Murray State enters the NCAA Tournament having won 20 consecutive games, the second-longest active win streak in Division-I dating all the way back to December. They were in the AP Top 25 for much of the regular season and had a quality non-conference road win at Memphis. OVC Player of the Year KJ Williams will pace the Racers, who rank fifth in Division-I in average scoring margin (+14.0), ninth in extra scoring chances per game (5.9), 20th in points per game allowed (62.3) and 39th in scoring (76.3). This team might not come from the strongest conference, but they’re on a streak that can’t be ignored right now and their knack for winning should come in handy. I think Murray State will not only win this game, but also has what it takes to upset Kentucky in the Round of 32!
I like Kentucky to make it to the championship game, but I actually like St. Peter’s to cover the spread against them in Round 1. St. Peter’s was 20-9 ATS this season and 8-3 ATS as the underdog. They also covered the spread in their last seven games, which is nothing to overlook. The team is also 17-5 ATS versus teams committing 14 or fewer turnovers per game this season. Meanwhile, Kentucky is just 6-10 ATS in the last 16 games, including two no-covers in the SEC Tournament. St. Peter’s can cover an 18-point spread against UK, and I think they’ll do just that.
The Hoosiers bring an elite defense as one of the top teams in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency, and led the conference in block rate as well. They cause havoc for other teams, and make it difficult to hit shots either inside or outside the 3-point line. St. Mary’s loves to slow the pace, but they also stretch the floor with shooters, and that’s something Indiana can counter. The Hoosiers are also great at protecting the ball and getting to the free-throw line, strong fundamentals that can give them a major advantage in a close, slow game if things get tight late.
North Carolina was one of the hottest teams in the ACC before running into Virginia Tech, the hottest team, in the conference tourney. They'll look to regain that momentum in Round 1 against Marquette, who lost five of eight to close the season. I think the UNC moneyline is an easy pick and solid value -- BetQL rates UNC -170 as a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ bet and is 375-128 (75%) picking college basketball moneyline winners the past 14 days -- but I also like them to cover after covering four of their last five games. Meanwhile Marquette covered just once in their last eight. The Tar Heels will be looking to get right before their likely date with No. 1 Baylor in Round 2.
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