College Basketball Betting News and Notes Thursday, March 28
College Basketball Betting News and Notes Thursday, March 28
Underdogs are 11-5 vs spread in regional semis last two years; Syracuse will have crowd advantage playing in Washington, but since '04, Orange lost three of four regional finals, losing by 9-13-4 points, winning by one LY- they're 0-6 vs spread in last six regional semis, with two wins by a point. Indiana beat Georgetown in OT in its only game vs Big East team this year; Crean has experience vs Syracuse zone when he was coaching Marquette up until '08 (0-2 vs Syracuse in Big East). Crean is 1-1 in this round, losing to Kentucky LY, upsetting Pitt in '03. Since 2002, #1 seeds are 9-3 vs #4 seeds in this round, but only 5-7 vs spread.
Miami won its last six games, five by 10+ points; this is same building where Larranaga won regionals with George Mason in '06. Hurricanes are #9 in country in experience, played #14 schedule- they allowed 54 ppg in first two tourney games, after winning ACC tournament. Since 2002, underdogs are 7-4 vs spread when 2-seed plays a 3-seed in this round. Marquette was down six with 1:10 to Davidson in first round, trailed by down 8 at half to Butler Saturday- they lost in this round last two years, by 18 to UNC, 10 to Florida. Over last decade, ACC tournament winner is 3-5 in this round, despite being favored in eight of the nine games.
Last five years, team that won Big 10 tourney got to Sweet 16, then lost this game, despite being favored four times; only twice in last decade has tourney winner gotten to Elite 8 (1-6 vs spread in regional semi). SoCal site favors Arizona whose fans were all over Vegas for Pac-12 tourney two weeks ago; Wildcat coach Miller was once an assistant for Matta when he was Xavier's coach. Since 1987, underdogs are 15-9-1 vs spread when 2-seed plays 6-seed in this round. Arizona won by 17-23 in its first two tourney games, but they're going way up in class vs Buckeyes, after facing Belmont/Harvard last week. Wildcats are 14-0 in non-league games, with only three of those wins against top 40 teams.
LaSalle-Wichita is 9-13 game, first one in tourney history- there was an 8-13 game in '98, with Valparaiso losing/covering vs URI. Explorers won three games last week, after losing last regular season game by 24, first game in A-16 tourney by 11- they've got average experience, are #320 in bench minutes but defend arc (29.9%) well. Wichita pummeled Pitt, then upset #1 seed Gonzaga-- Shockers are 14-1 outside MVC, losing 69-60 at Tennessee- they're #79 in experience, played #67 schedule. LaSalle is #173 in experience, played #77 schedule. Explorers give up 64.5% of its points inside arc, highest percentage in country, partly because center Zack is out injured.
Re: College Basketball Betting News and Notes Thursday, March 28
East Regional: Semifinal Betting Previews
Marquette Golden Eagles vs. Miami Hurricanes (-5, 127)
After both survived scares last weekend, the road will end for either third-seeded Marquette or second-seeded Miami when they clash Thursday in the NCAA Tournament round of 16 in Washington, D.C. The Hurricanes continued their charmed season by holding off Illinois 63-59 on Sunday, reaching the Sweet 16 for only the second time. They have never advanced to the Elite Eight, but will have to do so without reserve C Reggie Johnson, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday.
The Golden Eagles are in the Sweet 16 for the third straight year, but they haven't advanced past this point since a Final Four run in 2003. Marquette was fortunate to get out of the round of 64, needing a late rally to fend off upset-minded Davidson 59-58, and the Golden Eagles denied another challenge in a 74-72 win over Butler on Saturday. The teams have split four all-time meetings and are squaring off for the first time since 1989.
ABOUT MARQUETTE (25-8, 13-15-1 ATS): The Golden Eagles have been forced to rally in the second half of their first two games in the tournament, and junior guard Vander Blue has been the hero in both. Blue made the winning basket in the final seconds against Davidson and poured in 29 points against Butler. "We had two close games - we had a lot of those this year," Blue told reporters. "What we went through earlier this year prepared us." They ought to expect another tight contest in a matchup of defensive-minded teams. Blue and junior forward Jamil Wilson are the only Marquette players averaging double-digit scoring in the tournament.
ABOUT MIAMI (29-6, 21-10-1 ATS): The Hurricanes already have enjoyed what could be described as the best season in school history, winning the ACC regular-season and tournament titles, and they're not ready to send off six seniors yet. "Words can't describe it," forward Julian Gamble told reporters. "It is the first time (in the Sweet 16) for our school since the year 2000. To be going with this group of guys and continue with this dream season of sorts is really hard to put into words right now. We are really excited about the opportunity." Junior Rion Brown helped keep the season going with 21 points against Illinois, as the Hurricanes overcame a tough offensive night from senior Durand Scott. There's a chance Johnson could return if Miami reaches the Final Four.
* Golden Eagles are 0-4-1 ATS in their last five games overall.
