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Central Michigan at Buffalo: I get from a stat standpoint why Buffalo is so heavily favored, and I get that Central is just super young. But this is a Buffalo team that turns the ball over almost as much as anyone in the nation, and aside from beating Akron have really just feasted on the bottom of the MAC this season. It's a sub-.500 team overall, for the season and in the conference, which certainly makes it hard to lay these points. The upside to perhaps taking the points is that although CMU is young, Kyle Randall, their do-all guy, is a Senior. Buffalo beat them badly early in the year, but for the last few weeks they've been in most of their games. What I do like about CMU is that although they're primarily an outside shooting team, they do get to the line a fair bit and shoot well over 70%. CMU doesn't turn the ball over, but I'm certainly not going to trust their pitiful defense on the road, yet, because as a matter of principle I won't lay chalk with a sub-.500 team that turns it over, home or not.
St. Mary's at Gonzaga: Clearly the uber-public Zags, for whom we are going to pay the price for playing. Gonzaga doesn't have any weaknesses, so we need not go there. For them it's simply a matter of is their eye on the bigger prize or do they really want to win the Conference Tournament as well. I suspect so, but clearly they've got the target on their back. St. Mary's only two Conference losses were to Gonzaga, and they were destroyed at home, so they DO have some motivation here. That could be why they struggled against San Diego, looking ahead to this game. Clearly opening at only -5 it seems they're begging for Gonzaga money early. St. Mary's has certainly got the experience, but not the length nor the balance. Their one weakness has been defending the three ball, but that's certainly not what Gonzaga really want to do offensively. I do love that St. Mary's is actually the better rebounding team, and that will certainly be the point of emphasis here as in that blowout loss at home they were seriously outrebounded. Although they contained Olynyk, they let Pangos go off, and they themselves hit 12-35 from deep. Last year, they beat Gonzaga in OT in this Tournament, so clearly that's got to be something Few uses as motivation, I would think. But, I guess if you want to give me a Top-25 (or so) team with points, I'd have to take them. The only thing stopping me at this point is that because they blew out LM, nobody for the Zags played a ton of minutes. That SHOULD mean fresher legs and perhaps better defense, so I do lean under in this one.
Miami OH at Bowling Green: The first thing that struck me was that Miami had played the toughest schedule in the MAC. But, Bowling Green played the second toughest. Miami did beat them earlier this season, and actually played them fairly tough at BG, so I would rule out taking the 3-13 team that aside from the Akron loss was actually in most of their games down the stretch. Apparently I wasn't the only one thinking this way, since the line opened at -8 at CRIS is fairly quickly is at -7. BGSU's two home losses were to Akron and Ohio. They (BGSU) may be a little more keen in this game because last year they lost at home in the first round to CMU, which was clearly an embarrassment. But, they are simply not the same team this season without Scott Thomas and Dee Brown. My issue here is that Miami lost Roberts, one of their best and only outside threats, to a season ending injury, as well as Drew McGhee, who although playing sparingly, was a big man. The issue with that, for me, is that BGSU score about 60% of their points inside. However, they don't get to the FT line that much, indicating softness, perhaps. The game will be played fairly slow, and although BGSU plays great team defense, they don't create a ton of turnovers, while Miami is almost the opposite. They gamble a fair bit and DO create turnovers, but have a terrible overall defense in Conference. We'll have to see what shakes out as far as line move confirmation, but it's already lost some. This is yet another case of me simply not laying three possessions with a sub-.500 team against a team that has nothing at all to lose. If BGSU weren't quite so experienced, I'd have already been all over Miami.
Northern Illinois at Eastern Michigan: I know Northern Illinois has a hard time scoring, but in a game that will be played at a snails' pace and perhaps not see 100 points, there is no chance of laying those points, I don't care how big or how experience Eastern Michigan is, or how young Northern Illinois is. They scored a mere 25 points when last these teams met, so there's certainly nowhere to go but up for them. They almost beat Ball State on the road Saturday, and gave Buffalo a game on the road, so I would contend it's EMU that might have more pressure here, and that's just not something I can back. EMU losing their final home game to Toledo fairly solidly just cannot be a good thing headed into this game, so it's the (gulp) Northern Illinois or nothing here.
Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s had to work harder than anticipated to reach the West Coast Conference tournament final for the fifth straight season Monday night in Las Vegas. The top-ranked Bulldogs weren’t able to put away ninth-seeded Loyola Marymount until midway through the second half of Saturday’s semifinal. The No. 23 Gaels needed overtime to beat sixth-seeded San Diego in the other semi.
