Updated on 09/17/2011 9:59PM

Day two should go to the dogs

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LAS VEGAS - Thursday's opening-day of the is always an adrenaline rush. Everyone starts with a perfect bracket and then it's usually a day full of nail-biting as the first 16 games play out. It's a day with a charm all its own.

But for my money, the first Friday of the tourney is my favorite. No matter how the first day has gone, Friday always seem like a fresh start. Plus, it's a day to start making bets on Saturday's second-round action.

There seems to be more live underdogs on Friday's card than were available on Thursday, so if all the chalk seems to be coming in, don't start loading up on the favorites. The dogs should be barking Friday, or else I will be in the doghouse. Here are my six bankroll plays for Friday, and they include five dogs. They're listed in the order of their scheduled tip-off times (all times Eastern).


12:25 p.m. at Nashville, Tenn.

Florida has been a great go-against team the last few years, including an opening-round loss to Manhattan last year. This year's squad, fresh off an SEC tournament championship and two wins over Kentucky, seems tougher than recent Florida teams, but the historical angle is only a small reason for going against them here. Ohio is a lot more athletic than most people will expect. And don't discount the fact that Ohio is playing for conference pride. The Bobcats are the lone representative, and most people feel that Miami (Ohio) and Buffalo were snubbed by the NCAA selection committee. Ohio should get that point across.

PLAY: Ohio for 1 unit.


2:45 p.m. at Nashville, Tenn.

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, I'm sure you've heard all the trends about how No. 12 seeds have gone 8-8 STRAIGHT-UP vs. No. 5 seeds the past four years and that at least one No. 12 seed has pulled a first-round upset in 14 of the last 15 years, yada, yada, yada. Well, here's my most likely upset of this year's four choices. New Mexico is even better than your typical 12-seed. The Lobos won the tournament to receive their automatic bid, but they have also won 12 of 13 games since stud forward Danny Granger returned from a knee injury in January and, in fact, have only lost three games this season when he was in the lineup. If he had been healthy all season, New Mexico might be a No. 6 seed instead of Utah. But that's fine, it just gives us more line value here. Villanova is a quality team, but the selection committee didn't do them any favors with this draw.

PLAY: New Mexico for 1 unit.


2:50 p.m. at Oklahoma City, Okla.

This might be as even of a matchup as there is in the first round, though I'm not convinced that Saint Mary's shouldn't be favored in this game. Neither team has a strong inside game, so it should be an entertaining shootout (I'd also look over the total of 127). Like New Mexico, Saint Mary's is 19-4 since Paul Marigney got back in the lineup after being academically ineligible, and he and Daniel Kickert can both put up points in bunches. That should be the difference against SIU, which is balanced and plays well as a team, but doesn't have the go-to guy to rely on in the clutch.

PLAY: Saint Mary's for 1 unit.


3 p.m. at Charlotte, N.C.

Back to the historical trends: the past three years, the play-in winner has been between a 27- and 29-point underdog in its second round game, losing but covering the spread each time. So, here we have Oakland, fresh off its 79-69 win over Alabama A&M in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday, as a 28-point dog to No. 1 seed North Carolina. Oakland definitely looked better than expected on Tuesday and will be out to prove it's not a fluke, despite a 13-18 record. I don't expect Oakland to pull the upset, but North Carolina, with the most talented group of players in the nation, has certainly shown a tendency to play down to the level of competition at times. I'll take the points and hope for history to repeat itself.

PLAY: Oakland for 1 unit.


9:30 p.m. at Worchester, Mass.

This is another No. 12 vs. No. 5 game, though I'm not as confident about an outright upset. Old Dominion is a physical team and won't be intimidated by the Big 10 style of play that Michigan St. will bring to the court. Old Dominion's Alex Loughton is the second-best Australian player in the tournament behind Utah's Andrew Bogut and this could be his coming-out party. Neither team will be looking to push the ball on the break, so I see both teams scoring in the 60s, which makes taking the points all the more tempting.

PLAY: Old Dominion for 1 unit.


9:30 p.m. at Nashville, Tenn.

This is my only favorite on Friday's card. Despite the No. 5 jinx, I have to like Tech's chances as I have them getting back to the Final Four. The Yellow Jackets have come on of late, especially since the return of B.J. Elder from a hamstring injury, and have one of the most talented and experienced lineups in the tourney along with Will Bynum, Jarrett Jack and big-man Luke Schenscher. This just looks like a team that has tasted success, goes through the motions, and then is able to "turn it on" when the important games start.

PLAY: Georgia Tech for 1 unit.

The rest of Friday's games

These are the way I'm leaning on the rest of the games of Friday's card, but just can't pull the trigger for one reason or another:

: When the brackets came out with NC St. a No. 9 seed and Charlotte a No. 8, I circled this game figuring I'd take the points, but the oddsmakers made the Wolfpack the favorite, so I'll have to pass.

: Can't make a case for Southeast Louisiana, so this is clearly a "gun to the head" type of selection. I'll only be watching to project how the Cowboys will fare vs. SIU-St. Mary's winner.

: Another toss-up. Should be a photo finish.

: This almost made it as a bankroll play. If Central Florida can knock down some early 3-pointers, they could stick around for a while until UConn wears them down (possible first-half bet?).

: The Orangemen are getting hot at the right time and hav plenty of postseason experience with four starters having rings from the championship team two years ago, but just don't like laying this many points, so I have to pass.

: The Cardinals have a point to prove after only getting a No. 4 seed and have won their games by an average of 18.8 points, but again just too many points to lay.

: Northern Iowa fits the mold of a March Madness Cinderella, but Wisconsin has been playing well lately.

: Duke should roll, but will the subs be able to hold onto the point-spread cover?

: Ditto.

: Another toss-up of an 8-9 game.