The NCAA Tournament continues Wednesday night with a pair of play-in games - the NCAA definitely doesn't want you to call them "play-in" games but they are definitely play-in games. The battle of potential No. 16 seeds has NC Central taking on Texas Southern and Arizona St. and Syracuse will battle for the right to take on TCU as a No. 11 seed in the Big Dance.
First Four games to be played at University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio.
Texas Southern has embraced taking on college basketball's heavyweights early in recent seasons in hopes it pays off in March, but this year the program took that philosophy to the extreme. Making their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last five seasons, the Tigers attempt to snag their first ever victory in the Big Dance on Wednesday in a First Four matchup in Dayton, Ohio, against fellow West Region No. 16 seed North Carolina Central.
Taking on six eventual NCAA Tournament teams over the course of playing its first 13 games on the road while facing the country's most difficult non-conference schedule according to KenPom.com, Texas Southern did not win its first game until opening up Southwestern Athletic Conference play on New Year's Day. The Tigers found their groove late, however, ending the regular season with four straight wins before registering double-digit victories in each of their three games during the conference tournament. The Eagles took a polar opposite approach to their third NCAA tournament appearance in the past five years, facing only one major-conference school (Illinois) before posting a 9-7 mark and finishing sixth in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. North Carolina Central marched into the Big Dance for the second straight season Saturday, upsetting top-seeded Hampton to secure the league's automatic berth.
TV: 6:40 p.m. ET, truTV
LINE HISTORY: Texas Southern opened as 5-point favorites for this matchup and by early Wednesday afternoon that number was up to 5.5. The total hit betting boards at 146.5 and has yet to move. Check out the complete line history here.
ABOUT TEXAS SOUTHERN: SWAC Tournament MVP Demontrae Jefferson (team-high marks of 23.4 points and 4.5 assists) - a 5-7 sophomore who missed nine games this season for a variety of reasons, including an early suspension and the passing of his father - scored at least 15 points in 24 of 25 games this season. Massachusetts transfer Donte Clark (18.6 points) erupted for 41 points during one of Jefferson's absences and is averaging 23.6 points over the last five contests. Trayvon Reed (9.7 points) ranks second in the conference in rebounds (8.8) and first in blocks (3.0), while part-time starter Marquis Salmon (5.3 points, 6.2 boards) collected 48 rebounds over a three-game span prior to playing a limited role in the SWAC title game.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL: Although the Eagles boast All-MEAC second-team center Raasean Davis (team-high marks of 15.0 points and 8.0 rebounds), nearly 40 percent of their scoring comes from their bench as 12 players average at least 10 minutes per game. Davis, a 6-9, 240-pound Kent State transfer who led the MEAC in field-goal percentage (66.7) and fourth in rebounding, proved to be a terror during the final three games of the conference, averaging 15 points and 13.3 boards. Guards Reggie Gardner Jr. (11.2 points, team-high 74 3-pointers) and Jordan Perkins (8.4 points, team-high 5.4 assists), who tallied 13 points and nine assists in the conference title game and handed out a career-high 14 assists earlier in the season, each landed on the all-conference rookie team.
* Tigers are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games overall.
* Eagles are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
* Over is 4-0 in Tigers' last 4 NCAA Tournament games.
* Under is 17-4-1 in Eagles' last 22 neutral site games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The early Covers consensus data shows 59 percent of bettors taking the favorites from Texas Southern, while 52 percent of totals wagers are on the Over. Click here for complete consensus data.
(11) Syracuse Orange vs (11) Arizona State Sun Devils (-1.5, 143.5)
Arizona State defeated four eventual NCAA Tournament teams en route to a school-record 12-0 start, but Pac-12 play proved to be a different animal. The Sun Devils hope to resume their dominant play in non-conference action when they meet fellow Midwest Region No. 11 seed Syracuse in a First Four matchup Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio.
The last team in the country to suffer its first loss, Arizona State defeated two eventual No. 1 seeds in the Big Dance - Kansas and Xavier - as well as NCAA Tournament teams San Diego State and Kansas State. The Sun Devils dropped their first game at Arizona on Dec. 30 and were unable to recapture their earlier success, never winning more than three in a row before finishing with an 8-10 conference record and losses in five of their last six. The Orange, who were tabbed by NCAA Tournament committee chair Bruce Rasmussen as the last at-large team into the field, endured a similar path with an 8-10 mark in the ACC after rolling to an 11-2 record during the non-league portion of their schedule. Despite finishing in a tie for 10th in its conference, Syracuse proved itself in the eyes of the committee with a top-20 strength of schedule (14th entering Sunday) and four wins against top-50 RPI teams.
TV: 9:10 p.m. ET, truTV
LINE HISTORY: The pointspread for this First Four matchup opened as a Pick 'Em but steady action on the Sun Devils has pushed the line to 1.5 in their direction. The total hit betting boards at 142.5 and has been bumped up slightly to 143.5. Check out the complete line history here.
ABOUT SYRACUSE: The success of the Orange depends greatly on the success of Tyus Battle (19.8 points), Frank Howard (15.0) and Oshae Brissett (14.7), who rank first, second and sixth in the country in minutes per game and account for 73.3 percent of the team's scoring. Battle has reached double figures in all but one game this season but has failed to shoot 40 percent from the floor in seven of the last eight contests, including a 14-for-50 showing over the last three games. Howard is also slumping of late, failing to shoot over 30 percent from the field in four of his last five outings - including a 10-for-38 stretch beyond the arc over that span.
ABOUT ARIZONA STATE: The Sun Devils averaged 91.8 points on 50.8 percent shooting from the field and 42.4 beyond the arc during their season-opening winning streak before cooling off the tune of 78.3, 43.7 and 32.9, respectively, over the last 19 contests. Part of the falloff can be attributed to the decline of leading scorer Tra Holder (18.4 points), who averaged 21.4 points during their undefeated start - including a career-high 40 points against Xavier and 29 against Kansas - and only 16.6 the rest of the way. Fellow senior guards Shannon Evans II (16.6) knocked down a conference-high 91 3-pointers, while Kodi Justice (12.6) went over 1,000 career points last weekend and has buried multiple triples in six of his last seven outings.
* Orange are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 NCAA Tournament games.
* Sun Devils are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 non-conference games.
* Over is 6-1 in Orange's last 7 vs. Pacific-12.
* Over is 4-1 in Sun Devils' last 5 NCAA Tournament games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The early Covers consensus shows 57 percent of selections siding with the underdog Syracuse Orange, while 57 percent of totals wagers are on the Over. Click here for complete consensus data.