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Mississippi is one game away from taking its NCAA Tournament fate out of the hands of the selection committee. The third-seeded Rebels will face off against No. 1 seed Florida on Sunday in the SEC tournament championship game in Nashville, Tenn. Ole Miss entered the conference tournament as a bubble team and would like to ensure its spot in the NCAA Tournament by earning the automatic bid reserved for the SEC champion.
The Gators have had little trouble advancing to the championship game, blowing out Louisiana State in the quarterfinals on Friday and using a second-half surge to end Alabama’s tournament run on Saturday. Florida is playing for NCAA Tournament seeding, and is hoping a conference tournament triumph will put it into a No. 2 seed. To get there, the Gators will need to slow down Rebels star Marshall Henderson, who has averaged 25 points in the first two tournament games.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, ABC
ABOUT MISSISSIPPI (25-8): The Rebels have won six of their last seven games to surge back onto the top of the bubble. Mississippi had fallen off with a stretch of five losses in seven games from Jan. 29 to Feb. 20, which included a 78-64 setback at Florida on Feb. 2. Henderson scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half and Derrick Millinghaus scored with 1.1 seconds left to give the Rebels a 64-62 win in the quarterfinals over Missouri on Friday. Henderson went for 23 and Ole Miss had an easier time on Saturday with a 64-52 triumph over Vanderbilt. The Rebels were without point guard Jarvis Summers, who was injured on Friday, against the Commodores, and the sophomore is questionable for Sunday’s finale. Henderson hit seven 3-pointers en route to 25 points but the rest of the Ole Miss players combined to shoot 32.5 percent in the loss at Florida last month.
ABOUT FLORIDA (26-6): The Gators shot 51.6 percent and had four players with at least 13 points in the win over Ole Miss and have used that same strong defense and balanced offense in the SEC tournament. Erik Murphy starred with a career-high 27 points in the opener against LSU and Kenny Boynton took over on Saturday, keying a 15-0 run in the second half and scoring all 16 of his points after the break in the 61-51 triumph over Alabama. Florida stumbled a bit with three losses in the final six games of the regular season but has turned things around after a series of tough practices earlier in the week. The Gators are trying to secure their first SEC tournament title since 2007.
* Underdog is 6-0 ATS in the last six meetings.
* Under is 4-1 in Rebels’ last five overall.
* Gators are 1-4 ATS in their last five games following a S.U. win.
* Under is 7-1 in Gators’ last eight overall.
1. Mississippi has not won the SEC tournament since 1981 and has not made the championship game since falling to Kentucky in 2001.
2. Boynton snapped a 13-game streak of shooting under 50 percent when he went 6-for-12 on Saturday.
3. Henderson has hit at least three 3-pointers in eight straight games.
After a furious second-half comeback on Saturday, No. 13 Florida tries to cap off its SEC Tournament run with a victory over Ole Miss in Sunday's conference championship game.
The Gators overcame a 10-point deficit in the second half of Saturday's semifinal game to defeat Alabama 61-51. They are now 11-6 SU (9-8 ATS) in non-home games this season and 16-4 SU (11-9 ATS) in all SEC contests. One night after erasing a 14-point, second-half deficit in a two-point win over Missouri, Ole Miss turned a halftime tie into a 12-point victory over Vanderbilt in Saturday's semifinals, winning 64-52. The Rebels are now 4-0 SU (3-1 ATS) in their past four games since their shocking loss at 12-point underdog Mississippi State on March 2. These schools met just once this season, a 78-64 Florida win in Gainesville on Feb. 2, which gave the Gators their 11th win in the past 12 meetings in this series. However, the Rebels are 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings with Florida, including three straight covers.
