At this point, people have to start asking themselves whether the Marshall Thundering Herd can go all the way and defend their Conference USA championship, in a tournament that is truly wide-open. They seemed to continue their momentum they used to close the regular season when they beat Rice Wednesday night, and now they will try to move past one more round, into the semi-finals, as they tackle the Southern Miss Golden Eagles in a game that begins at 10 PM ET. The site is the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, TX, with television provided through ESPN Plus. And BetAnySports customers can get better odds through reduced juice, then real-time wagering through the facilities of Live Betting Ultra.
Marshall got its preferred pace going and forced Rice into 21 turnovers on Wednesday, on the way to a 82-65 victory. There were some areas that may be a concern, however. They fouled enough to put Rice on the line for 27 free throws, and they were beaten on the boards for 15 offensive rebounds. Most opponents go into games with the Herd confident that they can get some second chances, since Marshall is a rather poor rebounding team. Let's remember that at this site last season, Marshall drove through the field and won the title and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
They are going to be playing a different kind of opponent on Thursday night because Southern Miss is a veteran squad that is very proficient on defense, not only holding every opponent under 80 points but also with the ability to completely smother some of them. They have done that to their last two opponents, as they held conference regular season champion Old Dominion to 34% shooting and then shut UTSA's high-scoring duo of Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace down, as they shot just 4-for-29.
And they absolutely destroyed Marshall earlier in the season. More on that in a moment.
In the March Madness basketball betting odds posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, the Golden Eagles are the favorites:
Southern Miss Golden Eagles -3
Marshall Thundering Herd +3
Over 149.5 points -110
Under 149.5 points -110
This is a big revenge game for Marshall, which really took it on the chin the first time around, getting throttled to the tune of 101-51 in a complete humiliation. The numbers were bad enough to be mind-boggling; they managed to shoot just 25% from the field, as opposed to almost 65% for USM. We doubt that'll happen again, but we also wouldn't concede that payback is going to come all that easily, even for a hot Marshall team that has now won six in a row. That's because we can understand the fundamentals behind Marshall's great backcourt of Jon Elmore and CJ Burks being slowed considerably by Tyree Griffin and Cortez Edwards, the latter being an all-defensive team member in Conference USA.
And with Elmore sizzling right now, hitting 49% of his three-point shots in the last five games, not to mention 32 of Marshall's 82 points last night, there would quite an effect if his impact was to be mitigated. If USM decides to take him out of the game - something Rice and its freshman-laden roster found difficult to do - Marshall will have to look to create offense in other ways.
These teams are 1-2 in Conference USA in terms of Steal Percentage, but they also take care of the ball very well, so we may not see a whole lot of fast-break points off turnovers. We know that Southern Miss likes to slow down the pace - they are 314th out of 353 teams in Division I with regard to the category of "Adjusted Tempo." And they are motivated to play more deliberately and force Marshall to work harder on the offensive end. This points us rather solidly to the UNDER in this C-USA quarter-final matchup.
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