Tuesday's First Four
March 13, 2018
By Brian Edwards
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**Radford vs. LIU Brooklyn**
-- The 2018 NCAA Tournament gets underway tonight in Dayton with a pair of games in the First Four. The lid-lifter will feature Radford, the Big South Tournament winner, up against LIU Brooklyn, which won the Northeast Conference Tournament. As of early this morning, most book had Radford (22-12 straight up, 5-4 against the spread) listed as a 4.5-point favorite with a total of 138.5. The Blackbirds were +170 on the money line (risk $100 to win $170).
-- Both schools are looking for their first NCAA Tournament victory in the history of their programs. The winner advances to meet Villanova in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
-- LIU Brooklyn (18-16 SU, 3-4 ATS) is No. 235 in the RPI Rankings and didn’t face an RPI Top 100 opponent all season. The Blackbirds went 2-1 in their only three games against an RPI Top-150 foe, Wagner. In the only two games against schools from decent conferences (the AAC and A-10), they lost 102-96 at Tulane and 81-68 at Fordham.
-- LIU Brooklyn has won five games in a row, including a 71-61 win over Wagner in the finals of the Northeast Conference Tournament. Joel Hernandez carried his team to victory with 32 points, seven rebounds, three steals, two assists and a pair of blocked shots. Raiquan Clark made 8-of-12 field-goal attempts and finished with 20 points and eight rebounds.
-- Hernandez is the NEC’s second-leading scorer with a 20.9 points-per-game average. He also averages 5.9 rebounds per game and is draining 38.0 percent of his 3-pointers. Clark (17.4 PPG) paces the Blackbirds in rebounding (7.1 RPG) and FG percentage (55.7%). Jashaun Agosto averages 11.7 points and 4.1 assists per game.
-- LIU Brooklyn is coached by Derek Kellogg, the former star player at UMass who coached the Minutemen for nine seasons before being fired last March. He took his alma mater to one NCAA Tournament and a pair of NIT appearances. Kellogg has the Blackbirds in the Tournament for the seventh time in program history and the first time since making three straight appearances from 2011 to 2013.
-- LIU Brooklyn dropped a 68-55 decision to James Madison in the 2013 First Four.
-- Radford won the Big South Tourney to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the third time and the first since 2009. The Highlanders beat Liberty 55-52 on Carlik Jones’s deep 3-pointer at the buzzer in the finals. Jones was the hero with 13 points, five rebounds, one steal, one blocked shot and six assists without a turnover. Travis Fields Jr. added 12 points thanks to 4-of-4 shooting from 3-point land, while Ed Polite Jr. and Devonnte Holland chipped in with 11 points apiece.
-- Radford has won seven consecutive games since enduring a three-game losing streak in early February, but it hasn’t tasted defeat in more than a month (2/10/18 at UNC-Asheville by a 66-64 count).
-- Unlike LIU Brooklyn, Radford didn’t face quality competition during its non-conference slate. The Highlanders lost 82-72 at Ohio State, 77-62 at Nevada and 95-68 at Virginia Tech. They covered the number as 15-point underdogs in a 74-62 loss at Vanderbilt.
-- Radford is led by Polite, who averages 13.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 0.9 blocked shots per game. Jones is the team’s only other double-figure scorer, averaging 11.8 PPG while handing out 102 assists compared to 56 turnovers.
-- Radford is No. 136 in the RPI with a pair of Top-150 wins over UNC-Asheville (90-70) at home and vs. UC Davis (72-62) on a neutral floor.
-- The ‘under’ is 4-2 overall for the Blackbirds.
-- The ‘under’ has cashed in four straight games to improve to 6-3 overall for the Highlanders.
-- Tip-off is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. Eastern on TruTV.
**UCLA vs. St. Bonaventure**
-- As of early this morning, most betting shops had UCLA (21-11 SU, 16-16 ATS) listed as a 3.5-point favorite with a total of 155. The Bonnies were +155 on the money line (risk $100 to win $155).
-- Steve Alford still hasn’t led a team past the Sweet 16 in his 22 years as a head coach. However, the legendary player who led Bobby Knight to his third national title at Indiana in 1987 has put the Bruins in the Sweet 16 three times in his four previous years at the school.