Ole Miss has been relying heavily on SG Marshall Henderson in this SEC Tournament, as Henderson scored 27 of his team's 64 points on Friday, making 8-of-18 shots (4-of-12 threes). In Saturday's win, Henderson scored a game-high 23 points on 7-of-17 shooting (3-of-11 threes). But just as important for the Rebels in the win over Vandy was the play of starting forwards Reginald Buckner (15 points, nine rebounds) and Murphy Holloway (12 points, eight rebounds) who combined to make 11-of-16 FG, but just 5-of-15 free throws. Ole Miss has shot a horrible 52% from the line in this tournament, as Henderson is 13-of-15 and his teammates are just 14-of-37 (38%). PG Derrick Millinghaus scored 11 points on Friday, including the game-winning layup with 1.1 seconds left on the clock. But the 5-foot-10 freshman was held scoreless on Saturday, going 0-for-5 from the floor (0-for-4 threes). Ole Miss was two-man show in its loss at Florida on Feb. 2 as Henderson scored 25 points (7-of-11 threes) and Holloway scored 15 points and grabbed seven boards. But Holloway made just 5-of-16 shots that night, and SG Ladarius White was even worse at 2-of-10 FG. White hasn't been much better in Nashville with a 4-of-15 FG clip in the two SEC Tournament games.
Florida is a much more balanced team than Ole Miss with four double-digit scorers. Senior PG Kenny Boynton was in a two-game slump (5.5 PPG on 5-of-17 FG) before busting out with 11 points during a decisive 15-0 run in the second half versus Alabama, finishing with 16 points on 6-of-12 FG in that semifinal win. C Patric Young (13 points, nine rebounds) and SG Mike Rosario (10 points) were the other double-digit scorers on Saturday. PG Scottie Wilbekin scored just four points, but had four assists and one turnover. Florida was able to make up for a poor shooting day (44% FG, 3-of-17 threes) by committing just four turnovers versus Alabama. But the Gators had little trouble scoring in the Feb. 2 win over Ole Miss (52% FG, 38% threes), as PF Erik Murphy lit up the Rebels for 19 points on 7-of-8 FG (5-of-6 threes) with six rebounds. Rosario (14 pts, 6-of-10 FG), Young (13 pts, 6-of-8 FG) and Wilbekin (13 pts, 6-of-15 FG) all shot well against Ole Miss too, helping make up for Boynton's dreadful 3-of-13 afternoon. However, Boynton registered a game-high nine assists, which nearly doubled the entire Rebels team that managed just five assists and 13 turnovers for the game.
North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Miami Hurricanes (-2, 144)
North Carolina will attempt to add to its 17 ACC tournament titles and top-seeded Miami (Fla.) goes for its first when the two teams meet in the championship game on Sunday in Greensboro, N.C. Miami, which finished the regular season with two wins in its last five games, got back to the solid play that led them to a 13-0 league start by putting away North Carolina State 81-71 in the semifinals on Saturday. Guards Durand Scott and Shane Larkin led the way as they have most of the season, combining for 55 points against the Wolfpack.
The Hurricanes have beaten North Carolina twice this season, including a 26-point thumping in Coral Gables, Fla. The third-seeded Tar Heels have been a much better team since then, winning eight of their last nine. North Carolina has gone with a smaller lineup down the stretch, playing better on both ends.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, ESPN, ACC Network.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (24-9): The Tar Heels almost blew a double-digit lead in the 79-76 victory over Maryland in the semifinals, but made enough plays to seal it. North Carolina had 14 turnovers combined in the first two rounds, only two by freshman point guard Marcus Paige. P.J. Hairston, who came back from a nasty cut on his left hand he suffered in the quarterfinals, also continued his strong play. Hairston has averaged 19 points the last 10 games and Reggie Bullock has scored at a 16.1 clip the last seven. James Michael McAdoo is a consistent force inside for the Tar Heels, who average 77.2 points.
ABOUT MIAMI (26-6): Scott poured in a career-best 32 points in the semifinals, slicing through the Wolfpack defense and draining five 3-pointers. The senior leader, who was selected ACC Defensive Player of the Year, had averaged just less than 10 points the previous eight games. Larkin, a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award which is given to nation’s best point guard, has scored at least 20 points in four of the last six contests. Forward Kenny Kadji also has four double-doubles in the last five outings. The Hurricanes will need more impact from burly 6-10 center Reggie Johnson, who has only 17 points the last seven games.
* Tar Heels are 5-0 ATS in their last five games following an ATS loss.
* Tar Heels are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games overall.
* Under is 6-1 in Tar Heels’ last seven games following a S.U. win.
* Over is 5-0 in Hurricanes’ last five games following an ATS win.
