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NC State, Xavier meet in Tuesday's First Four game
By: Robert Livingston - StatFox
Published: 3/18/2014  at  5:53:00 AM
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NORTH CAROLINA STATE WOLFPACK (21-13)

vs. XAVIER MUSKETEERS (21-12)

NCAA Tournament - First Round
University of Dayton Arena - Dayton, OH
Tip-off: Tuesday, 9:10 p.m. ET
Line: Xavier -1.5, Total: 144

After both eking out at-large bids to the Big Dance, North Carolina State and Xavier will meet in the NCAA Tournament's "First Four" game on Tuesday night to face Saint Louis in the Round of 64.

The Wolfpack were one of the big surprises in this yearís field, overcoming a 13-loss season with a three-game run to the ACC Tournament semifinals that included a wins against Miami and then-No. 11 Syracuse. Still, NC State lacks other quality wins this season, notably having beaten Tennessee and Pittsburgh, but going 0-5 in its other five contests versus ranked teams. The Wolfpack finished the season a fantastic 19-12 ATS and 3-0 ATS (2-1 SU) at neutral sites. They went 10-3 SU (5-5 ATS) against non-conference foes. The Musketeers earned their ticket to the tournament with a March 1 win against then-No. 9 Creighton, their only win against a ranked opponent all season. They also have a win against then-unranked Cincinnati and split two contests with Tennessee. Like the Wolfpack, Xavier was a solid bet, going 18-13 ATS and 3-3 ATS at neutral sites. The team was 10-3 SU and 7-4 ATS against non-conference foes. Mark Gottfried is an amazing 16-4 ATS (80%) in March games as the NC State head coach, but the Musketeers are 106-61 ATS (64%) when facing a good team (60% to 80% win pct.) since 1997. The winner of this game will advance to play No. 5-seed Saint Louis on Thursday in Orlando.

Which team will capture this "First Four" victory? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts enter the NCAA Tournament red-hot in college basketball Best Bets this season with a stellar 59.4% ATS (271-185-16) mark, including a hefty 61.3% ATS (239-151-10) record since Nov. 23. StatFox Brian is on an amazing Best Bets run of 22-3-2 (88% ATS) since Feb. 6, 31-6-3 (84% ATS) since Jan. 17, and 74% ATS (56-20-3) since Nov. 26 to give him a robust 70% ATS (63-27-4) record in Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave is 64% ATS (39-22-1) since in Best Bets Dec. 18 and 60% ATS (56-37-2) this season, while StatFox Scott is 68% ATS (13-6-2) since Feb. 16 and 58% ATS (53-38-4) for the season. StatFox Gary is 60% ATS (48-32) on Best Bets since Nov. 22 and 57% ATS (52-40-2) for the season.

The Wolfpack donít put up impressive offensive totals with 70.8 PPG (190th in Div. I) on 45.9% shooting (90th in nation). Nor is their defense particularly impressive, yielding 69.5 PPG (159th in Div. I) on 42.4% shooting. But they do have one of the best scorers in the nation in sophomore SF T.J. Warren (24.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG), who is making 53% of his FG attempts. He has scored at least 20 points in the past 17 games he has played, including two 40-point efforts in his past five contests. He struggled in last yearís NCAA Tournament, however, going 2-for-5 from the field for a mere four points in 33 minutes as the eighth-seeded Wolfpack lost to ninth-seeded Temple in the Round of 64. Beyond Warren, junior SG Ralston Turner (10.2 PPG) is the teamís only double-digit scorer, and heís the only respectable shooter on the team, making 37% of his long-range attempts on a team that connects a pathetic 30.3% of the time from behind three-point line (330th in nation). Other key backcourt members such as freshman PG Anthony "Cat" Barber (8.7 PPG, 3.6 APG) and sophomore PG Tyler Lewis (4.2 PPG, 3.6 APG) can help distribute the ball, but have struggled to score consistently.

The Xavier offense averages only 72.2 PPG (137th in Div. I), but does so on a solid 47.1% shooting (41st in nation) with 14.8 APG (48th in Div. I). Their defense has held opponents to 67.9 PPG (118th in nation) on 42.7% shooting (127th in Div. I). The star of their team is sophomore PG Semaj Christon (17.1 PPG, 4.2 APG), who plays a grueling 35.2 MPG for the Musketeers. Like Warren, he finished the year hot, averaging 20.6 PPG over the teamís past five contests. He gets solid help from PG Dee Davis (7.7 PPG, 4.7 APG), who isnít much of a scorer, but distributes the ball well and turns it over only 1.9 times per game for a 2.5 Ast/TO ratio. In the post, 6-foot-6 F Justin Martin (11.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG) can create matchup problems with his three-point shooting ability (1.6 threes per game) while 6-foot-10 C Matt Stainbrook (10.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG) is more of a traditional post player. Six-foot-8 PF Isaiah Philmore (9.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG) is also solid on the boards and may get the assignment of trying to guard Warren. The senior Philmore finished his season with a 23-point, 7-rebound effort in the teamís Big East Tournament loss to Creighton.

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