* Hurricanes are 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall.
* Under is 6-2 in Golden Eagles' last eight NCAA Tournament games.
* Over is 7-1 in Hurricanes' last eight NCAA Tournament games.
1. In five postseason games, Miami's Shane Larkin, Trey McKinney Jones, Scott and Brown all are averaging more than nine points, have hit 10 or more 3-pointers and are shooting better than 80 percent from the foul line.
2. Marquette is 4-6 this season when trailing at halftime, including two wins in the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Eagles are 20-1 when leading at half and 1-1 when tied at the break.
3. The Verizon Center is the same site where Miami coach Jim Larranaga led George Mason to the Final Four in 2006. The Patriots beat Wichita State in the regional semifinals and Connecticut in the regional final in Washington, D.C.
Indiana Hoosiers vs. Syracuse Orange (+5.5, 135.5)
It has been more than a quarter-century since Indiana and Syracuse created one of the most memorable finishes in national championship history. The two basketball powers will meet again in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since – this time in the East Regional semifinals – on Thursday in Washington D.C. In 1987, the Hoosiers’ Keith Smart drained a 16-foot jumper from the left baseline in the final seconds against the Orange, giving Indiana its last NCAA title. The Hoosiers reached their second consecutive Sweet 16 for the first time in school history Sunday after rallying in the final minutes to defeat Temple 58-52.
Like Indiana, the Orange survived their own third-round scare, pulling out a 66-60 victory over California despite 15 missed free throws and a second-half field-goal drought that lasted 12:09. “It was not pretty. Honestly, I don't think I can describe it. It was about as ugly as I think it can get,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said following the game. The winner will face either Miami (Fla.) or Marquette in the Elite Eight on Saturday.
ABOUT SYRACUSE (28-9, 18-15-0 ATS): Although he did not find out about it until after the game, Michael Carter-Williams’ home in Massachusetts was destroyed by fire Saturday, approximately at the same time the Orange were on the court with the Golden Bears in San Jose, Calif. Syracuse held Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe to eight points and nine field-goal attempts – each mark two shy of his season low. The Bears also shot 4-for-21 beyond the arc. Defending the 3-point shot will be pivotal against the Hoosiers, who rank third in the country beyond the arc (40.8 percent) and feature three starters who knock down at least 43 percent of their 3-point attempts.
ABOUT INDIANA (29-6, 17-15-1 ATS): Victor Oladipo was named one of four finalists for the Naismith Award on Sunday and promptly closed out the Hoosiers’ victory over Temple by converting the tiebreaking free throw and a critical insurance 3-pointer with 14 seconds remaining. The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year will enjoy a homecoming of sorts this week in the nation’s capital, which is a short drive from Oladipo’s hometown of Upper Marlboro, Md. The 58 points against the Owls matched the Hoosiers’ second-lowest output of the season and marked the first time the third-highest scoring team in the country won a game in which they scored fewer than 66 points.
* Orange are 2-5 ATS in their last seven NCAA Tournament games.
* Hoosiers are 0-3-1 ATS in their last four NCAA Tournament games.
* Over is 5-2 in Orange last seven neutral site games.
* Under is 5-2 in Hoosiers last seven overall.
1. Indiana is 11-1 all-time as a No. 1 seed, with the resulting .916 winning percentage the best such mark for a top seed in NCAA Tournament history.
2. Boeheim’s 50 NCAA Tournament victories rank fourth all-time.
3. The Hoosiers are the sixth-best shooting team in the country (48.6 percent) while the Orange own the third-best field-goal defense (37.3).
Re: College Basketball Betting News and Notes Thursday, March 28
West Regional: Semifinal Betting Previews
Arizona Wildcats vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (-3.5, 134)
The longstanding friendship between Arizona coach Sean Miller and Ohio State coach Thad Matta will be set aside Thursday when the sixth-seeded Wildcats and No. 2 Buckeyes collide in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in Los Angeles. Miller and Matta became friends while serving on the Miami (Ohio) staff of Herb Sendek, currently the head coach at Arizona State. Their 12th-seeded RedHawks upset fifth-seeded Arizona in the 1995 NCAA Tournament.
Matta later hired Miller as his assistant at Xavier, where Miller took over after Matta left for Ohio State in 2004. They met on opposite ends of the floor once before, in the second round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament, with the top-seeded Buckeyes prevailing in overtime against No. 9 Xavier. This matchup looks to be similarly close, as Ohio State enters on a 10-game winning streak but could be vulnerable against Arizona’s size. Amir Williams, a 6-11 sophomore center, is the only player taller than 6-8 for the Buckeyes, but he's been limited to 16.5 minutes. The Wildcats, meanwhile, feature 7-foot freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski in the starting lineup with freshmen forwards Grant Jerrett (6-10) and Brandon Ashley (6-8) off the bench.
