Friday's Play

Mar 26, 2010 4:47 PM

NCAA college basketball tournament:

Northern Iowa vs. Michigan State PK: This game opened with the Spartans a 2-point favorite, but the Panthers, with their win over Kansas to get here, have captured the fancy of bettors. They’re a solid team, but as we saw last night, this stage of the tournament is often the rude awakening for Cinderella hopefuls (note Washington, Cornell and Xavier losses). Michigan State, despite losing floor leader Kalin Lucas, is experienced and probably better coached. Remember, this team was playing for the national championship this time last year. And every four-year player for Tom Izzo has gone to the Final Four. This should be a low scoring, deliberate game, but the Spartans are used to that pace from the Big 10 and they should move on. Michigan State PK 

Ohio State -5 vs. Tennessee: For a team that knocked off Kentucky and Kansas during the regular season, Tennessee isn’t getting much betting respect. Of course, Ohio State features the national player of the year, Evan Turner, but, as we’ve seen so far in the tournament, if teams can stop or slow down an opponent’s dominant star, they have a good chance of winning. That will be Tennessee’s task tonight. And their defense has been up to the task this season – the Wildcats rank seventh nationally in defensive efficiency, and they’ve been particularly effective on the perimeter. Tennessee is also deeper than Ohio State, which may not play more than seven players, but the fatigue factor would be more of a concern on Sunday than tonight. Nonetheless, giving 5 points is too generous for a squad that is a Final Four contender. Tennessee +5 

Baylor -4½ vs. St. Mary’s: This could be another spot where Cinderella’s coach turns into a pumpkin. St. Mary’s has had a great run, knocking off Richmond and Villanova, but they’re in deep against a very athletic Baylor squad. The Bears won’t be dominated in the paint by Omar Samhan, who had his way with the Gaels’ first two opponents. Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh can handle Samhan, but the Bears will also throw a couple of power forwards into the mix and control the box under the hoop. With so much attention on Samhan, St. Mary’s guards have had open lanes in which to drive the basket, but Baylor is athletic enough to clog the middle. The game will probably come down to St. Mary’s ability to make its 3-point shots. As we saw with Xavier last night, the 3-pointer can keep you in the game, but when they don’t fall you’re done. St. Mary’s may just pull it off, and in the process become the only double digit seed to advance. St. Mary’s +4½

Purdue vs. Duke -8½: With the loss of Robbie Hummel, Purdue was expected to get bounced early from the tournament. But they had a nice draw, facing Siena and Texas A&M, needing overtime to get past the Aggies. Duke is trying to erase the stigma of not advancing to the Elite Eight since 2004, even though they were granted two No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds in that span. Moreover, they haven’t beaten a seed higher than No. 5 since 2001 and, remember, Purdue is a No. 4 seed. The Blue Devils appear to have the more talented squad at this point; they can score and play solid defense, especially on the perimeter. Purdue will try to slow the game down, but eventually Duke will break it open and pull away. Duke -8