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NBA-Sunday night-Memphis at Golden State in the game of the night

The Warriors (58-14), whose 30-4 home record is the best in the league, are battling the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the NBA and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

The clubs meet one final time Wednesday in San Antonio, with the Spurs having clinched the season series by winning both previous meetings this season.

One of those wins came in Oakland, where the Grizzlies used a late rally to force overtime en route to a stunning 128-119 win of their own on Jan. 6.

A third team that has beaten the Warriors on their home floor, the Houston Rockets, gets two cracks at Golden State in the next six days, including a Friday rematch in Oakland of a double-overtime victory in December.

The rugged four-game sequence — at home against Memphis, at Houston and San Antonio on a back-to-back, then back home against Houston — should go a long way toward determining the Warriors’ playoff seeding.

There will be only six games remaining in the regular season after the second Houston game.

“I’m excited; a lot of great teams coming up,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr insisted after Friday’s 114-100 home win over Sacramento. “The Grizzlies came in here and beat us last time they were in the building with that big comeback.

“Then on the road against the teams with the two best records in the West besides us. A big challenge.”

It starts with Memphis, which trailed by 24 points in its January visit before outscoring the Warriors 32-13 in the fourth quarter to get even, then 17-8 in the extra five-minute session.

The Grizzlies enter Oakland on a roller-coaster ride. They have followed five straight losses with four consecutive wins, after which they’ve lost their last two.

The difference in the last six games? The Memphis offense.

While the Grizzlies have given up between 91 and 97 points in the six games, they’ve scored an average of 104.5 in the four wins, but only 86.0 in the two losses.

“If we’re going to do anything in the playoffs, it’s going to be as a team on both ends of the floor,” star center Marc Gasol told reporters after Thursday’s 97-90 loss in San Antonio. “We have to be more consistent.”

Among the most inconsistent of late has been point guard Mike Conley, star of Memphis’ win at Golden State in January. He had 27 points, including the game-tying jumper at the end of regulation, in that game.

Conley has shot only 13 for 32, including 3 of 14 from 3-point range, during the Grizzlies’ two-game losing streak.

Memphis (40-32) resides in the No. 7 playoff position in the West.

The Grizzlies also own a 110-89 home win over the Warriors in December, but got swamped 122-107 in Memphis when they went for a hat trick against Golden State in February.

NCAAB-March Madness- USA expects the final 4 teams to finish the madness

South Regional Final No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (-2 ½) vs. No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats (159 ½)

Venue: FedEx Forum
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
TV-Time: CBS, 5:05 p.m. ET

In a year when many surprising guests have invaded the Elite Eight, there’s nothing shocking about the schools that’ll square off Sunday in the South Region finals at FedEx Forum in Memphis. That would be North Carolina and Kentucky.

UK is in its 57th NCAA Tournament and is looking to make its 18th Final Four appearance. Meanwhile, UNC is in its 48th Tourney, hoping to go to its 20th Final Four.

As of late Saturday night, most books had North Carolina installed as a 2.5-point favorite with the total in the 159-160 range. The Wildcats were available on the money line for a +125 return (risk $100 to win $125).

These storied programs have only met three times in the NCAA Tournament, but all three of those encounters have come in this same situation – a region final. In 1977, the Tar Heels won a 79-72 decision. Then in 1995, UNC sent UK packing again on its way to another Final Four. But in 2011, the ‘Cats captured a 76-69 victory.

Kentucky (32-5 straight up, 19-17 against the spread) avenged a December home loss to UCLA by beating the Bruins 86-75 as a 1.5-point underdog. The 161 combined points fell ‘under’ the 167-point total. De’Aaron Fox exploded for a career-high 39 points, but it was the defense that was the difference against the nation’s top-scoring offense.

UCLA still shot at a 52.7 percent clip from the field, but the Bruins committed 13 turnovers compared to only six for the ‘Cats. Steve Alford’s team made only 8-of-13 attempts at the free-throw line.

Fox hit 13-of-20 shots from the field and 13-of-15 tries from the charity stripe. The freshman point guard who is expected to be a one-and-done lottery pick in the 2017 NBA Draft also had two steals, three rebounds and four assists compared to just one turnover.