1. North Carolina coach Roy Williams goes for his 700th career victory. He is 699-178 in his 25th season.
2. Miami has won two more games than any other Hurricanes team in program history.
3. North Carolina has 90 ACC tournament wins, one away from matching Duke for the most in league history.
No. 9 Miami tries to capture the title in its first ACC Tournament Championship game appearance Sunday when it faces a North Carolina team that will make its 32nd appearance in this conference final.
The Tar Heels had an easy win in the quarterfinals over Florida State (83-62), but nearly blew a 13-point lead with 11:28 remaining against Maryland on Saturday before hanging on for a 79-76 win. Although the Hurricanes won each of their two conference tourney games by double-digits, they did trail Boston College at halftime of Friday's eventual 69-58 win. Miami's 81-71 win over NC State improved the team to 12-5 SU (9-5-2 ATS) in non-home games this season. Carolina has also played well outside of Chapel Hill with a 10-7 SU (9-7 ATS) record. UNC is 8-1 SU (7-2 ATS) in its past nine games, but that doesn't include an 87-61 blowout loss at Miami on Feb. 9. The 'Canes also beat Carolina on the road on Jan. 10, prevailing 68-59. But before this regular-season series sweep, Miami had lost 10 straight meetings with UNC.
North Carolina is an outstanding offensive basketball team, and has posted 81.0 PPG during its two ACC Tournament wins. SG P.J. Hairston has 17.0 PPG in Greensboro, making 5-of-6 threes in Friday's quarterfinals. Junior swingman Reggie Bullock has also been tremendous with 16.0 PPG on 13-of-21 FG (62%) and 5-of-12 threes. PF James Michael McAdoo has 12.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG in the two games, but has been in major foul trouble in both contests with nine fouls. Senior PG Dexter Strickland also has 12.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG in the two wins, knocking down 7-of-12 shots against Maryland, while freshman PG Marcus Paige has 8.5 PPG and 6.0 APG in the two games. While Bullock (14 pts, 7 reb) and Hairston (11 pts) played pretty well in the Feb. 9 loss at Miami, McAdoo (3-for-12 FG), Paige (1-for-9 FG) and Strickland (1-for-4 FG) all shot horribly. McAdoo and Paige were much better in the Jan. 10 home loss to the 'Canes, scoring 14 and 10 points, respectively, with a combined 11 rebounds. Bullock was just 4-of-16 that night, but did contribute six rebounds and five assists.
Miami enters this game with three losses in its past six contests, but the offense has steadily improved during its current three-game win streak with 62 points, 69 points and 81 points on Saturday. The team has three main scorers in PG Shane Larkin, PF Kenny Kadji and SG Durand Scott who all average more than a dozen points. Scott was the hero in the semifinal win over NC State with a career-high 32 points (12-for-18 FG, 5-of-8 threes) to go along with four assists, three rebounds and two steals. Larkin also had a big afternoon with 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. This is Larkin's fourth 20-point game in the past six contests. Although Kadji made just 2-of-9 shots on Saturday, he still pulled down nine rebounds and had two blocked shots. He had been on fire in his previous five games with 18.6 PPG on 52% FG. Senior F/C Julian Gamble also pitched in with 10 points on a perfect 4-of-4 FG in the win over the Wolfpack. All four players have thoroughly enjoyed facing the defensively-challenged Tar Heels this season. Scott has a well-rounded 14.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.0 APG and 3.0 SPG in the two victories, and Larkin has pitched in 14.5 PPG, while dishing out nine assists in the Feb. 9 victory. Kadji has dominated the Heels this season with 17.5 PPG (62% FG), 7.5 RPG and 2.5 BPG, and Gamble has 22 points on 11-of-15 FG with 12 rebounds in the two meetings combined.
SEC tournament (Nashville)
Florida hasn't won SEC tourney since '07, when they won national title; Gators are 7-6 in SEC tourney since- they shot 64% inside arc, routed Ole Miss 78-64 (-17.5) Feb 2- Henderson went 7-11 behind arc, rest of Rebels 0-6. Ole Miss is 6-1 in last seven games, has to be little nervous about NCAAs if they lose- loss was at #257 Miss State. Ole Miss used three starters 37+ minutes Saturday. Florida allowed 58 or less points in last eight wins, 61+ points in last four losses.
