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College Basketball Betting News and Notes Saturday, March 30

College Basketball Betting News and Notes Saturday, March 30

College Knowledge

Marquette (+1.5) beat Syracuse 74-71 at home Feb 25, game they trailed by 11 in first half; Eagles outscored Orange 29-5 on foul line, making 29-35, while SU was just 5-7- both teams shot 57%+ inside arc. Gardner scored 27 points off bench for Marquette (7-7 from floor, 12-14 on foul line). Marquette held Miami to 35% Thursday in 71-61 win, playing a whole lot better than they did last week in two narrow wins. Syracuse won its three tourney games by 47-6-11 points- they're 3-2 in regional finals since '87, losing LY to Ohio State in this round. Since 2003, dogs covered last five regional finals with neither a #1 or #2 seed in them. Marquette (+5) upset Syracuse 66-62 in second round of '11 tourney.

Over last 17 years, underdogs are 9-8 in West region final (12-3 last 15 vs spread); Wichita State won 10 of last 13 games; they beat Iowa by 12 on neutral court Nov 21, its only game by Big Dozen foe. Shockers won first three tourney games by 18-6-14 points, wiith no opponent making more than 35.7% of its shots from floor. Ohio State won its last two games by 2-3 points- they've won 11 games in row since 71-49 loss at Wisconsin Feb 17. Buckeyes played four starters 30+ minutes in last games Thursday, couple subs got 14+ minutes- Ross had 17 points in 18 minutes off bench. OSU beat Memphis/Syracuse in regional finals in last six years. Wichita trying to be first Final Four team from MVC since Larry Bird's Indiana State team in '79.

Other tournaments
Evansville won seven of last eight games (lost by point to Indiana State in MVC tourney), with three of seven wins on road- they scored 84+ in last four wins. East Carolina won its last five home games- they haven't left home in this tournament, after losing at Tulsa in C-USA tourney.

Weber State won 16 of last 17 games, with only loss at Montana by 3 in Big Sky tourney final; this is Wildcats' first road game since then, with home wins by 42-21-9 since then. Northern Iowa won home games by 11-12-14 in this event; they've won 10 of last 13 overall, are 2-0 vs Big Sky teams this year, beating North Dakota by 25, No Colorado by 17.

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Syracuse vs. Marquette: What Bettors Need to Know

Marquette Golden Eagles vs. Syracuse Orange (-3.5, 128)

The conference that is disintegrating due to the realignment chaos is assured of having a team in the Final Four. Big East mates Syracuse and Marquette square off Saturday in Washington D.C. in the East Regional final, marking the first time since 2009 that teams from the same conference will compete for a Final Four berth. The fourth-seeded Orange dominated top-seeded Indiana on Thursday while third-seeded Marquette thrashed second-seeded Miami.

The Golden Eagles defeated Syracuse 74-71 on Feb. 25 in the lone regular-season meeting. Marquette squeezed past Davidson and Butler in its first two NCAA Tournament games, which made the rout of the Hurricanes particularly impressive. “They dominated a team that won the regular-season ACC and the ACC tournament,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. “Tremendous team and Marquette dominated the game.” Syracuse frustrated Indiana 61-50 after posting earlier tournament victories over Montana and California. Golden Eagles junior guard Vander Blue knows his team will be the underdog. “We’re used to people not giving us credit, saying we were no good,” Blue said. “If you were to look at our roster, no one would expect us to be an Elite Eight team.” The last time conference foes battled for a Final Four spot also featured two Big East squads – Villanova defeating Pittsburgh.

ABOUT MARQUETTE (26-8): The Golden Eagles are led by Blue, but feature a wealth of contributors who are capable of stepping up at any time. Junior forward Jamil Wilson had 16 points and eight rebounds against Miami, while Blue and junior reserve forward Davante Gardner contributed 14 points apiece. In fact, Gardner’s 11.4 average is second on the squad behind Blue’s 14.8. Wilson averages 9.9 points, senior guard Junior Cadougan averages 8.6 and senior wing Trent Lockett contributes 7.2 points and a team-best 5.1 rebounds. A blue-collar mentality sometimes leads to Marquette being overshadowed by more talented teams. “We want to keep being the hunters,” Blue said. “We don’t want to be the hunted.”