Malik Monk went for 21 points, nailing 4-of-9 launches from 3-point range. Dominique Hawkins came off the bench to score 11 points, draining 3-of-4 from downtown, in only 17 minutes of playing time.

North Carolina (30-7 SU, 19-15 ATS) has been a single-digit favorite 16 times this year, cashing tickets at a 9-6-1 ATS clip. The Tar Heels advanced to the South Region finals thanks to Friday’s 92-80 win over Butler as seven-point ‘chalk.’ The 172 combined points sailed ‘over’ the 155-point total.

Roy Williams, who was coaching in the Sweet 16 for the 18th time in his career, saw his team race out to a 52-36 halftime lead. Luke Maye, a sophomore forward, already had a career-high 14 points at intermission. He would finish with his first double-double (16 points, 12 rebounds).

Unlike Arkansas, which battled back from a 17-point first-half deficit to put UNC on the ropes with a five-point lead at the three-minute mark last Sunday, Butler had no comeback in it Friday. Joel Berry II shook off his ankle woes to score a game-high 26 points. Justin Jackson added 24 points, five rebounds and five assists compared to merely one turnover.

John Calipari’s club has been an underdog twice this year, winning outright against UCLA on Friday and losing by 22 at Florida. Speaking of that loss at UF, UK hasn’t tasted defeat since then, winning 14 in a row.

This will be a rematch of a Dec. 17 matchup at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, where UK won by a 103-100 count as a one-point favorite. The 203 combined points soared ‘over’ the 171-point tally.

Monk went off for a career-high 47 points on amazing 8-of-12 shooting from 3-point land. Fox scored 24 points, grabbed four rebounds, made two steals and dished out 10 assists compared to two turnovers. Edrice Adebayo added 13 points and seven boards, but he was limited to 19 minutes of action before fouling out. Isaiah Briscoe was also in double figures with 10 points, seven boards and four assists with only one turnover.

Jackson scored 34 points to go with five rebounds and three assists without a turnover. Berry scored 23 points, dished out seven assists and grabbed five boards. However, Berry fouled out like Kennedy Meeks, who was only able to log 20 minutes of playing time. Meeks had 12 points and seven rebounds.

UK is ranked 10th in the nation in scoring, averaging 85.2 PPG. The ‘Cats are 15th in the country at defending the 3-point line, holding foes to 30.8 percent.

The ‘under’ is on an 11-2 run for UK to improve to 20-17 overall.

The ‘under’ is 20-14-1 overall for UNC, but the ‘over’ is 3-1 in its last four outings.

The winner will face Oregon in the national semifinals. The Ducks are in the Final Four for the first time since 1939.

Tip-off on CBS is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

— Kentucky is 3-9-1 ATS in its last 13 head-to-head meetings against UNC.

— Indiana hired Dayton’s Archie Miller as is its next head coach to replace Tom Crean after an up-and-down nine-year tenure. Crean was fired more than a week ago. Miller has enjoyed outstanding success with the Flyers after a stellar playing career at North Carolina St. Miller is the younger brother of Arizona head coach Sean Miller. This is a great hire for the Hoosiers, who haven’t won a national title since 1987.

— With Miller out at Dayton, I would expect the school to go after a couple of big names. If those attempts fail, the Flyers can do a lot worse than going with Miller’s long-time assistant Tom Ostrom, who got his start at Florida during Billy Donovan’s iconic tenure. Ostrom went to Dayton after serving as John Pelphrey’s top assistant at Arkansas. He was critical in the recruitment of both Mike Miller and Joakim Noah.

— How about that performance from Oregon last night? Damn! The Ducks took Kansas behind the woodshed in its own backyard, capturing a 74-60 victory as 6.5-point underdogs at Sprint Center in Kansas City. Tyler Dorsey’s remarkable play of late continued, as he dominated the game with 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field, including 6 makes on 10 shots from long distance. Jordan Bell was incredible as well, producing 11 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and eight blocked shots.

