Home cooking has been much appreciated through two rounds
of the NCAA Tournament, so UCLA should be delighted to head into San Jose for a
possible ticket to the Final Four.
The Bruins kept a 21-year streak intact by eliminating
Cincinnati in a classic double-overtime struggle, 105-101. The loss meant that
at least one No. 1 seed has failed to reach the national semifinals since 1980.
As for the other three top-seeds (Duke, Kansas and
Maryland), they are part of a Sweet 16 that also includes a few Cinderellas. The
biggest surprise might be Southern Illinois, the 11-seed in the East, which
ousted Texas Tech and Georgia. The Salukis were aided by having both contests
played in Chicago, though a ÂÃ‚Âseven-hour trip from Carbondale.
Pittsburgh, the third seed in the South, played its first
two tourney games on its homecourt at the Mellon Arena. That won’t be the case
ÂÃ‚ÂFriday when the Panthers face Kent State in Lexington, Kentucky.
Kent State, the No. 10 seed, upset Oklahoma State and No. 2
seed Alabama to earn its date with Pitt. Seeing Kent in the Sweet 16 has to be
good news for bettors, who were advised manytimes that this was the best team in
the country (18-6-1) in covering point spreads during the regular season.
The most dangerous of the lower seeded teams could be
Missouri. The 12th-seeded ÂÃ‚ÂTigers played their best basketball of the season in
wins over Miami and Ohio State.
“There’s no question that teams able to play at home or
close to home had a big advantage,” said Jason Been, oddsmaker at Las Vegas
Sports Consultants. “It played a role in how we seeded certain games.”
There was much surprise around the country, mostly from
radio talk show hosts, when Texas was rated as a one-point favorite over
Mississippi State, even though the Longhorns were the lower seed.
Texas beat the No. 3-seeded Bulldogs in the Midwest.
“I think the guys here are pretty thrilled with the way
things have turned out in the tournament thus far,” Been said. “It seems to
be setting up well for the remaining No. 1 seeds. We like Maryland, Kansas and
Duke to make it to the Final Four. Duke seems to have the easiest road.”
The Blue Devils survived a major scare in the South with
their narrow win over Notre Dame. When Duke has been in distress, erratic foul
shooting has been a major reason.
“Duke is a double-digit favorite against anyone in its
region,” Been said. “They would be a bigger favorite against Kent State than
Pittsburgh in the next round.”
The West features the best matchup in the tourney thus far
when No. 2 seed Oklahoma tangles with No. 3 Arizona. Another interesting
encounter will be the Kansas-Illinois battle in the Midwest.
“That should be a heck of a game,” Been said. “I
think that will be a shootout. It could turn into a track meet. Illinois has
been a question mark all year, but is playing well now.”