LSU or Rice? How to pick 3 vs. 14 matchup in 2024 women’s March Madness bracket

Angel Reese and the defending champion LSU Tigers tip off their 2024 women’s March Madness tournament against Rice on Friday afternoon (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN). Our full scouting report on this game will get you ready to pick the winner and lock in some wagers for this opening-round tilt in Baton Rouge.

LSU enters the tournament playing its best basketball of the season, similar to last year when Kim Mulkey’s squad went on a storybook run and ultimately bested superstar Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes in the national championship game.

Rice has been no slouch, though, with the Owls riding a stifling defense to an American Athletic Conference championship last weekend. This should be a gritty game and we can’t wait to lock in some bets and make our pick. Let’s look closer at LSU vs. Rice and get you prepped for this Friday afternoon clash. 

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LSU vs. Rice odds

Early odds have LSU as a whopping 28.5-point favorite entering Friday’s matchup, according to BetMGM


LSU (28-5, 12-6 in SEC)

LSU lost to 2024 March Madness favorite South Carolina in the SEC championship last weekend, but it won its previous 10 contests. As we have seen so many times in the past, Kim Mulkey has her team ready to rock at the right time.

Junior forward Angel Reese, who became a household name en route to the Tigers’ national championship run last year, has notched 12 straight double-doubles and taken down SEC Player of the Year honors. She averages 19 points and 13 rebounds per game to go with 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals. 

LSU went 13-3 in a tough conference and maintained a pristine 16-1 record at home. Sophomore guard Flau’jae Johnson has averaged 20 points, five rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 3.5 steals per game over LSU’s past four contests, and she has been lights out from all three scoring levels. This team packs plenty of scoring punch, but it will need junior guard Last-Tear Poa (concussion) back if it intends to repeat as champions.

There’s not much doubt in the Tigers’ ability to make another tournament run, never mind run through a Rice team that seemed like a long shot to even make the Dance before winning the AAC. Even with LSU facing injuries and some depth concerns, Mulkey’s squad seems like one of the best bets to advance through the first weekend with relative ease. 

Key players

Angel Reese, F, Jr. (6-3): 19.0 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.8 spg

Flau’jae Johnson​​​​, G, So. (5-10): 14.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.7 apg

Aneesah Morrow,  G, Jr. (6-1): 16.5 ppg, 10.0 apg, 2.6 spg

MORE: Buy tickets to 2024 March Madness games

Rice (19-14, 9-9 in AAC)

Rice has struggled with scoring throughout the 2023-24 campaign, and it went just 9-9 in conference play this season. However, the Owls kicked their defensive motors into overdrive during the AAC tournament, winning four straight games to take down the championship and secure an automatic bid into the Big Dance. 

That conference tourney road wasn’t exactly paved with dead ducks — powerhouses North Texas and East Carolina were two of the four teams the Owls left in their wake. No opponent reached 60 points against Lindsay Edmonds during its postseason run, which included a stunning come-from-behind victory over North Texas after Rice trailed with 2:13 remaining.

The Owls held East Carolina to 41 points in the AAC title game, the fourth time they held an opponent to under 45 points this season. They’ll need more of the same to have any shot against LSU, considering Rice averaged just 67.4 points per game on 40.1 percent shooting on the campaign. 

Key players

Malia Fisher, F, Jr. (6-2): 13.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.6 spg

Dominique Ennis G, So. (5-9): 11.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.5 spg

Destiny Jackson, G, Sr. (5-9): 11.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.5 apg

WOMEN’S BRACKET GUIDES: Iowa | South Carolina | LSU | USC | UConn

LSU vs. Rice prediction

It’s been a great ride for Rice, but we think it stops in Baton Rouge. A short-handed LSU just beat Ole Miss by eight in the SEC semifinals, one game after blowing the doors off Auburn 78-48. The Tigers’ only home loss all season came against South Carolina in January, and it has regularly smoked inferior competition like Louisiana baby-back ribs.

Angel Reese and company don’t strike us as a squad that will take its foot off the gas against a team that barely deserves to be in the tournament. Bet on LSU to win by 30-plus in a statement game, paving the way for a very interesting few weeks in a stacked Albany 2 region that includes Iowa and UCLA.

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