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The 2006 NCAA tournament kicks off today with the first of its 16 opening round games starting at 12:20 ET with Seton Hall taking on Wichita State in Greensboro, North Carolina. The final game of the day is scheduled to kick off around 9:45 ET in San Diego, when Utah State takes on Washington. There will be 16 more first-round games on Friday. All games are being broadcast on CBS.
My bye for Thursday is Gonzaga over Xavier at 7:20 ET. After a terrible 0-3 on Wednesday, I’m glad the NCAA tournament brings a fresh start. I have four tournament games due on Thursday, including an exclusive Las Vegas Insider, my first round Underdog Shocker, and two 15* plays. While it’s true that I’m off to a bad start at the NIT, I intend to bounce back in a big way with my 20* 1st Round NIT Game of the Year, tonight!
The NIT played seven first round matches last night and the home teams did much better than last night when in the eight first round matches of the tournament they were just 4-4 SU and 3-5 ATS. Colorado was the only home team to lose last night (79-61 to Old Dominion) and the home teams finished the night 5-2 ATS. Four more first-round games will be played tonight with the top of this year’s No. 1 seed (Michigan) finally joining the fray. The Wolverines host UTEP at 7:00 ET.
Hofstra, whose 24 wins were the most of any team not included in the NCAA field this year, hosts Nebraska, also at 7:00 ET. In this somewhat strange format, both Rutgers (at St Joe’s at 7:00 ET) and Akron (at Creighton at 8:05 ET) are playing for the second time in this tournament against three of the four No. 1 seeds in this tournament. tournament (Cincinnati, Louisville and Maryland), they even play their first games. In relative darkness, Cincinnati and Louisville play tomorrow, with Maryland playing its first game on Saturday.
NCAA Tournament Notes
Everyone knows that the No. 1 seeds have never lost a first-round game (84-0) and only four No. 2 seeds have lost in the first round. However, while the top two seeds may be 55-1 SU over the last seven years, they’ve gone just 29-27 ATS! The favorites have posted records for point losses in each of the last five years in the first round of the NCAA (including the inning game). The closest they came to a winning mark was in 2002, when they went 17-16, or minus-0.6 units! Overall, the favorites are just 73-91-1 ATS in the last five years.
The “not included” teams have posted a respectable 50-47-2 ATS over the last six years, including a 17-10 mark over the last two years! Among the six “power conferences,” the Big-10 teams have been the top favorites, going 24-14-1 ATS since 2001, while the SEC teams possess the worst record, going just 12-28 ATS when they were favourites. However, the SEC ‘Hounds’ have posted a 9-5 ATS record, just ahead of the Big East Hounds, who have gone 15-9. Non-CAA teams have gone 5-1-1 ATS over the past five years with MVC teams not far behind, posting a 9-2-1 ATS mark.
In the last 15 years, a school from the ACC, Big East or SEC has won the title 12 times. Only two Pac-10 teams, UCLA in 1995 and Arizona in 1997 plus Michigan State of the Big-10 in 2000, have broken through. While all four No. 1 seeds never reached the Final Four in the same year (seeding began in 1979), only one Final Four has ever been played without a single No. 1 seed. That was in 1980, when Louisville (a seeded two) beat UCLA (seeded eight) in the national title game. The other two Final Four teams that year were Iowa (5) and Purdue (6).
The Pistons won 105-98 in Toronto last night and at 51-12 they still have the best record in the NBA. The Mavericks won 95-81 in Houston and improved their NBA road best to 22-9 and, more importantly, advanced a half-game over the inactive Spurs (51-14 to 50-14). The Rockets are now 2-16 in games without McGrady.
The Suns easily beat the Clippers, winning 126-95, one night after scoring 129 points in Seattle. Phoenix leads the Clippers by 7 1/2 games in the Pacific Division and with 108.4 PPG, they are again the highest scoring team in the league this year. Even without the injured Stoudemire (not to mention the traded Johnson and Richardson), Phoenix is averaging just two PPG shy of last year’s 110.4 PPG average. The Suns also own a 6.9-plus PPG differential, third-best in the league and only slightly lower than the 7.1-plus PPG they posted last year.
While the Magic entered last night’s home game with the Jazz having lost 19 of their previous 23 games and the Knicks entered their home game with the Hawks losing 24 of 28, both teams won. Orlando beat Utah 114-108 in overtime and New York outscored Atlanta 121-117 in double overtime. Things didn’t go so well for two other struggling teams, the T-wolves and the Blazers. While Minnesota covered their 95-92 loss to the Lakers, it marked the team’s sixth straight loss, seventh straight on the road, and 20th in their last 23 road games!
The Blazers lost in New Jersey to the Nets, 78-65. The lowest-scoring team in the league (88.4 PPG) had scored just 66 points the night before in a loss to the Bulls, but outshone themselves in this one. Portland scored just five points in the fourth quarter against the Nets, the second-worst fourth quarter in NBA history. Almost unbelievably, the Warriors scored just two points in the fourth quarter of a game against the Raptors on February 8, 2004.
It’s a three-game short card in tonight’s NBA, including a TNT doubleheader. The Celtics are in Miami to take on the Heat at 8:05 ET and the T-wolves continue their road trip in Oakland against the Warriors at 10:35 ET. Faced with a busy NCAA tournament schedule, one wouldn’t expect much interest in these fairly ordinary matchups. However, that is why God created point spreads! The Heat are favored by nine points (208) and the Warriors are favored by six points (199).
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