Advancing deep into the NCAA Tournament is all about playing your best basketball at the right time of the year. The regular season record both straight-up and against the spread only tells bettors part of the story when it comes to betting on the tournament games.
How a team played in its recent conference tournament as well as its recent history playing in the Big Dance also needs to be factored into the equation.
The Murray State Racers, out of the Ohio Valley Conference get high marks right across the board. They posted a SU 16-2 record in conference play as part of an overall record of 27-4. They bring a SU 11-game winning streak into Thursday’s opening round matchup against the Big East’s Marquette Golden Eagles that includes a 77-65 upset over Belmont in the recent OVC Tournament Championship as two-point underdogs. See all the March Madness scores and odds here.
Top Underdog Bet- Take Murray State vs. Marquette
For their efforts, the Racers were named the No. 12 seed in the West Region. Tip-off for Thursday’s matchup against No. 5 Marquette is set for 4:30 p.m. in Hartford, CT. The early betting line has the Golden Eagles favored by 4.5 points with the total set at 149.5.
Murray State’s only two losses in nonconference play came against a pair of SEC teams (Alabama and Auburn) and their only two losses in the OVC portion of the schedule came against Belmont and Jacksonville State.
Down the stretch, they were able to cover the closing spread in seven of their last nine games with the total going OVER in five of their last seven contests.
While it is always popular to pick at least one or two upsets when it comes to the four 12 vs. 5 matchups in the NCAA Tournament, the Racers are the type of team that can pull off a few upsets to make a deep run in this year’s Big Dance.
Sophomore guard Ja Morant has been able to average 24.6 points per game with a team-high 10 assists per game. He scored 36 points in that recent tournament win against Belmont while going 13-for-25 from the field. He has now scored at least 27 points in each of his last three starts.
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Murray State’s lineup boasts four different players averaging at least 10 PPG and the team, as a whole, is shooting 49.6 percent from the field. The Racers are averaging 83.3 points a game while holding their opponents to 67.8 points on defense.
Current form is another important factor coming into a single-elimination tournament which casts a huge shadow of doubt on Marquette. Going back to a loss on the road against Villanova to close out the month of February, the Golden Eagles have only posted one win (SU and ATS) against five losses. With the exception of the loss to the Wildcats, Marquette closed as a favorite in the other five games. Its run in the Big East Tournament came to an end with a 81-79 loss to Seton Hall as a 4.5-point favorite.
On paper, Marquette is clearly the better team in this Thursday’s matchup. Junior guard Markus Howard leads the Golden Eagles in points (25.0) and assists (4.0) and he has played at a very high level all season long as the Big East’s Player of the Year. Marquette is averaging 77.7 PPG while holding opposing teams to 69.1 points on defense. It is also battle tested playing in a much more competitive conference.
Last week’s Dogs Ready to Bite the Books article didn’t go as planned as the Nuggets killed the T’Wolves, you can read it here.
That being said, I am still going with the time-honored betting strategy of taking the hotter team. The fact that Murray State is getting 4.5 points is just an added bonus.
Article by Dave Schwab
Posted March 18th, 2019