— The other region final Saturday saw Gonzaga advance to its first Final Four in program history. Mark Few’s team cruised to an 83-59 win over 11th-seeded Xavier, which was trying to become the third No. 11 seed to get to the national semifinals (VCU and LSU were the others). The ‘Zags easily took the money as 8.5-point ‘chalk.’ Nigel Williams-Goss stole the show with 23 points, eight rebounds, two steals and four assists without a turnover. Johnathan Williams added 19 points, eight boards and three rejections.

NBA-Monday night-OKC host Warriors and Durant in try to avoid a season sweep

Game of the Night – Golden State at Oklahoma City (TNT, 8:05 p.m. ET)

The Warriors (55-14 SU, 31-36-2 ATS) and Thunder (40-29 SU, 39-29-1 ATS) will meet for fourth and final time this season on Monday from the Chesapeake Energy Arena. The last meeting at this venue didn’t turn out so well for the Oklahoma City, who were blasted 130-114 by Golden State on Feb. 11.

Including that win, the Warriors have and covered all three games this season versus the Thunder by an average of 21 points per game.

The big difference for this matchup is the status of Golden State forward Kevin Durant, who is still ‘out’ with a knee injury. In the three games against his former team this season, the All-Star posted 37.7 PPG and 9.3 rebounds while connecting on 63 percent of his shots from 3-point land.

You can make a case that Golden State is still solid with the trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green but it’s obvious that it’s nowhere close to the level with KD in the lineup.

Oddsmakers opened Golden State as a two-point road favorite for Monday and the Warriors have gone 26-10 as visitors this season but are just 14-21-1 versus the number.

The Thunder have been a great bet at home (26-9 SU, 24-10-1 ATS) this season and they’ve won and covered six of the last seven in front of its fans. OKC has won its last two games as a home underdog and is 3-3 SU and 4-2 ATS overall on the season.

Billy Donovan’s team has been a very streaky this season and they enter this matchup with momentum, winners in their last five games. The defense has been outstanding during this span, holding opponents to 99 PPG. Keeping Golden State and the league’s best offense (116.2 PPG) in check will be a much stiffer test but the Warriors haven’t been as prolific on the road (112.9 PPG).

The Warriors come into this game with some defensive swagger as well, holding its last two opponents to 92 points apiece. Albeit the wins and covers came versus the Magic and Bucks, Golden State needed a couple shots of confidence after roasting bettors with a 1-10 ATS drought (6-5 SU).

Monday’s total opened 221 and a couple shops moved to 222 ½ and that seems a little strange based on the form from the Warriors. Golden State has watched the ‘under’ cash in six straight and 11 of their last 12 games.
Plus, they’ve been the best ‘under’ bet in the NBA on the road this season (25-11, 69%).

Denver (33-36 SU, 37-31 ATS) and Houston (48-22 SU, 40-30 ATS) will complete their home-and-home matchup on Monday night from the Toyota Center.

The pair met Saturday and the Rockets stopped the Nuggets 109-105 as 2 ½-point road favorites at the Pepsi Center. Denver did play with a short-handed squad as forwards Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari both sat out. Chandler is possible to return for the rematch but Gallinari remains ‘doubtful’ with a knee injury.

Houston didn’t shoot well from the field, going 5-of-24 (21%) from 3-point land and Saturday’s win was the first this season when making less than 10 triples. The Rockets made up for the poor shooting with a solid 28-of-35 performance from the free throw line.

Including this win, Houston is now 2-0 versus Denver this season and both wins came on the road. Prior to those outcomes, the Nuggets had won and covered three straight in this series.

Despite the loss, Denver has gone 8-4 both SU and ATS since the All-Star break. Also, the Nuggets haven’t dropped two straight games during this span and they’ve gone 3-1 on the road.

Houston doesn’t lose often at home (25-9 SU) but it’s certainly not a great team to back at the betting counter (16-18 ATS) either.

The Nuggets are currently holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and will likely see an early exit in the postseason because they haven’t proven themselves versus quality opponents. Against wining clubs, Denver has gone 9-22 this season while Houston has produced an eye opening 34-6 mark against clubs below .500.

For what it’s worth, Houston has gone 9-4 versus the Northwest Division this season while Denver has struggled with a 3-9 mark against the Southwest.