-- UCLA is led by first-team All-Pac-12 selection Aaron Holiday, who led the league in scoring (20.3 PPG). Holiday paces the Bruins in assists (5.8 APG) and steals (1.3 SPG) while splashing the nets at a 43.3 percent rate from downtown. The junior guard has hit 82.6 percent of his FTs. Thomas Welsh was a second-team All-Pac-12 pick. The seven-foot senior center averages a double-double (13.0 PPG, 10.7 RPG) and hits 40.9 percent of his treys.
-- UCLA advanced to the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals by beating Stanford 88-77 as a four-point ‘chalk.’ Holiday was the catalyst with a sensational performance against the Cardinal, producing 34 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals. Welsh added 18 points and 11 boards on 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
-- In the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals, UCLA backers took a horrific Bad Beat when Alford’s bunch lost to Arizona 78-67 in overtime as a six-point underdog. The Wildcats outscored the Bruins 11-0 in the extra session. UCLA led four at halftime and never trailed by more than six in regulation. Welsh had 17 points and 17 rebounds in the losing effort.
-- UCLA has been a single-digit ‘chalk’ 12 times this year, producing a 10-2 SU record and an 8-4 ATS mark. The Bruins are 8-2 ATS in their 10 such spots.
-- St. Bonaventure (25-7 SU, 15-14 ATS) is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, garnering its first at-large bid since 2000. The Bonnies had their 13-game winning streak snapped in an 82-70 loss to Davidson in Saturday’s Atlantic-10 Tournament semifinals. Jaylen Adams had 20 points, eight assists and four rebounds in defeat, while Matt Mobley finished with 17 points.
-- St. Bonaventure guard Courtney Stockard is ‘questionable’ with a hamstring injury that caused him to miss Saturday’s loss to Davidson. Stockard averages 12.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Also, forward Josh Ayeni is ‘questionable’ duet to a knee injury sustained in Saturday’s loss to the Wildcats. Ayeni averages 5.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
-- Mark Schmidt’s squad is led by senior guard Adams, who averages team-highs in scoring (19.8 PPG) and assists (5.4 APG). Adams is shooting at a 45.7 percent clip from 3-point range and 85.6 percent from the FT line. He also averages 3.6 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. Adams’ backcourt mate is fellow senior Mobley, who averages 18.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Mobley has hit 38.3 percent of his treys and 86.1 percent of his FTs.
-- St. Bonaventure owns a 4-4 record both SU and ATS in eight games as an underdog.
-- St. Bonaventure is No. 23 in the RPI Rankings with its 2-2 record against the RPI Top 25, a 3-2 mark versus the Top 50 and a 7-4 ledger against the Top 100. The Bonnies’ best wins are at Buffalo, at Syracuse and vs. Rhode Island. They also have home triumphs vs. Northeaster and Davidson, in addition to neutral-court scalps of Vermont and Maryland.
-- UCLA has an RPI of 35 with a 2-3 record vs. the RPI Top 25, a 4-4 ledger against the Top 50 and a 10-10 mark versus the Top 100. The Bruins have road wins at Arizona and at USC, in addition to neutral-court victories over Kentucky and Stanford. They have home wins over USC, Washington, Utah, Stanford, Oregon and South Dakota.
-- The ‘over’ is 18-14 overall for UCLA after cashing in four of its previous six outings.
-- After cashing in back-to-back games and three of their past four, the ‘over’ is 16-13 overall for the Bonnies.
-- The winner advances to play Florida in a 6/11 showdown in Dallas on Thursday in the late-night game.
-- TruTV will have the broadcast 30 minutes after the end of Radford vs. LIU Brooklyn.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- Middle Tennessee is a six-point home favorite tonight vs. Vermont at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPNU.
-- Western Kentucky is a five-point home favorite vs. Boston College at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. A few offshores had the total at 162.5 points early this morning. The ‘over’ has hit in six consecutive contests for the Eagles and is 14-3-1 in their last 18 games.
-- Kentucky earned a verbal commitment Monday from 2019 four-star forward D.J. Jeffries, who chose UK over the likes of Alabama, Mississippi State, Florida, Memphis and Kansas. Jeffries, a consensus Top-50 recruit, is a product of Olive Branch, Miss.
-- Former Alabama and North Carolina State head coach Mark Gottfried has been hired in the same capacity at CSU Northridge.
-- Popular (or infamous?) referee ‘TV’ Teddy Valentine won’t be working this year’s NCAA Tournament, according to a report Monday from ESPN. Valentine had an incident with UNC’s Joel Berry in January and told ESPN that he believes that’s why he is being punished after working the Final Four last year.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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