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NCAAB-March Madness 2018-Wednesday previews

**Western Kentucky at Oklahoma State**

— As of early this morning, most betting shops had Oklahoma State (21-14 straight up, 16-16 against the spread) installed as a 4.5-point favorite with a total of 148.5. The Hilltoppers were +175 on the money line (risk $100 to win $175).

— OSU has compiled a 15-5 SU record and an 8-9 ATS mark in 20 home games this season. The Cowboys are 1-4 ATS with two outright losses in five games as single-digit home ‘chalk.’ In fact, their lone cover as single-digit home favorites came in miraculous fashion, as they took the cash in a 96-87 victory over Iowa St. in overtime as 7.5-point favorites.

— Mike Boynton’s team has advanced to the NIT quarterfinals with a pair of home wins over Florida Gulf Coast and Stanford. Oklahoma State covered the number on March 13 in an 80-68 win over FGCU as an 11-point favorite. Jeffrey Carroll led the way with 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals thanks to 12-of-13 shooting from the free-throw line. Mitchell Solomon added 13 points and nine boards, while Tavarius Shine finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.

— In Monday’s non-covering 71-65 home win over Stanford as an eight-point favorite, OSU trailed by five going into the fourth quarter. The Cowboys briefly went ahead of the number with a 10-point lead with 3:07 remaining and made a pair of FTs for an eight-point advantage with 14 ticks left. But Stanford got a garbage bucket on its final possession to garner the spread cover. I was on the ‘under’ (154.5 points), which was an easy winner with merely 136 combined points. Carroll was the catalyst once again, dropping 26 points on the Cardinal by draining 5-of-7 launches from 3-point range. Carroll also had seven rebounds, one blocked shot and three assists compared to just one turnover. Kendall Smith added 19 points, knocking down 3-of-5 treys. Solomon was also in double figures (10 points and six rebounds) despite being limited to 19 minutes of playing time before fouling out.

— Carroll, the senior slasher, hasn’t been able to duplicate his numbers from his junior campaign when he averaged 17.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, and shot at a 53.7 percent clip from the field, 44.4 percent from 3-point land and 80.7 percent at the FT line. Nevertheless, Carroll is OSU’s leading scorer (15.6 points per game) and averages 6.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists per game. However, his shooting percentages have dipped to 41.1 percent from the field, 33.5 percent form downtown and 77.4 percent from the charity stripe. Smith (12.9 PPG) has a team-high 99 assists and has buried 39.3 percent of his 3-balls. Solomon (8.5 PPG) averages team-bests in rebounding (6.5 RPG), field-goal percentage (54.3%) and blocked shots (1.0 BPG).

— Western Kentucky (26-10 SU, 22-12 ATS) owns an 8-5 record both SU and ATS in 13 true road assignments. The Hilltoppers are 3-1 ATS with a pair of outright victories in four games as road underdogs. However, we should also note their 3-0 spread record with two outright wins when they were double-digit ‘dogs in the span of three days at the Battle 4 Atlantis down in the Bahamas during the Thanksgiving holidays. That’s when WKU beat SMU (+10) and Purdue (+19), in addition to covering in a 66-58 loss to Villanova as a 22-point ‘dog.

Rick Stansbury’s team has bounced back from a pair of lopsided defeats to close the regular season with a 4-1 record both SU and ATS in its past five games. First, Western Kentucky advanced to the finals of the Conference USA Tournament before dropping a 67-66 heartbreaker to Marshall. Since then, the Hilltoppers have posted a home win over Boston College and won at USC to make tonight’s NIT quarterfinals.

— On March 13, Western Kentucky captured a 79-62 win over BC as a four-point home ‘chalk.’ After trailing by five at the end of the first quarter, Stansbury’s club went on a 40-20 run to take a 15-point advantage into the final stanza. Justin Johnson led a balanced scoring attack with 19 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots. Taveion Hollingsworth added 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals, hitting 3-of-6 attempts from 3-point range. Darius Thompson finished with 17 points, eight assists and six boards.

