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We have a battle of two mid-major teams in the South Region second round, with the #5 San Diego State Aztecs will take on the #12 Furman Paladins on Saturday. Both teams survived a close first-round matchup and will be looking to punch their ticket to the Sweet 16. While San Diego State enters as the favorite, Furman quickly becomes a popular pick among college basketball bettors.
If you want to get in on the action, here is our game breakdown, along with our prediction, odds, and best bets.
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The Aztecs survived a scare against Charleston on Thursday to advance to the second round of the South Region. Their offense struggled, but their defensive play got them the win. They held Charleston to 32.1% from the field and 20.8% from three.
SDSU’s play on defense is not surprising, as they led the Mountain West in opponent scoring and three-point percentage while ranking second in field goal percentage. Their offense has been a different story, as they rank in the bottom half of the conference in scoring and field goal percentage. Their three-point shooting is decent, but they struggled to find consistent scoring all season. They will need to figure it out for Saturday as they face off against a Furman team that just beat the fourth-best scoring defense in the country in Virginia.
The biggest concern for the Aztecs is how they will face a Furman defense that isn’t overwhelming but can give you a lot of different looks. The Paladins showed both man-to-man and a 1-3-1 zone, which many teams haven’t seen. Considering their offensive struggles, the Aztecs must find ways to generate quality shots to win on Saturday.
44.4% Field goal percentage
35.3% Three-point percentage
73.2% Free throw percentage
41.6% Opponent field goal percentage
29.3% Opponent three-point percentage
Matt Bradley: 12.9 PPG / 3.8 RPG / 37.7 3PT%
Darrion Trammell: 9.5 PPG / 1.3 SPG / 35.3 FG%
Lamont Butler: 8.5 PPG / 1.3 SPG / 40.6 FG%
The Paladins advanced to the second round after a wild ending lifted them over Virginia. While Furman has had a fantastic season, many were surprised how they played against a Virginia team in the top five in defensive scoring. Furman did trail for almost the entire game but was able to force a final turnover and win. The win is impressive and will have prepared them well to face a San Diego State team who is also fantastic on defense.
Furman has relied on their offense to earn a place in the NCAA Tournament. They were 18th in the country in scoring and field goal percentage. They led the Southern conference in most offensive categories, but their ability to shoot the three has been inconsistent. That didn’t stop them from taking 28 against Virginia, which was why they could keep the game close throughout.
Furman’s defense has been shakey this season. Their offense has been able to cover for their poor defensive play, even though they allowed an average of 72.6 points over their final five games. They tend to get caught out of position and give up open shots, which happened against Virginia. That is until they switched from man-to-man to a 1-3-1 zone. That zone style isn’t prevalent among the major conferences and completely changed the game against the Cavaliers. The ability to switch back and forth should help confound a bad Aztec offense and keep them in the game on Saturday.
48.3% Field goal percentage
34.7% Three-point percentage
74.1% Free throw percentage
44.6% Opponent field goal percentage
33.4% Opponent three-point percentage
Mike Bothwell: 18.0 PPG / 51.9 FG%
Jalen Swanson: 15.7 PPG / 7.1 RPG / 1.6 SPG / 1.6 BPG / 55.6 FG%
JP Pegues: 12.0 PPG / 4.0 APG / 34.98 3PT%
This is another classic March Madness matchup between an elite defense and an elite offense. While San Diego State was ranked in the Top 25 for most of the season, Furman’s win over Virginia is more impressive than anything on the Aztec’s resume. If fact, the Aztecs lost all four of their games against non-conference tournament teams (Arizona, Arkansas, St. Mary’s).
This game should consider how well San Diego State will score, as Furman has already shown they can compete against an elite defense. However, we haven’t seen the Aztecs score over 70 points in their last six games. That includes several conference opponents that were bad on defense. Furman is vulnerable against the three, so the Aztecs must hit them to keep the Paladins at bay.
We love Furman to win this matchup. The Aztecs have shown no life on offense, and Furman will be riding high after beating Virginia. Look for them to switch up their defense throughout the game to keep the Aztecs off balance. Furman has proven they can play disciplined basketball and create open shots, so they’ll earn a Sweet 16 birth on Saturday.
The Furman moneyline is tempting, but it’s too hard to pass up 5.5 points in what should be a very close game. We’re taking Furman +5.5.
Location: Amway Center in Orlando, FL
Game Time & Date: March 18 at 12.10 PM EST
TV Network: CBS
Streaming: NCAA March Madness Live
I am a huge sports fan; locally, many know me as the guy who does the PA for our high school football team on Friday nights. Having grown up in Michigan, I am a sports fan of all the Detroit teams, and at the college level, I love Michigan State sports.More info on Caleb Tallman
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