ABOUT SYRACUSE (29-9): Sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams had a spectacular game against Indiana with a career-best 24 points to go with six rebounds and four steals. “This was the best he’s played all year,” Boeheim said. “He was tremendous. He was the difference in the game on offense, clearly.” Williams ranks fourth on the Orange at 12.1 points per game while averaging a team-best 7.5 assists. He has 104 steals, one of three players nationally with 100 or more. Junior forward C.J. Fair averages a team-high 14.4 points and also grabs a team-leading seven rebounds per game, while senior guard Brandon Triche (13.8) and senior forward James Southerland (13.4) also score in double digits.


* Orange are 0-5 ATS in their last five Saturday games.
* Over is 4-0 in Golden Eagles’ last four games following a win.
* Underdog is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings.
* Orange are 0-5 ATS in the last five meetings.


1. Gardner scored 26 points in Marquette’s February win over the Orange. Fair scored 20 to lead Syracuse.

2. Syracuse is attempting to reach the Final Four for the first time since the Carmelo Anthony-led team won the 2003 national title.

3. Marquette is also vying to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2003, when Dwyane Wade was the team’s star player.

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Re: College Basketball Betting News and Notes Saturday, March 30

Wichita State vs. Ohio State: What Bettors Need to Know

Wichita State Shockers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (-4, 130)

Ohio State has become accustomed to coming up with critical shots late in the NCAA Tournament in its quest for a second consecutive Final Four. Wichita State has simply played big as it pursues a regional final victory for the second time in school history. The teams meet for the first time since 1963 on Saturday in Los Angeles for the right to represent the West Region in the Final Four.

For the second straight game, Ohio State drained a 3-pointer in the waning seconds to break a tie and advance. After Ohio State used a 3-pointer from Aaron Craft to break Iowa State’s heart on Sunday, LaQuinton Ross hit one to sink Arizona on Thursday. The Buckeyes will put their 11-game winning streak on the line against the Shockers, who followed their upset win over top-seeded Gonzaga last Saturday with an impressive victory over La Salle on Thursday.

ABOUT WICHITA STATE (29-8): Carl Hall dominated the undersized Explorers inside, hitting his first five shots and scoring 14 of his 16 points inside the paint. The Shockers recorded 40 points in the paint against La Salle and took 43 shots inside, the most such attempts for a team in this tournament. Wichita State’s tournament opponents – Pittsburgh, Gonzaga and La Salle – each entered their games with the Shockers shooting at least 45 percent, but the teams combined to shoot 35.5 percent against the Missouri Valley Conference’s top-ranked field-goal percentage defense.

ABOUT OHIO STATE (29-7): Unlike the play that left Craft open for a 3-pointer against the Cyclones, the pivotal moment in the win Thursday came when Arizona overcommitted to the Buckeyes’ point guard. "It was similar to the play we ran last game," Ross said. "We like to get the (big men) on a pick-and-roll. It so happened they messed up the switch there and I was able to knock down the shot." Perhaps one of the biggest turnarounds the team has made lately is beyond the arc. In three NCAA Tournament games, Ohio State is a combined 23-for-46 (50 percent) from the 3-point line after shooting 35.9 percent over its first 33 contests.


* Shockers are 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall.
* Under is 6-0 in Buckeyes’ last six Saturday games.
* Over is 4-1 in Shockers’ last five non-conference games.
* Shockers are 4-0 ATS in their last four non-conference games.


1. Craft and Ross are two of only four players in this tournament to make a potential game-tying or go-ahead field goal in the final 10 seconds of a game.

2. Wichita State, one win shy of its first 30-win season, is seeking its first Final Four since 1965.

3. The Buckeyes are 8-2 all-time as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

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Re: College Basketball Betting News and Notes Saturday, March 30

NCAA's Biggest Betting Mismatches: Saturday's Elite Eight
By Jason Logan

Finding a chink in the oddsmakers’ armor is tough come tournament time. But we peel back Saturday’s Elite Eight matchups, looking for some underlying mismatches that could make or break your college basketball bets this March.

