Updated on 09/17/2011 1:15PM

March Madness: Sunday's NCAA plays


Friday's NCAA action was just as thrilling as Thursday in Las Vegas's sports books, with most games being competitive, especially in relation to the point spread.

The higher seeded teams won all eight matchups in the first two sets of games, though one was actually an upset as Vanderbilt, a No. 6 seed, was a 2-point underdog to No. 11 Western Michigan. Vandy pulled away in the second half to win 71-58.

Two other dogs covered - Eastern Tennessee St. vs. Cincinnati and Northern Iowa vs. Georgia Tech - but the other five favorites rolled before the break prior to the evening games.

The late games saw even more excitement as five of the eight underdogs covered, with three of them winning outright - Xavier over Louisville, Pacific over Providence and Alabama-Birmingham over Washington. The Xavier game was another example in which the lower-seeded team was favored. Over Thursday and Friday, that happened three times (No. 9 Arizona was favored over Seton Hall on Thursday) and in all three cases the underdog/higher seed won outright.

When all was said and done, favorites and dogs went 8-8 on Friday, just like they did on Thursday. Counting the play-in game, in which underdog Florida A&M knocked off Lehigh, dogs have a negligible 17-16 edge. On Friday, the under went 10-6 and improved to 19-14 for the tournament.

Bankroll off to 8-4 start

My bankroll plays had a second straight 4-2 day on Friday.

The day started easily enough with Memphis -2 vs. South Carolina as the Tigers rolled to an easy 59-43 victory. Things looked a little dicey in the second session as my two big underdog plays, Eastern Tennessee St. +9 1/2 vs. Cincinnati and Northern Iowa +12 vs. Georgia Tech, both looked like they might be run out of the gym. Both rallied nicely and had late chances to pull the biggest upsets of the opening round before losing but still covering.

But neither of those winning bets were as lucky as my Wisconsin -8 1/2 play vs. Richmond. The Badgers trailed 42-29 with 14 minutes remaining and was making all of the pre-tournament Big 10 bashing look justified. I would have sold my ticket for pennies on the dollar, but then Wisconsin went on an unbelievable run that had them going from a double-digit deficit to a double-digit lead in less than seven minutes. The 76-64 victory made my bankroll plays 4-0 on the day heading into the nightcaps.

My Louisville -2 vs. Xavier play looked solid as Louisville jumped out to a seemingly comfortable 42-31 halftime lead and increased it to 53-39 before the gambling gods decided to exact a little revenge for the Wisconsin gift. My Illinois-Chicago +8 1/ 2 play vs. Kansas never really had a chance, but I still ended up 4-2 on the day and 8-4 through the first round with my bankroll plays.

On the drf.com website Thursday and Friday, I went ahead and picked all the tournament games against the spread and went 8-12-1 against the spread on games I didn't feel confident enough using in the bankroll. I guess that's how it's suppsed to be done - bet on your strongest opinions and pass on the others.

So, Friday's victors meet in the second round Sunday. Here's a look at those games, starting with my bankroll plays for the day:

Wisconsin (-1) vs. Pittsburgh
At Milwaukee, Wisc.

Both teams are very lucky to be here after escaping in the first round. At the Mandalay Bay sports book where I was watching the Wisconsin game, it was impossible to hear how loud the partisan crowd was in Milwaukee because everyone was going nuts as the Badgers went on their big run, but from the crowd shots on TV and the newspaper story account of the game it was pretty clear that the home crowd helped carry them to victory. It will be the same atmosphere on Sunday. This should be a low-scoring game with both defenses expected to really step up, but the home court should carry Wisconsin to victory.

PLAY: Wisconsin for 1 unit.

Alabama-Birmingham (+11) vs. Kentucky
At Columbus, Ohio

One of the surprises of the first round was how long Florida A&M, the only team to make the tournament with a losing record, was able to hang with Kentucky on Friday. If you watched the game, Florida A&M wasn't intimidated in the least and running with the Wildcats before Kentucky's overall talent edge came through and carried the No. 1 seed to a 96-76 non-covering victory. If you then watched the Alabama-Birmingham game vs. Washington, you saw another team that can run and run and put up its share of points, so I'm going to take the points with the Blazers. To put it in horseracing terms, I think Florida A&M was cheap speed, but UAB has more stamina.

PLAY: UAB for 1 unit.

Pacific (+10 1/2) vs. Kansas
At Kansas City, Mo.

During the course of the season, I like to catch TV games of small conference teams that I think can make the NCAA field. For the longest time, it looked like Utah St. would be the lone representative from the Big West, so Pacific admittedly slipped under my radar. The Tigers, however, ended the season with a 15-game winning streak and won the conference tournament. Still, I thought they would lose to Providence in the first round. I was really impressed by how they manhandled Providence. I'm usually careful not to let one game drastically alter my opinion of a team (for better or for worse), but based on some power ratings and from watching Friday's action, I thought this line would be Kansas -6 or 7, so I definitely had to jump on this at double digits.

PLAY: Pacific for 1 unit.

Oklahoma St. (-6) vs. Memphis
At Kansas St., Mo.

Memphis came through for me on Friday, but I have to go against them here with Oklahoma St., my pick to win it all. Oklahoma St. struggled vs. Eastern Washington, but then the Cowboys showed their true colors by still rolling to a 75-56 spread-covering victory. They have all the ingredients (inside scoring, outside scoring, defense, depth) to play with anyone. They're also flattered by the Big 12's performances so far in the tournament (4-0 straight up and against the spread with mostly comfortable wins). I haven't been as impressed with Conference USA (4-2 but only 3-3 against the spread with DePaul very lucky to escape in double overtime vs. Dayton), and I'm especially drawn to the first-round game vs. Texas Tech of the Big 12 and Charlotte of CUSA. Tech toyed with Charlotte but was always in control before holding off a late rally. Memphis is better than Charlotte, but Oklahoma St. is much better than Texas Tech, so I'm confident laying the six points.

PLAY: Oklahoma St. for 1 unit.

The rest of Sunday's games

Mississippi St. (-4 1/2) vs. Xavier: My first inclination was to lay the points with Mississippi St., but Xavier is an enigma for me. I don't have a handle on them - I picked Lousville to beat them - and I generally don't like getting beat by a team twice in a row when I get the feeling I might be underestimating them. I'll sit this one out and just watch it in hopes of picking up something for the next round.

North Carolina St. (-3 1/2) vs. Vanderbilt: Again, I lean to the favorite but got burned going against Vandy on Friday (it wasn't a published bankroll play, but it did lighten my wallet) and don't want to get burned by them twice.

Georgia Tech (-5 1/2) vs. Boston College: This line seems about right, though I lean a little to Georgia Tech because I love the way they play defense.

Illinois (+1 1/2) vs. Cincinnati: This is a true toss-up between No. 4 and 5 seeds and the line reflects it. I only lean to Illinois because they had a less-taxing first-round game. Otherwise, toss a coin.

Friday's bankroll plays: 4-2 for a net profit of 1.8 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).

First-round bankroll plays: 8-4 for a net profit of 3.6 units.

Record on all other tourney games (web site only, including play-in game): 8-12-1.

Record of all NCAA games: 16-16-1.

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