The NCAA Tournament kicks off in Dayton, Ohio with the annual play-in game. Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Champion Morehead State (19-15) takes on SWAC Champion Alabama State (22-9). This will be Morehead State’s first appearance in the Big Dance in 25 years. Alabama State is here for the first time in 4 years. The winner gets overall number 1 seed Louisville on Friday. Don’t let the records fool you. A 19-15 team favored over a 22-9 team? Morehead plays in a much tougher conference than Alabama State. Of the 32 Division 1 conferences, the Ohio Valley is ranked 23rd and the SWAC is ranked dead last by a wide margin.
The Eagles have four players who average over 10 points a game led by Leon Buchanan at 15.1. 6’8” forward Kenneth Faried is a monster on the boards. He is 3rd in the country with 12.6 rebounds per game. Point guard Demonte Harper averages 10.8 points a game, but he’s also turned the ball over 130 times this year. The Eagles got to this game by beating Austin Peay in double-overtime in the Ohio Valley Conference Championship Game. Steve Peterson, who averages only 1.8 points a game on a horrific 28% shooting, came through with the winning basket with 1.4 seconds to go.
I’m not going to pretend I know a whole lot about the Alabama State Hornets. I had to do some digging to learn more about this team. As I mentioned above, don’t let the 22-9 record fool you. They play some horrible teams in their conference. They did fair pretty well for themselves early in the year against the big boys. They only lost by 6 at Illinois State, by 9 at Mississippi State, by 4 at Mississippi, and by 5 at Auburn. It was early in the year and these teams might have taken the Hornets a little lightly. They cruised through the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular season and tournament with wins over Alabama A&M, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Jackson State in the final. They are led by guards Brandon Brooks and Andrew Hayles. Both are averaging just under 14 points a game. Brooks is the point guard who shoots over 50% and 39% from 3-point land. He’s also averaging 6.7 assists. Hayles is a decent 3-point shooter also, but his assist to turnover ratio isn’t very good. He has 45 assists to 67 turnovers.
Alabama State is going to have a good night shooting, because rebounds are going to be hard to come by. Morehead should dominate the glass with Faried. I’m going to take the Hornets in this one hoping that their shots go down tonight. They’ve also been a little more battle tested in non-conference play. The public seems to be heavy on the Eagles and that’s another reason I’m going with Alabama State. Enjoy the game!
Prediction: Alabama State +3.5
Here are some other trends to consider in this game:
Eagles are 5-25-4 ATS in their last 34 non-conference games.
Hornets are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games overall.
Hornets are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 non-conference games.
Hornets are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games as an underdog.
Hornets are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 neutral site games.