The real action of the NCAA Tournament is about to begin, but first there are a couple of scores to settle in the form of play-in games.
Four teams will play today for their spot in the round of 64, which begins tomorrow, so there’s no reason to sit on our hands. Let’s get the madness going with some point spread wagers on these play-in battles! Here’s a look at each match-up on tap for today.
(16) LIU Brooklyn +1 vs (16) James Madison -1
Both squads are coming into this game with similar records and similar hot streaks, but James Madison will be missing one key ingredient for at least 20 minutes of play, as its leading scorer, Rayshawn Goins, was suspended by the team for the first half following his arrest on disorderly conduct charges over the weekend.
Talk about bad timing.
The game will mark James Madison’s first tourney appearance in nearly 20 years, so they’ll need all the help they can get from Goins once he is allowed into the game. Still, the coaching staff said the ill-timed mishap will not affect how they play and will not be a distraction.
It’s just a blip on the radar screen,” JMU Matt Brady said, according to ESPN.com. “We’re not going to let it impact our team, our performance, certainly our mindset.”
That’s all well and good, but missing your best player against one of the better teams you’ve played against all year can’t be a positive.
The LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds will look to take advantage with an offense that averaged nearly 80 points per contest this season. Considering LIU has the firepower and the experience – this is their third straight tourney appearance – look for the Blackbirds to take this one and advance to face Indiana. Take LIU Brooklyn to cover +1 today.
(13) La Salle +2 vs (13) Boise State -2
The Broncos squeezed into the play-in round as the fifth team from the Mountain West Conference, while the virtually unknown La Salle Explorers earned an at-large berth out of the Atlantic 10. Both teams are coming of losses, but each proved they were worthy during the regular season, winning at least 20 games.
Both teams have almost no tourney experience. In fact, it’s the Broncos’ first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history, while La Salle is in for the first time in 21 years.
The two teams match-up extremely evenly on paper, with each averaging around 73 points per game on offense and boasting an average allowance of about 65 points per contest. Interestingly, both teams also feature a smaller, four-guard lineup.
However, one thing that seems to separate them is how they played away from their respective home floors. La Salle posted a respectable 8-6 record on the road, whereas the Broncos stumbled to a 5-8 mark. Considering they’ll be at a neutral site, this could be an advantage for the Explorers.
This one is pretty much a toss-up, but I’d go with La Salle here. The Broncos haven’t played in many big games and struggled more in their conference this season than La Salle did, showing that they don’t bring their A game to the big stage against solid teams. Take La Salle to cover +2 in the win.