Gonzaga won both previous meetings this season against Saint Mary's, a five-point victory Jan. 10 at Saint Mary’s and a 17-point win a month later in Spokane, Wash. The Bulldogs feature three players who made the all-WCC first team. Kelly Olynyk, a 7-foot junior center, averages a team-high 17.3 points. He’s backed by 6-8 senior forward Elias Harris (14.8) and 6-2 sophomore guard Kevin Pangos (11.8). Saint Mary’s is led by 6-4 senior point guard Matthew Dellavedova, the school’s all-time career scoring leader who averages 16.2 points and 6.4 assists.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN3.
ABOUT GONZAGA (30-2): Olynyk had a rare off night in the semifinals, scoring eight points on 3-for-10 shooting. He hasn’t been held to single digits in back-to-back games this season or shot under 55 percent from the floor in consecutive games. He scored 31 points when these teams first met and came back with 17 points in the second game. Saint Mary’s is very familiar with Olynyk, but it doesn’t mean the Gaels have anyone who can stop him. Brad Waldow, a 6-9 sophomore forward, will likely draw that assignment for Saint Mary’s.
ABOUT SAINT MARY’S (27-5): Waldow scored a career-high 23 points and matched his career best with 16 rebounds in the semifinal win against San Diego. He showed his toughness during the game when a front tooth was knocked out during the second half and he attempted to hand it off to coach Randy Bennett while continuing to run the floor. He eventually had to be taken out to stop the bleeding. The player who needs to step up for the Gaels is junior guard Stephen Holt, who was held to three points on 1-for-7 shooting against San Diego.
* Bulldogs are 8-0 ATS in their last eight games following an ATS loss.
* Gaels are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 Monday games.
* Bulldogs are 3-0-1 ATS in their last four games vs. a team with a winning S.U. record.
1. Gonzaga has won 30 games for the first time in school history.
2. The Bulldogs have reached the title game 18 consecutive seasons.
3. With his next start, Dellavedova will break the school record for games started at 134. Omar Samhan set the current mark from 2006-10.
-- James Madison outscored Delaware 7-0 over last 2:51 to nip Hens by a point, get to first CAA final since 1997; JMU (+4.5) lost 66-64 Feb 20 at Northeastern, game they led by 4 with 7:32 left. Northeastern had bye Saturday, fell behind 28-4 to George Mason Sunday, rallied to win by a hoop, forcing 20 turnovers, making 7-11 behind arc in second half. Over last decade, a top-two seed has won CAA tournament every year. This is third night in row for JMU playing, just second for Huskies.
-- This is fifth year in row St Mary's-Gonzaga meet in WCC final, with teams splitting previous four; over last nine years, Zags went unbeaten in CAA three times, and won WCC tourney final all three years, by 13-1-25 points- they beat St Mary's in both games this year, by 5-17 pts. Gaels were 12-35 from arc in last meeting, 11-23 inside arc. Pretty sure St Mary's is in NCAAs even if they lost. Both teams had Sunday off.
-- Davidson is 16-3 in last 19 SoCon tourney games, winning title four of last seven years; Wildcats beat Charleston twice this season, by 9-16, as Davidson shot 57/58% inside arc in those games. Cougars are 12-6 in last 18 tourney games, but haven't won event in over decade, losing in finals three of last six years, by 10-11-7 points. Davidson was down 13 with 15:00 to play yesterday; they had three guys play 32+ minutes, while Charleston had four guys play 32+- their bench played only 35:00.
-- Iona won last four games, scoring 84.5 ppg after odd 1-6 stretch where they lost all six games by 3 or less points, or in OT; Gaels had only one starter play less than 36 minutes Sunday- they beat Manhattan by 8 in first meeting, then lost rematch in double OT, despite Jaspers going 10 of 21 from foul line. Manhattan won eight of last ten games after starting season 6-15; they turn ball over 25.6% of time, 3rd-worst in country.
-- Buffalo is 6-2 in this round last nine years, Central Michigan 4-1 in its last six. Bulls lost four of last five games; they turned ball over 24.4% of time, in bottom 10 in country. Buffalo (-7.5) beat Chippewas 91-73 at home Jan 30, making 67% inside arc, turning ball over 19 times. Central lost 11 of last 13 games; six of their last eight games went over the total. Over is 5-0-1 in last six Buffalo games; Bulls covered once in their last four games as a favorite.