Syracuse Orange vs. Marquette Golden Eagles (+3, 127)

Orange’s flat final 20 vs. Golden Eagles’ halftime adjustments

Marquette won the lone meeting with the Orange this season, putting together a strong second-half push to win 74-71 as a 1.5-point home underdog in February. Second-half adjustments are the Golden Eagles’ calling card in March, having won in comeback fashion in their first two NCAA games, versus Davidson and Butler, before steamrolling Miami Thursday.

Syracuse has been a poor second-half squad all season. The Orange ranked fifth in the country in first half margin (+8.7) but ran out of steam in the final 20 minutes, boasting an average margin of just +3.4. The Orange were outscored in the second half versus Indiana and Cal – which resulted in a backdoor cover for the Golden Bears - and who can forget their embarrassing 16-point collapse to Louisville in the conference title game. It’s enough to turn Orange bettors green.

Wichita State Shockers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (-6.5, 132)

Shockers’ deep bench vs. Buckeyes’ short reserves

Just like a swarm of bugs, the Shockers have strength in numbers. Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall rolls out wave after wave of players, frustrating foes with their pressure defense and physical play. Just like a boxer working the body, WSU’s “Play Angry” philosophy wears on opponents and leaves them gasping for air come crunch time. The Shockers have gone at least 10 deep into their bench in each of their tournament games.

Ohio State head coach Thad Matta is not as trusting with his reserves. The Buckeyes have water wings on when it comes to their bench and try not to go too deep. They usually run an eight-man rotation and only two of those backups - Shannon Scott and LaQuinton Ross – get serious minutes. The grind of the tournament will never be more prominent for OSU than against the relentless Shockers Saturday. The Buckeyes have to avoid early foul trouble, especially PG Aaron Craft who picked up four personals versus Arizona.

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Re: College Basketball Betting News and Notes Saturday, March 30

Saturday's Regional Finals
By Chris David

Saturday’s college basketball slate features two Elite Eight battles on tap. With the help from the top college handicapper on, Kevin Rogers, let’s handicap the two matchups.

East Regional Final

No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 4 Syracuse

We know the Big East will have at least one school playing in next weekend’s Final Four as Marquette and Syracuse meet in the East Regional Final on Saturday from Washington, D.C. at the Verizon Center.

Oddsmakers opened Syracuse as a four-point favorite but the line quickly dropped to 3 ½-points at most betting shops. The money-line on the Orange is listed at minus-175 (Bet $175 to win $100) with a plus-155 (Bet $100 to win $155) takeback on Marquette.

It’s safe to say that you can argue either school in this matchup, especially after their wire-to-wire victories as underdogs on Thursday. Marquette ran past Miami, Fl. 71-61 as a 5½-point underdog while Syracuse stifled Indiana 61-50 as a five-point pup.

Which win was more impressive? “I thought Marquette's victory over Miami was more surprising simply because the Golden Eagles have had problems winning consistently on the highway.  Marquette took advantage of Reggie Johnson's absence on the inside by basically scoring at will in the paint.  Indiana struggled down the stretch of the season and faced a Syracuse team that had one hiccup in the last few weeks (Louisville in Big East title game),” answered Kevin Rogers.

“The Golden Eagles dodged bullets in the first two rounds, but Marquette didn't match up well with teams not as athletic as Miami.  This matchup against Syracuse suits Marquette well, which will definitely help them moving towards the Final Four.”

Marquette defeated Syracuse 74-71 on Feb. 25 as a 1½-point home underdog but Rogers believes this outcome should be tossed out here. He said, “Syracuse should have beaten Marquette in the first meeting, which will be a huge advantage for the Orange this time around.  That game took place in Milwaukee, as now it will seem like more of a home-court advantage playing in D.C. for Syracuse.  The Orange shot 47% from the field in the earlier setback to Marquette, but got to the free throw line just seven times.”

Also, this was the worst stretch of the season for the ‘Cuse. That loss came during a 1-4 skid for Jim Boeheim’s team. Since that span, the Orange have gone 6-1 and the lone loss came in the second-half collapse to the Cardinals (61-78) in the aforementioned Big East tournament.