ABOUT ARIZONA (27-7, 16-16-0 ATS): Mark Lyons has already accomplished something no other player in NCAA history done, advancing to two straight Sweet 16s with different teams. Lyons, a 6-1 senior point guard, led Xavier to the quarterfinals last season before moving to Arizona in the offseason as a graduate transfer. He also helped the Musketeers to the Sweet 16 as a freshman before they lost in double overtime to Kansas State. Lyons has been playing his best basketball of the season lately. He’s averaging 25 points through the first two tournament games and has turned the ball over twice in each of the last four games.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (28-7, 20-12-1 ATS): Aaron Craft missed three free throws in the final 4:40 of Sunday’s game against 10th-seeded Iowa State but saved the Buckeyes by drawing a controversial charge with 1:41 remaining and then sinking a 3-pointer with one second left in the 78-75 victory. His defense on Lyons will be key in the West Regional semifinal. Some opposing coaches consider Craft the best defensive guard in the country. “You can’t simulate the defensive pressure of Craft in practice. He’s like having two guys on you,” Northern Kentucky coach Dave Bezold said after a loss to the Buckeyes back in December.
* Wildcats are 5-0 ATS in their last five NCAA Tournament games.
* Buckeyes are 5-1 ATS in their last six neutral-site games.
* Under is 22-10-1 in Wildcats' last 33 overall.
* Under is 7-3 in Buckeyes' last 10 overall.
1. Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas is averaging 23 points through the first two tournament games after leading all players in scoring at last season’s NCAA Tournament (19.2).
2. Ohio State and Arizona have met once previously, a 90-47 victory by the Buckeyes during the 1972-73 season.
3. With his next appearance, Arizona State senior forward Solomon Hill will tie the school record for most games played (139). Kyle Fogg set the current mark from 2008-12.
La Salle Explorers vs. Wichita State Shockers (-4, 135.5)
Either Wichita State or La Salle will be playing for a spot in the Final Four. The ninth-seeded Shockers and 13th-seeded Explorers are unlikely opponents in Thursday’s Sweet 16 contest in Los Angeles and the winner advances to Saturday’s West Regional final. Wichita State shocked top-seeded Gonzaga in the round of 32, while La Salle won three days in five games and advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 76-74 victory over Mississippi.
Explorers coach John Giannini refuses to buy into the notion that the Explorers are a “Cinderella” after their unlikely string of victories that began with wins over Boise State and Kansas State. “What people label us, we really try not to acknowledge it,” Giannini said. Wichita State routed Pittsburgh before posting the 76-70 victory over the Bulldogs, and the Shockers are very much aware that few people expected them to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006. “You hear stuff and people come up to you saying, ‘What do you think about 70 percent of America has you losing the first game?’” junior forward Cleanthony Early said. “You have to avoid everyone’s opinion and go out there and play hard.”
ABOUT WICHITA STATE (28-8, 17-14-2 ATS): Freshman guard Ron Baker joined Early in having a big game in the slaying of Gonzaga. Both players scored 16 points and made four 3-pointers but Baker’s effort stood out for two reasons – it fell two points shy of his career-best output and it was only his fifth game since returning from a foot injury that sidelined him for 21 games. “Those 21 games were a long 21 games, I’ll just say that,” said Baker, who is averaging 8.3 points in 15 games. Early averages a team-best 13.9 points, senior forward Carl Hall averages 12.6 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds and senior guard Malcolm Armstead contributes 10.6 points and a team-best four assists.
ABOUT LA SALLE (24-9, 15-12-2 ATS): Fatigue hasn’t yet been an issue for the Explorers despite the fact the team had to travel to Kansas City after winning their first outing in Dayton, Ohio. “At this point, you’re too young to be getting tired,” junior guard Tyreek Duren said. “You don’t really have time to get tired at this point. You wake up and win games.” Duren had 19 points against Ole Miss and ranks second on the squad in scoring at 14.5 points. Senior guard Ramon Galloway scored 24 points against the Rebels and averages a team-best 17.4 points. Junior guard Tyrone Garland averages 12.8 points and scored 17 against Ole Miss, including the game-winning basket on a driving shot with two seconds left.
* Explorers are 5-2 ATS in their last seven non-conference games.
* Shockers are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 non-conference games.
* Over is 7-3 in Explorers' last 10 overall.
* Over is 5-1 in Shockers' last 6 overall.
1. Wichita State last advanced to a regional final in 1981. La Salle played in back-to-back title games in 1954-55 and won the 1954 championship game.
2. Five Explorers have 30 or more steals, led by Galloway (63) and Duren (56).
3. The Shockers made 14 3-pointers in the upset of Gonzaga, tying for second-most in school history
Re: College Basketball Betting News and Notes Thursday, March 28
Thursday's Early Action
By Kevin Rogers
Thursday's Sweet 16 action in the East and West regionals involves an interesting group of teams ranging from 13th seed La Salle to top-seeded Indiana. We'll take a look at the two tips in the 7:00 EST hour as four major conferences are represented, leading off with the Big East against the ACC.
