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March 17, 2017

There are three picks today. 

  

#1: Take USC +7 spread (buy the half point) against SMU for 3% of the bankroll.

The USC Trojans enter this matchup full of confidence after beating Providence by a 75-71 score in the First Four Round on Wednesday night which saw them rally back from a double-digit deficit to score 46 points in the second half to clinch their spot in the Dance. It was an incredibly impressive display by the Trojans and to have done so against a top-notch defense like Providence speaks volumes of how explosive they can be on offense. The Trojans currently average 78.6 points per game on 45.3% shooting from the field ranking them 56th in the nation and containing that offense could be a tall task for the Mustangs in this contest.

The SMU Mustangs come into this contest with a ton of momentum themselves as they are currently riding a 16-game winning streak. The Mustangs are one of the more well balanced teams in the country, however their lack of quality competition this season has caused some questions to circulate around this team. These two teams met back in November and it was actually USC that managed to come away with the victory and hand the Mustangs one of their 4 losses on the season. As good as SMU has played, they are a team that lacks a lot of depth, which could be a factor in this contest trying to contain the Trojan's offense.

SMU is the better team on paper but it can be argued that they haven't hasn’t been tested as which is likely the reason for their rather low seed despite a phenomenal record. USC on the other hand, should have plenty of momentum from already capturing a win in the Tournament and seems to have the rest of the team back on the same page. If the Trojans have a chance to open this one up and control the pace, they’ve got a great shot at taking home another victory. They have already proven they can beat this SMU team and should be able to keep things relatively close, if not pull off the outright upset.

 

#2: Take Rhode Island -1 spread against Creighton for 3% of the bankroll.

The Rhode Island Rams may be a team from the less-known A10 conference, however that should not take away just how good this team really is. This group is led by a dangerous trio of players in E.C. Matthews (14.9 points per game), Hassan Martin (14.1 points per game) and Jared Terrell (12.5 points per game) all of whom make up a majority of the team's offense. Top scorer Matthews has been on a personal mission over his previous four games, averaging 19.0 points with 5.0 rebounds. He’s also made 10 of his last 15 attempts from beyond the arc and was crowned as the Most Outstanding Player in the conference tourney.

The Rams have been one of the hottest teams in the country over the last month and enter this tournament on an 8 game winning streak. As solid as they have been on offense recently, where this team prides themselves is on the defensive side of the ball. This season they are ranked 32nd in the nation, holding teams to just 64.9 points per game on 40.4% shooting from the field. It is this defense that we believe is going to be the difference maker in this contest.

The Creighton Bluejays have managed to make the field of 64, however they are a much different team than the one that started the season 18-1. This team is still at loss to a without Maurice Watson Jr on the floor. He was the catalyst of this Creighton team and they have undoubetbly missed his presence and, most especially, the leadership he brings and it has shown in their play on the court. This is a team that likes to push the pace and have been lethal from 3-point range. Creighton's ability to hit the 3-ball has largely dictated their success this season and given that the Rams are holding teams to just 29% from long-range could make things difficult for the Jays in this contest.

Creighton is also not an overly large team and typically struggles on the glass. They have a -1 rebound margin over their opponents this season. Meanwhile, the Rams have been active in cleaning up their misses, averaging 11 offensive rebounds per game and are outgaining their opponents on the glass by an average of 3 rebounds per game on the defensive end.

This should be a classic battle between offense and defense and if Watson Jr was playing in this game, things may play out differently, however it is tough to ignore what Rhode Island has been able to do recently and we believe they will be the more aggressive and motivated team in this contest. Their defense should be able to contain Creighton's offense and make the critical stops needed to come away with the closely contested vicotry and move them along to the Round of 32.

 

#3: Take Marquette +2 spread (buy the half point) against South Carolina for 3% of the bankroll.

The Marquette Golden Eagles have had an up and down season this year however, they have managed to win 4 of their last 6 games which helped them earn a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Marquette finished their regular season with impressive wins over Xavier and Creighton thanks largely in part to their explosive offense. On the season, Marquette is averaging 82.5 points per game on 48.7% shooting from the field. They are one of the most prolific 3-point shooting teams in the nation as they connect on an average of 10.5 three-pointers per game on 43.0 shooting from beyond the arc.

The South Carolina Gamecocks come into this tournament have struggled down the stretch, losing 6 of their last 9 games, however they amassed enough quality wins in the early part of the season to give them a 7-seed. The Gamecocks are a team that has survived on their defense all season long and it is a good thing, since their offense has shown a penchant for going on long sustained droughts. South Carolina is averaging just 72.1 points per game and shooting a less than impressive 41.4% from the field. Sindarius Thornwell accounts for about a quarter of the team's entire offense, averaging over 20 points per game. IF the Golden Eagles can find some way to slow down the production of Thornwell and force other role players to step up in his absence, they will have a great chance of picking up the victory and advancing in the tournament.

A lot of people have criticized the SEC conference for their lack of quality competition and that could play a factor in this matchup tonight. Marquette had a solid season in the very tough Big East conference which included a 74-72 victory over the Villanova Wildcats this season. Their offense is second to none in the country and ranks and has 17th in scoring offense, 15th in FG%, and 1st in three-point percentage. As good as the South Carolina defense has been at times this season, we don't believe they will be able to contain the Marquette offense for the full 40 minutes and if they don't South Carolina will have enough bullets in the chamber to keep pace on the scoreboard which will mean an early exit for the Gamecocks. This should be an entertaining game, but Marquette's offense carries them onto the Round of 32 with a win tonight.




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