The Kentucky Wildcats meet their traditional rival Indiana Hoosiers to highlight college basketball’s Sweet Sixteen action on Friday.
A quick look at the March Madness stats show that favorites are 28-23-2 (54.9 percent) and the ‘under’ is 32-18-2 (64 percent). Note those results are pending Thursday night action.
St. Louis, Edward Jones Dome
(1) North Carolina Tar Heels vs. (13) Ohio Bobcats
TIP: 7:47 p.m. (ET) TBS
SPREAD: North Carolina -10 ½
Both the total and spread have stayed steady since the open. Both teams are 2-0 ATS in the tournament, with North Carolina scoring 82 PPG and allowing 65.5 PPG. MAC Ohio has played at a much slower pace, 63.5 PPG scored and 58 PPG surrendered.
North Carolina (31-5 SU, 20-15 ATS) got back forward John Henson last game against Creighton, but point guard Kendall Marshall fractured his right wrist and is questionable after undergoing surgery. Senior Justin Watts or freshman Stilman White would be his replacement, but each is a huge drop-off for a team that already lacks depth.
Ohio (29-7 SU, 15-13 ATS) is trying to become the first No. 13 seed or lower to make the Elite Eight. The Bobcats are shooting 44.1 percent from 3-point land in the first two games, versus just 34.2 percent on the season. They can’t count on that again and their big men are severely overmatched height and talent-wise against UNC’s Henson, Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes.
(2) Kansas Jayhawks vs. (11) NC State Wolfpack
TIP: 10:17 p.m. (ET) TBS
SPREAD: Kansas -8 ½
TOTAL: 142 ½
We have seen movement upward in both the spread and total after opening at Kansas -8 and a total of 141 ½. The total change is a bit surprising with the ‘under’ 2-0 for Kansas, an average total points scored of just 119.
Kansas (29-6 SU, 17-16-1 ATS) needed a dramatic comeback against No. 10 Purdue last game, winning 63-60 as 8-point favorites. Stars Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor combined for only 21 points on 6-of-23 shooting (26.1 percent). Center Jeff Withey has also scored just 11 total points the first two games and he needs to stay out of foul trouble and be productive.
NC State (24-12 SU, 17-14-1 ATS) has good karma as a No. 11 seed as VCU last year and George Mason in 2006 both made the Final Four. The Wolfpack’s five starters all score in double-digits for the year and they’re peaking at the right time; 6-1 SU and 6-0-1 ATS in the last seven. The only loss was a controversial one to North Carolina (69-67) in the ACC Tournament semis.
Atlanta, Georgia Dome
(3) Baylor Bears vs. (10) Xavier Musketeers
TIP: 7:15 p.m. (ET) CBS
SPREAD: Baylor -6
The movement here has come on the total after opening at 140. Xavier is averaging 68.5 PPG in the tourney and Baylor 74 PPG, but the Bears have been saved by the three-point shooting of guard Brady Heslip (14-of-22, 63.6 percent). It’s hard to count on that continuing.
Baylor (29-7 SU, 14-15 ATS) is 2-0 ATS after wins over No. 14 South Dakota State (68-60) and No. 11 Colorado (80-63). However, Xavier is a step up in competition from both teams and the talented yet inconsistent frontcourt of Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller needs to play better.
Xavier (23-12 SU, 13-18-2 ATS) is also 2-0 ATS and fortunate to get Cinderella Lehigh last game, winning 70-58 as 4-point favorites. Center Kenny Frease (14.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG last eight games) needs to keep helping outstanding guard Tu Holloway as Mark Lyons has struggled (7.5 PPG) in this tourney. Guard Dezmine Wells is probable after a toe injury.
(1) Kentucky Wildcats vs. (4) Indiana Hoosiers
TIP: 9:45 p.m. (ET) CBS
SPREAD: Kentucky -9
The spread has jumped up a point after Kentucky opened at -8. The is a revenge game for coach John Calipari after being upset at Indiana 73-72 as 5 ½-point favorites in December, getting knocked from the No. 1 national ranking before later getting it back.
The Wildcats (34-2 SU, 13-21-1 ATS) play essentially six players, but it’s a versatile group and extremely talented. They’re averaging 84 PPG in the tourney and saw both games go ‘over’ against Western Kentucky (81-66) and Iowa State (87-71). Kentucky went 1-1 ATS with the first one failing to cover as big 26 ½-point favorites.
Indiana (27-8 SU, 18-11 ATS) saw its depth hurt when reserve guard Verdell Jones III (knee) was lost for the year in the Big Ten Tournament. The Hoosiers have seen their two games go ‘under’ against New Mexico State (79-66) and pesky VCU (63-61), with the latter an ATS failure as 5 ½-point favorites. This is their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2002.