Norfolk State has won 10 straight games and is 11-0 in MEAC play, and although Hampton has won five games in a row also, the defense of the Spartans should make the difference.
Both of these teams are on winning streaks as they meet Monday night, but only one is undefeated in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference as those Norfolk State Spartans (16-10, 8-8 away) pay a visit to the Hampton Pirates (10-13, 5-4 home) at the Hampton Convocation Center in Hampton, VA at 7:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPNU.
The point spread at 5 Dimes has Norfolk State as a small road favorite for this contest with the current line at -1½ with odds of -105.
You may recall that Norfolk State received some national recognition by upsetting the Missouri Tigers in the NCAA Tournament as a 15-seed last season, and the Spartans are now trying to parlay that momentum into a perfect MEAC season, as they currently sit at 11-0 inside the conference and are on a 10-game winning streak overall.
Besides the motivation of wanting to go undefeated in the conference, believe it or not the Spartans need to continue to win because they have not even sewn up the conference title yet as North Carolina Central is right behind them at 10-1 followed by Savannah State at 9-2 and then these Hampton Pirates in fourth at 7-3 in MEAC play.
The key to this contest could very well be the Norfolk State defense, as it should be able to suffocate a poor shooting Hampton team. Yes the Spartans are ranked only 193rd nationally in points against and 112th in field goal percentage allowed, but the picture is much rosier during conference play.
Norfolk State ranks second in defensive efficiency vs. MEAC opponents while leading the conference in effective field goal percentage allowed at a mere 41.3 percent, as it is limiting fellow members to 41.8 percent shooting on two-point attempts and to 26.7 percent on three-point tries. The Spartans are also second in the conference in defensive turnover percentage at 24.8 percent, which is significantly above the national average of 20.3 percent.
Hampton is seeking revenge for a loss at Norfolk on January 26th, but it does not figure to generate enough offense here to get that revenge. Beside facing a good defense, the Pirates have been one of the worst offensive teams in the country, ranking 329th in offensive efficiency and 331st out of 347 Division I teams in effective field goal percentage at a measly 42.9 percent. In fact, Hampton is 346th or second to last in the nation in three-point shooting at 25.6 percent.
To make matters worse, the Pirates are also 339th in offensive turnover percentage at 24.7 percent, making for a horrendous matchup vs. a Norfolk State defense that has been good at forcing turnovers.
Yes, Hampton has won five straight games but it still averaged just 62.3 points in the first three wins and the last two wins were in overtime, where the Pirates scored 71 points in a single overtime game and 85 points in a double overtime game. As if Hampton does not have enough to worry about, that could add a bit of a fatigue factor.
Look for Norfolk State to go to 12-0 in the conference as Hampton’ five-game winning streak is brought to a screeching halt on Monday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Norfolk State -1½ (-105)