NCAA Basketball Picks: Murray State vs. Austin Peay

Willie Bee

Friday, January 31, 2014 1:49 PM UTC

Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 1:49 PM UTC

Our Friday night stop on the college basketball betting schedule finds us in the Ohio Valley Conference as the Murray State Racers head 70 miles east from the Bluegrass State to the Volunteer State to take on the Austin Peay Governors.

Dave Aaron Arena is the site for the tip-off a little past 9 PM (ET), and the CBS Sports Network will provide the broadcast between the longtime rivals. Murray State started at -4 on the NCAA basketball odds, and that spread is now -3.5. A total has yet to be released, but it should be close to the number from their game a few weeks ago.

It's the second meeting between the two this season, the first taking place Jan. 11 on the Racers' home floor. Murray State notched the 89-67 victory as 7.5 point chalk. The triumph was the sixth straight over the Governors for the Racers, and marked their fourth cover in that span while the final skipped above the 147.5 point total for the fifth 'over' in the last five matchups.

The win gave Murray State a 77-41 bulge in the series, and the Racers have cut into the Governors' 27-26 advantage in Clarksville by winning their last four on this floor.

Friday's Clash Begins 3-Game Road Trip For Racers

Steve Prohm has to guard against complacency setting in on his Murray State (12-8 straight up, 10-7 against the spread at sportsbooks) squad right now, especially as the Racers begin a string of three games on the road. Off to a 7-1 start on OVC action, they have a 3-game lead in the West Division, and should breeze to that title or even the regular season crown.

But that cushion could vanish real quick, in part due to the Racers winning just two of their previous nine contests away from Murray (3-6 ATS). And with a game coming up at current East Division and overall conference leader Belmont a week from now, there's a real danger of going no better than 1-2 on this trip if they can't get a win Friday in Clarksville.

The Racers are led by Cameron Payne's 14.9 PPG, and the freshman guard also tops the squad in assists (5.4 apg). Jarvis Williams is one of three more players averaging double-digits on the offensive end, and is 14th in the country grabbing 10.2 rebounds a game.

Gov's Ending 3-Game Homestand On Friday

While Murray State is just beginning its road trip, Austin Peay (9-12 SU, 8-7 ATS) is ending a 3-game homestand. Dave Loos' lads can get back to even in the Ohio Valley standings with a victory, and the Governors certainly have the offensive firepower to pull it off thanks to a squad that is top-20 nationally in shooting (48.7%).

The problem, however, has been keeping their opponents from scoring. Peay is giving up nearly 76 points per game for the season, good enough for the bottom-50 in the country, though the Governors have tightened that up a bit in conference play (72.7 ppg).

The first matchup between the Racers and Governors started with both teams playing tight defense and no points scored until more than two minutes into the game. It went a bit back-&-forth after that before Murray State took control in the final 6½ minutes of the first stanza and never looked back.

Murray State was able to keep Austin Peay's big man Chris Horton on the bench in foul trouble in the Jan. 11 meeting, and I look for the 6-8 sophomore to remain on the floor more tonight to make the difference. I'll ride with the Governors for my free NCAA basketball pick.

My pick: Austin Peay +3.5

Season: 27-19-3 (+6.10)


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