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Thursday's Sweet 16

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SYRACUSE ORANGE (28-9) vs. INDIANA HOOSIERS (29-6)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Indiana -5.5 & 135.5

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)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Miami -5.5 & 127

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.

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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)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Ohio State -3.5 & 134

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)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Wichita State -4 & 135

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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