The Explorers of LaSalle, playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years, won a play-in game Wednesday night, beating Boise State 80-71. For their efforts they now get a “second-round” game against the Wildcats of Kansas State Friday in Kansas City (3:10 pm ET, truTV).
Wildcats-Explorers NCAA Tournament Odds
Most books we consulted opened this game with the Wildcats favored by five points, the OVER/UNDER proffered at 132. In early action K State got bumped to -5.5 at many shops.
Going by the Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at USA Today.com the Wildcats should be favored by four points for this game.
For those bettors who think LaSalle might win this game outright, the Explorers could also played at +220 on the NCAA Basketball odds moneyline at 5Dimes.
Let's look at both of these teams and decide where the best value lies for our NCAA Basketball picks.
LaSalle had four starters back this season from a team that went 21-13 last season. But playing in a beefed-up Atlantic 10 many observers expected the Explorers to finish in the lower division of the conference standings.
But LaSalle went 10-3 through its non-conference schedule, with wins over NCAA tournament qualifiers Villanova and Iona and losses to Bucknell and Miami (Fla.). The Explorers then went 11-5 in A-10 play, beating Butler and VCU, and never losing two games in a row. LaSalle lost its regular-season finale to St. Louis, and its first game in the Atlantic 10 tournament to Butler, but still earned an NCAA at-large bid.
With their win Wednesday night the Explorers step into the 13 seed in the West.
Wednesday night in Dayton the Explorers shot a scorching 63 percent from the field in beating Boise State, winning outright as one-point dogs.
LaSalle suffered a hit a couple weeks ago, though, when 6-11 C Steve Zack, who was averaging six points and six boards per game this season, sprained his foot. He hasn't played since, and won't play Friday night. The Explorers are 2-2 both SU and ATS since Zack went down.
On the other side of this match-up Kansas State returned four starters this season from a team that went 22-11 last year. For their first season under new head coach Bruce Webber many “experts” gave K State a shot to contend for the Big 12 crown. And by gosh, the 'Cats lived up to those expectations, forging a tie for first place with rival Kansas by going 14-4 in Big 12 play. However, K State lost both its regular-season games vs. the Jayhawks.
The Wildcats then got to the Big 12 tournament title game, where they lost to Kansas again, by a score of 70-54.
Take KU off the schedule and K State is 27-4 this season.
On the season the Wildcats own victories over Florida, Oklahoma State, two over Oklahoma, Iowa State and Oklahoma State. And each of K State's seven losses have come against teams that made the NCAA tournament, namely Michigan, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and, of course, fucking Kansas.
Wildcats-Explorers, By the Numbers
Playing its four-guard attack LaSalle is shooting 45 percent from the floor this season, 38 percent from 3-point range and 74 percent from the FT line.
Kansas State is shooting 43 percent from the floor, 36 percent from long range and 69 percent from the line.
Defensively the Wildcats are holding opponents to just under 43 percent FG shooting, while the Explorers are allowing foes to shoot almost 46 percent. Also, while K State is out-rebounding opponents by about three boards per game, LaSalle is getting out-rebounded by three per game.
And since Zack went down and out the Explorers have allowed opponents to shoot almost 53 percent from the floor, and they've been out-rebounded in each of their last four games by an average of more than 10 per game. Ouch.
Let SBR be your 2013 NCAA Tournament betting headquarters.
Wildcats-Explorers Betting Trends
K State is 13-12 on the totals this season, even though Wildcats games have averaged only 129 points.
LaSalle is 11-10 on the totals, as Explorers games have averaged 139 points.
Last year teams that won the four NCAA tournament play-in games went 1-3 SU and 2-2 ATS in their next games.
Free NCAA Tournament Pick
At first glance we were leaning toward underdog LaSalle for this game, but after doing a little homework we've reversed our thinking, because the Explorers have had such troubles on the defensive end, especially without Zack.
Free NCAA Basketball Picks: Take K State at the -5.5 points offered at 5Dimes.