Appalachian State vs. Norfolk State Odds, Pick, Prediction: How to Bet NCAA Tournament First Four

Appalachian State vs. Norfolk State Odds, Pick, Prediction: How to Bet NCAA Tournament First Four article feature image
Credit:

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured Justin Forrest.

  • The Appalachian State Mountaineers are favored over the Norfolk State Spartans on Thursday night in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament.
  • Stuckey and Shane McNichol broke down the game from a betting perspective below.
  • Check out how they would bet the game — and updated odds — below.

Appalachian State vs. Norfolk State Odds

Appalachian State Odds -3.5
Norfolk State Odds +3.5
Moneyline -159 / +135
Over/Under 133.5
Time Thursday, 8:40 p.m. ET
TV truTV
Odds as of Wednesday evening and via DraftKings.

The Appalachian State Mountaineers and Norfolk State Vikings meet Thursday for each school’s first tournament appearance in quite some time.

Appalachian State will dance for the first time since 2000, while Norfolk State returns for the first time in nine years. Let’s take a closer look at each team’s profile and then go into the matchup and where you should look from a betting perspective.

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Appalachian State

Stuckey: Appalachian State had an amazing run in its conference tournament to secure the automatic bid from the Sun Belt.

The Mountaineers won four games in four days for the title — a more amazing task when you consider they really lack depth and even lost starting big man James Lewis to injury during the tourney. Oh, and two of the four wins came in overtime.

You have to give a lot of the credit to head coach Dustin Kerns, who is one of the most underrated in the country for my money.

The Mountaineers rely on their stout half-court defense and a methodical offense that is fairly reliant on the 3. It’s also a very balanced squad with four players averaging between 10.7 and 13.2 points per game.

Norfolk State

Shane McNichol: Norfolk State returns to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since its historic upset over 2-seed Missouri in 2012. The committee was less kind to this year’s Spartans, sending them to play in the First Four just to earn a possible date with undefeated Gonzaga.

Norfolk State is a high-variance team that of late has been playing its best basketball.

The Spartans haven’t lost to any team other than Coppin State since Jan. 10 (a bit deceiving considering they’ve lost to Coppin State three times in that span). The Spartans win games by focusing on the 3-point line.

Norfolk State ranks 33rd in the nation in 3-point percentage, leading the MEAC at 36% in conference play. Defensively, the Spartans aggressively protect the inside of the arc.

Only two teams in all of Division I allowed a lower percentage of their opponents’ points to come via 2-point field goals. Teams playing the Spartans get ample chances to shoot the 3, and when they do drive to the rim, the Spartans tend to commit fouls. Norfolk State’s opponents took the 14th-most free throws per game this season.

Devante Carter, in his second and final season at Norfolk State after stops at two junior colleges, leads the way offensively. He’s a 6-foot-3 slasher and passer, scoring 67% of his points on 2-point buckets while dishing 4.0 assists per night.

Carter is very consistent, scoring in double-figures in every game but one this year, but he can still surprise. He had multiple games with 12 rebounds as a point guard this year.

Carter probes the paint looking for his hot-shooting teammates, four of whom top 40% from beyond the 3-point arc.

Norfolk State’s fortunes rest heavily on its shooting ability — the Spartans were 9-1 when topping 40% from long range but just 6-6 when failing to make 35% of their 3s this season.

Matchup & Betting Analysis

Stuckey: With 10 days in between games, App State should be fully rested and ready to go with a comprehensive game plan to attack Norfolk State’s patented “floppy zone.”

For those not familiar with Robert Jones’ floppy zone, it’s a hybrid defense that morphs between man-to-man, a 3-2 zone and a 2-3 zone that’s designed to confuse opponents, cause mistakes and induce inefficient jumpers. Jones will also throw in a 1-2-2 zone press to try to force turnovers.

Subsequently, Norfolk State finished in the top 75 nationally in turnover rate for the fourth straight season under Jones. Its defensive possessions aren’t long and more often than not lead to one of three outcomes:

  • Turnover (75th)
  • Foul (NSU ranks 330th in FTA/FGA)
  • 3PA (only Purdue and SDSU allowed a higher percentage of 3s among tourney teams)

Overall, the defense grades out fairly well, especially in transition and when pressing. However, the Spartans were certainly helped by one of the 15 easiest strengths of schedule in the country, per KenPom.
When you dig deeper, they still gave up a high frequency of open jumpers but just enjoyed good fortune (in part due to the competition) on those looks. Per ShotQuality, this is certainly a regression candidate in the shooting department.

Senior point guard Devante Carter runs the show for a very deep and experienced rotation. His wings (Joe Bryant, Jalen Hawkins and Kashaun Hicks) have also all hit at least 40% from beyond the arc, which is why Norfolk State ranks 33rd in the country in 3-point percentage.

However, if you go by their historical shooting percentages, they are all shooting over their head. They rank in the 95th percentile on unguarded jumpers, per Synergy. I’m not sure that’s sustainable for a team that shot 31% last year with a lot of the same pieces.

Elsewhere on offense, Norfolk State doesn’t turn it over much and has excelled in pick-and-roll and does get to the line a ton with its attacking style. The Spartans would much rather get out in transition than run half-court offense.

So, how does Appalachian State match up? Well, it plays extremely sound defense without fouling (23rd in the country) and has multiple ball-handlers that don’t turn it over and have graded out well against the press this year.

The Neers also get to the line frequently where they are fairly reliable. Those are all positive signals in this particular matchup for Appalachian State, which also won’t have to worry about its lack of size in this matchup even if Lewis isn’t fully healthy.

Are there any concerns? Of course. App State ranks in just the 26th percentile against zone, per Synergy. That’s primarily as a result of its poor 3-point shooting, as it shot only 32.6% (227th).

However, it’s been extremely unlucky on unguarded jumpers, ranking in just the ninth percentile, per Synergy. The Mountaineers do have three upperclassmen who are more than comfortable shooting 3s (28th in 3PA/FGA). And while they are each more streaky than efficient, they fall into a team due for some positive shooting regression.

On paper, Appalachian State’s depth could be a concern against a pressing Norfolk State team that draws a lot of fouls and has an abundance of depth that can wear teams down.

However, after what I saw in the Sun Belt Tournament in addition to having 10 days off, I’m not too concerned here. Foul trouble is always a variable, but App State has done a superb job of defending without fouling this year.

I think Kerns will have an effective game plan here for attacking the Jones zone and press. I trust the Appalachian State perimeter to get good shots and a defense that allowed the fifth-fewest unguarded jumpers in the country to lock down in the half-court without fouling.

We also have the potential regression monster looming in App State’s favor.

I think it’s App State or nothing here and the Mountaineers are a decent ML parlay piece if you’re looking for a team to pair a favorite like Florida State with.

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