(2) Miami vs. (3) Marquette
The first tip-off at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. involves two teams that weren't expected to be playing in this round when the season began. The Hurricanes continued their magical run by holding off Illinois in Sunday's round of 32 with a 63-59 triumph, but failed to cash as eight-point favorites. However, UM will be without one of its key players for Thursday's Sweet 16 showdown with Marquette.
Center Reggie Johnson underwent minor knee surgery on Tuesday, which will keep him out of this weekend's action. Johnson's productivity dipped following a thumb injury in December's Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, as 'Canes big man has not scored more than eight points in any of the last 12 games. In Sunday's win over Illinois, Johnson failed to score a single point in 18 minutes, but point guard Shane Larkin came through with a huge three-pointer in the final minute to take the lead for good.
Marquette managed to qualify for this round after squeaking by Davidson and Butler in the first two games. In the victory over Davidson in the second round, the Golden Eagles erased a five-point deficit in the final 41 seconds to shock the Wildcats, 59-58. Buzz Williams' team couldn't cash as 3½-point favorites, the fifth consecutive non-cover away from Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles held off Butler in the third round on Saturday, 74-72, as many closing numbers had Marquette as two-point 'chalk,' while the line hovered at 1½ for most of the day.
The Hurricanes turned in one of the better ATS records in the country at 21-10-1, as Jim Larranaga's club is riding a 4-1 ATS run. Miami is in the midst of a 7-3 'over' stretch, but the offense has been held to 65 points or less three times, including in the Illinois victory. The 'Canes are facing Marquette for the first time in school history, while searching for their first-ever appearance in the Elite Eight.
Miami is listed as five-point favorites, while the total is set at 127.
(2) Ohio State vs. (6) Arizona
The Buckeyes survived a scare in Sunday's round of 32 triumph over Iowa State thanks to a three-pointer at the buzzer by Aaron Craft. Ohio State edged its way to the Sweet 16 with a 78-75 win, but couldn't take home the money as 7½-point favorites. Thad Matta's squad led by 13 points in the second half, as the Cyclones rallied back with 19-5 run to grab a one-point advantage in the final two minutes of regulation. Craft's three-ball helped put the Buckeyes in the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive March.
The Wildcats breezed through their first two tournament victories over Belmont and Harvard, winning each game by at least 17 points. Sean Miller's team easily cashed in the favorite role each time, including as 10½-point favorites in a wire-to-wire 74-51 rout of the Crimson in the third round. In each of Arizona's last six victories, the Wildcats have won by double-digits, but four of those triumphs came against weaker competition as favorites of at least 10 points.
Ohio State has been nearly an automatic cover since February 20, posting an 8-2 ATS record the last 10 games. The two ATS losses came to Iowa State (in which the Buckeyes had a commanding lead) and at Northwestern, as the Wildcats cashed as 11-point home underdogs in a 63-53 loss. The Buckeyes are dominated as a single-digit favorite of late by going 7-2 ATS the last nine games in this role.
Arizona doesn't have to travel very far after returning home from Salt Lake City, as the next two rounds of this regional take place at Staples Center in Los Angeles. It may not mean much, but the Wildcats lost each of their two games in L.A. this season at UCLA and USC towards the end of the season. The 'Cats are listed as an underdog for just the second time this season, as Arizona came back late to stun Florida at home in December, 65-64.
The Buckeyes are 3½-point favorites, while the total is set at 134.
Re: College Basketball Betting News and Notes Thursday, March 28
Thursday's Late Action
By Kevin Rogers
An interesting contrast of late games takes place to wrap up the first night of the Sweet 16. Indiana and Syracuse are no surprise to make it to this round of the NCAA Tournament, but La Salle and Wichita State were definitely not predicted to qualify at this point. We'll start with the rematch of the 1987 National Championship in the Nation's Capital.
(1) Indiana vs. (4) Syracuse
These two traditional powers are meeting for the first time since 1998, as the Hoosiers survived a scare from Temple in the round of 32. Indiana advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season by knocking out Temple, 58-52, but failed to cash as 12-point favorites. Tom Crean's club will not be laying points at that magnitude for at least the next two rounds (assuming they advance), as Syracuse's road to this round hasn't been difficult so far.
The Orange pulled off the biggest blowout in the second round by dispatching Montana, 81-34 as 13-point 'chalk.' Syracuse stepped in class in the next round against Cal, which had a slight home-court advantage by playing the game in nearby San Jose. Jim Boeheim's team overcame 39% shooting from the floor by eliminating the Golden Bears, 66-60, but couldn't grab the money as 7½-point favorites. Syracuse benefited greatly from the line by attempting 22 more free throws than Cal, while converting 26 foul shots.