Total players are starting at a number hovering between 127½ and 128 points, which is down from the opener of 129. Syracuse has watched the ‘under’ go 3-0 in the tournament behind a defense that is allowing an average of 48 points per game during this stretch. Marquette has watched the ‘over’ 2-1 in this year’s tournament, which includes Thursday’s miraculous ‘over’ (127) ticket that saw 87 points posted in the final 20 minutes.

If you’re looking for historical angles -- Syracuse was in this same spot in last year’s tournament when it met Ohio State in the East Regional final from Boston and it lost 77-70 to the Buckeyes. Most pundits will tell you that the 2012 Orange were more talented with NBA players Dion Waiters (Cleveland) and Kris Joseph (San Antonio) on the roster, but the off-the-court allegations (Bernie Fine) and suspension of big-man Fab Melo (academics) caught up with the squad. This will be the first opportunity for Marquette to earn a trip to the Final Four since Miami Heat All-Star Dwyane Wade led the Golden Eagles to a berth in the 2003 NCAA Tournament.

West Regional Final

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Wichita State

If you like to lean your handicapping on coaching angles and tournament history, then you’re more than likely backing Ohio State over Wichita State at the Staples Center on Saturday evening. Since Thad Matta took over as head coach in Columbus, the Buckeyes have reached the Elite Eight twice and his squad won both of the games, coincidentally each victory was by seven points. Last year Ohio State beat Syracuse 77-70 in the regional final and in 2007, Greg Oden and Mike Conley helped the school drop another Big East foe in Georgetown, 67-60.

Will Thad go three-for-three? His opponent, ninth-seed Wichita State, has never been in this position before. Since the tournament expanded to a 64-team field in 1985, Wichita State made the Sweet 16 once, which occurred in 2006. Ironically that Shockers team lost to George Mason, who took its Cinderella run all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

Make a note that Wichita State became just the second No. 9 seed to reach the Elite Eight and first to do so since Boston College accomplished the feat in 1994. Also, a No. 9 seed has never been in the Final Four. With a victory, the Shockers would become the first school from the Missouri Valley to make the Final Four since Indiana State in 1979.

With all of the above stated, oddsmakers still give the Shockers a chance and they certainly should. Ohio State opened as a five-point favorite and the early money came in on Wichita State, which dropped the line to 4½ at most outfits.

Up until this point, some pundits believe Ohio State has been more lucky than good. Kevin Rogers disagrees with them. “The Buckeyes have been good, holding a 13-point lead against Iowa State before the Cyclones rallied late.  Also, OSU was ready to run away from Arizona before another comeback in the final minutes, so this Buckeyes' team just needs to do a better job of closing the game,” explained Rogers.

Even though the Buckeyes beat both Iowa State (78-75) and Arizona (73-70) with late 3-pointers, winning close games is a sign of a very good team.

The Shockers haven’t needed any late-game heroics, easily beating all of their opponents behind a sound defense and timely shooting. The 76-70 over No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the third round was considered a fluke since the team shot 14-of-28 from 3-point land. In the other two wins, the Shockers shot a combined 7-of-32 (22%) and still managed to beat Pittsburgh (73-55) and La Salle (72-58) by double digits.

With the game being played in Los Angeles, neither team boasts a home-court edge but Ohio State does travel very well. However, fans love the underdogs and the Shockers prosper in this situation. Wichita State is 4-2 both straight up and against the spread, both losses coming to Creighton.

The oddsmakers made a mistake on their opening total number, which came out at 127½. The number was quickly steamed up to 130 and even though both schools have played slow in the past, the current form is favoring a high-scoring game.

Rogers added, “The key here is to see if Wichita State can keep up its hot shooting, while Ohio State got into the bonus halfway through the second half against Arizona, giving the Buckeyes free points.  This game can finish 'under' the total if the Shockers are slowed down behind the arc and the Buckeyes don't hit the line consistently.”

Ohio State has scored 95, 78, and 73 points in the tournament and they’ve given up 70 or more in each contest as well. When you consider that Wichita State has posted 73, 76 and 72 points, you should expect the winner to get close to that number on Saturday.

