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#16 UNC-Asheville (19-13) vs. #16 Arkansas-Little Rock (19-16)
Betting Line: UNC Asheville -4 o/u 129
The North Carolina-Asheville Bulldogs (19-13) face the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans (19-16) on Tuesday in the First Four at Dayton Arena, with the winner getting an opportunity to play top seed Pittsburgh in the first round of the Southeast Region on Thursday. Both teams pulled off upsets in their respective conference tournaments to make it into the Big Dance.
The Bulldogs finished third in the Big South Conference during the regular season but knocked off top seed Coastal Carolina in the tournament title game on March 5, 61-47. They jumped out to a 29-22 halftime lead and rolled in the second half, winning as 5-point underdogs. That victory was the sixth in a row for North-Carolina Asheville, including three straight in the conference tourney. The total went UNDER in all three of the team's conference tournament games.
The Trojans were underdogs in three of their four games during the Sun Belt tournament after finishing fifth in the West Division of the conference in the regular season with a 7-9 record. They beat West top seed Arkansas State 59-52 as 4-point dogs before knocking out East #2 Middle Tennessee State 65-56 in the semifinals. West #4 North Texas did Arkansas-Little Rock a favor by defeating East #1 Florida Atlantic 78-64 and East #3 Western Kentucky 81-62 in the semis to get to the championship game, where the Trojans pulled off a 64-63 victory as 3.5-point dogs.
Arkansas-Little Rock had to win four games in four days to get to the NCAA tournament and will have one week of rest after beating the Mean Green in the Sun Belt championship game. Their opponent will have had even more time off, as the Bulldogs earned their invitation 10 days ago. North Carolina-Asheville has been a slightly better defensive team recently, giving up an average of 55 points in the last five games compared to 62.2 for Little Rock. Opponents have also shot 40.5 percent or less against both teams in their last five games overall.
The Bulldogs only had four lined games leading up to the Big Dance, going 3-1 against the spread with all three covers coming in the conference tournament. The Trojans were a much different story with a 17-16 ATS record, including three consecutive losses to close out the regular season, including a 72-69 home loss to North Texas in the finale. The total has gone UNDER is four of UALR's last five games, including three straight in the Sun Belt tournament.
Our Score Prediction Model has UNC-Asheville winning this one by a nose so we'll go ahead and side with Arkansas Little Rock +4 in a game they can win outright.
Predicted Final Score: UNC-Asheville 70 Arkansas Little Rock 69
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