West Virginia To Take the 'Thunder' Out of Marshall Herd

Rainman M.

Saturday, March 17, 2018 3:40 PM UTC

Saturday, Mar. 17, 2018 3:40 PM UTC

Two long-term and bitter in-state rivals in no. five seed West Virginia no. 11 seed Marshall battle on Sunday. The Mountaineers are favored by 11.5 to make the Sweet 16.

West Virginia Mountaineers (25-10 SU, 16-16 ATS) vs Marshall Thundering Herd (25-10 SU, 20-12 ATS)East Region, Sunday, 9:40 PM ETFree NCAAB Pick: West VirginiaBest Line Offered: Intertops

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There is no better distraction from the momentary embarrassment of being a Virginia graduate than to look for a winning wager! Recency bias begs us to expect Marshall to bring its best game and make this the tightly-fought rivalry game that everyone wants to see. I don't want to take away anything from Marshall--after all, I picked them against Wichita State-- but Wichita State did a great job of making things easier for the Herd.

This year's Wichita State defense ranks outside the top 300 in both turnover and steal percentage. The Shockers failed to put pressure on Marshall's offense and to otherwise make them uncomfortable. As a result, the Herd could dictate tempo and do what they want offensively.

West Virginia's defense won't let Marshall be comfortable and Marshall will look like a completely different team. The Mountaineers employ a defense designed to force turnovers and take the opposing offense out of its rhythm. Marshall has already tried to deal with a high-pressure defense that speeds up its opponent in Illinois, a 17-point Marshall loss on Nov, 19. Marshall ranks 78th in turnover percentage and looks like a ball-secure team. But against the Illini, the Herd committed 19 turnovers. WVU, like the Illini, rank in the top 50 in average opposing length of possession, turnover rate and steal percentage.

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Of course, that game was in November. But Marshall hasn't shown that it can do any better against such a defensive style and WVU boasts stronger individual defenders, two of which are both All-Big 12 on defense, lock-down guard Jevon Carter, and shot-blocking center Sagaba Konate. Carter is the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Marshall lacks any individual match-up advantages because its two best players, point guard Jon Elmore and center Ajdin Penava, will be outmatched by WVU's elite counterparts.

Rhythm is crucial. An offense can have all the match-up advantages in the world, but if it isn't in rhythm, then it won't execute it's game plan. The Herd live and die by the three. They rank 29th in proportion of attempted threes, although they aren't strongest from behind the arc, where they rank 133rd in three-point percentage. The Herd are easily most efficient from two, where WVU is strongest defensively. The 'Neers rank 30th in opposing two-point percentage. Konate is their top rim defender. The center ranks second in block percentage and is a major reason why WVU ranks sixth in the category.

Marshall's defense is soft, ranking outside the top 100 in KenPom defensive efficiency and opposing two-point and three-point shooting percentage despite not facing an NCAA tournament team until Wichita State, who mustered 75 points despite an abysmal performance behind the arc. West Virginia, which ranks 33rd in turnover rate, will be comfortable. Guard Daxter Miles will lead the 'Neers inside, ranked 469th in two-point percentage. Konate is another weapon also with put-backs. He ranks 173rd in offensive rebounding percentage and helps WVU be the nation's fourth-best offensive rebounding team. Marshall ranks 308th in defensive rebounding and will get dominated on the glass.

WVU is in strong form, covering three of its last four. Six of its last seven wins have been by double digits. The motivation is there to lay it on thick today. WVU and Marshall form an in-state rivalry whose bitterness hasn't lost its taste even though the teams stopped playing each other in the regular season. For instance, Marshall's coach accused WVU's coach of being scared. WVU, moved by enmity against its hyped-up rival, will show no mercy on 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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