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Re: College Basketball Betting News and Notes Saturday, March 30

CBB: Streaks, Tips, Notes

Syracuse vs Marquette

After sweating through a pair of edge-of-your-seat comebacks in the opening rounds the third-seeded Golden Eagles cruised into the NCAA Tournament East Regional final with a 71-61 win over second-seeded Miami Hurricanes. Meanwhile, fourth-seeded Syracuse handed top-seeded Indiana a gut punching 61-50 loss setting up Saturday's Elite Eight clash with Big East rival Marquette. The Golden Eagles shooting a whopping 54.0% in it's Sweet-Sixteen victory was a stark turnaround from 38.4% rate in the first two games. Golden Eagles limited offense netting just 68.9 PPG on 46.3 from the field, 30.5% from long range face a stiff test against the vaunted 'Cuse 2-3 zone defense yielding solid results in NCAA Tourney play allowing just 48.0 PPG on 31.2% from the field, 16.4% from outside. Consider Syracuse knowing #4 seeds in this round are a sparkling 9-1 ATS, #3 seeds 1-7 against-the-number. If that were not enough, Elite Eight higher seeds scoring =< 65 points are on a 1-10 ATS skid.

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Re: College Basketball Betting News and Notes Saturday, March 30

Saturday's Elite 8 Action


A pair of Big East teams will meet in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years when third-seeded Marquette takes on fourth-seeded Syracuse in the East Regional Final on Saturday afternoon in Washington, DC.

The Golden Eagles beat their conference foe in the Round of 32 in 2011 by a 66-62 score, and also won the lone meeting this season, 74-71 on Feb. 25, marking the fifth straight ATS win in this series (3-2 SU). In that game, Syracuse led by 10 points with 2:00 left in the first half, but Marquette outscored the Orange 55 to 42 in the final 22 minutes, thanks to PF Davante Gardner's career-high 26 points. But Syracuse, which just knocked off top-seeded Indiana on Thursday, has played as well as any team in the NCAA Tournament, winning by 21.3 PPG and holding its three opponents to 48.0 PPG on 31.2% FG. Syracuse is now 6-1 SU (4-3 ATS) in the postseason and 7-2 SU (5-4 ATS) on a neutral court this season. The Golden Eagles squeaked by both of their first two tourney 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. However, Marquette crushed Miami by 10 points on Thursday to improve to 9-2 SU in its past 11 games and 5-2 SU (4-3 ATS) on a neutral court this season.

Syracuse's 2-3 zone has really bothered its past six opponents, holding them to 56.0 PPG on 35.0% FG, with none of the six teams making even one-third of their three-point attempts. Indiana entered Thursday's game with 79.5 PPG, 49% FG and 41% threes (all among top-6 teams in nation), but Syracuse limited the Hoosiers to 50 points on 33% FG and 3-of-15 threes. That improved the Orange's national ranks in scoring defense to 26th (59.1 PPG), shooting defense to third (37.2% FG) and three-point defense to fourth (28.7% threes). Syracuse also tallied 12 steals and 10 blocks versus Indiana, improving those areas to 6.2 BPG (5th in nation) and 9.1 SPG (13th in D-I). This team continues to go as far as PG Michael Carter-Williams (12.1 PPG) will allow it to. The 6-foot-6 sophomore ranks third in the nation in assists (7.5 APG) and fifth in steals (2.74 SPG). He scored a game-high 24 points on Thursday with six rebounds and four steals. But not all is well with Carter-Williams, who has just four helpers and seven turnovers combined in his past two games, and has made a pathetic 10-of-28 free throws (36%) in the past five contests. Senior SG Brandon Triche (13.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.5 APG) has committed way too many turnovers in the past four games (4.5 TOPG), but bounced back from a 1-of-8 shooting night in the Round of 32 to score 14 points on 6-of-12 FG versus Indiana. The backcourt duo played pretty well in Milwaukee last month with a combined 22 points and 13 assists, but also committed seven turnovers. PF C.J. Fair (14.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG) was the team's best player in that loss at Marquette with 20 points (8-of-11 FG) and seven rebounds. The team's top scorer and rebounder has also played pretty well in the NCAA Tournament with 14.0 PPG (47% FG) and 5.7 RPG. Senior PF James Southerland (13.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG) is the best shooter for the Orange at 41% threes, but hasn't shot much during the tourney, going 8-for-19 FG (4-of-10 threes) in the three games combined. In the Big East Tournament, Southerland made 19-of-33 threes (58%) in the four games. He has certainly focused his energy on the defensive end though, with 8.0 RPG and 3.0 SPG in the past two wins. Neither Triche, Fair nor Southerland played very well in the 2011 NCAA Tournament loss to Marquette, as Triche produced eight points and four turnovers, Fair had as many fouls as points (four each) and Southerland scored seven points on 1-of-4 threes.

