Tuesday's NCAA play-ins: What bettors need to know

Mar 18, 2013 |
Liberty Flames vs. North Carolina A&T Aggies (-2, 127)

Liberty’s remarkable journey has given it a chance to do something special. The Flames, who started the season with eight straight losses, play North Carolina A&T in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday at Dayton, Ohio. If Liberty can win its first NCAA Tournament game in history, it will get a chance at top-seeded Louisville in the second round of the Midwest Region on Thursday. The Flames won their last five games - including their final four to win the Big South tournament and earn their first bid since 2004. They also became the second 20-loss team to qualify.

North Carolina A&T also made an improbable run from the seventh seed in the MEAC tournament to reach the NCAAs for the first time since 1995. The Aggies scored less than 60 points in five of their last seven games - and won six of them. North Carolina A&T is an experienced group, with seven seniors – five of them four-year players.

TV: 6:40 p.m. ET, truTV

The Flames put it all together in the Big South tournament, beating the three teams with the best regular-season records. Liberty made 36 shots from behind the 3-point arc in the last five games, shooting 48.6 percent. Davon Marshall led the way from long range, draining 23-of-35, and averaging 18 points. John Caleb Sanders also came through with 27 points in the championship game and Tavares Speaks averaged 15 points in the last three. “We played four of our best games in these four games of the tournament,” Sanders told reporters. “Talk about peaking at exactly the right time.”

The Aggies finally added a 16th MEAC championship banner by limiting eight of their last nine opponents to 57 points or less and finding ways to win. North Carolina A&T had to play good defense. The Aggies are shooting 39.9 percent from the field and just under 30 percent from behind the 3-point line. Senior Adrian Powell and junior Lamont Middleton both stepped up in the last four games, averaging 15.8 and 13.8 points, respectively. Another senior, Austin Witter, had a big championship game. The Aggies will lean on their defense, which allows only 38.3 percent shooting.


* Flames are 5-0 ATS in their last five games overall.
* Aggies are 7-0 ATS in their last seven games overall.
* Over is 6-1 in Flames’ last seven overall.
* Under is 4-1 in Aggies’ last five neutral site games.

1. Before the Big South tournament, Liberty had not strung two wins together against Division I tournaments.
2. Liberty is 0-2 in the NCAA Tournament and the Aggies are 0-9.
3. North Carolina A&T started the season 1-4, including a 93-39 loss to Cincinnati.

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St. Mary’s Gaels vs. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (+3, 132)

Middle Tennessee’s best season in its history will include a trip to the NCAA Tournament, despite losing in the Sun Belt semifinals. The Blue Raiders earned their first bid in 24 years and will play Saint Mary’s in the first round on Tuesday at Dayton. The winner plays Memphis on Thursday in the second round of the Midwest Region. Middle Tennessee broke the team record for wins, which included a team-best 17 straight. The Blue Raiders, who beat Mississippi in December, are balanced offensively and have limited opponents to 57.8 points.

Three of the six losses for Saint Mary’s came against No. 1 Gonzaga. The Gaels, who have reached the NCAAs four of the last six years, likely punched their ticket by beating Creighton on Feb. 23. The team’s all-time leading scorer, Matthew Dellavedova, is the key for a productive Saint Mary’s offense.

TV: 9:10 p.m. ET, truTV

ABOUT MIDDLE TENNESSEE (28-5): The last time the Blue Raiders made the NCAA Tournament, they upset Florida State in the first round. Middle Tennessee owns a plus-six rebounding margin and has made 37.8 percent of its 3-point shots. Marcos Knight is the only player scoring in double figures (12.5) and also leads the team in rebounds (5.8). Raymond Cintron, who was held scoreless in the last game against Florida International, is the top 3-point threat (44 percent) and Bruce Massey was the league’s defensive player of the year.

ABOUT SAINT MARY’S (27-6): The Gaels haven’t lost to another team other than Gonzaga since before Christmas. Saint Mary’s can score and Dellavedova leads the way, averaging 15.8 points and 6.4 assists. The 6-4 senior guard will have to turn it around after making just 3-of-20 shots in the WCC tournament. Stephen Holt, Beau Levesque and Brad Waldow – all underclassmen – average in double figures to add support. Levesque has made 47.4 percent from behind the 3-point arc, where the Gaels have converted 262 shots – most in the WCC and in the top 25 in the nation.


* Gaels are 1-4 ATS in their last five neutral site games.
* Blue Raiders are 4-0 ATS in their last four Tuesday games.
* Under is 7-0 in Gaels’ last seven games following an ATS loss.
* Over is 6-0 in Blue Raiders’ last six games vs. a team with a winning percentage above .600.

1. Middle Tennessee has won a school-record 11 road games each of the last two seasons.
2. Dellavedova is also the Gaels’ all-time leader in assists and can break the single-season mark of 213 with two more.
3. Saint Mary’s reached the regional semifinals in 2010 before losing to Baylor.

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