High/Low Picks For Thursday, March 9

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 7:22 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 8, 2017 7:22 PM UTC

The biggest opening spread on the NCAA basketball board for Thursday was a WAC Tournament game between New Mexico State and Chicago State, while the smallest number was an SEC game featuring Tennessee and Georgia. Here are my picks.

Chicago State Vs. New Mexico State (-19.5)

It’s a WAC Tournament first-round game from Las Vegas. I’m not sure why Chicago State (as in the city in Illinois) is in the Western Athletic Conference, but it is what it is. The Cougars (6-25) are not good, finishing last in the WAC at 1-13. Their lone conference victory on Jan. 12 at Utah Valley. Three of Chicago State’s non-conference wins were over non-Division I schools Illinois Tech, East-West University and Roosevelt. I do this for a living, and I’ve never heard of those last two schools. Chicago State enters this one on a 10-game losing streak. Its best player is sophomore swingman Fred Sims Jr., who was named second-team All-WAC. Sims is averaging 18.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.

New Mexico State (25-5, 11-3) is the No. 2 seed, finishing a game behind regular-season champion CSU Bakersfield, which got a bye to the WAC semifinals. NMSU is usually a good program, reaching 22 NCAA Tournaments, last in 2015. The Aggies closed the regular season with home blowouts of Seattle and UT Rio Grande Valley. Senior guard Ian Baker was named WAC Player of the Year after averaging 16.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists. The school has produced three of the past four WAC Players of the Year. Last year it was Pascal Siakam, who was a first-round pick by the Toronto Raptors.

New Mexico State was 2-0 vs. Chicago State this year, winning 78-62 on the road and 86-51 at home. The latter was NMSU’s 20th straight victory but it has since gone 3-3.

NCAAB Free Pick: New Mexico State -19.5Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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Tennessee Vs. Georgia (-1)

SEC Tournament second-round game from Nashville and the winner gets the unenviable task of facing No. 1 Kentucky, although the Vols beat UK this season and the Dawgs played Kentucky tough. Georgia (18-13, 9-9) is the No. 8 seed and its only shot at the Big Dance is likely to win this tournament. There were reports this week that Georgia was expected to fire Coach Mark Fox, but the school denied it was exploring replacement options. Usually where there’s smoke there’s fire. Fox has guided UGA to the NCAA tournament only twice in his eight seasons. The Bulldogs lost a lot of close games this year but might get back their best player in Yante Maten here. The forward has missed UGA’s past four games with a sprained knee, but according to a tweet from Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the 6-foot-8 junior was back at practice Wednesday. Fox and Maten both said after the practice that he’s expected to play on Thursday. Maten was voted second-team All-SEC, averaging 18.7 ppg and 6.9 rpg.

Ninth-seeded Tennessee (16-15, 8-10) lost five of seven to close the regular season but did beat visiting Alabama 59-54 on Saturday. Impressive considering UT trailed 40-24 at one point. The 16-point comeback was Tennessee’s biggest of the season. Vols guard Jordan Bone was held out of the starting lineup and played just three minutes. The freshman had made 17 starts. Coach Rick Barnes said it was for defensive purposes. Tennessee has already played a game in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena this season, falling to Gonzaga, 86-76, in December.

Georgia beat Tennessee 76-75 in Knoxville on Feb. 11. J.J. Frazier led the Dawgs out of a 14-point second-half deficit with 20 of his 29 points after halftime. Freshman Grant Williams had a career-high 30 for the Vols.

NCAAB Free Pick: Georgia -1Best Line Offered: SportsBetting

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