Marquette is not a team that likes to play high-scoring games, tallying just 68.9 PPG (133rd in nation) and allowing 62.8 PPG (75th in D-I). But this is a very smart and efficient team that rarely takes bad shots, making 46.3% FG (38th in nation). The Golden Eagles make just 4.2 threes per game (18th-fewest in D-I), but get a lot of their points by crashing the glass for easy put-backs (+4.5 RPG margin, 44th in nation). After getting outshot in their first two NCAA Tournament wins, Marquette made 54% FG versus Miami, and held the 'Canes to 35% FG. If this game comes down to which team makes its foul shots, the Golden Eagles will certainly like their chances, as they shoot 72.9% FT (57th in nation), making 14-of-19 free throws on Thursday. Syracuse hits just 67.7% FT (228th in D-I) this season. Marquette's most valuable player continues to be junior SG Vander Blue (14.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG) who after winning the Davidson game with his 16th point (5-of-15 FG), has pumped in 21.5 PPG on 59% FG with 3.0 SPG. Blue has made 5-of-10 threes in the Big Dance, while burying all 12 of his free-throw attempts. Three other Golden Eagles players joined Blue in double-figures on Thursday, as PF Jamil Wilson (9.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG) scored 16 points with eight boards, PF Davante Gardner (11.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG) scored 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting and C Chris Otule (5.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG) netted 11 points in just 15 minutes. Although Wilson (14.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG in NCAA Tournament) made just 3-of-12 shots (1-of-8 threes) versus Syracuse last month, he still finished with 12 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Gardner was a flawless 7-of-7 FG and near-perfect 12-of-13 FT in that game, and also pulled down eight rebounds (four offensive) in the best game of his career. PG Junior Cadougan (8.6 PPG, 3.9 APG) also played well in that win over the Orange with 12 points, four steals, three assists and just one turnover in 38 minutes. He also had nine points, three assists and only one turnover in the 2011 NCAA Tournament win over Syracuse. But Cadougan has not run the offense particularly well in this current Big Dance, producing only three assists with six turnovers in the three contests combined.


Ninth-seeded Wichita State has one more hurdle in its quest for a Final Four berth, when it faces a second-seeded Ohio State team that has earned a spot in Saturday's Elite Eight game thanks to last-second heroics in two straight games.

While the Shockers have hammered their three NCAA Tournament opponents by an average of 12.7 PPG, the Buckeyes have won their past two contests with game-winning three-pointers in the closing seconds of each victory. That gives them 11 straight SU victories (8-3 ATS). Points could be at a premium in Staples Center, as Wichita State has held all three of its NCAA tourney opponents under 36% FG, while scoring at least 72 points in all three victories. Ohio State has actually allowed 70+ points to all three of its games in the Big Dance, but gives up a mere 59.1 PPG on 39.6% FG for the entire season. The Shockers are now 8-1 SU (6-3 ATS) on a neutral court this season, outscoring these opponents by 10.3 PPG, while the Buckeyes are 8-0 SU (5-3 ATS) and beating teams by 10.5 PPG on a neutral court. WSU is 4-2 (SU and ATS) in the underdog role, while OSU is 17-12 ATS (59%) when favored, but just 2-3 ATS when favored outside of Columbus.

