First Four: Radford, UCLA Are Picks to Advance from Tuesday’s Matchups

Matthew Jordan

Sunday, March 11, 2018 11:32 PM UTC

Sunday, Mar. 11, 2018 11:32 PM UTC

Let the Dancing begin! The First Four matchups Tuesday from Dayton feature 16 seeds LIU Brooklyn and Radford in the first game and 11 seeds St. Bonaventure and UCLA in the nightcap.

No. 16 LIU Brooklyn (18-16, 3-4 ATS) vs. No. 16 Radford (22-12, 5-4 ATS)Free NCAAB Pick: RadfordBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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LIU Brooklyn finished tied for fourth in the Northeast Conference regular-season standings but upset top-seeded Wagner 71-61 in the conference title game last Tuesday. It’s the seventh all-time NCAA Tournament appearance for the Blackbirds and first since 2013. That year they were also a No. 16 and lost to James Madison in the First Four, 68-55.

The Blackbirds have never won a game in the Big Dance and probably are the worst team in the 2018 field. The team’s best players are senior guard Joel Hernandez (20.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and junior guard Raiquan Clark (17.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg). Hernandez, who was named NEC Tournament MVP, finished with 32 points and seven rebounds in the upset of Wagner, while Clark had 20 points and eight rebounds LIU Brooklyn didn’t play a single power conference school all season.

Radford finished second in the Big South but knocked off Liberty in the conference title game March 4, 55-52 on a Carlik Jones buzzer-beater. The redshirt freshman was named tournament MVP, averaging 14.0 points in the three games. The Highlanders, in their seventh season under coach Mike Jones, were picked to finish seventh in the preseason Big South poll. They are dancing for the first time since 2009 and third time ever. Radford also is winless in the NCAA Tournament.

Radford is a poor offensive team (67.4 ppg) but excellent defensively (64.4 ppg). It played three power conference schools, losing at Ohio State (82-72), at Vanderbilt (74-62) and at Virginia Tech (95-68).

The winner of this game has the privilege of losing to East No. 1 seed Villanova on Thursday in Pittsburgh. I don’t pretend to know a heck of a lot about these two schools, but Ken Pomeroy has Radford 170th in his rankings and LIU Brooklyn at 251st. lists the Big South 25th on its conference RPI and the Northeast 28th. So, we’ll roll with Radford for a Tuesday NCAAB pick.

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Senior Matt Mobley made #Bonnies history yesterday by draining trey No. 1⃣0⃣2⃣ on the season - the most of any player in program history. He passes Chris Matthews who drilled 101 3s in 2009-10 👌🏿👌🏿

— Bonnies MBB (@BonniesMBB) March 11, 2018

No. 11 St. Bonaventure (25-7, 15-14 ATS) vs. No. 11 UCLA (21-11, 16-16 ATS)Free NCAAB Pick: UCLABest Line Offered: Bookmaker

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Obviously, these were two of the last four in along with Arizona State and Syracuse. St. Bonaventure finished second to Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 and was knocked off in the A-10 Tournament semifinals by Davidson, which went on to win the tournament. That ended St. Bonaventure’s 13-game winning streak.

The Bonnies have an RPI of 23 with quality wins over Buffalo (Mid-American Conference champion), Syracuse and Rhode Island. They also have one of the nation’s better backcourts in seniors Jaylen Adams (19.8 ppg, 47 percent from the 3-point line) and Matt Mobley (18.5 ppg). It’s the seventh all-time trip to the Big Dance for the Bonnies and first since 2012. They haven’t won a game in it since reaching the 1970 Final Four and losing to Jacksonville – which then lost to UCLA in the final.

UCLA has an RPI of 35 with Top 50 wins over Kentucky, USC (twice) and Arizona. The Bruins finished tied for third in the Pac-12 and lost in the conference tournament semifinals to Arizona in overtime -- UCLA didn’t score a point in the OT. The Bruins’ star is junior guard Aaron Holiday, who led the Pac-12 in scoring at 20.3 ppg and was second in assists (5.8 apg). UCLA will have a sizable height advantage here, specifically in 7-foot center Thomas Welsh, who was second in the conference in rebounding (10.7 rpg).

It’s the 49th NCAA Tournament trip for UCLA, which of course leads all schools with 11 titles. Last year, the Bruins – led by Lonzo Ball -- made it to the regional semifinals and lost to Kentucky,

The winner faces East Region No. 6 Florida on Thursday in Dallas.

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