Saturday’s total closed as high as 241 and the game never had a shot to get there. Denver is tied for the best ‘over’ mark in the league with a 43-25 record to the high side. Houston leans to the ‘over’ (36-33-1) and that includes a 19-15 mark at home.

Houston opned as a nine-point favorite on Monday and the total is hovering between 236 and 237 at most shops.

H2H Trends to Watch

The Hornets and Hawks have seen the ‘under’ cash in their last seven encounters. Tonight’s total opened 203 and jumped up to 204 as of Monday morning.

Utah has won and covered three in a row against Indiana, including a 109-100 win on Jan. 21 as a seven-point home favorite. The Jazz are listed as a three-point road favorite over the Pacers.

In the last seven meetings, the winner of the Boston-Washington matchup has scored 111 points or more. The Wizards have won two of three this season while posting 123 and 118 in its victories.

The Clippers have won nine straight against the Knicks, which includes a 119-115 comeback win on Feb. 8 as one-point road favorites. Los Angeles has gone 7-1-1 ATS during this winning streak and the ‘under’ is 7-2.

Back-to-Back Notes

There are three teams that will be playing with no rest on Monday.

Listed below are their SU and ATS records, plus any notable trends that are in play.

Philadelphia (5-11 SU, 9-7 ATS) – The 76ers have been a great look on no rest recently, especially versus the number. The club is 6-1 ATS in its last seven and they’ve won four of those games. Philadelphia has seen the ‘over’ go 11-5 and that includes a 6-2 run to the high side in its last eight B2B matchups.

Monday’s Opponent – at Orlando (+5)

Indiana (4-11 SU, 4-11 ATS) – The Pacers have struggled all season on zero days rest but they did win their last back-to-back spot, a 98-77 victory on Mar. 15 over Charlotte as three-point favorites. Indiana has had trouble scoring of late, averaging just 97.3 PPG in its last six. Not surprising, the ‘under’ has gone 5-1 in those games.

Monday’s Opponent – vs. Utah (+2.5)

Boston (9-6 SU, 8-7 ATS) – After winning six straight and nine of 10 on no rest, Boston has surrendered three consecutive losses when facing back-to-back situations. The defense gave up 116, 114 and 104 points in those losses.

Monday’s Opponent – vs. Washington (-3)

NCAAB-March Madness-Sunday night games

The Gamecocks sure picked the right time for their most prolific offensive game of the season. After being held to 53 points by Alabama to flame out in the SEC Tournament, they beat that mark by 40 in a 93-73 rout of Marquette that helped pick up the program’s first NCAA Tournament win since 1973. This is a program that lost as a No. 2 seed in ’97, only the third time that had happened, before falling as a No. 3 the next season. The crowning moment in program history would be winning an NIT title. So, yes, eliminating Duke in an NCAA Tournament would indeed become South Carolina basketball’s crowning achievement.

Can they do it? Well, the location definitely helps. Greenville is just 100 miles form Columbia and will also be filled with Tar Heels eager to join in on wishing rival Duke the worst possible outccome. Whether UNC handles business against Arkansas or suffers a stunning defeat, its fans will stick around and root against the Blue Devils. They’ll be cheering Sindarius Thornwell, the SEC Player of the Year, who became the first Gamecock with 20 points and 10 boards in an NCAA Tournament since the legendary Alex English accomplished the feat in ’73. He went for 29 and 11, adding three steals, but won’t be able to lead South Carolina to a win over Duke unless he gets help from PJ Dozier and Duane Notice, the team’s other double-digit scorers and most prolific 3-point shooters.

Duke continued its late surge with an 87-65 win over Troy, knocking down first-half 3-pointers and never looking back, even earning the cover after the Trojans threatened to wind up within 20. Grayson Allen continued his inspired play off the bench, scoring 21 points and embracing boos that are sure to be magnified tonight. Luke Kennard shot just 3-for-12 and saw his streak of 19 games scoring in double-figures end, so Duke’s dominant performance is even more impressive since they coasted on an off night from their leading scorer.
The Blue Devils were a preseason No. 1 in the eyes of most due to who they had returning and coming on board in recruiting. In addition to Tatum, center Harry Giles was also part of a standout class, but his best contributions haven’t come until recently since he’s been progressing slowly after tearing both of his ACLs. With him now a productive part of the rotation, Mike Krzyzewski has the most talented top-seven in the college game since all are likely to play in the NBA in some capacity. Oddsmakers initially had Duke as the betting favorite for this NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday despite them being placed in the same East region as No. 1 overall seed Villanova, whose elimination at the hands of Wisconsin on Saturday really opens the bracket up for the Blue Devils.

