NCAA Regional Action Tips In Boston, Phoenix

By: Willie Bee | Wednesday, March 21, 2012

More than 2,600 miles stand between Boston and Phoenix, but the two cities will be joined at the hip Thursday night when regional action begins in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Regional semifinal action in the East and West tips another big weekend of college basketball betting.  The first three contests on Thursday pit Big East against Big Ten, with the nightcap finding a fourth Big East squad taking on an SEC crew.

Underdogs prevailed in last year's regional semifinals, winning five of the eight games straight up and against the spread.  The 'under' scored a 6-2 advantage in those contests.

Boston, TD Garden

(4) Wisconsin vs. (1) Syracuse
TIP: 7:15 p.m. (ET) CBS
SPREAD: Syracuse -4
TOTAL: 121
PREVIEW:  Two hard-headed coaching styles collide to get things rolling. Early betting on the contest has been equally stubborn with little or no movement on the spread and total.  A few 3½'s are beginning to creep in, but Syracuse -4 remains the consensus number a little more than 24 hours before tip-off.

Wisconsin's ability to pull off the upset will come down to finding a hot hand or two from long-range.  The Badgers sank 10 from behind the arc in wins over Montana and Vanderbilt to reach the Sweet 16, but it took them 33 attempts to get those 30 points vs. the Commodores, and they'll need greater accuracy than that against the Orange.

One reason Syracuse hasn't missed Fab Melo so far is the play of James Southerland off the bench.  The junior forward combined for 30 points and 14 boards in the two victories vs. UNC-Asheville and Kansas State, well above his 6.6 PPG and 3.3 RPG season averages.

(6) Cincinnati vs. (2) Ohio State
TIP: 9:45 p.m. (ET) CBS
SPREAD: Ohio St. -7½
TOTAL: 129½
PREVIEW: The spread has remained steady in early wagering, but the total has dropped off from the 131-point opener.  Both of Cincinnati's tournament games have finished 'under' the numbers (129½ and 128½), in addition to the Bearcats' Big East finale vs. Louisville two weeks ago, while Ohio State's two tourney triumphs each went 'over' and the Buckeyes enter this matchup on an 8-1 run above the total.

It's been a little more than five years since the two in-state powers last met in Indianapolis during the Dec. 2006 Wooden Tradition.  A 13-0 run in the first half highlighted Ohio State's 72-50 rout as 11-point chalk, and the final fell short of the 136½-point total.

Phoenix, US Airways Center

(4) Louisville vs. (1) Michigan State
TIP: 7:47 p.m. (ET) TBS
SPREAD: Michigan St. -5
TOTAL: 125
PREVIEW: Louisville and the 'under' has been a money-making combination for bettors the past couple of weeks.  The Cardinals have won and covered their last six since the end of the regular season, with five of those games finishing below the total and nine of their last 10 failing to reach the scoreboard hurdle.

Michigan State has won five straight, but saw a 4-0 ATS stretch stopped in last Sunday's 65-61 victory vs. Saint Louis who was getting seven from the oddsmakers.  In contrast to Louisville's trend to the 'under,' both of the Spartans' tourney games have jumped the total, with four of their last six going 'over.'

The Spartans and Cardinals last met in the Midwest Regional Final of the 2009 NCAA Tournament when Louisville was the top seed of that bracket and State was seeded second.  Then-freshman Draymond Green came off the MSU bench to grab 10 rebounds in a 64-52 win that closed with the Spartans getting 6½ points.

(7) Florida vs. (3) Marquette
TIP: 10:17 p.m. (ET) TBS
SPREAD: Marquette -1½
TOTAL: 146
PREVIEW:  The highest total on Thursday's board might also be the best chance for an 'over' if season trends mean anything.  Marquette is 19-12 to the 'over' heading into the matchup, and 8-3 that direction the last 11 games, while Florida is 18-12 to the high side on the season, though the Gators have seen both of their tourney games finish below the number.

A quick check of schedules reveals the Golden Eagles and Gators played five games against four common opponents – Norfolk State, Ole Miss, LSU and Vanderbilt – with Marquette meeting Norfolk State twice and Florida playing two against Vanderbilt.   The Gators went 4-1 in those five affairs (2-3 ATS) while the Eagles were 3-2 in the contests and 1-3 ATS (one of the Norfolk State games failing to make the NCAA odds list).

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