Indiana has struggled down the stretch to cover numbers, posting a 2-5-1 ATS in the last eight games, which includes an outright underdog victory at Michigan to close the regular season. The Hoosiers put together a lousy 3-7 ATS record in the role of a single-digit favorite, while losing outright the last four times (Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio State).
Syracuse thrived in the underdog role two weeks ago in the Big East tournament with outright victories over Georgetown and Pittsburgh. However, the Orange blew a 16-point cushion in the championship against Louisville in a 78-61 defeat as 5½-point underdogs. Since 2006, Syracuse owns an 0-3 SU/ATS record when receiving points in an NCAA Tournament game, including last season's Elite Eight setback to Ohio State.
Indiana is listed as 5½-point favorites, while the total is set at 136.
(9) Wichita State vs. (13) La Salle
The Explorers finished tied for third in the Atlantic 10 standings, while being one of five teams from the conference to make the NCAA Tournament. La Salle is the only team remaining from that league in the Sweet 16, as the Explorers are the lone school to win three games so far after beating Boise State in the First Four.
Wichita State pulled off a nice shock by bouncing top-seeded Gonzaga, 76-70 as 6½-point underdogs in the third round. Gregg Marshall's club shot lights out by hitting 50% from the field, while drilling 14 three-pointers, including four each by Ron Baker and Cleanthony Early. The win was the second one in the underdog role for Wichita State in the tournament, who routed Pittsburgh in the second round, 73-55 as four-point 'dogs.
Interestingly enough, La Salle dropped its opening game inside the Atlantic 10 tournament to Butler, but has won three straight contests since, all in the underdog role. The Explorers held off Kansas State in the second round, 63-61 to cash as six-point 'dogs, while rallying late to stun Ole Miss, 76-74 as four-point 'dogs. Since the start of February, La Salle owns a solid 9-4 ATS record the previous 13 games.
Following a nice run of 'unders' to close January, the Shockers are 6-2 to the 'over' the last eight contests. Since winning and covering road contests at Drake and Bradley to kick off Missouri Valley play, the Shockers have cashed just once in the last five opportunities in the road favorite role on the highway (2-3 SU).
Wichita State is listed as 4½-point favorites, while the total is set at 135½.
Re: College Basketball Betting News and Notes Thursday, March 28
Thursday's Sweet 16
SYRACUSE ORANGE (28-9) vs. INDIANA HOOSIERS (29-6)
After surviving a scare in the Round of 32, top-seeded Indiana will try to solve fourth-seeded Syracuse's 2-3 zone in another Sweet 16 matchup on Thursday.
The Orange have smothered their first two NCAA Tournament opponents, holding Montana and California to a combined 47.0 PPG on 30.0% shooting, and posting wins of 81-34 and 66-60, respectively. Syracuse is now 5-1 SU (3-3 ATS) in the postseason and 6-2 SU (4-4 ATS) on a neutral court this season. The Hoosiers had no trouble in their tourney opener, crushing James Madison by an 83-62 score, but they could not pull away from ninth-seeded Temple (a 12-point underdog), winning by just six points. Indiana enters this contest on a 2-6 ATS skid, going 5-3 outright. These teams played for the 1987 NCAA Championship, when Indiana prevailed after a Keith Smart jumper in the closing seconds. The last time they met was in November 1998, when Syracuse won 76-63 on a neutral court. These schools have played three common opponents this season -- Temple, Georgetown and Central Connecticut -- with Syracuse going 2-3 (SU and ATS) with just 63.6 PPG on 41% FG versus these three schools, while Indiana is 3-0 SU (1-1 ATS) with 80.0 PPG on 49% FG against them.
Syracuse's 2-3 zone has really stymied its past five opponents, holding them to 57.2 PPG on 35% FG. For the season, the Orange hold teams to 59.4 PPG, rank third in the nation in FG Pct. defense (37.3%) and place sixth in defending the three (37.3%). They are also quite active in their zone, coming up with 6.1 BPG (sixth in D-I) and 9.0 SPG (14th in nation). But the offense has been lacking during this stretch with a mere 65.6 PPG on 43% shooting, numbers considerably below the season averages of 71.5 PPG on 44% FG. After scoring 81 points on 52% FG in the tourney opener against Montana, Syracuse was held to 66 points on 39% shooting against Cal. The big key to this team is PG Michael Carter-Williams (11.8 PPG) who ranks third in the nation in assists (7.6 APG) and sixth in steals (2.7 SPG). But after posting nine assists, three steals and two turnovers against the Grizzlies, he tallied just three assists, one steal and five turnovers against an excellent Cal backcourt. The team also has to be concerned with Carter-Williams' horrible free-throw shooting over the past four games (7-for-22, 32%) if this matchup is tight down the stretch. Senior SG Brandon Triche (13.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.5 APG) was nearly perfect against Montana with 20 points on 5-of-6 shooting, but he was off the mark against Cal, making just 1-of-8 shots and missing three free throws. Triche has shot a career-worst 41.5% FG this season, including 29.8% from three-point range. Senior PF James Southerland (13.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG) is the best shooter for the Orange at 41% threes, and is coming off a monster game on Saturday when he posted 14 points, nine rebounds and four steals before fouling out. Junior SF C.J. Fair, who leads the team in both points (14.4 PPG) and rebounds (7.1 RPG), also played well against Cal with 18 points, six boards and two steals in 39 minutes of action. Fair attempts just 1.6 threes per game this season, but has made 49.2% of his long-range tries.
