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The first round of this year’s NCAA Tournament might not have been the most chaotic ever, but it was still a good couple of days for underdogs.

Favorites in Thursday’s early window of games were 1-7 ATS. They recovered to go 4-4 in the afternoon/evening contests but slipped on Friday, going 4-12*. (*UCF opened as a 1-point ’dog but was bet to -1 by tip time at most books.)

What does that bode for this weekend’s round-of-32 games? Let’s take a look at Saturday’s games.

East Region: No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 3 LSU (-2), 9:40 a.m. PT

The Tigers are 2-point favorites over a Maryland team that outlasted Belmont’s upset bid on Thursday. LSU seemed to shake off the turmoil surrounding its suspended coach, Will Wade, and held off Yale’s late comeback.

Midwest Region: No. 7 Wofford vs. No. 2 Kentucky (-5), 11:40 a.m.

The day’s most intriguing matchup features Fletcher Magee and the hot-shooting Terriers against the athletic Wildcats. Wofford handled Seton Hall — a team that beat Kentucky during the regular season — for much of the game but found themselves down with five minutes to play. The Terriers closed out the Pirates with a 17-0 run during which they connected on five straight 3’s.

West Region: No. 10 Florida vs. No. 2 Michigan (-6.5), 2:15 p.m.

The Gators had just enough defense to hold off a big rally from Nevada in Round 1. Next, its their offense that will be tested against the Wolverines and their defense, which ranks second in the nation in adjusted efficiency.

West Region: No. 12 Murray State vs. No. 4 Florida State (-4.5), 3:10 p.m.

Wofford’s Magee was one of the first round’s biggest stars. Murray State’s Ja Morant was probably the biggest of all. The soon-to-be NBA Lottery pick posted a triple double in the Racers’ easy rout of Marquette. On Saturday, 6-foot-8 Darnell Cowart could be a key against the long-and tall Seminoles.

West Region: No. 9 Baylor vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (-14), 4:10 p.m.

The Zags appeared focused when they hit the court for the first time since scoring 47 points in a loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC final. They blitzed Fairleigh Dickinson running to a 27-6 lead that they pushed to 53-17 at halftime. Baylor’s first-round win over Syracuse might have been another help; the Zags succumbed to Jim Boeheim’s zone defense in the 2016 Sweet 16.

East Region: No. 10 Minnesota vs. No. 2 Michigan State (-10), 4:45 p.m.

It’s strange to see conference rivals meet in the second round. The Big Ten was 7-1 (what happened, Wisconsin?) in Round 1. The Spartans are one of just two double-digit seeds on Saturday.

South Region: No. 6 Villanova vs. No. 3 Purdue (-3.5), 5:40 p.m.

The 3-point-crazy Wildcats, having escaped a Saint Mary’s team that excels at running shooters off the arc, might actually find the Boilermakers a better matchup.

Midwest Region: No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 4 Kansas (-2), 6:40 p.m.

Saturday will end on a high note. The Tigers, a sneaky Final Four pick in some quarters, were fortunate to get past 12th-seeded New Mexico State. Kansas, which had a somewhat forgettable regular season, found its NCAA Tournament form in a rout of Northeastern.

Best Bets: Kentucky -5 and Villanova +3.5 (but keep an eye on Morant and the Racers). 

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About the Author

Ched Whitney

Ched Whitney has been a journalist in Las Vegas since 1994. He worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal for 18 years, where he was the paper’s art director for 12. Since becoming a freelancer in 2012, his work has appeared at, AOL, The Seattle Times and UNLV Magazine, among others. ​

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