Betting Trends

— South Carolina thrives due to its defense and has seen the under go on a 4-1-1 run since Feb. 18 prior to the explosion against Marquette. Nine of the Gamecocks’ first 11 came in below the posted total.

— Duke defeated its lone SEC opponent this season, handling Florida 84-74 on Dec. 6. The Blue Devils went 2-0 against Clemson, but never played in South Carolina this season until taking the floor against Troy on Friday night. Its last two games have gone under the posted total.

South Region (Sacramento, CA)
No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats vs. No. 3 UCLA Bruins (TBS, 9:40 p.m. ET)

Opening Odds: UCLA -4,154

Betting Matchup
The Bearcats rebounded from its loss to SMU in the American Athletic Conference tournament final by dominating Kansas State in a physical game where they were able to find offense more easily than they usually do. In all five of their losses, it was their offense that betrayed them, as they’ve averaged just 57.6 points in those games.

Senior point guard Troy Caupain has been the engine for the the Bearcats for years and must be aggressive and assertive since few of his teammates can create their own offense outside of putbacks. On that note, it will be on the more versatile Gary Clark to help teammate Kyle Washington get some breathing room inside by stepping out to draw defenders away from the paint. Cincinnati shot 62 percent from the field as Caupain, Washington and Clark combined to shoot 18-for-26 (69.2 pct) in scoring 54 of the team’s 75 points. Sixth man Jarron Cumberland, an x-factor who has averaged 8.1 points as a freshman, added nine and will be invaluable to the cause against UCLA.

The Bruins lead the nation in scoring and padded that edge by scoring 97 in a 17-point win against 14th-seeded Kent State, who actually pulled out the cover late. Anyone on the East coast who hadn’t bothered to check out what all the hype over UCLA’s freshman was about got an eyeful with TJ Leaf scoring a team-high 23 points and point guard Lonzo Ball adding 15 points and three assists. Ball set a record for most assists in a single season, increasing his tally to 257, but did get banged up during a hard fall where he injured his hip late in the first half. That should be worth watching since the Bearcats will hound them and make sure he’s not out there playing hurt.

Rebounding will be huge for UCLA against the physical Bearcats, so it is hoping that freshamn Ike Anigbogu can play after missing the Troy contest. Although the Bruins have quality bodies up front, none can be described as a banger equipped to deal with Cincinnati, with Anigbobu being the closest thing to a bruiser they’ve got.

Betting Trends

— Cincinnati has covered in five of its last six games and has seen the over go 3-0-1 over its last four games despite surrendering an average of 66 points. This will be the Bearcats’ first game of the season against a Pac-12 foe.

— UCLA is on a run of failed covers in four consecutive games and would tie its longest run of the season if it fails to over this number. The Bruins had cashed in nine straight games in the early non-conference portion of their schedule, but books have adjusted to their tempo and dominance.

NCAAB-March Madness-Full preview before the showtime

The four No. 1 seeds are Gonzaga (West Region), Kansas (Midwest), Villanova (East) and North Carolina (South). The picks of the Bulldogs, Jayhawks and Wildcats were no-brainers, but some felt that Arizona and Duke had cases to be ahead of the Tar Heels, who lost to Duke twice, including Saturday’s setback in the ACC Tournament semifinals. Meanwhile, Sean Miller’s team beat Oregon on Saturday night to win the Pac-12 Tournament.

Speaking of the Ducks, they lost starting center Chris Boucher to a torn ACL in Las Vegas this past weekend. That fact prompted the Selection Committee to drop Oregon to a No. 3 seed when it was probably slated for a No. 2 seed before the injury. Boucher was averaging 11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

Villanova is a top seed for the third time in school history. The Wildcats are looking to repeat as national champions after winning both the Big East regular-season title and the league tournament at MSG in NYC. They’ll get the Wisconsin-Va. Tech winner in the Round of 32, assuming they don’t become the first No. 1 seed to ever fall against a 16 seed.

