James Madison Dukes vs. LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds (-1.5, 144.5)
LIU Brooklyn is no stranger to the rigors of March as it begins its third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. While the Blackbirds have been turned away the previous two times by a pair of the nation’s elite programs, they should have a better opportunity to nail down their first NCAA tournament victory in school history Wednesday in a first-round matchup against James Madison in Dayton, Ohio. In its first two tournament appearances, LIU Brooklyn has exited quickly thanks to second-round games against North Carolina in 2011 and Michigan State in 2012.
The Blackbirds, who clinched an automatic berth by virtue of their victory over Mount Saint Mary’s in the Northeast Conference tournament title game, enter this round of 68 with the No. 5 scoring offense in the country at 79.5 points and tied for eighth in shooting (48.3 percent). The Dukes are on a four-game winning streak after capturing their second Colonial Athletic Association tournament championship. James Madison is seeking its first tournament win since bowing out in the second round three straight years from 1981-83.
TV: 6:40 p.m. ET, truTV
ABOUT JAMES MADISON (20-14, 21-10-0 ATS): The Dukes are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994 and fifth time in school history. James Madison received the bulk of its offense from A.J. Davis and Devon Moore – the team’s second- and third-leading scorers – during the conference tournament as they combined for 105 of the team’s 200 points. Leading scorer Rayshawn Goins enjoyed his best performance in the title game since missing a game Feb. 6 with a foot injury, shooting 6-for-10 with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Over his previous eight games, Goins averaged 9.1 points and 5 rebounds, but converted only 30.1 percent of his field-goal attempts.
ABOUT LIU BROOKLYN (20-13, 4-0-0 ATS): The Blackbirds overcame a number of obstacles to claim their third consecutive NEC crown as four players were suspended for their role in a fight this fall and reigning league player of the year Julian Boyd tore his anterior cruciate ligament in December. "Everything went right the last two years and this year they had to show their true colors," first-year coach Jack Perri said following the team’s 91-70 victory over Mount Saint Mary’s. Northeast Conference Player of the Year Jamal Olasewere is the Blackbirds’ all-time career scoring leader with 1,851 points and ranks fourth in school history with 953 rebounds.
* Dukes are 4-0 ATS in their last four non-conference games.
* Blackbirds are 5-1 ATS in their last six neutral-site games.
* Dukes are 19-7 ATS in their last 26 games overall.
* Under is 15-6-2 in Dukes' last 23 overall.
1. Northeast Conference tournament MVP C.J. Garner (16.1 points) averaged 28 during LIU Brooklyn’s three-game run in the conference tournament.
2. Coach Matt Brady has directed James Madison to three 20-win seasons in his five years, two more than the school posted since its last CAA title.
3. Perri became the third first-year coach to guide his team to the NEC tournament title.
La Salle Explorers vs. Boise State Broncos (-1.5, 139)
Guard play has taken on added significance in recent NCAA Tournament play, a trend that Boise State and La Salle have taken to an extreme. Two similar teams will take the court Wednesday when the Broncos and Explorers meet in a first-round game in Dayton, Ohio. Boise State relies heavily on its four-guard lineup and the nation’s 13th-best 3-point shooting team while La Salle can sometimes employ five guards and finished second in the Atlantic-10 averaging 8.1 steals.
The Broncos, who were the first team in the country to post multiple victories over ranked opponents, received an at-large bid following their fifth-place finish in the Mountain West. Boise State won five of six entering its conference tournament, but lost in the quarterfinals to San Diego State after defeating the Aztecs five days earlier. Similarly, La Salle won seven of eight before losing at Saint Louis to close out the regular season and against Butler in the Atlantic-10 tournament quarterfinals.
TV: 9:10 p.m. ET, truTV
ABOUT LA SALLE (21-9, 12-12-2 ATS): The Explorers received their first NCAA Tournament invite since 1992 and regularly start four guards, although five average at least 23.8 minutes. Ramon Galloway, a South Carolina transfer, leads La Salle in scoring, assists and steals. Sam Mills is 17-of-33 beyond the arc over his last nine games and often draws the opponent’s best perimeter player. However, the Explorers could be without 6-11 sophomore center Steve Zack, who is listed as day-to-day with a foot injury. Zack’s potential absence looms large against a Boise State team that lacks any significant size in its frontcourt.
ABOUT BOISE STATE (21-10, 16-11-0 ATS): The Broncos are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008 and sixth time in program history. Anthony Drmic (17.3 points) and Derrick Marks (16.3) make up one of the top-scoring guard duos in the country. While Drmic is the team’s leading scorer, Marks is the team’s best playmaker and leads the team in assists (3.9) as well as steals (1.8). Boise State is unlikely to be intimidated by the stage after winning at Creighton – behind a career-high 35 points from Marks – and losing by four at Michigan State during its non-conference schedule.
* Explorers are 3-1-1 ATS in their last five neutral-site games.
* Broncos are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 neutral-site games.
* Over is 8-2 in Explorers' last 10 neutral-site games.
* Over is 6-1 in Broncos' last seven neutral-site games.
1. Marks leads Boise State with 13 blocked shots.
2. La Salle is 5-1 in games decided by three points or less.
3. The Broncos went 13-4 when they hit at least eight 3-pointers.