Wichita State continues to win with a hard-nosed defense that allows only 60.7 PPG on 39.6% FG and 32.5% threes. In Thursday's win, it held La Salle to 22 first-half points and 35.7% shooting for the game. The Shockers dominated the Explorers on the glass with a 47-29 rebounding advantage, increasing their season margin to +8.1 RPG (7th-best in nation). The offense hasn't been great this season (69.8 PPG on 44.3% FG and 33.8% threes), but it has been clicking during the tournament with 73.7 PPG, including 19-of-40 threes (48%) over the past two games. The Shockers are able to stay fresh and hound opponents on defense because head coach Gregg Marshall gives 11 of his players at least 11 MPG. The three double-digit scorers are junior SF Cleanthony Early (13.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG) and seniors PF Carl Hall (12.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG) and PG Malcolm Armstead (10.8 PPG, 4.0 APG, 3.8 RPG). Early had just 5.0 PPG on 5-of-21 FG in three games leading up to the tourney, but has stepped up in a big way in NCAA play with 15.0 PPG on 46% FG and 7.0 RPG. The 6-foot-8 Hall was the team's best player on Thursday with 16 points (7-of-11 FG), eight rebounds and three blocks, increasing his tourney averages to 11.7 PPG (57% FG), 5.0 RPG and 2.0 BPG. Armstead shot poorly in the Round of 32 against Gonzaga (2-of-9 FG, 1-of-6 threes), but was outstanding versus La Salle on Thursday with 18 points (7-of-15 FG), six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Freshman SG Ron Baker (8.6 PPG) was 0-for-5 against Pittsburgh to start the tournament, but hasn't missed much in the past two games, scoring 14.5 PPG on 9-of-13 FG (69%), including 6-of-9 from three-point range, to go along with 5.0 RPG and 3.0 APG.

Ohio State usually relies on an outstanding defense, giving up only 59.1 PPG (24th in D-I) on 39.6% FG (41st in nation) this season. But it has been the offense that has put the Buckeyes one win away from the Final Four, averaging 82.0 PPG on 47.1% FG in the three NCAA wins, numbers much greater than their 70.3 PPG (100th in D-I) on 45.5% shooting for the season. OSU has been incredibly efficient in handling the basketball, averaging just 9.2 TOPG during its 11-game win streak, including 8.2 TOPG in the past five victories, turning the ball over 10 times or less in each of the five contests during this span. The Buckeyes are able to protect the basketball so well with two top-notch point guards in Aaron Craft (10.1 PPG, 4.7 APG) and Shannon Scott (4.9 PPG, 3.9 APG) who are the biggest reasons why the team commits just 10.5 TOPG (8th in nation). Scott's 3.11 Ast/TO ratio this season ranks second among all Division-I players, while Craft's 2.46 Ast/TO ratio is 24th-best in the nation. Craft hasn't made the best decisions late in the past two games with costly turnovers and missed free throws, but he did win last Sunday's Round of 32 contest with a three-pointer in the closing seconds. Craft also finished Thursday's game against Arizona with a well-rounded 13 points, five rebounds and five assists. Although Craft has 15.5 PPG in the past two games, the team needs him to focus mostly on setting up the offense, which isn't easy against the tenacious Shockers. Sophomore PF LaQuinton Ross (8.0 PPG) was the hero on Thursday with a game-winning three-pointer with two seconds left, giving him 17 points for the second consecutive game. At 6-foot-8, he could present a big matchup problem for the smallish Shockers. The bulk of the team's scoring belongs to junior PF Deshaun Thomas (19.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG), who has 22.0 PPG on 58% 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. However, Thomas will have to do a better job of rebounding against a WSU opponent that is fierce on the boards, as Thomas has just 3.0 RPG in the three NCAA wins. SG Lenzelle Smith Jr. (9.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG) is the team's third-leading scorer, but he has been ice-cold all month, averaging just 6.1 PPG on 33.9% FG in eight March games. He's just 4-of-13 from the floor in the past two contests, but he did pull down eight rebounds against Arizona. However, high-flying SF Sam Thompson (7.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG) has been huge in the past six games, averaging 12.2 PPG on 58% FG, while grabbing 7.0 RPG in the three NCAA matchups.

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