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And here are my previews and predictions for Friday’s East Region games with odds – as always – from BetOnline.ag:
St. Peters vs. Purdue – 7:09pm
Spread: Purdue -13
Moneyline: Purdue -1000/St. Peter’s +660
In what is arguably the story of the tournament – the St. Peter’s Peacocks continue to defy odds as they rummage through the bracket like it’s a bacon egg and cheese SPK on a Sunday morning. Head coach Shaheen Holloway has the Jersey boys hoopin’ – led by junior guard Doug Edert – and although they’re already playing with house money, I’m sure they have their sights set on more than just a Sweet Sixteen birth.
Purdue, however, will be a different beast. Led by top NBA prospect Jaden Ivey – the Boilermakers are the 3-seed in the East region and have the fourth shortest odds to win the entire tournament at +500 according to BetOnline.ag. Head coach Matt Painter is in his 17th season at the helm in West Lafayette – so he’ll have his guys ready to go against the Peacocks.
I unfortunately think the Cinderella run stops here. What coach Holloway has done for St. Peter’s this season has been nothing short of sensational, and frankly it’ll probably land him a power five job. However, Purdue will squeak by on Friday night. I’m sure the Peacocks will fight hard, and I expect them to cover the spread – but the Boilermakers advance to the Elite Eight.
Prediction: Purdue 65 – St. Peter’s 58
Side: St. Peter’s +13
Total: UNDER 134
North Carolina vs. UCLA – 9:39pm
Spread: UCLA -2
Moneyline: UCLA -135/UNC +115
All of these Sweet Sixteen games have been spectacular – but this one truly feels like it will be the game of the round. Two storied programs in UNC and UCLA are set to face off on Friday night in what should set up to be an instant classic. Last Saturday, the Tarheels of North Carolina had Baylor down for the count before allowing them to come back from 25 down and force overtime. However, UNC stood their ground and was able to outlast the Bears 93-86. The ACC has been the conference of the tournament, and the Heels will look to continue that narrative on Friday.
On the other side, head coach Mick Cronin and UCLA are coming off of an improbable Final Four appearance last season, and are looking to build off of that this year. Led by guards Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr., the Bears have won 7 of their last 8 games and don’t look to be stopping anytime soon.
Although I’ve pumped up how good the ACC has been all year long, I think the buck stops here for the Tarheels. UCLA proved last season that they know how to compete in the tournament, and they’ll continue that on Friday night. It’ll be tight, but the Bears move on.
Prediction: UCLA 76 – UNC 73
Side: UCLA -2
Total: OVER 141.5
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