ACC tournament (Greensboro)
Miami is in ACC tournament finals for first time; they beat UNC twice this year, 68-59 in Deandome, 87-61 at home; 'canes were 24-52 on arc in two games, UNC 12-35- Heels took total of 14 FTs in the two games. North Carolina won eight of last nine games, with only loss to Duke in regular season finale. UNC played three starters 34+ minutes Saturday in 79-76 win over Maryland- they lost in ACC finals last two years, to Duke/FSU. Heels are 0-4 vs Duke/Miami, 14-2 vs rest of ACC.
Atlantic 16 tournament (Brooklyn)
Veteran-laden Saint Louis (top 6 guys juniors/seniors) won 23 of last 26 games, with last two losses in OT. SLU (-2) beat VCU 76-62 at home Feb 19, tunring ball over only 8 times, shooting 73% (19-26) inside arc. Rams are now 21-5 in last 26 conference tourney games; force turnovers 28.6% of time, most in country, but Billikens are in top 10% in country in ball security. VCU won 10 of their last 12 games overall; they played three subs double digit minutes Saturday. SLU forced 20 turnovers (+12) Saturday in beating Butler for third time this season.
Big Dozen tourney (Chicago)
Ohio State is 12-2 in this tourney last 4+ years, they've won last eight games overall, with seven of eight by 8+ points; home side won both its games with Wisconsin this season- Badgers won 71-49 at home Feb 17, after losing 58-49 in first meeting Jan 19. Wisky is in Big Dozen final for first time since '08; Ryan is 2-2 in finals, losing by 11-17 points-- they shot 58% inside arc as they beat Indiana for 12th time in row Saturday. Ryan played three starters 31+ minutes. Buckeyes had only five TO's in tense 61-58 win over Michigan State.
NCAA Basketball Picks
North Carolina vs. Miami (FL)
The Hurricanes look to follow up yesterday's 81-71 win over NC State and build on their 17-6-1 ATS record in their last 24 games following a SU victory. Miami (FL) is the pick (-2 1/2) according to Dunkel, which has the Hurricans favored by 5. Dunkel Pick: Miami (FL) (-2 1/2). Here are all of today's games.
SUNDAY, MARCH 17
Time Posted: 7:30 a.m. EST
Game 887-888: North Carolina vs. Miami (FL) (1:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: North Carolina 67.889; Miami (FL) 72.835
Dunkel Line: Miami (FL) by 5; 137
Vegas Line: Miami (FL) by 2 1/2; 140 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Miami (FL) (-2 1/2); Under
Game 889-890: Mississippi vs. Florida (1:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Mississippi 66.828; Florida 74.877
Dunkel Line: Florida by 8; 140
Vegas Line: Florida by 11 1/2; 135 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Florida (+11 1/2); Over
Game 891-892: VCU vs. St. Louis (1:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: VCU 66.888; St. Louis 70.924
Dunkel Line: St. Louis by 4; 133
Vegas Line: St. Louis by 1 1/2; 136 1/2
Dunkel Pick: St. Louis (-1 1/2); Under
Game 893-894: Wisconsin vs. Ohio State (3:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Wisconsin 73.608; Ohio State 72.598
Dunkel Line: Wisconsin by 1; 122
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 1 1/2; 117 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Wisconsin (+1 1/2); Over
Wisconsin Badgers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (-1.5, 118)
Second-seeded Ohio State goes after its third Big Ten tournament title in four seasons when it meets fourth-seeded Wisconsin in Sunday’s contest in Chicago. The No. 9 Buckeyes won the 2010 and 2011 crowns and advanced by knocking off Michigan State in Saturday’s semifinals. Ohio State has won seven consecutive games dating back to being routed 71-49 by the Badgers on Feb. 17. No. 23 Wisconsin ousted top-seeded Indiana in the semifinals and has won six of its last eight games.
