Friday, March 19, 2010

NCAA Tournament Picks: Vermont vs. Syracuse, Louisville vs. California, Gonzaga vs. Florida State

The NCAA basketball tournament 2010 scores are about to tip-off and the NCAA bracket update is ready for Friday.  Here are the March Madness picks and predictions info for Friday.

The West Region NCAA Tournament bracket continues Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET when No. 9 Florida State takes on No. 8 Gonzaga.

Gonzaga (15-11-2 ATS) has won five of its last six games but lost its most recent outing, an 81-62 thumping by St. Mary's in the WCC Championship.

Few players stood out for the Zags against St. Mary's. Guard Steven Gray paced the Bulldogs with 16 points, while fellow guard Matt Bouldin chipped in with 14.

Florida State (8-18 ATS) is 2-2 over its past four games after losing 58-52 to the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the ACC tournament.

Center Solomon Alabi was fantastic for Florida State in that loss, racking up 13 points and nine boards and blocking four shots. Nobody else even scored in double figures.

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Certainly there isn't a No. 1 seed in this NCAA Tournament with more questions than Syracuse, as the Orange enter the Big Dance on a two-game losing streak and will be without starting center Arinze Onuaku for Friday's first-round game against Vermont in Buffalo. Still, SU, which is a top seed for the first time since 1980, is a 16.5-point favorite on Bodog's NCAA Basketball Odds

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Onuaku injured his leg in Syracuse's Big East Tournament opening loss to Georgetown and won't play tonight. He is the school's all-time field-goal percentage leader and was a big reason why the Orange were just one of two teams to shoot better than 50 percent from the field this season. The 6-foot-9, 261-pounder averaged 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds this season, shooting a whopping 66.8 percent from the field. It's likely that Onuaku also will miss Sunday's game should Syracuse advance. Kris Joseph, the Big East's sixth man of the year, will start in Onuaku's place, and seldom-used freshman DaShonte Riley will see more time now.

Of course no 16th seed has ever beaten a No. 1, but the Catamounts might have a shot after winning the America East tourney with relative ease. This is their fourth NCAA Tournament, and Vermont upset Syracuse in the first round of the 2005 Big Dance in its last appearance.Senior Marqus Blakely is the star for Vermont, as he is a two-time America East Player of the Year and the reigning three-time defensive player of the year in the conference He leads the team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. Blakely and likely national player of the year Evan Turner of Ohio State are the only players in the nation to average at least 17 points, nine rebounds and three assists per game this year.

Entering this tournament, a No. 1 vs. No. 16 game hasn't even been decided by single digits in 12 years.

Now to Louisville vs. California. The final scheduled game of the NCAA Tournament's first round features No. 9 seed Louisville and No. 8 California in Jacksonville on Friday night, and the Bears will be without one of their starters. This game is currently a pick'em on Bodog's college basketball odds (the only pick'em on the board).

California (23-10), the Pac-10 regular season champion, will be without starting forward Omondi Amoke, who was suspended indefinitely this week for an undisclosed violation of team rules. The 6-foot-7 sophomore averages 4.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He has started 14 games, including the past six for the Bears. Either Markhuri Sanders-Frison or Max Zhang will start in Amoke's spot. Cal is a backcourt-dominated team led senior guards Jerome Randle (the Pac-10 Player of the Year) and Patrick Christopher. Those two are automatic at the free-throw line if they get there – Randle is second in the nation in free-throw percentage at 93.5 percent.

Louisville (20-12) closed the regular season with an impressive win over then-No. 1 Syracuse, but the Cards tanked in their Big East tourney opener in losing to Cincinnati. Senior guard Jerry Smith (8.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg) sat out that loss with a thumb injury but will play against Cal. Coach Rick Pitino's team has reached the Elite Eight each of the past two seasons. The Cardinals are in large part a two-man team of forward Samardo Samuels and guard Edgar Sosa. But Samuels has been off in the past six games, averaging just 11.3 points (four below his team-leading season average) while committing 23 turnovers. Cal doesn't have much of a frontcourt, so the 6-foot-9 Samuels would seem to have the potential to dominate in the paint.

Cal and Louisville have never met. The Cardinals are 9-15 all-time when playing as a lower seed. The winner likely faces South Region top seed Duke on Sunday.

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