Indiana can score from anywhere on the court, averaging 79.5 PPG (3rd in nation) on 48.6% FG (6th in D-I) and 40.8% three-pointers (3rd in nation). This team has outscored its opponents by +17.3 PPG this season (2nd in nation) with a defense that gives up a mere 62.1 PPG on 38.9% FG (20th in D-I) and 30.3% threes. The Hoosiers should be able to own the boards on Thursday, posting a +7.5 RPG margin this season with big men athletic enough to find holes in the bottom of the 2-3 zone for some easy put-backs. Turnovers can be problematic for Indiana (12.9 TOPG, 141st in nation), but the school has kept the mistakes to less than 15 TO in each of the past 13 games. SG Victor Oladipo (13.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG) is the team's best all-around player, shooting 59.4% from the floor and tallying 2.1 SPG on the defensive end. He has scored in double-figures in five straight games (12.6 PPG), and made the key three-pointer in the final minute on Sunday to put Temple away, improving his season percentage to 43.3% threes. Seven-foot C Cody Zeller (16.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG) is also a player that rarely misses, shooting 57.1% from the floor and 76% from the foul line this season. He has 13.0 PPG in the two NCAA Tournament games, but has also committed 10 turnovers in the two victories. Senior PF Christian Watford (12.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG) had nine points, eight boards and two blocks on Sunday, and shoots much better from three-point land (48.3%) than from inside the arc (39.9%) this season. Senior PG Jordan Hulls (9.9 PPG, 3.0 APG) has been slumping in his past four games, scoring just 5.3 PPG on 7-of-25 FG (28%) and 4-of-18 threes.
MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES (25-8) vs. MIAMI HURRICANES (29-6)
Second-seeded Miami seeks its 30th win of the season when it takes on third-seeded Marquette in a Sweet 16 matchup Thursday night in the nation's capital.
The Golden Eagles have squeaked by both of their first two opponents, edging 14th-seeded Davidson by one point on a Vander Blue lay-up with one second left in regulation, then prevailing by two points over sixth-seeded Butler when the Bulldogs last-second shot was way off the mark. Miami had no trouble winning its first game on Friday, crushing Pacific by 29 points, but had to dig deep to outlast Illinois 63-59 on Sunday. Marquette is 8-2 SU in its past 10 games, but just 1-4 ATS in the past five contests with the lone cover coming in Saturday's win as a 1.5-point favorite in the 74-72 victory over Butler. Miami has ripped off six straight SU wins, going 4-1-1 ATS with the only non-cover coming Sunday as a 7.5-point favorite against the Illini. While Marquette has been a losing bet both overall (15-16 ATS) and in non-home games (7-10 ATS), the Hurricanes are 72% ATS overall (21-8-3) and 65% ATS (11-6-2) in non-home games this season. However, the Golden Eagles are playing in their third Sweet 16 game in the past three years, while Miami has made just one regional semifinal appearance in school history, losing 80-71 to Tulsa in 2000.
Marquette has a quality offense with 68.8 PPG on 46.1% FG, but this team cannot afford to trail big with just 4.3 made threes per game (19th-fewest in nation). The Golden Eagles allow a mere 62.9 PPG on 40.6% FG and do a nice job getting on the glass (+4.5 RPG margin) to prevent easy second-chance points. They have won their two NCAA Tournament games despite shooting an anemic 38.4% from the floor, prevailing with an impressive free-throw clip of 82.6% (38-of-46). The team has also played its typical hard-nosed defense (65.0 PPG allowed on 42.2% FG) in these two tourney games, posting an impressive +7.0 RPG margin. The hero for Marquette this tournament has been junior SG Vander Blue (14.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG) who after winning the Davidson game with his 16th point (5-of-15 FG), exploded for 29 points (9-of-15 FG) to go along with four steals against Butler. Blue has made 5-of-10 threes in the Big Dance, while burying all 12 of his free-throw attempts. Both PF Jamil Wilson (9.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG) and SG Trent Lockett (7.2 PPG, 4.9 RPG) scored 13 points with four field goals and 4-of-4 FT shooting in Sunday's win while combining for 11 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three steals. C Chris Otule (5.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG) stepped up big against Davidson with 11 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, but struggled against a large Butler team, finishing with only two points, two rebounds and one block in just two fewer minutes played on Sunday. The 275-pound Otule and 290-pound PF Davante Gardner (11.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG) will have their hands full with Miami's big-men duo of Kenny Kadji and Reggie Johnson in the paint. Gardner is averaging just 8.5 PPG and 3.0 RPG in 18.0 MPG in the two NCAA wins.
