Four teams are in a New York state of mind this week as the East Region of the 2014 Men's Basketball Tournament comes to the Big Apple, but truth be told, all four have their sights set on Texas.
Top-seeded Virginia will try to punch its first ticket to the Final Four in 30 years, and the Cavaliers are 8/1 on the NCAA basketball futures odds to win their first-ever championship. Not bad odds, but not the best as Michigan State checks in at 9/2 to win it all s the Spartans play the role of chalk to advance to the Final Four in Arlington, Texas.
Rounding out the region are a pair of squads intent on upsetting the plans of both the Cavs and Spartans, Iowa State and Connecticut who are both 20/1 choices to cut down the final nets.
No. 1 Cavs Last From
ACC Still Alive
Tony Bennett and Virginia (30-6 straight up, 20-11-1 against the spread) have been defying the odds all season, and they've done it again as the only representative from the Atlantic Coast Conference remaining in the field.
The Cavaliers appeared to be on the verge of becoming the first 1-seed to lose to a No. 16 in their tournament opener vs. Coastal Carolina. Down by as many as 10 in the first half Friday in Raleigh, UVa needed to rally past the Chanticleers for the 70-59 win as 19.5 point chalk.
Virginia followed that up by coming out strong in Sunday's clash with Memphis., taking a 15-point lead into halftime en route to a 78-60 win and cover vs. the Tigers. The final had room to spare to skip past a 128 point total, the third straight 'over' for Cav bettors.
No. 4 Spartans Ride
5-Game Win Streak To MSG
Could things come full circle for Tom Izzo and Michigan State (28-8 SU, 21-13-1 ATS)? Ranked No. 2 in the preseason and sitting atop the polls for three weeks earlier this season, the Spartans are playing their best basketball since mid-January en route to their 18th Sweet 16 appearance (3rd straight).
State was looking a bit iffy late in the regular season, then breezed through the conference tourney with three straight wins and covers to give the Spartans five consecutive covers going into March Madness. They haven't beaten the closing college basketball odds in the NCAA Tournament yet while advancing past No. 13 seed Delaware and No. 12 seed Harvard.
Izzo's group had a 16-point lead a few minutes into the second half vs. the Crimson, and nearly blew it. Harvard managed to move out in front around the 7-minute mark to wake the Spartans up, Gary Harris' 3-pointer really serving as the coup de gras.
No. 3 Cyclones
Survive UNC Despite Missing Niang
Iowa State (28-7 SU, 17-15-1 ATS) reaches the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000, doing so with one of its star players on the bench for Sunday's Round of 32 upset of North Carolina.
Fred Hoiberg's squad was minus Georges Niang in the 85-83 decision over the Tar Heels, but it didn't matter. DeAndre Kane led five Cyclones in double-figures with 24 points, added 10 rebounds and scored the game winner with less than two seconds left to give ISU its sixth straight win and cover. All six victories have come against teams that made it to the Big Dance.
No. 7 Huskies
Conjuring Up Visions If 2010
Comparisons of Shabazz Napier and Kemba Walker have been made for several seasons, and they're going to continue for at least one more game as Connecticut (28-8 SU,19-15 ATS) heads to Madison Square Garden. Kevin Ollie's squad has been on this floor already this season when the Huskies won the 2K Sports Classic just before Thanksgiving, pulling off narrow victories over Boston College and Indiana.
Napier had a couple of solid games in that tourney, and two more to get UConn back to New York City playing for a trip to the Final Four. The 6-1 senior had 24 in the opening matchup vs. St. Joseph's, seven of those in overtime to help the Huskies to the 89-81 win and cover. That was trailed by 25 in Saturday's 77-65 upset of No. 2 seed Villanova as 4.5 point 'dogs.