Sorry, No Chance of Upset between WVU and Murray State in East 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 4:33 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2018 4:33 PM UTC

No. 18 West Virginia, the five seed, battles 12th-seeded Murray State on Friday at 4 p.m. ET in San Diego. Everybody loves to root for the upset. Should bettors listen to their heart for this East Region matchup?

West Virginia (24-10 SU, 15-16 ATS) vs. Murray State (26-5 SU, 17-11 ATS)Free NCAAB Pick: West Virginia -9.5Best Line Offered: Intertops

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When I decide whether I want to trust my money with a team to potentially achieve an upset, I want to see an encouraging history. Murray State has played a couple of tournament-worthy teams close at home. But it's almost easy for an underdog to come close to upsetting a big favorite in front of an ecstatic home crowd. The Racers, 9.5-point underdogs in this spot on the college basketball odds board, aren't a team I trust because they haven't shown me much away from home. They've faced one KenPom top-100 team away from home, No. 83 Belmont, going 1-1 ATS in two contests.

So Murray's stats look promising but don't mean anything. The key to 18th-ranked West Virginia is ball security. The Mountaineers are notorious for playing a press-heavy defense that forces a lot of turnovers. Their defense ranks second nationally in percentage of turnovers forced. Murray State's offense ranks 100th in percentage of turnovers allowed, but hasn't faced a team near the quality of WVU.

All eyes will be on Murray State guard Jonathan Stark, the team's leader in KenPom offensive rating. He is also the most involved in the team's possessions and takes the highest percentage of shots. Stark was one of the most ball-secure players in his conference, but his turnover rate escalates against KenPom top-100 and top-50 teams. Turnovers disturb a player's rhythm, so his field-goal percentage also drops against stronger defenses. Point guard Temetrius Morant is a freshman and his youth and inexperience will be liabilities against a seasoned WVU defense. It's not just guards who have to worry about 'Press' Virginia. WVU also excels at taking the ball away from opposing big men, for instance achieving 12 turnovers against Baylor's two leading big men on March 8 and four against Texas' center the game before. WVU's defense ranks ninth nationally in steal percentage.

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Guard Jevon Carter and center Sagaba Konate lead WVU's defensive efforts. Carter was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and Konate was also named to the Big 12 All-Defensive team. Carter has rapid hands that help him achieve steals. He ranks eighth in steal percentage. Konate is a physical monster who ranks third in block percentage. He is famous for achieving six blocks in a half against Kansas.

Murray State won't be vulnerable just against WVU's tendency to steal the ball. Even against lower competition, the Racers were susceptible to being blocked. They rank 212th nationally in percentage of blocks allowed and will be vulnerable to the likes of Konate. As a team, WVU's defense ranks sixth nationally in block percentage. Overall, the Mountaineers' 'D' ranks 39th in KenPom efficiency.

Physicality will also be an advantage for WVU's offense. The Racers allow the 75th-highest point distribution from inside the arc. They lack a defender who possesses the strength of the 260-pound Konate. He loves to bully an undersized interior defense and has used his strength to have his best games against the light-weighted likes of Kansas and Kansas State. West Virginia is the nation's fourth-best offensive rebounding team, led by Konate, who ranks 205th in the category and will help his team achieve put-back points.

The Mountaineers are ball-secure and will therefore dominate the turnover margin. They rank 35th in percentage of turnovers allowed. Carter is an excellent distributor who ranks 29th in assist rate. He and fellow guard James Bolden rank in the top 400 in three-point percentage.

Murray State hasn't played since March 3 and rust won't help against the thriving, senior-laden Mountaineers in our NCAAB picks.

Check out SBR’s college basketball odds page for updated lines. Also, head over to the March Madness Betting Headquarters for vital handicapping information, picks, and a list of the best sports books and live betting options for the tournament season.

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