Miami does not have glaring weakness, as the team is able to score (69.9 PPG on 45.8% FG), rebound (+3.3 RPG margin) and defend (60.3 PPG on 39.6% FG allowed). The Hurricanes are also a deep team (7 players with 20+ MPG) that plays very smart, with just 10.8 TOPG (13th in nation) and committing a mere 14.6 fouls per game (12th-fewest in D-I). The offense runs through dynamic PG Shane Larkin (14.5 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.8 RPG) who has already had a great tournament with 13.5 PPG (4-for-11 threes), 7.0 APG and 2.0 SPG. But the player of the game on Sunday was junior SG Rion Brown (6.5 PPG) who poured in 21 points (5-of-10 threes) in 29 minutes. Brown made all three of his long-range attempts in Round of 64 win as well. Senior SG Durand Scott (13.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG) scored 21 points (5-of-8 threes) in that Friday victory, but was held to six points on 2-of-8 shooting on Sunday. PF Kenny Kadji (13.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG) remains the team's best post presence, scoring 10 points with eight rebounds in Sunday's win over Illinois.
ARIZONA WILDCATS (27-7) vs. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (28-7)
After two straight blowout wins in the NCAA Tournament, sixth-seeded Arizona has a much taller task in Thursday's Sweet 16 when it faces second-seeded Ohio State riding a 10-game winning streak.
The Wildcats won their first tournament game by 17 points over Belmont, before disposing of Harvard by 23 points on Saturday to advance to this round. While Arizona shot better than 55% from the floor in both games, it held the two opponents to a mere 57.5 PPG on 33% FG. Ohio State also destroyed its first opponent, beating Iona 95-70, but nearly suffered an upset at the hands of Iowa State on Sunday before PG Aaron Craft drained a three-pointer in the closing seconds to give OSU a 78-75 victory. Although the Buckeyes didn't cover the 7.5-point spread on Sunday, they are still 8-2 ATS during the 10-game ride, beating teams by an average of 12.5 PPG. Arizona has won seven of its past 10 games (6-4 ATS) and is 6-1 SU (4-3 ATS) on a neutral court this season. Ohio State is a perfect 7-0 SU (5-2 ATS) in a neutral environment this season.
Arizona ranks among the top-50 teams in nation in many major offensive categories such as points (73.5 PPG), three-point shooting (7.7 makes per game, 37.2%) and free-throw percentage (74.5%). The Wildcats could have a decisive advantage on the boards on Thursday with their +6.6 RPG margin this season and the Buckeyes coming off a game where they were dominated on the glass by Iowa State, which held a 36-22 rebounding advantage. Despite what it has done so far in this tournament, Arizona's overall defense is nothing special, allowing 63.3 PPG (90th in D-I), 41.0% FG (91st in nation) and 35.4% threes (256th in D-I). Senior SG Mark Lyons (15.4 PPG, 2.9 APG) is the team's go-to scorer, and he has been on fire in the NCAA's with 25.0 PPG on 63% shooting and 6-of-13 threes. Lyons lit up Harvard for 27 points on 12-of-17 FG, but it still making just 43% FG and 33% threes on the season. Senior SF Solomon Hill (13.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG) has shot a career-low 45% from the floor this season, but still knocks down 39% threes and has 11.0 PPG (5-of-7 threes) and 7.0 RPG in the two NCAA Tournament games. Sophomore PG Nick Johnson (11.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.3 APG) will really have his hands full with an excellent OSU perimeter defense led by Craft. Johnson has just 17 assists and 10 turnovers in his past four games, so he'll have to protect the basketball much better on Thursday if his team is to pull off this upset. Seven-foot C Kaleb Tarczewski (6.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG) has had a great two games, scoring 9.5 PPG on 7-of-10 FG with 8.0 RPG. He'll need to stay out of foul trouble though, something he's done just once in the past three games, fouling out of two straight contests on March 15 and March 21.
Ohio State is an outstanding defensive team, allowing just 58.8 PPG (23rd in D-I) on 39.5% FG (37th in nation) this season. The offense isn't too explosive (70.2 PPG on 45.6% FG), but PGs Aaron Craft (10.0 PPG, 4.7 APG) and Shannon Scott (4.9 PPG, 4.0 APG) run a smooth show, helping the team commit just 10.5 TOPG (8th in nation). Scott's 3.18 Ast/TO ratio ranks second in the nation, while Craft's 2.46 Ast/TO ratio places 25th in the country. Craft was the hero on Sunday, finishing with 18 points and six assists. He also has eight steals in this tournament so far, increasing his season average to 2.1 SPG. Scott had seven points, seven rebounds and 10 assists against Iona, but posted just six points, three rebounds and three assists in the win over ISU. The bulk of the team's scoring belongs to junior PF Deshaun Thomas (19.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG), who has 23.0 PPG on 62% FG in the NCAA Tournament so far. He was also vital to his team's Final Four run last year, averaging 19.2 PPG and 7.6 RPG in the five tourney games. SG Lenzelle Smith Jr. (9.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG) has struggled all month, averaging just 6.1 PPG on 35% FG in seven March games. Just the opposite of Smith is high-flying SF Sam Thompson (7.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG), who has been outstanding in the past five games, averaging 12.4 PPG on 63% FG.
