West Region Second Round Prediction & Free Pick: #4 Florida State vs. #12 Murray State

Date | AuthorAdmir Aljic

Last Updated: 2019-03-22

The OVC champions Murray State will face off against the ACC vice-champions Florida State Seminoles in the West Region Second Round showdown at XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. The No. 12 seed Racers upset the Marquette Golden Eagles in the first round, while the No. 4 seed Seminoles held off the Vermont Catamounts. Florida State opened as a 5-point favorite here with the total at 144.0 points and Murray State at +180 money line odds. These two schools will meet each other for the first time since 1998 when Florida State defeated Murray State 80-76.

The Murray State Racers thrashed off the No. 5 seed Marquette Golden Eagles 83-64 in the first round of the West Region on the back of Ja Morant’s tremendous performance. The sophomore guard posted a triple-double with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 16 assists, proving why he’s one of the most exciting prospects. The Racers dominated their rivals, shooting 53.6% from the field including nine triples out of 18 attempts from deep while doing a great job at the defensive end. Tevin Brown scored 19 points along with six rebounds, while K.J. Williams added 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field.

The Racers are scoring 110.8 points per 100 possessions this season (48th in the country) on 55.4 effective field goal percentage (19th), allowing 98.1 points in a return (82nd) on 46.1 effective field goal percentage (17th). They play with a lot of energy on both sides of the floor, and with Ja Morant in the lineup, the Racers look ready to compete with anyone in this tournament. Morant is averaging 24.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 10.2 assists per game while making 50.4% of his field goals. The senior guard Shaq Buchanan is adding 13.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest, tallying 14 points and six rebounds against Marquette. The only weak spot for the Racers is their low-post game, and they often struggle on the glass.

On the other side, the Florida State Seminoles defeated the Vermont Catamounts 76-69 in the previous round. They edged the game in the last six minutes, as the Catamounts put on a terrific shooting performance, nailing 16 treys out of 32 attempts from downtown. However, the Seminoles stayed aggressive attacking the rim, earning 37 free throws and making 31 shots from the charity stripe. They shot just 38.2% from the field, but they grabbed 12 offensive rebounds while forcing 16 turnovers. Mfiondu Kabengele had 21 points off the bench to lift his team over Vermont, while Terance Mann added 19 points and eight rebounds.

The Seminoles are scoring 112.1 points per 100 possessions this term (33rd in the country) on 50.5 effective field goal percentage (176th). On the other side of the ball, the Seminoles are doing a great job, surrendering 91.5 points per 100 possessions (13th) on 47.6 effective field goal percentage (38th). Terance Mann and MfionduKabengele are key players in this Florida State team, but they will need more help from their teammates at the offensive end if they want to satisfy the odds against the Racers. Mann is tallying 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, while Kabengele is adding 13.1 points and 5.9 boards per contest, and only these two guys are averaging points in double figures.

Pick: Murray State Racers +5.0

The Seminoles are a really good defensive team, and they need to play at the highest level to slow down Ja Morant and the Racers’ offense. However, the Racers are not just the one-man show, and if they do a god job on the glass, I believe they can upset the Seminoles. Florida State will also have to make a great offensive effort to win this game, and it won’t be easy against the aggressive Murray State’s D.

The Racers are riding a 12-game winning streak and their confidence is sky high. They are 8-2 ATS in the last ten games overall, while the Racers are 5-0 ATS in their previous five showings as underdogs. On the other side, the Seminoles are 7-2 straight up and 3-6 ATS in their last nine contests overall, while they are 1-4 ATS in their previous five outings as favorites. Also, the Seminoles are 2-3 straight up and ATS in their last five second-round matchups, and are 1-9 ATS in their previous ten NCAA Tournament games when listed as favorites.

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