Florida's subs. Easy one for the Gators.
9:55 pm USC (-1.5) Arkansas - The Razorbacks get up and down the floor very well, and their experience in the SEC tourney - in which they reached the finals - may have given them enough of a confidence boost to spring the upset. It certainly would not be a surprise. USC needs to play their usually good brand of defense, force a slower, half-court game and be patient. If they do that, they'll win easily and they are the pick.