LA SALLE EXPLORERS (24-9) vs. WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS (28-8)
Two teams nobody expected to still be playing are meeting in Thursday's Sweet 16 when 13th-seeded La Salle squares off with ninth-seeded Wichita State.
The Explorers have won three straight games to get to this point, outlasting Boise State in the First Four before escaping past fourth-seeded Kansas State and 12th-seeded Ole Miss on a pair of two-point victories. The Shockers took down Pittsburgh in their tourney opener before disposing of top-seeded Gonzaga, 76-70, on Saturday. La Salle is now 10-3 SU (9-4 ATS) since February began, while Wichita State is 9-3 SU (7-4-1 ATS) in its past dozen games. Both schools have excelled in neutral-court environments as well, with the Explorers going 5-1 (SU and ATS), while the Shockers are 7-1 SU (5-3 ATS). However, La Salle is only 1-4 (SU and ATS) as an underdog away from home, and WSU is just 3-6 ATS as a road favorite this season. These schools haven't met since November 2003, a 74-71 Wichita State win on a neutral court.
La Salle is a decent offensive team (72.5 PPG on 45.4% FG), but has shot very well during its improbable NCAA Tournament run with 73.0 PPG on 52% FG in the three victories. The Explorers will opt to play five guards at one time, which is why they usually get dominated on the glass, posting a minus-3.4 RPG margin this season (286th in D-I). But this La Salle team is tough and smart, ranking 26th in the nation in both turnover margin (+2.9 per game) and fewest fouls committed (15.4 per game). The star of this team is clearly senior G Ramon Galloway (17.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.9 APG) who knocks down 41.4% of his threes this season (30th in nation), while generating 1.91 steals per game. He had struggled badly in two games prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament (6.0 PPG on 4-of-22 FG), but he has exploded on the big stage with 21.3 PPG on 54% FG in the three games. He made 8-of-13 shots (6-of-10 threes) for 24 points in Sunday's victory over Ole Miss. Guards Tyreek Duren (14.4 PPG, 3.2 APG) and Tyrone Garland (13.0 PPG) also had monster nights against the Rebels with 19 points and 17 points, respectively. Like Galloway, Duren had also been slumping, starting the tourney with 3.5 PPG on 2-of-13 shooting in the first two games, but he torched Ole Miss for 6-of-11 FG and 6-of-7 FT. Garland has scored at least 12 points in eight of his past nine games, finishing Sunday with a well-rounded 17 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. With C Steve Zack (6.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG) out indefinitely with a foot injury, 6-foot-8 F Jerrell Wright (10.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG) provides the muscle down low. Wright has been nearly perfect in four postseason games, averaging 14.0 PPG on 21-of-25 FG (84%) with 7.3 RPG.
Wichita State wins games with a relentless defense that gives up just 60.8 PPG on 39.7% FG and 32.3% threes. The Shockers clear the glass as well as any team in the nation with a +7.9 RPG margin (7th in D-I) and should have a decided edge in this area against the smaller Explorers. Since allowing Creighton to hang 91 points on them to end the regular season on March 2, WSU has given up just 60.6 PPG on 35.6% FG to its past five opponents. Although the offense has made just 41.6% of its shots during this same timeframe, it did shoot a hefty 50% from the floor in the upset win over Gonzaga on Saturday. The Shockers are an extremely deep team with 11 players on the roster averaging more than 10 MPG this season. The three double-digit scorers are SF Cleanthony Early (13.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG), PF Carl Hall (12.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG) and PG Malcolm Armstead (10.6 PPG, 4.0 APG, 3.7 RPG). Early had just 5.0 PPG on 5-of-21 FG in three games leading up to the NCAA's, but has gone crazy in the big tournament with 18.5 PPG on 50% FG and 7.0 RPG. Hall is the team's top rebounder, but managed just one board in 29 minutes against the large Gonzaga frontcourt. However, Hall still has 13.2 PPG and 6.6 RPG over his past five games. Armstead shot poorly against Gonzaga (2-of-9 FG, 1-of-6 threes), but still has 19.3 PPG and 5.7 RPG in the past three games, scoring 22 points against Pittsburgh on Thursday. Freshman SG Ron Baker (8.3 PPG) is coming off a big game against the Zags, scoring 16 points on 5-of-7 FG (4-of-6 threes) with six boards and four assists.
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