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Sharp-Shooting Mississippi State Draws ASUN Champ Liberty in First Round

Not only did Liberty capture the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament title, but it has only lost twice since December 29. The Flames are 28-6 overall and 17-14 against the spread this season, but are just 3-6-1 ATS over their past 10 games.

Mississippi State has lost three of its past five games heading into the tournament, but those three losses were to SEC tournament runner-up Tennessee (twice) and SEC champ Auburn. The Bulldogs finished 23-10 overall and 17-16 against the spread during the regular season. M-State opened as the 11.5-point favorite, but somebody fanned the Flames because the line dipped drastically to Mississippi State -7. The point total opened at 135.5 before a small jump to 137.

Liberty vs Mississippi State Game Center

STANDOUT STATS

  • The Mississippi State Bulldogs shot 37.8 percent from beyond the arc to lead the SEC and rank 34th nationally heading into the tournament.
  • KenPom ranks State inside the top 30 in effective field-goal rate and offensive rebounding percentage and while Liberty has allowed fewer than seven offensive rebounds per game to date, it hasn’t had to deal with the frontcourt size of the Bulldogs.
  • Watching Liberty’s offense is like waiting for a Big Green Egg to finish cooking your brisket. Both take it low and slow. In fact, the Flames rank 346th in adjusted tempo out of 353 D-I teams and average 20 seconds per offensive possession.
  • With that known, it’s worth noting that the total has gone UNDER in eight of Mississippi State’s last 11 games with an average combined score of 141.8.
  • By taking their time, the Flames led the Atlantic Sun Conference in offensive efficiency and enter the tournament with the 12th-highest effective field-goal percentage at 56.1 percent. They make 56.7 percent of their two-point shot attempts in their half-court offense, which ranks seventh nationally. Make no mistake, Liberty’s slow-tempo offense will challenge a Mississippi State defense ranked outside the nation’s top 85 in most defensive metrics.
  • Over the past 20 No. 5 vs No. 12 tournament matchups, the higher seed is 14-6 straight up but just 8-11-1 against the spread, with the OVER hitting in all four 2018 contests.
  • The No. 5 seed is 7-13 ATS when favored by 7 or more points with the OVER hitting in six consecutive matchups under those conditions.
  • Mississippi State was 10-0 straight up and 6-3-1 ATS when favored by 7 or more points this season, while Liberty was 8-2 ATS when dogs of 7 or more points and has covered four straight.

MY LEAN

Liberty +7

What is it about these No. 5 vs No. 12 matchups that make the lower seed so tantalizing? While I don’t believe Liberty will win this game outright, I do believe the Flames and Bulldogs will come down to the wire. Mississippi State averages 13 turnovers per game, while Liberty takes care of the basketball and averages 5+ steals per game. Plus, the Flames’ top-10 free-throw shooting leads me to believe they’ll take State to the final horn. I’ll take Mississippi State to win outright and the Flames to cover +7.

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