Experienced Murray State, Belmont Squads Featured in Big OVC Matchup

Mark Lathrop

Thursday, January 18, 2018 1:51 PM UTC

Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 1:51 PM UTC

Our NCAAB handicapper looks to get back in track by going small. Small conference that is. Read up as he breaks down a nationally televised Ohio Valley Conference matchup between Murray State & Belmont for his Thursday NCAA Pick.

2017-18 NCAAB Record: 24-15 (+8.05 Units)

Murray State Racers at Belmont BruinsFree NCAAB Pick: Belmont 1.5Best Line Offered: SportsBetting

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A tough month continues after Seton Hall forgot how to shoot for the first 10 minutes of their game against Creighton on Wednesday night, but just like a rookie cornerback we’ll forget that play and get ready for the next. On Thursday night, we have an important and nationally televised (ESPNU) Ohio Valley Conference matchup between two teams at the top of the conference standings. The Murray State Racers and Belmont Bruins both sit at 5-1 with Austin Peay, and the winner of this game will be in the catbird seat for the rest of the season for seeding into the conference tourney. The oddsmakers are expecting a tight game with Belmont placed as a slight 1.5-point favorite across the board, while the total has opened at 141.5 at sites such as 5Dimes.

These teams are very similar in that they have 4 starters each who log a majority of the minutes, and with the exception of freshman 6’ 3” guard Temetrius Morant of Murray State, all of those players are upperclassmen. It is Belmont which has had the most experience in the head-to-head matchup with Murray State, though, with only 6’ 8” forward Amanze Egekeze and 6’ 3” guard Austin Luke logging significant minutes in the 2017 and 2016 matchups. Belmont won those two games handily, and coach Matt McMahon of Murray State has not beaten the Bruins since coming on.

Belmont hasn’t lost to Murray State since the 2015 regular season, starting this last 3-game winning streak with a win in the conference championship leading to a NCAA Tournament automatic bid. Egekeze was a starter on that team that shot out to an 18-12 lead over Virginia in the first round of that tournament and was within one bucket with 10 minutes left in the game. He’s taken a step forward this year, with career highs across the board in most categories including a newfound shooting touch from beyond the arc. Egekeze leads Belmont with 17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. As a team the Bruins shoot 61.2% from field-goal range, good for #2 in the country.

Murray State has found its offense in conference play, with its efficiency ranking #1 in the Ohio Valley. Their defensive ranking is also ranked #1 in conference play. However, even though the Racers have a 5-1 record in conference so far, only one of those wins was against a team with a winning record on the season. That is also true with Belmont, but the Bruins also have quality wins against Middle Tennessee (which Murray State lost to) and Western Kentucky. With Belmont also pushing Washington and Providence to close losses I like the Bruins' mettle, especially at home. I’m counting on Belmont’s recent advantage over Murray State to continue on Thursday and will be taking the short home favorite as my Thursday NCAA Pick.

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