NCAA Basketball Tournament, First Round Washington Huskies (24-9, 14-18 ATS) vs. Marquette Golden Eagles (22-11, 16-10 ATS), HP Pavilion, San Jose, Thursday, March 18th, 7:20 PM Eastern, CBS
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Eagles -1.5/Huskies +1.5
One of the eight teams to make the NCAA tournament from the conference widely regarded as the best in the land takes on one of just two teams from a major conference thought to be on the downside as the Marquette Golden Eagles of the Big East play the Washington Huskies of the PAC-10 in the 6/11 first-round game in the East Regional Thursday evening out in San Jose.
Online Bookmakers opened this game with Marquette favored by a point or two, with an over/under of from 141.5 to 143. And those numbers have basically held in early betting action.
The Eagles are calculated as about half-point favorites over the Huskies on Sagarin’s PREDICTOR line at USAToday.com.
As of a few weeks ago the Huskies were on the outside of the NCAA tournament bubble, looking in. UW started 9-2 this season, then lost five of seven games and sat at 12-7 overall and 35 in PAC-10 play. But the Huskies won nine of their last 11 conference games to finish third in the PAC-10 regular-season standings at 11-7, then beat Oregon State, Stanford and regular-season champ Cal to win the conference tournament.
Depth plays into Washington’s up-tempo style, as the Huskies have 10 guys averaging 10 or more minutes of floor time per game.
Marquette also was iffy for the tournament just a few weeks ago. They started 6-0 this season, but then lost eight of their next 13 games, including five of their first seven Big East contests. But the Eagles perked up at just the right time, winning nine of their last 11 conference games to place fifth in the Big East at 11-7. And they got to the semifinals of the conference tournament before losing 80-57 to Georgetown.
The Huskies, who are starting a senior, two juniors, a sophomore and a freshman, are shooting 45% from the floor this season, just 32.5% from 3-point range and 73% from the FT line. U-Dub is also holding opponents to 42% FG shooting, and they rank 49th in D1 ball in rebounding at +4.3 per game.
The Eagles, who are starting two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore, are shooting 45% from the field, almost 41% from 3-point land and 74% from the line. At the other end of the floor Marquette is allowing foes to shoot almost 45% from the field. And the Eagles have had some trouble on the boards, ranking just 231st at -1.2 RPG.
But MU ranked sixth in the country with a 15.2/10.3 A/TO ratio, while the Huskies ranked 73rd at 14/12.8.
This is the fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance for the Eagles; last year they lost a crazy game to Missouri in the second round.
After missing the tournament in 2007 and ’08, the Huskies returned last year, losing a tough one to Purdue in the second round.
These two teams played one common opponent this season, the Georgetown Hoyas. Washington lost to G-Town on a neutral court back in December 74-66 as two-point underdogs. Two weeks later, Marquette beat the Hoyas 62-59 as 1.5-point home favorites, before falling, as mentioned above, by 23 points last Friday as 3.5-point underdogs.
These two teams have no recent history of playing each other.
Washington is 15-13 on the betting totals this season, as Huskies games have averaged just under 150 points.
Marquette, meanwhile, is 14-13 on the totals, as Eagles games have averaged 137 points.
Going into the tournament Sagarin is ranking the Big East as the second-best conference in the land, behind only the Big 12, while the PAC-10 ranks sixth.
Since 1985, six seeds are 69-31 straight up vs. 11 seeds in the first round of the NCAA tournament. And over the past 20 tournaments, the six seeds are 40-31-1 ATS vs. the 11 seeds. Last year, though, the sixes went 3-1 SU but 1-3 ATS vs. the 11s.
Z-Man’s Pick: The team that defends the three ball and wins the battle of the boards will win this game and that is Washington.