NCAA College Basketball – March Madness SWEET SIXTEEN THURSDAY Games
Arkansas vs Gonzaga
Arkansas is making consecutive Sweet 16 appearances for the first time since 1996. They squeaked through the second round against 12th ranked New Mexico where they struggled to produce late in the game. In the second-half, they went 5 for 24 from the field but shot 88% from the free throw line down the stretch. They won’t have the luxury of playing a lower ranked team as they take on the number one squad and tournament favorites in Gonzaga. Thanks to their balanced scoring, the Zags still lead the nation in points per game with nearly 88 and have five Bulldogs averaging more than 11 points per contest. In their own end they are first in defensive rebounds, grabbing more than 32 on average. Gonzaga will have to lock things down on defense as they are 0-4-1 in their last 5 against the spread.
Michigan vs Villanova
Michigan never lived up to the hype during the regular-season but have stepped up when it counts. Speaking of stepping up, Hunter Dickinson is playing like a stud, averaging 24 points in the first two rounds. In both rounds the Spartans played the long game, trailing in the first before exploding in the 2nd half for over 40 points in each game. They’re taking on a Villanova squad that never trailed for a single second in their second round match-up against Ohio State. The Wildcats are on a 7 game win streak and have held their opponents to 26.6% from beyond the arc during that span. On offense, they have made 36% of their contested 3s in the tournament which is their top mark since the 2018 national title run. To cap it off, they hold the top free throw percentage in the country at over 82%.
Texas Tech vs Duke
Coach K enters the Sweet 16 for the 24th and final time on his farewell tour with some of the best offensive talent in the tournament. They have five absolute weapons on the floor at all times and hold one of the most versatile offensive attacks in the nation. Freshman standout Paolo Banchero leads the way and has been electric all year, scoring in double digits in all but two games this season. With that being said, in their last 7 they are 1-6 against the spread and have yet to face a defense all year that has truly tested them. Enter Texas Tech. The Red Raiders boast a top rated defense that suffocates the opposition and limits opportunities in tight. Texas Tech locked it down in their own end against Notre Dame, keeping them to under 33% from both the field and beyond the arc.
Houston vs Arizona
In his first season as a Division 1 head coach Tommy Lloyd’s Arizona Wildcats have reached the Sweet 16. They’re led by Canadian Benedict Mathurn who dropped 30 points in a dramatic second round OT win versus TCU. Arizona’s offense pushes tempo at all times while creating a ton of second-chance opportunities down low thanks to their second-ranked height. Houston features a well-balanced scoring attack that has all five starters averaging in double figures. Their backcourt was dominant over Illinois in the second round, combining for 54 of Houston’s 68 points. On defense, the Cougars utilize relentless pressure and possess one of the highest block rates in the AAC. It’s one of the main reasons they allowed just 61 points per game to conference opponents prior to the conference tournament.