Jay Wright’s team has these potential foes in the Sweet 16: fourth-seeded Florida, fifth-seeded Virginia, 12-seed UNC-Wilmington or 13th East Tennessee State. The Buccaneers won at Mississippi State and lost by four at Tennessee. They lost by nine at UNC-Wilmington and by 14 at Dayton.

The Gators will certainly have fresh legs after getting beaten by Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. They’ll only have to travel 90 minutes to Orlando, the same city where their Final Four run started in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. I think UF will get past the UVA-UNC-W winner, which could certainly be the Seahawks.

That would provide us with a Villanova-Florida showdown in the East Region semifinals at MSG. These teams met in the 2005 and 2006 NCAA Tournaments. The Wildcats won a 76-65 decision in the Round of 32 in ’05, but the Gators exacted revenge in the ’06 Elite Eight by capturing a 75-62 victory on their way to the school’s first national title.

The other portion of the East Region features No. 2 seed Duke, which is fresh off of Saturday’s win over Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament finals. The Blue Devils face the Troy Trojans, who beat Texas State. 59-53 in the Sun Belt Tournament finals. Mike Krzyzewski’s team would face the Marquette-South Carolina survivor if it knocks off Troy.

I think sixth-seeded SMU will make the Sweet 16 by beating Baylor to set up at date with Duke in NYC. I see form holding in the East with Villanova facing Duke in what will be an epic showdown at the best venue possible.

Let’s turn to the Midwest, where Kansas will face the Miami-Michigan State winner. Like Florida, Bill Self’s team will have fresh legs after its Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals loss to TCU. The Jayhawks were playing without one of their best players, freshman sensation Josh Jackson, who was serving a one-game suspension in the loss to Horned Frogs.

If KU gets to the Sweet 16, possible foes include Purdue (4), Vermont (13), Iowa State (5) and Nevada (12). The Cyclones, who won the Big 12 Tournament by dusting West Virginia in Saturday’s finals in Kansas City, are absolutely on fire. They’ve won nine of their last 10 games while going 8-2 ATS. I think ISU gets to the Sweet 16 where it will meet the Jayhawks, who won 76-72 in Ames but lost to the Cyclones at Allen Fieldhouse by a 92-89 count.

Watch out for a potential upset of Purdue by the Catamounts, who own the nation’s longest winning streak. Vermont, the America East champion, haven’t tasted defeat since Dec. 21 in an 81-69 loss at Butler.

The lower part of the Midwest features a dandy of a 7/10 matchup with Michigan taking on Oklahoma State. The Wolverines were the best story of the weekend. The team plane skidded off the runway at the Detroit airport as it was taking off for the Big Ten Tournament in Washington D.C. The terrifying incident left Michigan to catch a flight the next morning at 6:00 a.m. on the day it was playing Illinois.

John Beilein’s team won four games in four days to win the Big Ten Tourney, including scalps of Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Wolverines smoked the Badgers 71-56 in Sunday’s finals. They’ll face the Cowboys on Friday in Indianapolis.

Brad Underwood’s team finished strong down the stretch and has a star in Jawun Evans. Also, Oklahoma State has the nation’s best free-throw shooter (Phil Forte) and outstanding players in Jeffrey Carroll and Leyton Hammonds.

The OSU-Michigan winner will likely face second-seeded Louisville, which takes on Jacksonville State. The Cardinals are certainly in danger of getting sent home in the Round of 32.

Now to the South Region, where North Carolina will take on Arkansas or Seton Hall in Greenville. I see the Tar Heels easily advancing to the Sweet 16, where I believe they’ll meet Butler in Memphis.

Memphis could have an influx of bluebloods in two weeks. There’s a strong chance Kentucky, the No. 2 seed, and UCLA, the third seed, will join UNC at FedEx Forum. If the UK-UCLA South Region semifinal matchup materializes (I say it will), it would be a rematch of an early December game when the Bruins went into Rupp Arena as double-digit underdogs and beat UK by a 97-92 count.

