No. 3 Michigan State Spartans vs. No. 14 Valparaiso Crusaders (+10.5, 127)
Playing in the Big Ten conference, Michigan State didn't have to look far to find stiff competition. When the Spartans make their 16th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, they won't have to travel too far to find their next opponent, either. Third-seeded Michigan State will make the trek to The Palace of Auburn Hills, where they'll face 14th-seeded Valparaiso on Thursday in the second round of the Midwest Region.
The Spartans recorded 25 wins and advanced to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament before being bounced by eventual champion Ohio State on Saturday. With the conference sending seven representatives to the Big Dance, one can easily see why coach Tom Izzo believes his team is battle-tested. "I'd play the (Los Angeles) Lakers tomorrow instead of some of the teams I've played recently," Izzo said moments after Michigan State dropped a 61-58 decision to the Buckeyes.TRENDS:
* Crusaders are 1-4 ATS in their last five vs. Big Ten.
* Spartans are 1-4 ATS in their last five NCAA Tournament games.
* Over is 9-2 in Spartans last 11 vs. Horizon League.No. 4 Saint Louis Billikens vs. No. 13 New Mexico State Aggies (+9, 122)
Saint Louis will have its hands full with red-hot New Mexico State freshman Sim Bhullar when the teams meet Thursday in the second round of the Midwest Region at San Jose, Calif. The fourth-seeded Billikens learned their fate at a Best Buy store in Secaucus, N.J., mere hours after winning their first Atlantic 10 tournament title in Brooklyn. Saint Louis is 24-3 since coach Rick Majerus passed away in December. The veteran Billikens used a balanced offense and disciplined defense to run through the A-10 and earn the program's highest NCAA Tournament seed. Junior forward Dwayne Evans gives Saint Louis its own strong presence under the basket.
New Mexico State is the No. 13 seed after winning the Western Athletic Conference tournament for the second straight year. The Aggies have won 18 of their past 20 games and have four players averaging in double figures. New Mexico State has been without senior forward Tyrone Watson, who missed four games with an injured ankle after returning from a 30-day suspension stemming from an arrest. Thursday's winner faces either No. 5 Oklahoma State or No. 12 Oregon.TRENDS:
* Aggies are 5-2 ATS in their last seven neutral-site games.
* Billikens are 20-6 ATS in their last 26 games overall.
* Under is 18-7-2 in Aggies' last 27 neutral site games.No. 6 Memphis Tigers vs. No. 11 St. Mary's Gaels (+1.5, 140)
Memphis has lost only once in the last 25 games, but the talented Tigers are somewhat unproven with a 1-3 record against NCAA Tournament teams. Sixth-seeded Memphis gets a chance to start showing it belongs as a contender when it plays Saint Mary’s in the second round of the Midwest Regional on Thursday at Auburn Hills, Mich. The Tigers’ losses to NCAA entrants Virginia Commonwealth, Louisville and Minnesota were all before Dec. 16 and Memphis went unbeaten in Conference USA after that. Memphis is balanced offensively and averages almost 76 points.
Saint Mary’s handled Middle Tennessee 67-54 in Tuesday's first round, getting 22 points and four assists from senior Matthew Dellavedova. The Australian guard is the program’s all-time leader in scoring and assists, opening up the floor for a team that has made 270 shots from behind the 3-point line.TRENDS:
* Tigers are 15-35-1 ATS in their last 51 non-conference games.
* Under is 4-0 in Gaels last four NCAA Tournament games.
* Over is 10-2 in Tigers last 12 NCAA Tournament games.No. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. No. 12 Oregon Ducks (+3, 134)
Oregon won the Pac-12 tournament over the weekend but that effort only earned the Ducks a No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region, where they’ll take on fifth-seeded Oklahoma State on Thursday in San Jose, Calif. Oregon hasn’t played in the NCAA Tournament since 2008, when it lost its opener to Mississippi State. The Cowboys are returning to the tournament for the first time since 2010, when they lost their opener to Georgia Tech. Oklahoma State is looking for its first win since beating Tennessee in the opening round of the 2009 tournament.
The Cowboys last played a Pac-12 team at the 2011 NIT Preseason Tournament in Madison Square Garden, losing to Stanford 82-67. Both teams faced Portland State two weeks apart in November. Oregon beat the Vikings 80-69 on Nov. 12 and the Cowboys knocked them off 81-58 on Nov. 25. The winner of this game will play either 13th-seeded New Mexico State or No. 4 Saint Louis in Saturday’s second round.TRENDS:
* Ducks are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 vs. Big 12.
* Cowboys are 4-1 ATS in their last five non-conference games.
* Under is 12-4 in Cowboys last 16 NCAA Tournament games.
No. 1 Louisville Cardinals vs. No. 16 North Carolina A&T Aggies (+26, 124)
Louisville comes into the NCAA Tournament as the consensus favorite after winning 10 straight games by an average of 15.6 points. The Cardinals begin their quest for a third national title against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion North Carolina A&T in the second round of the Midwest Regional on Thursday at Lexington, Ky. Louisville reached the Final Four last season and came back with a deep, balanced group to win the Big East. The Cardinals lean of their defense, which has allowed an average of 58 points and 10.7 steals.
North Carolina A&T defeated Liberty 73-72 in Tuesday's first round for its first win in 10 NCAA games. The Aggies also rely on their defense, which has limited opponents to 38.3 percent shooting. North Carolina A&T has played two other Big East opponents, losing to Cincinnati by 54 and Seton Hall by 11.TRENDS:
* Aggies are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games overall.
* Cardinals are 5-0 ATS in their last five NCAA Tournament games.
* Under is 7-1 in Cardinals' last eight NCAA Tournament games.
No. 8 Colorado State Rams vs. No. 9 Missouri Tigers (-3, 143)
Two of the nation's top rebounding teams square off on Thursday when eighth-seeded Colorado State takes on ninth-seeded Missouri in the Midwest Region in Lexington, Ky. Overall No. 1 seed Louisville - and a rabid partisan crowd - likely awaits the winner. The Rams and Tigers are both strong in the post, as Missouri ranks second in the nation in rebounding (41.4) and Colorado State is fourth (40.4).
It's the second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament for the Rams, who have won a school-record 25 games. Missouri is in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive year, tying a school record. The Tigers also made five straight appearances from 1986-90 and 1999-2003. The teams are meeting for only the third time - and the first since 1969. They have split the first two contests.
* Tigers are 1-4 ATS in their last five NCAA Tournament games.
* Rams are 5-1 ATS in their last six vs. Southeastern.
* Over is 25-10 in Tigers' last 35 overall.