West Region Semifinals
Published on March 22 at 1:30 a.m. Eastern.
By Brian Edwards
These games will be played at US Airways Arena in Phoenix.
**Michigan State vs. Louisville**
–As of Wednesday afternoon, most books were listing top-seeded Michigan St. (29-7 straight up, 22-11 against the spread) as a five-point favorite with a total of 125. The Cardinals are plus-180 on the money line (risk $100 to win $180).
–Louisville (28-9 SU, 20-13-1 ATS) has won six in a row both SU and ATS, including wins over Davidson (69-62) and New Mexico (59-56). Peyton Siva was the catalyst against the Wildcats, scoring 17 points and dishing out six assists. Chane Behanan added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
–Rick Pitino’s team broke open a close game against the Lobos and led by as many as 15 in the second half. However, U of L had to hold off a late UNM rally to capture the three-point win as a two-point ‘chalk.’ Russ Smith came off the bench and buried all three attempts from 3-point range en route to scoring a team-high 17 points. Behanan and Kyle Kuric added 10 points apiece.
–Michigan St. cruised past LIU Brooklyn by an 89-67 count as a 19-point favorite in its NCAA opener. Draymond Green had a triple-double with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, while Derrick Nix added 18 points and eight boards.
–Tom Izzo’s squad beat Saint Louis 65-61 this past Sunday as a 7 ½-point favorite. The Billikens hit a late three to ensure the cover as underdogs. Green was terrific again with 16 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Keith Appling finished with a game-high 19 points.
–Louisville will be looking for revenge in this spot. In the 2009 NCAA Tournament, U of L was a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region before losing a 74-62 decision to the Spartans as a 6 ½-point favorite in the Elite Eight. As a freshman, Green has six point and 10 rebounds for the winners.
–Louisville owns a 6-3 spread record with four outright wins in nine games as an underdog this season.
–Michigan St. has posted a 9-7 spread record as a single-digit ‘chalk.’
–Totals have been an overall wash for the Spartans (16-16-1), but we should note that the ‘over’ is 4-2 in their last six outings.
–The ‘under’ is on fire in Louisville games, cashing at a 9-1 clip in its last 10 games. The ‘under’ is 20-14 overall for the Cardinals.
–TBS will have television coverage at 7:45 p.m. Eastern.
**Marquette vs. Florida**
–Most betting shops are listing third-seeded Marquette (27-7 straight up, 18-12-1 against the spread) as a 1 ½-point favorite with the total in the 145-146 range. Gamblers can take the Gators to win outright for a plus-105 return (risk $100 to win $105).
–Florida (25-10 SU, 14-15-1 ATS) advanced to the Sweet 16 with a pair of wins in Omaha over Virginia (71-45) and Norfolk St. (84-50). Those victories represented the first time in NCAA Tournament history that a team scored 70 or more and held opponents to 50 or less in the first weekend.
–Five UF players scored in double figures during its run-away-and-hide win over Norfolk St., which had stunned second-seeded Missouri 48 hours beforehand. Junior guard Kenny Boynton led the way with 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Bradley Beal and Erving Walker combined for 29 points, six assists and four steals, while Mike Rosario snapped out of a prolonged shooting slump to bury 5-of-7 from the field in a 12-point effort.
–When we get to this time of year, all head coaches ask their players for a little something extra. However, it’s rare that a player who has contributed next to nothing all season produces a big-time performance. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what Billy Donovan got out of sophomore forward Casey Prather last week. In the win over UVA, Prather scored a career-high 14 points and pulled down four rebounds in just 22 minutes of playing time. Prather took a charge, stepped out to the perimeter and knocked down a trey and attacked the basket like he’s never done before during his collegiate career. He was suffering from flu-like symptoms prior to the win over Norfolk St., however, and was limited to nine minutes of action.
–Marquette advanced to the region semifinals with wins over BYU (88-68) and Murray St. (62-53). Jae Crowder, the Big East Player of the Year, destroyed the Cougars with 25 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and four steals with only one turnover. Darius Johnson-Odom added 20 points, five boards and four assists.
–Buzz Williams’s squad trailed nearly the entire game against Murray St. before using a late 14-2 run to overcome the Racers and get back to the Sweet 16 for the second time in as many years. Crowder and Johnson-Odom scored 17 points apiece for the Golden Eagles, who got their 14th double-double of the season out of Crowder.
–Florida has four players (Boynton, Walker, Beal and Erik Murphy) who have drained 56 treys or more led by Boynton’s 107, which is sixth-best in the nation.
–Donovan owns a 4-1 record in five career Sweet 16 games during his tenure at Florida. The lone loss? That came in Phoenix at this venue in the 1999 NCAA Tournament when Gonzaga beat UF on Casey Calvary’s last-second tip-in. Donovan owns a 27-9 career record in the NCAA Tournament.
–Marquette owns a 9-7 spread record in 16 games as a single-digit favorite. Meanwhile, the Gators are winless (straight up) and 3-3 ATS in six games as underdogs.
–The ‘over’ is 18-12 overall for UF, but the ‘under’ cashed in both of its NCAA games last weekend.
–The ‘over’ is 19-12 overall for Marquette, 8-3 in its last 11 games.
–This game will tip 30 minutes after the conclusion of Michigan St.-Louisville. TBS will provide television coverage.