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NCAA Tournament Play-in Wednesday: how to watch, announcers, odds

Go Arizona State!

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Arizona State Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

First things first: the annual Rumble Yahoo! Tournament pick-em is live, so sign up and make your picks!

Second: the St. John’s women’s team has made the WNIT, and will play on Thursday.

Third: there are MORE NCAA Tournament games on tonight. The schedule:

Texas Southern vs North Carolina Central

(16) North Carolina Central Aggies vs. (16) Texas Southern Tigers 6:40 p.m.

How to watch: truTV | Stream

Announcers: Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce

Vegas line: Texas Southern, -4

The HBCU invitational!

On one side is Texas Southern, a squad that spent November and December collecting checks for road games, seeing some of the great venues of the sport — Allen Fieldhouse (Kansas), the Carrier Dome (Syracuse), Knight Arena (Oregon), Value City Arena (Ohio State), Littlejohn Coliseum (Clemson) and wherever it is TCU plays. They went 0-13.

Since the calendar turned January 1st, the date of their first home game, the Tigers have gone 15-6. Not dominant, but respectable. They have been good at keeping the ball and drawing free throw attempts. Along with high scoring 5’7” sophomore Demontrae Jefferson and UMass transfer Donte Clark, TSU also has 7’2” center Trayvon Reed, an Auburn transfer.

On the other side, North Carolina Central — possibly the least informative direction one could think of — is led by a damn magician in LeVelle Moton. Injuries forced the Aggies to play a walk-on, start a freshman, insert a little-used John Guerra (a transfer from Navy two years ago) as a starter, and begin the month of March with a losing record. NC Central was 9-7, sixth in their conference, but ripped off four wins to win the championship.

Watch for big man Raasean Davis in this slowed-down offense. Their interior defense and rebounding has been very good; but if the game turns into a three-point shooting contest, Texas Southern has the advantage.

The TSU Tigers have been ok on defense, limiting three-point attempts from opponents and not fouling. But they play at a fast pace and have allowed some strong shooting numbers to conference opponents; and they have had 18 different starting lineups as they deal with injuries.

The coaches are experienced. TSU is coached by former Indiana and UAB coach Mike Davis and TSU has made the Tournament 4 times in six years. NC Central has made the tourney three times in the last six years, and Moton has four 20-win seasons in his nine years as head coach.

Rooting interest: For a good game, but, I dunno, let’s go NC Central.


Arizona State vs Syracuse

(11) Arizona State Sun Devils vs. (11) Syracuse Orange 9:10 p.m.

How to watch: truTV | Stream

Announcers: Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce

Vegas line: Opened as PK, movement to ASU, -2

How can we hate thee? Let us count the ways...

Syracuse, losers of three straight against St. John’s...

Two middling major conference teams meet in a matchup between fun and Boeheim. The Arizona State Sun Devils play at a fast pace, led by guards Tra Holder and Shannon Evans, while guards Tyus Battle and Frank Howard lead Syracuse.

The Orange were decimated by an injury to Howard Washington and a late-summer transfer from Taurean Thompson (to Seton Hall) and a mid-season defection from guard Geno Thorpe, a grad transfer from South Florida. (I anticipate the parallels our most prolific readers will make in the comments.)

What should have been a pretty good Syracuse team still earned some solid wins over the likes of Virginia Tech and, later, Clemson, using the tried and true method of zone defense, tall players, slow pace/ limited possessions and some particularly gnarly shooting numbers.

Hey, it was good enough for an 8-10 record and an NCAA Tournament berth.

Arizona State started off 12-0, ripping through Xavier, St. John’s and Kansas in non-conference play, but then managing to lose to Colorado (on the road in Boulder & again in Las Vegas - mountain air?), Oregon (twice), Oregon State, Washington and Stanford. The only available high-quality win in the Pac-12 was Arizona, and the Devils lost to them twice.

ASU hasn’t been disruptive on defense, and it shows; Bobby Hurley’s team allows a high rate of assisted shots (57% of opponent shots are assisted) and three-pointers (40% of opponent shots), and while they have forced turnovers on 20% of opponent possessions, the Sun Devils also allowed 53% shooting inside the arc.

Rooting interest: Arizona State, and it’s barely a debate (despite Syracuse supposedly being in NY State).

Syracuse, as we know, is the worst. ASU beat St. John’s with a pair of 6-foot guards. So we could imagine that ASU could be St. John’s, and we love seeing Syracuse lose.