At this point, it would be a huge surprise if at least one 12 seed didn’t upset a No. 5 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Should No. 5 West Virginia be on alert Friday afternoon in the East Region in San Diego against No. 12 Murray State?
If you don’t pick at least one No. 5 seed to upset a No. 12 in your bracket competition, then you simply aren’t paying attention. The only tournaments in the past 33 years that didn’t see a No. 5 upset in the first round were in 2015, 2007, 2000 and 1988.
NCAA Tournament Odds and Betting Analysis
Murray State makes its 16th NCAA Tournament appearance and third this decade. The Racers won a game in both 2010 & ’12 upsets but have never won more than one. They are 3-15 overall in the Big Dance.
West Virginia makes a 29th Big Dance appearance and has two Final Fours to its credit but has yet to win it all. March Madness bettors take note that they are +2500 to do so at Sports Interaction and +500 to win the East. Last year, WVU was a No. 4 and beat Bucknell 86-80 in the first round and Notre Dame 83-71 in the second before losing to eventual national runner-up Gonzaga by three in the regional semifinal.
Murray State is taking the majority lean on the point spread vs. WVU. The winner faces either No. 4 Wichita State or No. 13 Marshall (a state rival of West Virginia).
Murray St. Racers
Murray State (26-5) was the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season and tournament champion, losing just two total games in conference. It enters on a national-best 13-game winning streak. It’s the first NCAA trip for Murray State head coach Matt McMahon, who is 59-36 in his third season. The player to watch is Tulane transfer Jonathan Stark as the senior was named OVC Player of the Year after averaging 21.8 points. He could be the next guard from the school to play in the NBA, following Cameron Payne and Isaiah Canaan, and Stark is the only active player in the nation with more than 2,200 points and 550 assists (counting his Tulane days). This is a good defensive club, allowing the 10th-lowest 3-point percentage in all of Division I. The Racers played one power conference team this season, losing by just four to SEC regular-season champion Auburn.
West Virginia Mountaineers
The Mountaineers (24-10) were a very streaky bunch this season. At one point, they were as high as No. 2 in the nation but then lost five of six. WVU is trending the right way, winning five of its last seven. It lost to Kansas in the Big 12 title game after tying for second behind the Jayhawks in the regular-season standings. WVU is called “Press Virginia” because of Coach Bob Huggins’ ferocious full-court pressure defense. The Mountaineers are second in the nation in defensive turnover percentage. Two negatives from all that pressure: Easy baskets for the opposition at times and lots of fouls. Jevon Carter leads the Mountaineers in scoring (17.0 ppg.) and the country in steals with 97. He’s the only player ever from a Power 5 conference with more than 1,500 points, 500 assists, 500 rebounds and 300 steals in his career.