Jacksonville State vs Louisville - Midwest Region, First Round

Jay Pryce

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 3:41 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 15, 2017 3:41 PM UTC

For its first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament, the committee welcomes No. 15 Jacksonville St. with a date against 2-seed Louisville at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday (2:45 p.m. ET). The Cardinals opened as 20-point favorites. Good luck Gamecocks!

  Jacksonville State vs Louisville

MidWest Region, 1st Round 
Friday, March 17 - 2:45 pm E.T


Coaches know best, right? If Rick Pitino’s declarations mean anything, Louisville (24-8 SU, 18-12 ATS) is primed and ready for a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Following the Cardinals’ 81-77 loss to Duke in the ACC championship quarterfinals, the legendary leader claimed his bunch had a “great season—not a good season, a great season” and in “the last 10 days or so…made great strides.” Younger starters matured immensely down the stretch, led by sophomore Deng Adel. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 16.5 points and 4.7 rebounds over the past four games. Defense, though, always carries the day for Louisville. It ranks sixth in adjusted efficiency per Kenpom.

This is Jacksonville State’s first NCAA tournament bid, despite picked by the media in the preseason to finish last in the Ohio Valley Conference. The program is one of the most improved in the country under new head coach Ray Harper, formerly of Western Kentucky. The ‘Cocks went 8-23 last season. They won the OVC tournament this year, going 21-14 SU and 18-12 ATS overall.

Jacksonville State’s -2.6 average turnover margin was the worst in the OVC. Makes one wonder how it will handle Louisville’s pressure and superior athleticism. The Gamecocks, though, have proven successful in the betting market against good takeaway teams. Versus those forcing more than 13 turnovers per game, they are 10-4 ATS. Jacksonville State is also attractive as a side bet due to its pace. It owns a 329 tempo rating on Kempom, drawing out possessions until the final seconds. This is appealing with a 20-point spread no matter how big a mismatch where time will be the market’s most influential enemy.

Louisville is also 0-5 ATS, losing to the number by 9.2 points per game, when facing a foe averaging fewer than 56.5 field goal attempts per contest. The Gamecocks put it up a paltry 53.5 times per tilt. Pitino has shown a penchant to speed up play up against slow teams like Virginia in an effort to pull them out of their comfort zones. However, Louisville will have no problem winning this game, and may welcome the sloth-like pace with a run of games ahead. Jacksonville State +20.5 is the free pick.

Free NCAA Basketball Picks: Jacksonville State +20.5Best Line Offered: at JustBet

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