— Western Kentucky went into Galen Center in Los Angeles on Monday night and won a 79-75 decision over the Trojans as a 4.5-point underdog. Johnson made 8-of-14 FGAs, scored a game-high 23 points and snagged seven rebounds for the winners. Dwight Coleby contributed 13 points and seven boards, while Lamonte Bearden finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

— Johnson leads the ‘Tops in scoring (15.6 PPG) and rebounding (9.6 RPG) while hitting 51.8 percent of his FGAs and 42.7 percent of his 3-balls. Thompson (13.9 PPG) has a 174/65 assist-to-turnover ratio and has drained 35.8 percent of his 3-pointers. Hollingsworth (13.0 PPG), Bearden (11.6 PPG) and Coleby (10.9 PPG) are also scoring in double figures, with Bearden producing 122 assists and a team-high 62 steals.

— Although the ‘under’ is 3-1 in its past four games, the ‘over’ maintains an 8-4 record for the ‘Tops in their last 12 contests. For the season, they’ve seen — The ‘under’ is 6-0-1 for the Cowboys in their last seven games. They’ve watched the ‘under’ go 21-10-1 overall, 13-4 in their home outings.

— Tip-off on ESPN2 is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

**Utah at Saint Mary’s**

— As of early this morning, most books had Saint Mary’s (30-5 SU, 13-17 ATS) listed as a six-point favorite with a total of 140.5. The Utes were +230 on the money line (risk $100 to win $230).

— Saint Mary’s has won 18 of its 19 home games, with the only loss coming to Gonzaga, but it is just 6-8 ATS. The Gaels are 2-1 both SU and ATS in three games as single-digit home ‘chalk.’

— Randy Bennett’s club probably would’ve been safely in the NCAA Tournament field if not for a Feb. 15 loss at San Francisco as an 8.5-point road favorite. Even with that defeat, Saint Mary’s might’ve inched into the field had it made the WCC Tournament finals. However, that wasn’t to be as BYU pulled an 85-72 upset in the semifinals as a 5.5-point underdog. Don’t feel pity for Bennett and Co., however, as it chose to play a soft non-conference schedule. In fact, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports reported on Selection Sunday that Rhode Island offered the Gaels a home-and-home contract and was willing to play at Saint Mary’s to start the series this year.

— Saint Mary’s cruised to an 89-45 win over Southeastern Louisiana as a 14.5-point home favorite in its NIT opener. Jock Landale stole the show with 26 points and six rebounds on 11-of-15 makes from the field. Jordan Ford added 19 points, five rebounds, three steals and four assists without a turnover, while Calvin Hermanson contributed 17 points thanks to five treys on nine attempts.

— Saint Mary’s advanced to the quarterfinals but failed to cover the number in Monday’s 85-81 win over Washington as a 10.5-point home ‘chalk.’ The Gaels led by 14 going into the fourth quarter, but the Huskies twice cut the deficit to three in the final 79 seconds. They nonetheless prevailed thanks to 14-of-16 shooting at the FT line. Ford scored 26 points to lead five double-figure scorers. Evan Fitzner had 20 points and six rebounds, while Landale finished with 14 points and six boards.

— Landale paces the Gaels in scoring (21.3 PPG), rebounding (10.0 RPG), FG percentage (64.2%) and blocked shots (1.0 BPG). Emmett Naar is second in the nation in assists (8.0 APG) behind only Oklahoma’s Trae Young. Naar (9.7 PPG) has a stellar 280/100 assist-to-turnover ratio, has made 40.7 percent of his 3-pointers and has knocked down 85.7 percent of his FTAs. Hermanson (11.3 PPG) and Ford (11.1 PPG) are the team’s best 3-point shooters who are making 44.9 and 44.5 percent of their treys, respectively.

— Utah (21-11 SU, 16-11 ATS) owns a 5-6 record both SU and ATS in 11 true road games this year. The Utes are 3-5 ATS with two outright wins in eight games as road underdogs.

— Utah won the NIT in 1947 and finished as the runner-up in 1974, the same year Norm Sloan’s North Carolina St. team led by David Thompson and Monte Towe won the NCAA Tournament. The Utes are gunning for their first trip to NYC and the semifinals since 1992. They had been eliminated in the first round in 2001, ’14 and ’17 before this year’s trip to the quarterfinals.

