Do Ncaa Football Teams Play The Weekend Before Thursday Games Steve Merril’s College Fullcourt Report (Mar.23)

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Steve Merril’s College Fullcourt Report (Mar.23)

When the season began four months ago, there were 326 teams competing for the Division I Men’s NCAA Basketball Championship, and now the field has been whittled down to just sixteen teams. Below is a look at all four matchups from Thursday night.

LSU vs. DUKE (-6, 147 ½) – 7:10 pm ET (Atlanta, GA)

It’s an interesting matchup with LSU holding the edge in the frontcourt, while Duke has the advantage in the backcourt. The line drops a bit in this game and my overall power ratings favor Duke by five points on a neutral court.

LSU leads the SEC with a +7.4 margin of victory in conference games, while Duke leads the ACC with a +9.6 average conference win margin. Based on my power ratings the two conferences are almost out of power, so regular season inter-conference stats make sense when handicapping this game.

LSU has one of the most potent frontcourts in the country, including four of their top five scorers. Star freshman forward Tyrus Thomas is still playing at less than full strength and has averaged just 19 ½ minutes in the team’s two tournament games. Thomas leads the team in blocks (3.1 bpg) and is second in rebounding (9.3 rpg) and fourth in scoring (12.7 ppg).

Duke relies more on their outside scoring as they attempt 35 percent of their shots from three-point range, compared to an LSU team that attempts 22 percent from long range. Duke averaged 39.4 percent from beyond the arc this year (against opponents who allowed just 34.6 percent) and the Blue Devils should have success against an average LSU perimeter defense that allowed 37.9 percent on the road this season.

Bradley Vs. Memphis (-6, 142) – 7:25 p.m. ET (Oakland, CA)

Memphis dominated the weak Conference USA this season, winning by an average margin of +16.1 points per game, while Bradley was the most dominant team in their conference and won their Missouri Valley games by an average margin of +7.4 ppg.

The teams appear to be a bit closer in talent than in scoring margin as my power ratings show the Missouri Valley Conference to be an average of eight points stronger than Conference USA this season. Overall, my set of five power ratings favor Memphis by 5 ½ points tonight on a neutral court.

Both teams are in negative technical situations as Bradley is coming off back-to-back SU wins as an underdog, while Memphis is in negative situations playing against higher seeded tournament teams and covering the point spread in back-to-back games.

Both teams have solid offenses with Memphis averaging 81.0 points per game (against opponents allowing just 66.8 ppg), while Bradley is averaging 71.7 points per game this season (opponents allowing just 64.3 ppg overall).

While each offense is strong, the defense is equally tough as Memphis allows just 38.2 percent from the field (44.2 percent team average) and Bradley allows just 40.1 percent field goal shooting (opponents who average 43.5 percent from the floor).

West Virginia vs. Texas (-5, 131 ½) – 9:40 p.m. ET (Atlanta, GA)

It’s a rematch of the previous meeting this season on Nov. 21 in Kansas City when Texas overcame a ten-point second-half deficit to win 76-75 as a 6-point favorite in the Guardians Classic semifinals. Texas scored the winning basket with just 3.6 seconds left and then blocked West Virginia’s final shot to preserve the victory.

With both the offensive fields red-hot, the game easily crossed the final total of 141 runs. Texas outrebounded West Virginia 54-48 percent and led from beyond the arc 44-39 percent. The game was close because West Virginia held a 12-5 free throw attempt edge and a 24-11 turnover advantage.

My overall power rating favors Texas tonight by 7 ½ points, but West Virginia is a very dangerous team in the postseason because the Mountaineers attempt more than half of their shots from three-point range and the Mountaineers can beat anyone when they’re hot. That was the case last year when West Virginia made a surprise trip to the Elite Eight, and the Mountaineers went a perfect 6-0 ATS in the NCAA Tournament under head coach John Beilein the past two years.

Gonzaga vs. UCLA (-3, 138) – 9:55 PM ET (Oakland, CA)

That line quickly jumped from -3 to -4 ½ earlier this week when it was announced that Gonzaga’s All-American forward Adam Morrison (28.2 ppg) was battling the flu. The concern was that since he was a diabetic, his recovery might take longer than normal. The point spread dropped again after Morrison practiced on Wednesday, and it looks like he’ll be ready to play tonight.

UCLA is also dealing with a key injury as starting point guard Jordan Farmer is recovering from a wrist injury suffered against Alabama on Saturday night. Farmer is expected to play tonight and leads the Bruins in assists (5.2 apg) and is second in scoring (13.6 ppg).

Gonzaga relies heavily on their inside scoring as the Bulldogs take 73 percent of their shots from inside the arc, with just 27 percent of their offensive attempts coming from three-point range. Meanwhile, UCLA relies more on the outside shot as the Bruins attempt nearly 35 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.

The key to this game will be which team can force the tempo and dictate their style of play, as Gonzaga is more comfortable with an uptempo pace, while UCLA prefers a slow-down defensive battle in the halfcourt.

Steve Merrill is a professional sports handicapper and a documented member of the Professional Handicappers League. Get its premium plays here.

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