Tar Heels & Bluejays Battle For Sweet 16 Spot

By: Michael Robinson | Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Greensboro pod of March Madness was turned on its head Friday night with the stunning upset by No. 15 Lehigh over Duke. Play continues on Sunday with two Sweet Sixteen berths to be decided.

The underdogs went 2-1-1 ATS in Greensboro and 8-7-1 ATS in total on Friday. The ‘under’ was 3-1 as part of a big 12-4 mark overall on the day.

Here’s a preview of the two games, with the state of North Carolina still having one team to root for in the Tar Heels. That contest starts things off.

(1) North Carolina Tar Heels vs. (8) Creighton Bluejays
5:15 p.m. (ET) CBS
SPREAD: North Carolina -9
TOTAL: 160

North Carolina is a 9-point favorite and part of the biggest total in the tourney-to-date at 160. The winner heads to St. Louis and only No. 12 seed South Florida or No. 13 Ohio will stand in the way of the Elite Eight.

North Carolina (30-5 SU, 19-15 ATS) got a win and cover against No. 16 Vermont, 77-58 as a 16-point favorite. Forward John Henson missed his third game in a row with a wrist injury (team 1-1 SU and 0-2 ATS in the first two), but freshman James McAdoo had 17 points starting in his place and big man Tyler Zeller added 17 more plus 15 boards.

The Tar Heels are now 30-1 SU in their last 31 NCAA Tournament games played in-state. They’re 5-2 SU and 4-3 ATS in the Round of 32 since Roy Williams came aboard in the 2003-2004 season. Williams and company beat Washington 86-83 in this round last year, failing to cover the modest 4-point spread.

Creighton (29-5 SU, 15-14-1 ATS) was involved in the only ‘push’ of the tourney so far, 58-57 as a 1-point favorite over SEC Alabama. That required a comeback of 11 points in the second half. Sophomore forward Doug McDermott, son of the coach, led the way with 16 points and averages 23 PPG on the year.

The Bluejays are the only remaining team from the Missouri Valley Conference as Wichita State got upset by VCU. They have an 8-game winning streak after taking the conference tourney, but are just 2-8-1 ATS in their last 11 overall.

Henson is listed as questionable and that’s a huge factor in covering this spread and meeting the total. He averages 13.8 PPG and North Carolina is only 6-deep without him. Fatigue could set in late in what’s projected as a track meet with two of the nation’s highest scoring teams.

(10) Xavier Musketeers vs. (15) Lehigh Mountain Hawks
7:45 p.m. (ET) truTV
SPREAD: Xavier -3½
TOTAL: 139½

Xavier opened as 2½-point favorites before quickly jumping to 3½. The total has remained steady at 139½. The winner goes on to Atlanta to face No. 3 Baylor or No. 11 Colorado.

Lehigh (27-7 SU, 8-1 ATS) made history with its 75-70 win over Duke. The team became just the sixth No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Even more incredibly, it also happened earlier that day with Norfolk State upsetting Missouri, 86-84 as 21-point 'dogs.

The Mountain Hawks didn’t even win the Patriot League regular season crown, but upset Bucknell in the conference tourney final to get the automatic berth. Junior guard C.J. McCollum (22.1 PPG) is one of the nation’s most unsung players and Mike Krzyzewski called him the best player on the court after ringing up 30 on Duke, including drawing 16 free throw attempts.

Lehigh was 11-point ‘dogs last game and is now 8-1 ATS on the year, 4-0 ATS as an underdog with tough Michigan State one of the foes.

Atlantic 10 Xavier (22-12 SU, 12-18-2 ATS) pulled off a milder upset, beating fellow Midwest school Notre Dame 67-63 as a 2-point underdog. There were some controversial calls down the stretch in what’s becoming a bad theme overall, but it was still impressive coming back from a double-digit deficit with 12 minutes left.

The Musketeers are now 4-1 SU (2-3 ATS) in their last five games and not allowing any team to reach 70 points over that span. Their leading scorers come from the backcourt with senior Tu Holloway (17.3 PPG) and junior Mark Lyons (15.3 PPG). Holloway had 25 against the Irish and is averaging 21.6 PPG over the last five.

One injury note is Musketeers forward Andre Walker listed as probable with a neck injury. They must find a way to keep McCollum from being a ‘pain in the neck,’ especially drawing fouls. Offensively, Xavier doesn’t rely on the 3-point shot like Duke does, and should be able to take advantage of enough mismatches to win.


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