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NCAAB-March Madness-Sweet 16 games preview

West Region Semifinal (Anaheim, CA)
No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 2 Michigan (CBS, 9:39 PM EST)

Opening Odds: Michigan -2, 126

— Texas Tech (28-6 SU, 17-16 ATS) has been on fire against the number after some mid-season difficulties which saw them go on a three-game losing streak from Jan. 16-22, and through a stretch where the Red Raiders went 2-11-1 against the spread (ATS) in a 14-game stretch from Dec. 1 through Feb. 2. Since taking it on the chin in Lawrence against Kansas on Groundhog Dog, the Red Raiders are 11-1 SU/10-2 ATS, including 2-0 ATS so far during the Big Dance.

— The Red Raiders powered past Northern Kentucky in the opening round by a 72-57 count, cashing as 13-point favorite. Jarrett Culver dropped in 29 points (10-for-17 FG, 3-5 3PT, 6-for-10 FT), while Tariq Owens added 12 and David Moretti went for 10 points and five boards.

— Texas Tech then proceeded to thump a very good Buffalo side, a MAC team which spent a majority of the season in The AP Top 25. That game was a much more balanced effort, as five players were in double figures for the Red Raiders. Culver continues to improve his NBA stock, posting 16 point sand 10 rebounds with three blocked shots over 32 minutes in that one. Norense Odianse came up with with 14 points and 15 rebounds, too, setting a school record for boards in an NCAA Tournament game while also posting a personal best in scoring.

— The only thing that didn’t go well for Texas Tech in the game vs. Buffalo was their perimeter shooting, a dismal 5-for-16 (31.2 percent), and 19-for-25 (76.0 percent) from the free-throw stripe. Those numbers need to be markedly better to topple Michigan.

Things are trending in the right direction for Texas Tech against the number. They’re 10-2 ATS in the past 12 overall, and 4-1 ATS in the past five NCAA Tournament contests. They’re also 4-0 ATS in the past four matchups against Big Ten sides, while cashing in eight consecutive games against teams with a winning overal mark.

— The ‘under’ has hit in both NCAA Tournament games for TTU, and is 9-3 across their past 12 tourney games overall. The under is also 6-2 in their past eight neutral-site games, while going 45-21-1 in the past 67 non-conference tilts.

— Overall, Texas Tech ranks third in the country in scoring defense, yielding just 59.2 points per game (PPG). It will be all hands on deck for Chris Beard’s bunch trying to sack a Big Ten team in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. They dispatched Purdue a season ago.

— Michigan (30-6 SU, 21-15 ATS) has won their first two NCAA Tournament games by an average of 17.0 PPG, topping Montana 74-55 in the opener, and beating Florida 64-49 in a defensive battle. You can expect a much closer contest in this one.

— The Red Raiders are known for their defense, but the Wolverines aren’t too bad, either. In fact, they were No. 2 team in the nation, just one spot ahead of Texas Tech. They held Montana to 20-for-60 (33.3 percent) shooting in the first game. On offense, Charles Matthews dropped in 22 points while posting a double-double with 10 rebounds. Zavier Simpson was able to dish out 10 assists in that one, and every starter recorded at least one steal. Oddly enough, Michigan managed just one blocked shot against the undersized Griz.

— Ignas Brazdeikis wasn’t a huge factor in each of the two games, averaging just 4.5 PPG. He was a dismal 2-for-8 shooting, including 1-for-4 from behind the arc. Jordan Poole stepped up his game with 19 points, while Matthews had another respectable game with nine points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots. The Wolverines were much better from downtown, hitting 7-for-21 (33.3 percent), while shooting 42.1 percent from the floor overall. They locked down Florida’s offense, limiting them to 34.5 percent shooting. That will be the biggest key, if they can shut down Culver and make someone else beat them.

— Michigan enters 4-1-1 ATS over the past six NCAA Tournament outings, while cashing in nine of their past 12 against Big 12 opponents. They’re also an impressive 36-15-2 ATS in the past 53 against teams with a winning overall record and 42-19-4 ATS in the past 65 outings played on a neutral floor.

— The ‘under’ is 4-1 for Michigan across the past five, while going 5-1 in the past six neutral-site battles. The under is also 4-1 in their past five games played in the Big Dance.