-- Northern Illinois lost its last ten games, scoring 48.9 ppg; eight of its last nine games stayed under total. Huskies lost to Eastern Michigan in both meetings this year, 42-25/53-41-- they were 6-50 from arc in those games, trailed first meeting 18-4 at half. NIU is 1-9 in this event last nine years, with four of last seven losses by 6 or less points. Eastern is 3-6 in its last nine games, allowing 50 or less points in its last four wins- they won four of last five games in this round of MAC tourney.
-- Miami lost its last nine games and 13 of last 14; they split pair with Bowling Green this year, winning 63-60 (-3) at home, losing 52-44 (+7) in rematch here 12 days ago. Redhawks are 5-3 vs spread as road dog in MAC play; they're 1-4 in this event last four years, Falcons 2-7 in last seven. Last four Miami games stayed under total. Bowling Green's last seven wins were all by 8+ points; they're 4-1 as MAC home favorites.
-- IPFW ran Oakland off floor 91-79 Sunday, shooting 63% from floor, 12-20 behind arc vs worst defensive team in country; Mastadons lost to South Dakota State twice this year, 83-57 (+12) on road, 80-74 at home (+7.5). Jackrabbits had yesterday off; they're just 4-3 last seven games, but they covered last four games as Summit favorite. IPFW won last six games, covered last eight- they scored 82.5 ppg in last four, but hard to tell if offense is better, since three of those four were vs Oakland.
-- North Dakota State trailed at half, beat UMKC by 11 Sunday, but had to play all five starters 32+ minutes; Bison lost twice to Western Illinois this year, 50-42/49-36 after losing to Leathernecks by 5 in LY's Summit tourney. WIU won its last three games by total of six points with star Parks hurt; their last four Summit tourney games were all decided by 5 or less points. Western had yesterday off. Bison were 5-33 from arc in the two losses to WIU this season.
-- Western Kentucky/FIU both pulled upsets last night, winner here is probably headed to Dayton next week. Home side won both series tilts this year; WKU (-4.5) won 79-68 in first meeting Dec 1, then lost 87-82 at FIU (-2.5) 13 nights ago. Hilltoppers won this tourney LY, winning four straight days by 5 or less points after going 7-9 in league- they were 10-10 this year. Price was only WKU guy to play more than 31 minutes Sunday. FIU beat top-seed MTSU for fifth win in last six games.
The Bulldogs look to build on their 9-3 ATS record in their last 12 neutral site games. Gonzaga is the pick (-5) according to Dunkel, which has the Bulldogs favored by 7. Dunkel Pick: Gonzaga (-5). Here are all of today's early games.
MONDAY, MARCH 11
Time Posted: 6:30 a.m. EST
Game 511-512: James Madison vs. Northeastern (7:00 p.m. EST)
Game 513-514: Western Kentucky vs. Florida International (7:00 p.m. EST)
Game 515-516: Central Michigan at Buffalo (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Central Michigan 47.103; Buffalo 58.284
Dunkel Line: Buffalo by 11
Vegas Line: Buffalo by 7 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Buffalo (-7 1/2)
Game 517-518: Northern Illinois at Eastern Michigan (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Northern Illinois 40.566; Eastern Michigan 47.524
Dunkel Line: Eastern Michigan by 7
Vegas Line: Eastern Michigan by 8 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Northern Illinois (+8 1/2)
Game 519-520: Miami (OH) at Bowling Green (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Miami (OH) 46.961; Bowling Green 51.705
Dunkel Line: Bowling Green by 5
Vegas Line: Bowling Green by 7
Dunkel Pick: Miami (OH) (+7)
Game 523-524: St. Mary's vs. Gonzaga (6:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: St. Mary's 69.025; Gonzaga 75.956
Dunkel Line: Gonzaga by 7; 134
Vegas Line: Gonzaga by 5; 138
Dunkel Pick: Gonzaga (-5); Under
Game 525-526: IPFW vs. South Dakota State (7:00 p.m. EST)
Game 527-528: North Dakota State vs. Western Illinois (9:30 p.m. EST)
Game 529-530: College of Charleston vs. Davidson (7:00 p.m. EST)
Game 531-532: Manhattan vs. Iona (9:00 p.m. EST)
Game 541-542: Savannah State vs. MD-Eastern Shore (6:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Savannah State 46.420; MD-Eastern Shore 35.739
Dunkel Line: Savannah State by 10 1/2
Vegas Line: Savannah State by 12
Dunkel Pick: MD-Eastern Shore (+12)
Game 543-544: Morgan State vs. South Carolina State (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Morgan State 53.488; South Carolina State 37.442
Dunkel Line: Morgan State by 16
Vegas Line: Morgan State by 13
Dunkel Pick: Morgan State (-13)