LSU vs. Iowa State
LSU is one of the most athletic teams in the nation as they have athleticism and size all over the court. LSU’s athleticism has helped them to become an elite defensive team as they are ranked 4th in adjusted defensive efficiency, 15th in defensive effective FG%, 2nd in defensive turnover %, 4th in defensive 3-point %, and number 1 in the nation in defensive steal %. LSU has also been dealing with some off the court issues as it was just announced that they fired their coach, Will Wade, amid more NCAA allegations resurfacing. LSU has struggled down the stretch this season as they started 15-1 and have since gone 7-10 including losses to ole miss, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina. On the offensive side of the ball, LSU has been very inconsistent this season as they have dealt with injuries to some of their best players. LSU finally has their full lineup back as Darius Days and Xavier Pinson, their 2 best players, are finally healthy and back to playing at their full capacity. LSU has had a real problem with turnovers this season as they are ranked 304th in the nation in offensive turnover %. This may be a huge problem for the Tigers as Iowa St is one of the best teams in the country as forcing turnovers on defense as they are 6th nationally in that category. LSU is ranked 89th in adjusted offensive efficiency, 26th in offensive rebounding %, 150th in 2-point %, and 269th in 3-point shooting as a team. LSU really doesn’t run any structured offense as they just drive to the rim and hope to get their own rebound if they miss. They are very gifted athletically so they can get away with this against a lot of teams but I think Iowa St will be able to match their athleticism with their toughness so this should be a good matchup.
Iowa State comes into this game with a 20-12 record and have really been struggling lately as they have lost their last 3 games. They started the season blistering hot and were 12-0 but have struggled since that point, as they have gone 8-12 in the 2022 calendar year. Their struggles have mainly been on offense this season as their offensive metrics have been very bad. They are ranked 300th in offensive turnover %, 253rd in offensive 3-point%, 129th in 2-point %, and 289th in free throw shooting as they only shoot 68.4% as a team. Iowa State’s best player this season has been Penn St transfer, Izaiah Brockington who is averaging 17//7/2 on 46% shooting and 38% from deep. Brockington will be the X-factor for Iowa St in this matchup because he is the main player on Iowa St’s roster who can match LSU’s athleticism to create his own shot and create for others. Minnesota and UNLV transfers, Gabe Kalscheur and Caleb Grill, are very good shooters and if Brockington can force the LSU defense to collapse on the dribble drive, it can create open outside shots for these guys. They will need to hit them at a high clip of course for Iowa to stay in the game because I really don’t think Iowa St can bang with LSU on the inside. This should be a very low scoring game with a lot of fouls and whoever shoots the 3 ball better will move on.
PREDICTION: LSU is one of the most athletic teams in the country and I just don’t see where the offense comes from with Iowa St. They struggled against teams with much worse defenses than LSU and I don’t think they have the personnel to win this game. They lack a true interior post presence and LSU should dominate the glass for second chance opportunities. My strong lean for this game is LSU 1H -1.5/ML and Full Game -3.5. My final score prediction for this game is 67-56 so I have a slight lean to the UNDER 128.5 as well. Official pick here is LSU 1H ML at -140 for 1U
Houston vs. UAB
Houston has been very impressive this season as they basically lost their 2 best players, Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark, to injury very early on. After these guys went down, Kyler Edwards and Fabian White Jr have really stepped up to the plate. Edwards, a Texas Tech transfer, has been rock solid for the cougars this season as he is averaging 14/6/3 but has been very inefficient at times as he is only shooting 37% from the field and 33% from deep. Fabian White Jr and Uconn transfer, Josh Carlton have been absolute monsters on the glass this season. Houston is ranked 3rd in the nation in offensive rebounding % thanks in large part due to the motor that these guys have on the offensive glass. UAB is a good defensive team, but they have struggled with rebounding as they are ranked 145th in def rebounding % so this may be a huge factor if UAB can’t keep Houston off the offensive glass. Overall, Houston is ranked 10th in adj off efficiency, 22nd in 2-point %, and 34th in effective FG%. They have struggled to knock down free throws as they shoot just 66.9% as a team, good for 322nd in the country. This may be big down the stretch for the spread in end of game situations because if Houston is up by 4 or 5 in the last minute, they may miss a few free throws leaving the door open for UAB to backdoor. Houston as always, has been elite defensively this year. They are ranked 11th in adj def efficiency, 3rd in defensive effective FG%, 11th in defensive 3-point %, and 7th in defensive 2-point % so its safe to say they defend at a high level. UAB played a relatively easy schedule this season and I don’t think they have faced a defense that plays with the toughness and tenacity that Houston does so it will be interesting to see how the Blazers can match up.
UAB comes into this game as champions of conference USA thanks to a huge semifinal comeback. They were down by 6 points with 40 seconds left at one point and would eventually force another OT and win the game to advance to the championship, where they took care of Louisiana Tech in impressive fashion beating them by 9 points, covering all spreads. UAB is one of the more experienced teams in this tournament and they have done a lot of their damage on offense via the outside shot. UAB is currently ranked 28th in adjusted offensive efficiency, 53rd in offensive effective FG%, 37th in offensive rebounding %, and 8th in 3-point shooting as a team as they knock down threes at 38.4% collectively. On the defensive side of the ball, UAB isn’t elite, but they are definitely above average. They are currently ranked 89th in defensive efficiency, 33rd in defensive turnover %, 106th in defensive 3-point %, and 85th in defensive 2-point %. UAB is led by Jordan ‘Jelly’ Walker who is an absolute flamethrower from the outside. He can get hot and take over a game at any time so he will definitely be a focal point for Houston’s defense to maintain if the Cougars want to move on and make another run in March.
PREDICTION: I have been very high on Houston this season as defense and athleticism are 2 things that always travel, and Houston is rich in those 2 areas. I really like UAB, but I think they got a bad draw here against a Houston team who matches up well with them. Houston will have a size advantage at nearly every position and should be able to control the boards here. My lean for this game is HOUSTON 1H -4 -111 (pinnacle) as Houston has been a 1H ATS juggernaut this season and think they start fast again here. My final score prediction for this game would be 73-66 Houston as I think UAB just sneaks inside the number in a backdoor fashion so a very weak lean here would be UAB full game at +8.5 and to the OVER 135.5 as well. Official Pick here is going to be HOUSTON 1H -4 at -120 for 1U