The Badgers held high-scoring Indiana to a season-low point total in a 68-56 victory. Wisconsin isn’t all that athletic compared to the Hoosiers and the Michigan squad it beat in the quarterfinals but figures out how to get the job done. “Just means we have a bunch of guys that want to play and play hard,” senior forward Mike Bruesewitz said. “Kind of how college basketball has gone this whole year.” The Buckeyes split two games with the Badgers in the regular season but are still smarting over the whipping they took in the second outing. “We’ve got to be ready from the tip-off against them because last game we weren’t ready,” Ohio State junior forward Deshaun Thomas said. “But now we’ve got to be ready and focused because we know Wisconsin is going to hold that ball and try to run the clock to the end.”
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (25-7): Junior point guard Aaron Craft had an outstanding game against Michigan State with 20 points, a season-high nine assists and four steals. Craft doesn’t typically look to score – the 20-point outing is just the third of his career – but was 9-of-13 shooting against the Spartans. “I think we have a lot of plays that we can execute that either get me open shots or I can help create for somebody else,” Craft said. Craft has 17 assists in the first two games of the tourney as he has stepped up his typical high-level intensity even further. “He loves these types of games,” coach Thad Matta said. “There’s no question about it. He’s big for us.”
ABOUT WISCONSIN (22-10): Nobody averages even 12 points for the team-oriented Badgers and any one of six players can be the hero on any given night. Senior forward Ryan Evans earned that tag with 16 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots against the Hoosiers but stellar team defense overshadowed his fine effort. Junior guard Ben Brust makes 3-pointers (75), senior center Jared Berggren blocks shots (68), sophomore guard Traevon Jackson runs the offense (93 assists) and Bruesewitz does a little bit of everything. Freshman forward Sam Dekker had seven of his 11 points in a key second-half sequence.
* Buckeyes are 4-0 ATS in their last four games overall.
* Under is 6-1 in Buckeyes’ last seven overall.
* Badgers are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven games following a S.U. win.
1. Ohio State averaged 53.5 points in the two meetings against the Badgers, more than 16 points less below its season average of 69.8.
2. The Badgers are 17-3 when holding opponents under 60 points this season.
3. The Buckeyes committed five turnovers in the win over Michigan State.
No. 22 Virginia Commonwealth will get a shot at revenge — and improving its seed for the NCAA Tournament — when the Rams take on No. 16 Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 championship game Sunday in Brooklyn, N.Y. Saint Louis easily handled VCU in the regular season, winning 76-62 at home while withstanding the Rams' vaunted "Havoc" defense.
The top-seeded Billikens, who won the regular-season title outright, have advanced to their first conference championship game since joining the Atlantic 10 in 2005-06. The second-seeded Rams, however, are playing in their conference title tilt for the third straight year — the last two came in the Colonial Athletic Association.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
ABOUT VCU (26-7, 12-4 Atlantic 10): The Rams can put up the points, thanks in part to the large number of turnovers they force and strong outside shooting. Senior guard Troy Daniels (12.5 points) led the barrage in a 71-62 win over Massachusetts in the semifinals, going 6-for-9 from 3-point range. If the Rams are going to knock off Saint Louis, they'll need leading scorer Treveon Graham (15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds) to bounce back after going 1-for-12 for three points Saturday. Forward Juvonte Reddic (14.4 points, 8.3 rebounds) is coming off a big game, though, with 18 points and 12 rebounds against the Minutemen.
ABOUT SAINT LOUIS (26-6, 13-3): The Billikens are one of the top defensive teams in the nation, but they also boast four double-digit scorers. Undersized power forward Dwayne Evans (13.6 points, 7.7 rebounds) has led the way all season, but he has taken over completely in the conference tournament. Evans is 15-of-19 from the floor and 18-of-20 from the foul line through his first two games in the tournament and has compiled 49 points and 20 rebounds. Reserve forward Cody Ellis (10.3 points) also had a solid game in Saturday's 67-56 win over Butler with 13 points off the bench.
* Billikens are 8-0 ATS in their last eight games vs. a team with a winning percentage above .600.
* Billikens are 8-0 ATS in their last eight Sunday games.
* Over is 4-0 in Rams’ last four games following an ATS win.
1. The top two seeds have reached the Atlantic 10 final for the first time since 2005.
2. Evans has scored in double figures in 14 consecutive games.
3. Graham has failed to reach double digits in scoring only four times this season.