Murray State Racers (26-5) at West Virginia Mountaineers (24-10)
College Basketball: Friday, March 16, 2018 at 1:20 pm (Viejas Arena)
The Line: West Virginia Mountaineers -10.5 -- Over/Under: Click to Get Latest Betting Odds
The Murray State Racers and West Virginia Mountaineers will square off at Viejas Arena this Friday afternoon in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Murray State Racers (26-5; 16-2 OVC) earned a 12-seed in the East Region after winning the Ohio Valley Conference Championship by defeating the Belmont Bruins, 68-51, on March 3rd. Murray State trailed by a 32-29 margin at halftime, however, were outstanding defensively in the 2nd half and pulled away after taking a 64-49 lead with just 3:01 left in regulation. Murray State shot just 38.5% from the field however, held Belmont to 36.4% shooting from the field and 21.4% (6-28) from beyond the arc in the victory. Leading the way for the Racers was Jonathan Stark who had 24 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal. On the season, Murray State is averaging 78.9 ppg on 48.5% shooting from the field. The Racers are averaging 8.5 three-pointers per game on 37.9% shooting from beyond the arc. Offensively, Murray State has been led by Jonathan Stark (21.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.4 spg), Terrell Miller Jr. (14.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.6 apg), Ja Morant (12.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 6.4 apg), and Shaq Buchanan (9.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.6 spg). Defensively, Murray State is holding their opponents to an average of 65.5 ppg on 41.0% shooting from the field. The Racers have a rebound margin of 5.7 and a turnover margin of 0.8.
The West Virginia Mountaineers (24-10; 11-7 Big-12) couldn’t win the Big-12 Championship, however, still come into the NCAA Tournament as a very dangerous team and earned a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament. West Virginia knocked off both Baylor and Texas Tech to reach the Big-12 Championship however, was defeated by the Kansas Jayhawks by an 81-70 margin. West Virginia led by a 63-56 margin midway through the 2nd half, however, struggled offensively down the stretch and couldn’t fight back after Kansas took a 76-68 lead with 3:17 left in regulation. West Virginia allowed Kansas to shoot 56.4% from the field and 55.6% (15-27) from beyond the arc in the loss. Leading the way for the Mountaineers was Daxter Miles Jr. who had 25 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and a steal. On the season, West Virginia is averaging 79.6 ppg on 43.4% shooting from the field. The Mountaineers are averaging 8.8 three-pointers per game on 35.3% shooting from beyond the arc. Offensively, West Virginia has been led by Jevon Carter (17.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 6.6 apg, 2.9 spg), Daxter Miles Jr. (13.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.3 spg), Sagaba Konate (10.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.3 bpg), and Esa Ahmad (10.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.7 apg). Defensively, West Virginia is holding their opponents to an average of 69.0 ppg on 42.5% shooting from the field. The Mountaineers have a rebound margin of 3.4 and a turnover margin of 5.2.
The Racers are 4-0 ATS in thier last 4 games overall and 4-1 ATS in thier last 5 NCAA Tournament games. The Mountaineers are 4-0 ATS in thier last 4 games following a straight up loss, however, just 1-3-1 ATS in thier last 5 NCAA games.
Murray State has won 13 straight games coming into the NCAA Tournament and has been outstanding on both sides of the ball this season as the Racers rank 58th in scoring offense and 25th in scoring defense. West Virginia has had an up and down season and has been led by their defense that currently ranks T-91st in scoring defense, 86th in defensive FG%, and 3rd in turnover margin. West Virginia is a tough team to gauge as they have the talent to beat anyone in the country however, can be inconsistent and struggle in games they should win and as Murray State has done a good job protecting the ball and has some size and experience to compete with the Mountaineers, I think taking the Racers and the points is the play here.