The first game of the 2019 NCAA Tournament’s first round has perhaps the most unique story line of them all with No. 10 seed Minnesota taking on No. 7 Louisville in the East Region – the winner almost surely faces No. 2 Michigan State on Saturday, and both played the Spartans in the regular season.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
Oddsmakers list Minnesota as a 5-point underdog. The Gophers are coached by Richard Pitino, the son of Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino. Of course, Rick Pitino led Louisville to the 2013 national championship. However, that was vacated due to NCAA violations, and Rick Pitino was fired from the school in October 2017 because of additional violations. He has filed a multi-million dollar breach of contract lawsuit against the school, which then countersued. Rick Pitino won’t be in attendance as he’s coaching in Greece.
One school won’t have its head coach on Thursday and that’s No. 3 LSU in its East Region matchup against No. 14 Yale, with the Tigers as 7.5-point favorites in Jacksonville. Coach Will Wade was suspended indefinitely late in the regular season for his alleged role in a potential major recruiting violation, and it would be a surprise if he ever returns to the LSU bench. The Tigers went 1-1 without him. The player he was recruiting, freshman Javonte Smart, missed one game but has been cleared for the NCAA Tournament.
Only two of the Top 10 leading scorers in the country are playing in the Big Dance, and they are facing off Thursday in the West Region from Hartford as No. 12 Murray State takes on No. 5 Marquette. The Golden Eagles are -3.5 despite having lost five of their past six games. Their star is Big East Player of the Year Markus Howard, who averages 25.0 points per game. Murray State is led by Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year Ja Morant, who averages 24.6 points and leads the country at 10.0 assists per game.
On Friday, will No. 4 Kansas State have star Dean Wade for its opener against No. 13 UC Irvine in the South Region? The Wildcats are -4.5 with Wade doubtful after missing the Big 12 Tournament with a foot injury. UC Irvine, the Big West regular-season and tournament champion, enters on a 16-game winning streak.