Connecticut Huskies vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Date and Time: Friday, March 31, 2017, 9:30 p.m. ET
Location: American Airlines Arena, Dallas, TX
WNCAA Tournament Odds: Connecticut -21.5, O/U 148
Connecticut vs. Mississippi State TV Coverage: ESPN
It's just so darn hard to bet against the Lady Huskies. They've been so dominant every step of the way, not just in this tourney, but against all comers since their last loss in 2012. They haven't had a game finish with less than a 15-point margin of victory in the Big Dance, and all of their games were effectively over at halftime.
The numbers are flat out startling and require no explanation. Against Oregon in the Elite Eight, UConn forced 22 turnovers, shot 54.5 percent from the field and won three of the four quarters by at least nine points. You're not going to be even remotely challenged when that's the case, and that's how this all translated into a 90-52 victory.
The closest of the four games to date was against UCLA, an 86-71 triumph. Don't let the 15-point margin of victory convince you that this game was close, though. The Huskies were up 48-31 at halftime and just happened to let the Bruins stick around for a bit. That was a rare game however, in which Geno Auriemma didn't clear out his bench in the dying moments, as Katie Lou Samuelson ended up playing all 40 minutes and just one player was used off the bench the whole game.
Mississippi State might have been the 2-seed in the Oklahoma City Region, but no one really gave it much of a chance against No. 3 Washington in the Sweet 16 or No. 1 Baylor in the Elite Eight. The former two teams were considered to be legitimate threats to the Lady Huskies, but no one figured that the Bulldogs stood a chance to ultimately survive the bracket. Instead, these Dogs had their day, coming back from down 20-13 at the end of the first quarter to beat U-Dub and picking up a 19-10 advantage in overtime against Baylor to reach the summit of facing the Lady Huskies.
Teams sometimes have to take extraordinary measures to do extraordinary things, and Lady Bulldogs coach Vic Schaefer managed to do just that. For a team that is now 33-4, it's hard to say that MSU has been slumping, but the team lost three of its last five games of the regular season, including an embarrassing 82-64 loss to Tennessee in the last home game before the dance.
His response in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against No. 15 Troy was to leave his three best players, Victoria Vivians, Dominique Dillingham and Chinwe Okorie on the bench to kick off the game. None of the three played more than 20 minutes, but the message seemed to get across. The result was a 110-69 romp, and the team has never looked back from there.
Connecticut vs. Mississippi State Free Picks
If you're going to take on a team like Connecticut, you'd better be ready to play a perfect game. We saw Mississippi State do just that offensively against Baylor in the Elite Eight, and that could end up translating in this game, too. This isn't the best team defensively out on the perimeter that Auriemma has ever had, and 5-foot-5 point guard, Morgan William is ridiculously hot at the moment after scoring 41 points against Baylor.
Of course, we can't call for an SU upset – such would be insane. But the Bulldogs have a shot, and we think Auriemma is once again going to be forced into using his starters for the full 40 minutes instead of allowing his reserves to play in the fourth quarter.
Connecticut vs. Mississippi State ATS Pick: Mississippi State +21.5 at BookMaker.eu
Connecticut vs. Mississippi State Score Prediction: Connecticut 83, Mississippi State 69