Liberty at Mississippi State
|Date & Time||Friday March 22, 2019, 7:27 PM (EDT)|
San Jose, CA
Mississippi State Bulldogs -6.5 -- O/U: 133.5
The Liberty Flames and the Mississippi State Bulldogs meet in an NCAA tournament first round matchup in college basketball action from the SAP Center on Friday night.
The Liberty Flames enter the tournament as a #12 seed, representing the Atlantic Sun conference, finishing the year with a 28-6 overall record, including non-conference wins over UCLA and Kent State as well as losses to Alabama, Vanderbilt and Georgetown. The Flames finished the conference portion of their schedule with a record of 14-2, tying for the regular season championship but losing out on the top seed in the conference tournament after a tiebreaker with Lipscomb. The Flames defeated Jacksonville and North Florida in the quarters and semis before taking down Lipscomb in the championship game by a final score of 74-68. Scottie James leads Liberty in scoring and rebounding with 13.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while Caleb Homesley is 2nd with 12 points and 2.8 assists per game. Lovell Cabbil Jr. is Liberty’s 3rd double-digit scorer, averaging 11.5 points per game this season. As a team, Liberty is averaging 74 points per game on 49.1% shooting from the field, 36.8% from behind the arc and 77.1% from the foul line this season. The Flames are also one of the better defensive units in the country, holding their opposition to just 60.8 points per game this season, the 5th-lowest average in D-I this season.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs come into the tournament as a #5 seed, finishing the year with a 23-10 overall record, including non-conference wins over fellow tournament teams like Wofford, Cincinnati and St. Mary’s as well as a loss to Arizona State. The Bulldogs finished conference play with a 10-8 record, good enough to land the #6 seed in the SEC tournament. The Bulldogs defeated Texas A&M before falling to Tennessee in the quarterfinals by a final score of 83-76. Quinndary Weatherspoon leads Mississippi State in scoring with 18.2 points per game while Lamar Peters is 2nd in scoring with 11.7 points per game as well as leading Mississippi State in assists with 5.2 helpers per game. Tyson Carter is the Bulldogs’ 3rd double-digit scorer, averaging 10.5 points per game while Reggie Perry leads Mississippi State in rebounding with 7.1 rebounds per game this season. As a team, Mississippi State is averaging 77.3 points per game on 47.2% shooting from the field, 37.8% from behind the arc and 71.5% from the foul line this season.
Liberty is 5-16 ATS in their last 21 neutral site games and 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games against a team with a winning record while the under is 4-1 in their last 5 non-conference games. Mississippi State is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games and 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games overall while the over is 5-2 in their last 7 NCAA tournament games.
I’ve gone back and forth on this game as I have Liberty advancing in my bracket, but I also feel like Mississippi State could come out here and use Liberty to make a statement to the rest of the tournament field. The difference for me is that Liberty is a strong team defensively and were playing better basketball down the stretch. Sure, Mississippi State had to contend with the SEC, but I’m inclined to side with a team that’s won 10 of 11 down the stretch and 18 of their last 20 games overall as opposed to the Bulldogs who were playing .500 basketball down the stretch. These 5-12 matchups usually see an upset somewhere down the line, so I’ll take a shot with Liberty and the points here.