The Latest: Gamblers banking on UC Irvine, Liberty upsets

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The Latest on the first round of the NCAA Tournament (all times Eastern):

1:55 p.m.

Gamblers are putting their money on at least two potential upsets in the remaining first-round games of the NCAA Tournament: UC Irvine over Kansas State and Liberty over Mississippi State.

Betting trends released Friday by sportsbook William Hill show 60 percent of money wagered backing the No. 13 seed Anteaters against the No. 4 seed Wildcats. Kansas State is favored by 4 1/2 points but is likely to play without star forward Dean Wade.

Some 70 percent of the dollars gambled back the No. 12 seed Flames to cover against the fifth-seeded Bulldogs.

Both the Anteaters and Flames have more actual wagers backing them, too, meaning both casual bettors and big-spending gamblers agree on the picks.

One spot where the sharps and squares disagree: No. 6 seed Buffalo against 11th-seeded Arizona State. About 55 percent of tickets are backing Buffalo favored by 5 points, but 56 percent of the money gambled is on the underdog Sun Devils. That difference shows that pro bettors are going against the opinions of casual fans who generally bet less money.

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1:40 p.m.

Ninth-seeded Oklahoma showcased some of its best offense of the year in building a 50-33 lead over No. 8 seed Ole Miss at halftime of their first-round game in South Region.

The Sooners were 19 of 33 from the floor and committed just one turnover, and the 50 points were the most coach Lon Kruger’s team has scored in a first half this season.

Ole Miss shot 52 percent from the floor but was slowed by nine turnovers.

– Pete Iacobelli reporting from Columbia.

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1:10 p.m.

Cincinnati has managed to stay ahead in its first-round game against Iowa despite a subpar performance from Jarron Cumberland, the American Athletic’s player of the year. Cumberland has only four points and has missed all of his three shots from beyond the arc.

Point guard Justin Jenifer has made up for him, scoring 12 points as the Bearcats lead 36-31 at the half. Cincinnati has been ahead by as many as 13 points.

The Bearcats are trying to break their streak of six straight years failing to make it out of the tournament’s opening weekend. Last year, they blew a 22-point lead with 11 minutes left and lost to Nevada in the second round, matching the second-biggest meltdown in NCAA Tournament history.

The Hawkeyes are trying to keep the Big Ten’s perfect start intact. The league sent eight teams into the field – the most in Big Ten history – and five won their opening games Thursday. Iowa was the first of three playing Friday along with Ohio State and Wisconsin.

– Joe Kay reporting from Columbus, Ohio.

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1:05 p.m.

Oklahoma is red hot in its NCAA Tournament opener with Ole Miss.

The Sooners have made 12 of 15 shots over the first nine minutes and raced out to a 29-16 lead in their South Regional first-round game in Columbia, South Carolina.

Kristian Doolittle has eight points and Christian James has hit both his 3-pointers for the Sooners, who missed their first shot before knocking down eight in a row.

Oklahoma was a bubble team that barely squeaked into the field of 68.

– Pete Iacobelli in Columbia.

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12:30 p.m.

NCAA president Mark Emmert was on hand for the first NCAA Tournament regional games to be played in Columbia, South Carolina, since 1970.

The lapse of nearly 50 years came because of the University of South Carolina’s aging arena, but that was rectified with the opening of Colonial Life Arena in 2002. Then, the 18,000-seat building could not host the next 13 years due to the NCAA ban because the state of South Carolina flew the Confederate flag on Statehouse grounds.

The flag was removed in 2015 in aftermath of the killing of nine people at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, and the NCAA reversed its ban soon after and the school and city bid for a regional.

Emmert said he’s happy with what he sees: “First class administrators” at South Carolina and top-notch people at the NCAA helped put things together, he said, and “things look great.”

– Pete Iacobelli reporting from Columbia.

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12:15 p.m.

Iowa and Cincinnati are under way in the first game of the Friday slate in the NCAA Tournament.

The No. 10 seed Hawkeyes can score points in bunches, but they are also prone to getting blown out, making them one of them more mercurial teams in the field. The seventh-seeded Bearcats are a bit more steady, and have a certain toughness common in Mick Cronin’s teams.

The winner gets the Colgate-Tennessee winner on Sunday.

Other early games include eighth-seeded Ole Miss against No. 9 seed Oklahoma in the South Region, and third-seeded Texas Tech against No. 14 seed Northern Kentucky in the West.

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The first round of the NCAA Tournament is set to conclude Friday with plenty of star power taking the floor, notably Zion Williams and No. 1 overall seed Duke.

The Blue Devils play North Dakota State in the East Region.

Virginia tries to avoid losing as a top seed for the second straight year, while fellow No. 1 seed North Carolina opens its tournament against Iona. Mid-major powers Houston and Buffalo also get going while upset-minded 12-seeds Liberty and Oregon are in action.

The first game on the docket is Iowa, the No. 10 seed in the South Region, against seventh-seeded Cincinnati. The winner takes on the Colgate-Tennessee winner on Sunday.

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More AP college basketball: http://apnews.com/MarchMadness and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Oklahoma forward Brady Manek (35) dunks the ball as Mississippi forward KJ Buffen, right, looks on during a first round men’s college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Friday, March 22, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
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