There’s a lot of basketball royalty on which to hang a prediction during Thursday’s Sweet 16 games in the NCAA tournament.
Michigan State, Kansas State, Arkansas, UConn, Tennessee, Gonzaga, and UCLA all have deeper history than a half-court shot.
Florida Atlantic? Not so much.
But don’t be fooled by the Owls, who are making their Sweet 16 debut against the Volunteers.
In fact, FAU looks to be a good bet for the first-half spread.
One reason Florida Atlantic, the 9th seed in the East, is not a bigger underdog against a Southeastern Conference school is it ranks 33rd in the nation in first-half scoring (36.7). And it has averaged 36 first-half points on the road all season.
The Owl have scored less than 30 points in the first half just once this season, a 66-62 victory over North Texas.
As late as the Conference USA title game, they scored 46 first-half points over Alabama-Birmingham.
By the way, both North Texas and UAB both just qualified for the NIT final four.
You might say the Owls’ road to the Sweet 16 has been easier than others, but they still scored 35 first-half points in a win over eighth-seeded Memphis and 32 in beating giant-killer Fairleigh Dickinson.
Will that hold up against Tennessee, which has faced an arguably tougher SEC schedule? The Vols, the East’s No. 4 seed, have averaged 33.4 first-half points a game and 31.7 on the road.
The Owls’ one red flag is the Vols have allowed 26.6 first-half points this season and a slightly higher 27.8 on the road.
Don’t get cocky here.
Take the 2.5 points with the Owls, who rank 44th in the country in 3-point shooting percentage.
That should be enough to keep them within two points of the Vols before halftime.
FAU +2.5 first half (-110, FanDuel)
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