Arkansas-Little Rock head coach Chris Beard manufactured the biggest turnaround in the country, taking a 13-win team prior to his arrival last season and turning it into a legitimate NCAA Tournament dark horse with 29 wins this year. Little Rock’s success is predicated upon an elite defense that is allowing just 59.6 points per game (38.8% FG); 30.7% 3-PT) to teams that would combine to average 71.6 points per game.
The Trojans are also 15-4 SU and 12-6 ATS on the road this season where they are limiting foes to just 60.2 points per game (38.8% FG; 31.1% 3-PT). Little Rock is ranked 2nd nationally in scoring defense, 9th in field goal percentage defense, 19th in three-point field goal defense, 11th in turnover margin (+3.5) and 22nd in turnovers per game (10.5).
The Trojans will have success limiting a decent Purdue attack that is 7.8 points per game better than average (77.7 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 69.9 points per game), especially since the Boilermakers are only averaging 72.6 points per game on the road this season.
The Trojans possess many of the attributes of a team capable of making a run in the NCAA Tournament. Little Rock plays outstanding defense, takes excellent care of the ball and is efficient beyond the arc. Indeed, the Trojans are shooting 38.8% from three-point territory this season (18th-best in the nation), including 44.4% over their last five games.
That output is significant in that Purdue’s defense is susceptible to good perimeter shooting teams. In fact, the Boilermakers’ eight losses this season came against teams that shoot 36% or better from three-point territory.
From a technical standpoint, Little Rock is 13-3 ATS in its last sixteen games versus teams with a winning record, including 10-1 ATS versus .601 or greater opposition. The Trojans are also 7-1 ATS in their last eight non-conference games, 4-1 ATS in their last five neutral site games and 5-1 ATS in their last six games versus Big Ten Conference foes. Little Rock was also 19-10 ATS this season with an average margin of cover of +4.14 points.
Finally, No. 12 seeds are 19-11-2 ATS versus No. 5 seeds since 2009. Grab the points in this NCAA Tournament clash and invest with confidence.
Oskeim Sports’ NCAA Tournament Free Sports Pick: Arkansas-Little Rock (+9)