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NCAA Tournament

East Region

Betting Preview With Analysis

3/15/12


The NCAA tournament gets underway on Thursday with six matchups in the East Region, but all eyes will likely be on Pittsburgh, where the top-seeded Syracuse Orange (31-2, 17-1 Big East) will take the court at the CONSOL Energy Center without sophomore center Fab Melo. The Big East Defensive Player of the Year was ruled ineligible for the second time this year on Tuesday due to an academic issue, and his absence could keep the Orange from their goal of winning the school's second national championship. Syracuse went 2-1 without Melo when he was suspended earlier in the year, including its first loss at Notre Dame on January 21. Melo averaged 7.8 points and a team-high 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game.

Here's a breakdown of Thursday's games in the East Region...

CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

No. 8 Kansas State Wildcats (21-10, 10-8 Big 12) vs. No. 9 Southern Miss Golden Eagles (25-8, 11-5 Conference USA)
12:40 p.m. (ET)


Analysis: Kansas State (-5) is coming off an 82-74 loss to Baylor in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament last Thursday but had beaten the Bears on the road on February 18 and followed that up with a victory at Missouri three days later. The Wildcats have won four of six both straight-up and against the spread with the OVER cashing in four of five. Southern Miss was upset by Marshall in the Conference USA tourney semifinals and has failed to cover nine of its past 10. We'll take Kansas State -5



No. 1 Syracuse Orange vs. No. 16 North Carolina-Asheville Bulldogs (24-9, 16-2 Big South)
3:10 p.m.


Analysis: Syracuse (-15) lost to Cincinnati 71-68 last Friday in the semifinals of the Big East tournament and then lost Melo on Tuesday. The Orange were a noticeably different team without the 7-footer when he missed three games earlier in the year, and they have gone 1-6 ATS in their past seven games overall. North-Carolina Asheville covered all three games en route to the Big South tourney title and has gone 7-1 ATS overall this season. This line opened -17 and we anticipated public money pushing the line even higher. We were going to take UNC Asheville plus the boatload of points. However, the line has dropped with the announcement of Melo being out. Look for the Orange to make a statement here. Syracuse -15



No. 7 Gonzaga Bulldogs (25-6, 1303 West Coast) vs. No. 10 West Virginia Mountaineers (19-13, 9-9 Big East)
7:20 p.m.


Analysis: Gonzaga (-1) won eight of 10 games down the stretch but suffered one of the losses to St. Mary's in the West Coast Conference title game in overtime on March 5, 78-74. The Bulldogs did not fare well vs. the line though, going 4-10-1 ATS in their last 15 games. West Virginia had similar struggles against the number, failing to cover seven of 10 down the stretch. The Mountaineers lost to defending national champion UConn in the Big East tourney 71-67 in overtime last Wednesday. West Virginia +1



No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes (27-7, 13-5 Big Ten) vs. No. 15 Loyola (Maryland) Greyhounds (24-8, 13-5 Metro Atlantic Athletic)
9:50 p.m.


Analysis: Ohio State (-17) is the new favorite to win the East after Melo was deemed ineligible for Syracuse. The Buckeyes lost to top seed Michigan State 68-64 in last Sunday's Big Ten tournament championship game, but they won their previous four games before that and covered three straight in earning a three-way tie for the regular-season title. Loyola is appearing in the NCAA tournament for just the second time in school history after losing its opening game in 1994. The Greyhounds enter the Big Dance on a four-game winning streak both straight-up and ATS. Ohio State -17



University Arena, Albuquerque, New Mexico

No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers (24-9, 12-6 Big Ten) vs. No. 13 Montana Grizzlies (25-6, 15-1 Big Sky)
2:10 p.m.


Analysis: Wisconsin (-9) beat Indiana for the 10th straight time in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament before losing to eventual champion Michigan State 65-52 in the semifinals last Saturday. The Badgers are led by point guard Jordan Taylor, who could have his hands full with Montana's Will Cherry. The Grizzlies are one of the hottest teams in the NCAA tournament field, winning 14 games in a row and going 10-4 ATS during that stretch. Wisconsin -9



No. 5 Vanderbilt Commodores (24-10, 12-6 SEC) vs. No. 12 Harvard Crimson (26-4, 12-2 Ivy League)
4:40 p.m.


Analysis: One of the most intriguing games in the East pits Vanderbilt (-5) against Harvard in Albuquerque. The Commodores underachieved for most of the season before shocking top-ranked Kentucky 71-64 in the SEC tournament title game last Sunday. They seem to be peaking at the perfect time and turned their defense up a notch in the SEC tourney, giving up less than 53 points per game in beating three opponents for the championship. Harvard has been a great story this season one year after losing to Princeton in a one-game playoff for the Ivy League's automatic bid. However, the Crimson covered just three of eight games down the stretch. Vandy -5

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