I was in Memphis for the South Region semifinals and finals three years ago when Florida beat Dayton in the Elite Eight. The Flyers, the South’s No. 7 seed, could get back to Memphis again with wins over Wichita State and UK (presumably). UCLA was also in Memphis that year, losing to UF in the Sweet 16. The Bruins hope to return with wins over Kent State and, in my opinion, Cincinnati.

If Gregg Marshall’s Shockers can get past Dayton (more on this great coaching matchup below), it will get a rematch with the ‘Cats, who ended their unbeaten season with a thrilling win in the Round of 32 three years ago. To demonstrate how wrong the committee was in placing Wichita State and its 30-4 record as a 10-seed, the Shockers opened as 7.5-point favorites vs. Dayton. The line was down to 6.5 as of Sunday night.

Finally, let’s check out the West that features Gonzaga, Arizona, FSU and West Va. as its top four seeds. There’s also Northwestern as the endless wait for an NCAA bid finally concluded Sunday when the Wildcats were marked as the 8-seed. They’ll take on Vanderbilt, which has won seven of its last nine games while going 8-1 ATS. The NW-Vandy winner will meet Gonzaga. If Gonzaga gets to the West semifinals, I think Notre Dame will be waiting for it.

FSU and Florida Gulf Coast will play a 3/14 game in Orlando. The Seminoles went unbeaten at home this year, but they’ve had all sorts of problems playing on the road and at neutral venues. Leonard Hamilton’s team better be on upset alert. This program hasn’t been to an Elite Eight since 1993 and hasn’t gone to the Final Four since 1972. FSU is in the field for the first time in five years.

I think sixth-seeded Maryland will get to the Sweet 16 with victories over Xavier and the FSU-FGC survivor. The Terrapins will get Arizona in the West semifinals after the Wildcats slip past VCU in a nail-biter.

I think the West is the weakest region and Arizona will beat Notre Dame in the finals to get to the Final Four. If that happens, Sean Miller will finally be able to shake the label of ‘the best coach never to make the Final Four.’

The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas has tabbed Duke as the 5/1 ‘chalk’ to win the Tournament. UNC has the second-shortest odds (6/1), followed by Kentucky, Villanova and Kansas, who each have 8/1 odds. The next-shortest odds belong to Gonzaga (10/1), Louisville (12/1), Arizona (12/1), UCLA (12/1) and Oregon (25/1).

— Florida is making its 19th NCAA Tournament appearance. The Gators have been to five Final Fours, eight Elite Eights and three national-title games, winning it all twice. They have a stellar 42-17 overall record in the Tournament.

— Best Round of 64 matchups:
1-Oklahoma State vs. Michigan
2-Minnesota vs. Middle Tennessee
3-Princeton vs. Notre Dame
4-Dayton vs. Wichita State
5-Northwestern vs. Vanderbilt

— Best Coaching Matchups:
1-Jim Larranaga (Miami) vs. Tom Izzo (Michigan State)
2-Archie Miller (Dayton) vs. Gregg Marshall (Wichita State)
3-John Beilein (Michigan) vs. Brad Underwood (Oklahoma State)
4-Buzz Williams (Va. Tech) vs. Greg Gard (Wisconsin)
5-Tony Bennett (Virginia) vs. Kevin Keatts (UNC-Wilmington)

— I think Gonzaga will be the first No. 1 seed eliminated. The Vanderbilt-Northwestern could pull the trick. If Mark Few’s team makes the Sweet 16, it will go down against either West Virginia or Notre Dame. Granted, the Fighting Irish face a stern test against Princeton, but I think it will find a way to survive and I really like the Irish’s chances to get to a third consecutive Elite Eight. With all that said, Wisconsin is a very dangerous No. 8 seed that has tons of NCAA Tournament experience (and success) from its core group of players. By the way, how the hell are the Badgers an eight seed? I think Villanova will slip past UW, but the Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed shouldn’t have to face a team as good as the Badgers during the first weekend.

— Most Dangerous Double-Digit Seeds: Oklahoma State, VCU and Middle Tennessee.

— Teams with a No. 5 seed or lower that can get (or stay) hot and win the national title: Iowa State, Michigan, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State.