— Utah won six of its last seven regular-season games but any hopes of an at-large NCAA Tournament bid were dashed by Oregon in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. The Ducks won a 68-66 decision over the Utes as two-point favorites.

— Utah goes on the road tonight after winning its first two NIT games at home. First, it rallied past UC Davis for a 69-59 win but came up just short of covering the number as a 12.5-point home ‘chalk.’ Justin Bibbins led the way with 21 points and six rebounds, while Donnie Tillman and Tyler Rawson added 11 points apiece. Rawson had nine rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block, while Tillman finished with five rebounds and two assists without a turnover.

— Utah absolutely smashed LSU from start to finish in Monday’s 95-71 triumph as a five-point home favorite. The Utes raced out to a 30-11 lead going into the second quarter and coasted into the winner’s circle. All five starters scored in double figures led by Sedrick Barefield’s 17 points. Bibbins had 16 points and five assists, hitting 4-of-7 launches from long distance. Rawson finished with 12 points, seven boards and five assists without a turnover.

— The ‘under’ is on a 4-1 run for Utah to improve to 18-11-1 overall. The ‘under’ has cashed at a 6-5 clip for the Utes in their road outings.

— The ‘under’ has been a monster money maker in Saint Mary’s games this season, going 22-8-1 overall and 13-2 in its home contests.

— ESPN2 will have the telecast at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

— Mississippi State outscored Louisville in all four quarters and coasted to an easy 79-56 win in front of 10,718 at KFC Yum! Center last night. The Bulldogs, who led by as many as 27 points and advanced to the NIT semifinals in New York City next week, won outright as six-point underdogs and hooked up money-line supporters with a +225 return (paid $225 on $100 wagers). Quinndary Weatherspoon led the way with 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Aric Holman added 16 points, eight boards and a pair of blocked shots. Nick Weatherspoon and Xavian Stapleton chipped in 12 points apiece.

— Mississippi State will collide with Penn State at Madison Square Garden this coming Tuesday. Lamar Stevens matched his career high last night with 30 points to lead the Nittany Lions to an 85-80 win at Marquette as 2.5-point underdogs. PSU closed at +125 on the money line. Tony Carr added 25 points for the winners, while Shep Garner scored 19 points and set a PSU record for most made 3-pointers in a season (112). In his final collegiate game for the Golden Eagles, Andrew Rowsey scored a team-best 29 points. Marquette’s season ends with a 21-14 record.

— West Virginia didn’t fly back to Morgantown from San Diego until Monday morning after beating up on in-state rival Marshall late Sunday night. With Winter Storm Toby bearing down and expected to bring heavy snow and hail to the New England area on Thursday, WVU will leave for Boston today, one day before its scheduled Thursday departure ahead of Friday night’s East Region semifinal against top-seeded Villanova.

— Texas center Mo Bamba and Oklahoma star Trae Young both announced their intentions to enter the NBA Draft on Tuesday. Both freshmen will sign with an agent and be lottery picks.

— After Saturday night’s gut-wrenching loss to Texas Tech in front of a raucous crowd of Red Raider supporters at American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Florida loses seniors Chris Chiozza and Egor Koulechov. From an alum of UF, I want to personally salute Chiozza for a sensational collegiate career. He is UF’s all-time assists leader and with apologies to Mike Miller (circa 2000 with his buzzer-beating layup to beat Butler in the opening round at Lawrence-Joel Coliseum in Winston Salem), provided Gator fans with the most epic game-winning shot in program history at MSG in NYC to beat Wisconsin in overtime last year to advance to the East Region finals. Jalen Hudson has another year of eligibility but may test the NBA waters. Hudson is currently listed as the No. 52 overall picks to the Chicago Bulls in the second round of the latest mock at nbadraft.net. Hudson isn’t ready to defend at an NBA level yet, but he’s what many like to call a “professional scorer.”

— The same website’s 2019 mock draft includes three current high school seniors who have signed with Duke and compose the first four picks.

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