Line: Belmont -4 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Total: 140 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Start time: 10:30 p.m. EST
Belmont and Morehead State meet in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament once again.
Last season, the Eagles upset the Bruins as 6.5 point underdogs, dominating the game to an 86-71 victory. Morehead shot 48% from 3 as a team and star center Johni Broome had 27 points to punch their first NCAA Tournament ticket in a decade. Now the core of that same squad is back to repeat history in an underdog role once again.
But Belmont is looking to enact revenge. The two teams split the season series. Morehead State beat Belmont at home in January as a 5.5 point underdog. Belmont came out victorious in the latest rematch. Ben Sheppard forced a late steal and Grayson Murphy converted a lay-up in transition with five seconds left to give the Bruins a 48-47 victory. So who has the matchup in this contest? Let’s break it down to find out.
Matchups to watch
Nick Muszynski versus Johni Broome
You won’t find many matchups between big men than “Moose” versus Broome. Two of the best centers in mid-major hoops.
Each of them has their own strengths. Broome is the conference defensive player of the year for a reason. He ranks 5th in the nation in block percentage and averages a ridiculous 3.9 blocks per game. Broome has averaged 4.2 blocks in contest against Belmont throughout his career. Broome is one of the few guys in the country who can guard Muszynski one on one. For Muszynski, he has to take advantage of his post chances. He is capable of it, averaging 15.9 points per game on 57.2% shooting. But, against Morehead this season he is averaging 14 points on 43% shooting. Simply, Muszynski has to better or just has to create opportunities. Over the last three matchups Broome has gotten the better of Belmont’s famed big man. The question is, who is going to hold their ground the best.
Morehead’s athleticism versus Belmont’s execution
Belmont’s struggles against better athletes has been well documented. Grayson Murphy and Luke Smith have struggled on both sides of the ball against bigger guards. We have seen this play out in the non-conference against Ohio and LSU, as well as in conference with Murray State.
While the Eagles don’t have a lockdown wing like Brandon Murray or a guard who slices through the defense like Mark Sears, Morehead States lengthy athletic guards Ta’Lon Cooper, Tray Hollowell, and Skyelar Potter can present some problems. The guard trio held Belmont’s back court to eight total points in their last February. You really can’t count on holding Belmont’s guards down. Casey Alexander’s offense is one of the most efficient in college basketball ranking in the top 64 in overall efficiency and top 10 in field goal percentage.
Moreover, where I worry about the Eagles is their issues with turnovers in the backcourt. Cooper and Hollowell average over turnovers a piece and Morehead ranks in the bottom 300 in turnover percentage as team. Neither of the Eagles guards shoot at an efficient clip. So there are ways Belmont’s smarter more effective play can offset Morehead’s athletic advantages.
Winning at the 3-point and free-throw line
Whoever makes the most shots wins right?
Morehead shot a ridiculous 47% from 3 in last year’s final and shot 50% from behind the arch in the win against Belmont earlier this season. I don’t see that repeating again.
Murphy is shooting nearly 10% below his career average and Muszynski has struggled behind the arch too. The one disadvantage Morehead has is their shooting at the free-throw line. They rank in the top 100 in 3-point shooting but in the bottom 290 when it comes to free-throw shooting. That doesn’t make sense for any simple basketball mind, but that’s the reality for the Eagles. The team that gets hot shooting the down the stretch is going to win this game. So we will see who it is.
Prediction: If you want to bet the game, we have promo in the DraftKings Sportsbook (link). So with the odds provided by DK here is who are going to pick. Belmont has the sense of urgency and revenge angle going for them. However, Morehead is just a brutal matchup for them. On the other side, I can’t trust the Eagles with their turnover issues. You are banking them to continue their three point luck against Belmont once again. So instead of backing a team, we will attack the total. Each team has advantages offensively. While Broome will make it hard for Moose to get going, I think Belmont’s other perimeter players will step up. The 48-47 contest was an extreme outlier that has brought this total down. So we are going to over here.
The pick: over 140