South Region Semifinal (Louisville, KY)
No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 1 Virginia (TBS, 9:59 PM EST)

Opening Odds: Virginia -8½, 119½

— Oregon (25-12 SU, 22-15 ATS) looked dead in the water after three consecutive losses from Feb. 16-23, including a 17-point drubbing from USC and a seven-point loss against a very poor UCLA side. The Ducks sat just 15-12, and it was looking dubious that they would garner attention from the NIT, let alone an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Things changed in the Pac-12 Tournament, as they were on a four-day run to take the title and punch their ticket.

— They have routed two very good teams to set up a date with the No. 1 seed Cavaliers, pounding Wisconsin 72-54 while taking care of a 30-win UC Irvine team last round.

— Payton Pritchard registered a game-high 19 points against Wisconsin while adding eight assists, two steals and two 3-pointers. It wasn’t all good, as he turned the ball over seven times, while the rest of his team committed just four turnovers. He’ll need to curb that if the Ducks wish to upend the Hoos. Louis King was 6-for-10 from the floor, posting 17 points, while Paul White added 14. 

— In the Irvine game, Pritchard did cut his turnovers down to just one, while adding 18 points and seven assists while dropping in two more triples. King, unfazed by some name changes from the Anteaters coach, chimed in with 16 points, four boards and just one turnovers while raining in four triples. Kenny Wooten provided the tertiary scoring with 11 points and eight rebounds. Ehab Amin was huge off the pine, hitting 4-for-4 from downtown to end up with 12 points in 26 minutes. The Ducks were a blistering 13-for-25 (52.0 percent) on treys, and they’ll likely need to be just as hot to send the No. 1 seed packing.

— Oregon is 4-0-1 ATS in the past five NCAA Tournament games, 7-0 ATS in the past seven neutral-site battles and 6-2 ATS in the past eight outside of conference. They’re also 10-1 ATS in the past 11 overall, and 8-0 ATS in the past eight against teams with a winning record.

— It’s all about the under for the Ducks lately. The under is 15-5-1 in the past 21 overall, while going 6-2-1 in the past nine non-conference battles. The under is also 7-3-1 in the past 11 neutral-site battles.

— Virginia (31-3 SU, 24-10 ATS) is the only No. 1 seed to ever fall to a No. 16 in the NCAA Tournament, as UMBC stunned them last year. They’re probably sick of hearing it. They slipped behind Gardner-Webb at halftime in their first game, and the murmurs were starting again. However, since that second half against the Bulldogs, UVA has been playing like a No. 1 seed.

— Virgina ended up pounding Gardner-Webb 71-56, led by De’Andre Hunter’s 23 points. He was an efficient 9-for-16 from the field, and UVA shot 51.9 percent overall from the floor in the opening game. Mamadi Diakite was good for 17 points and nine rebounds, and he too was very efficient, going 8-for-10 from the floor. Ty Jerome filled up the stat sheet with 13 points, six assists, three rebounds and three steals while dropping in two triples, too. Kyle Guy struggled with just 2-for-8 shooting, but he wasn’t needed.

— Guy was even worse in the Oklahoma game, going 2-for-15 from the field, including 0-for-10 from behind the arc, ending up with just four points. However, he did have a nice behind the back pass to make the highlight reel. Diakite, Jerome and Hunter each picked him up, posting 10 or more points, and Diakite again missed just two field goals while adding three blocked shots. Jerome had sticky fingers, too, posting three thefts while Hunter and Jerome each posted a pair of 3-pointers.

— UVA enters the game 1-5 ATS in the past six NCAA Tournament battles, but they’re 13-6 ATS in the past 19 against winning teams and 4-1 ATS in the past five non-conference tilts.

— The under has been the rule for Virginia lately, going 4-1 in their past five neutral-site battles, 6-1 in their past seven outside of the conference and 4-0 in the past four against the Pac-12.

— Will the No. 1 seed march on, or will Oregon assume the role of Cinderella and head to the Elite Eight? It’s an interesting game to say the least. These teams last met Dec. 18, 2011, and it was Virginia coming away with a 13-point wn, although not much can be gleaned from that result for this current battle.

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