Thursday night is a key divider between teams that will eventually head to the En-Cee-Two A's and the NIT, or some of the lower alphabet postseason tournaments. I gotta' admit than my head was swimming with the known matchups before Wednesday's action, so it was tough to pare it down to just a few.
Compare the top NCAA Basketball Championship Betting Lines
My list was cut to four short-spread affairs, two in the early afternoon and two more in the evening. The quartet of quick-hit previews is followed by my free NCAA basketball pick for each one at the very end of the page, in case you like to skip to that part.
Season: 52-39-4 (+9.1)
'Cats Take On Cyclones In Crucial Big 12 Matchup
Day 2 of the Big 12 Tournament tips with a key battle between the Kansas State Wildcats and Iowa State Cyclones. ESPN2 begins its broadcast from Kansas City's Sprint Center at 12:30 PM (ET), and SBR's live college basketball odds currently show ISU as 3-3.5 point chalk. I'm projecting the total at 141-143.
Inconsistency ruled the conference schedule for Kansas State (20-11 straight up, 16-12-1 against the spread) as the Wildcats were never able to string together more than two straight conference wins. The Big 12 highway proved tough for Iowa State (23-7 SU, 12-15-1 ATS) with six of the Cyclones' seven conference losses away from Ames.
The two regular season meetings were split with each squad winning at home and Kansas State covering both tilts. The last four in this series have gone 'over.'
My pick: Kansas State +3.5
Mustangs Begin AAC March Vs. Cougars
Larry Brown has the SMU Mustangs headed to their first NCAA Tournament since 1993, and the Ponies will open AAC Tournament action against the Houston Cougars in a 1 PM (ET) contest at Memphis' FedEx Forum. The Mustangs are listed at -8.5 and I'm thinking 138 for the total once lazy oddsmakers get their act together and release one.
Houston (16-15 SU, 14-10-2 ATS) fell to SMU in both regular season meetings, dropping a 75-68 decision as 4.5 point 'dogs at home before losing 68-64 in Dallas where the Cougars were getting 14.5 from the oddsmakers.
Southern Methodist (23-8 SU, 17-10 ATS) dropped its last two regular season contests at home to Louisville and on the road at Memphis. The Mustangs lead the AAC allowing conference opponents to convert just 38.9% of their field goal attempts.
My pick: Houston - SMU Under 138
Tigers, Huskies Collide In NCAA Seeding Clash
Will the third time be the charm for the Memphis Tigers? Josh Pastner's troops hope to avoid losing a third game this season to the Connecticut Huskies when the two ranked squads tangle in a marquee evening match, tentatively set for 9 PM (ET) at FedEx Forum where the Tigers enjoy home-court advantage. Memphis backers are giving up 3-3.5 points and my guess is 143 for a total.
Memphis (23-8 SU, 16-12 ATS) will be going up against a fourth consecutive ranked foe after ending the campaign against Louisville, Cincinnati and SMU. The Tigers beat the Cardinals and Mustangs, but dropped their matchup with the Bearcats.
Connecticut (24-7 SU, 15-14 ATS) grabbed the victory and cover vs. the Tigers in Memphis in mid-January with an 83-73 decision. The Huskies then hosted Memphis on Feb. 15, pulling out an 86-81 triumph that pushed the opening 5 point line.
My pick: UConn +3.5
Big East Middlers Marquette & Xavier Slug It Out
One of the final contests on Thursday's NCAA basketball betting card takes place in the Big East as the Marquette Golden Eagles and Xavier Musketeers tangle at Madison Square Garden. FOX Sports 1 has the broadcast with the tip set for around 9:30 PM (ET), and the Musketeers held as 1 point chalk overnight; 136 is my scoreboard mark.
Xavier (20-11 SU, 17-12 ATS) won and covered the first regular meeting between the two in early-January, 86-79. Center Matt Stainbrook pulled down eight rebounds in that clash, but the Musketeers aren't expected to have him in the paint for this one as the 6-10 junior battles a knee injury.
Marquette (17-14 SU, 11-17-1 ATS) returned the favor in mid-February with an 82-71 win and cover in Milwaukee. The Musketeers committed 19 turnovers in that game while the Eagles only gave it up five times and hit 9-of-18 shots from beyond the arc.
My pick: Marquette-Xavier Over 136