03/19/2005 1:00AM

NCAA: ACC in Sunday spotlight


LAS VEGAS - To hear a lot of CBS and ESPN commentators talking late Friday night, you would think Friday was a day of upsets.

All of the talk was about how the madness had been put back in . That's understandable in a way as No. 14 seed Bucknell shocked No. 3 Kansas 64-63 in Oklahoma City, Okla., and No. 13 Vermont upset No. 4 Syracuse 60-57 in overtime in Worchester, Mass., but, in fact, those were the only two upsets in 16 games on Friday and only the fifth and sixth upsets through the end of the first round. It's interesting to note that despite the fact No. 10 North Carolina St. beat No. 7 Charlotte, No. 9 Mississippi St. beat Stanford and No. 9 Iowa St. beat No. 8 Minnesota, all three of those victors were actually favored.

While a lot was also made of Louisville, Florida, Georgia Tech, Michigan St. and Villanova all struggling at times, when the dust had all settled, underdogs were a combined 8-7-1 on Friday with the North Carolina-Oakland game being the push. Through the first round, underdogs were a barely profitable 17-15-1 combined (including the Tuesday play-in game).

Actually, the real betting story on Friday was the fact that 11 of the 16 games went under the closing totals. Through the first round, unders have a solid 20-13 (60.6 percent) advantage and 13 of those have finished more than 10 points below the total.

* As for my own betting results, my published bankroll plays went 3-2-1 on Friday's card with wins on Ohio +11 1/2 vs. Florida, Old Dominion +8 1/2 vs. Michigan St. and Georgia Tech -5 1/2 vs. George Washington. My losses were on New Mexico +5 1/2 vs. Villanova and Saint Mary's +2 1/2 vs. Southern Illinois, while the push was, of course, in the North Carolina-Oakland game, in which I took Oakland +28.

Here's a look at Sunday's card as the field gets whittled down to the Sweet 16. As opposed to Saturday when I went with four plays, I'm basically just going with the three dogs I like and passing on the other games.

At Worcester, Mass.

This could be defensive battle. It's tempting to take the defending national champs at a relatively short price, but the preference is to take the points in a game that should come down to the final buzzer. This North Carolina St. team, while not the class of the ACC, is scrappy and has some similarities to the 1983 national championship Cinderella story (late run to make the tourney field, reliance on perimeter shooting, etc.). Wolfpack senior guard Julius Hodge is determined to not let his college career end and offers solid leadership, and if he just get some help from Ilian Evtimov or Charlie Bennerman, he could carry them to the Sweet 16. Except NC St. to slow down the pace and use its 3-point shooting and back-door cuts vs. a bigger UConn team, which is no Phi Slamma Jamma.

PLAY: NC St. for 1 unit.

At Charlotte, N.C.

For all practical purposes, I should have lost my bet going against North Carolina on Friday as the Tar Heels dominated from the start, hitting 22 of their 30 shots in the first half and leading by 26 at halftime. They could have named their score, but ended up winning by the 28-point spread. So, I see this as a free bet and will take the points against North Carolina again. Iowa St. smothered Minnesota with a variety of defenses and will offer an interesting challenge for the Tar Heels, who have a tendency to play down to the level of their competition. A pressure defense could force North Carolina into making quick decisions and lead to turnovers. Even though the Cyclones are unlikely to pull the outright upset, they should be able to stay within single digits.

PLAY: Iowa St. for 1 unit.

At Nashville, Tenn.

Make it two games on ACC teams and one against. Both these teams weren't particularly sharp in the early going of their games on Friday, but both came through in the clutch. Basically, this play comes down to the feeling that Georgia Tech's inconsistent year - and subsequent No. 5 seed instead of being higher as would be expected from playing in the title game last year - is what's allowing us to take the Yellow Jackets in an underdog role, though by a narrow margin. I just think Georgia Tech has the better and deeper team (B.J. Elder, Will Bynum, Jarrett Jack and Luke Schenscher are playing better together at the right time), though this should be a dogfight.

PLAY: Georgia Tech for 1 unit.

The rest of Sunday's games

Here are my leans for the other four games on Sunday that I can't pull the trigger on for one reason or another:

: Oklahoma St. seemed to toy with Southeastern Louisiana before going on a big run and finally coasting to a win. I like the Cowboys, but don't want to count on them to win by double digits, which is what it would take to win this bet.

: It stands to reason that Bucknell will come back to Earth after its upset of Kansas, but I'm even less inclined to depend on Wisconsin for a double-digit win.

: Both had rough games in winning on Friday. Michigan St, having played in a tougher conference, would seem to be able to bounce back easier on short rest, but just don't want to lay the points (do I sound like a broken record?).

: Both teams bolted out to huge leads on Friday but then didn't act like they wanted to win their opening-round games before taking control late. I just can't back either with confidence.

: Mississippi St. blew out Stanford while Duke struggled with a pesky Delaware St. team, but I think it's likely coach Mike Krzyzewski will get the Blue Devils back on track here, but, again, I'm not confident enough to take the chalk.

Friday's bankroll record: 3-2-1 for a net profit of 0.8 units (based on laying 1.1. units to win 1). Bankroll record through Friday: 7-4-1 for a net profit of 2.6 units. Friday's non-bankroll plays: 4-6. Overall record on all games through Friday: 17-15-1.