College Basketball Mid-Major Betting Report: Breaking Down Murray State, South Dakota State & San Francisco
Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Tape (San Francisco)
March creeps ever closer, and with that, the importance of digging into the mid-major landscape grows.
Through our Mid-Major Report series, we’ve delivered a scouting report on nearly all of the premier Cinderella candidates in the land.
That means it’s time to start drilling into the best of the best.
|Current Overall Record||25-2|
|Current ESPN Bracketology Seed||10|
This is not our first Mid-Major Report to check in on Murray State. My delightful colleague Keg took a look at the Racers back on December 27th, smartly sniffing out what has become a juggernaut over the past two months.
At that point, Murray State was 10-2, sat 80th in KenPom’s rankings and looked like an underdog to Belmont in the OVC.
Now? The Racers are 25-2 overall, up to 24th (!), per Mr. Pomeroy, and on track to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament — should they need it.
What has led to such a surge? And can the Racers pull a 2019 Wofford and become a national darling? Remember, those Terriers got all the way into the top 20 at KenPom and nearly beat 2-seed Kentucky for a Sweet 16 berth.
Let’s start with the first question. First and foremost, Murray State has the athleticism and size of a power conference squad. Monstrous center KJ Williams (6-foot-10, 245 pounds) possesses both physicality and bounce, an unfair combo in the OVC.
In league play, he has had games of 39 and six (points and rebounds) and 33 and 15. The trio of D.J. Burns Jr., Nicholas McMullen and Jordan Skipper-Brown provides versatility and depth around Williams.
The backcourt possess the shot-makers and creators needed to win big in March, as well.
Wing Tevin Brown has already made 329 career triples at a stellar 38.7%, and his off-the-bounce game has developed too.
His running mate, Justice “Juice” Hill, is a lightning rod with the ball in his hands, and he can also light it up from deep. Look no further than his five-triple performance in a win at Memphis, or his scorching 8-for-11 firestorm at powerhouse Belmont.
Davidson transfer Carter Collins and South Carolina transfer Trae Hannibal are complementary pieces. That tells you how good the Racers’ guard rotation is.
The depth and athleticism here is exceedingly rare in the mid-major world. Murray State has a great chance to be favored in its opening NCAA Tournament game, and the Racers are fully capable of springing an upset to reach the Sweet 16, as well.
|Current Overall Record||24-4|
|Current ESPN Bracketology Seed||13|
Let’s keep the theme of “team has not lost in 2022” going! Like the Racers, these Jackrabbits have won all 12 of their games since Keg checked in on them back in that same late December article.
One theme rises above all here: South Dakota State is one of the deadliest offensive teams in the country. And to be quite clear, that’s not just the mid-major world — that’s including all teams.
The Jackrabbits put up 88 points in a loss at Alabama, 102 while beating Nevada, 76 in a loss to Washington and 77 in a win at Washington State. They shoot 44.0% from beyond the arc, the best mark in the nation by a wide margin.
Unsurprisingly, they rank 11th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency.
The prolific perimeter shooting is actually just a feature of the offense, though — not its heart and soul. For a cross-sport analogy, think of it as the play-action passing game that benefits from an elite running attack. For SDSU, a dominant interior trio is that running attack.
Dougie Wilson is still around after winning Summit Player of the Year back in 2019-20, and Matt Dentlinger is a seasoned veteran in his own right. The third member of that trio, Luke Appel, followed Wilson from the same junior college, and has really caught fire in league play.
The Jackrabbits may not have hit their ceiling yet, either. Noah Freidel, the team’s leading scorer on a per-game basis, has spent two months in Coach Eric Henderson’s doghouse for unspecified reasons.
He recently played for the first time since December 20th, and if he reintegrates into the lineup, South Dakota State will become even more deadly.
The Summit Tournament is a volatile event because so many teams are dominant offensively with weak defenses. If SDSU can make it through that gauntlet, though, the lethal inside-out offense will give some poor power-conference foe headaches in the NCAA Tournament.
|Current Overall Record||21-7|
|Current ESPN Bracketology Seed||11|
While the first two teams have dominated inferior competition in the league, San Francisco is in the midst of a grind towards a possible at-large bid. Playing in the WCC is tough with Gonzaga at its current ridiculous level — winning the conference tournament is a largely unrealistic goal.
The Dons have shown an elite ceiling in spurts. They got up 23 points on a terrific Saint Mary’s team, and they played Gonzaga to a draw for the first 23 minutes in Spokane.
Assembling a full 40 minutes has been the issue, though, as they eventually lost that Saint Mary’s game, and Gonzaga ended up winning by 16.
For an extremely veteran team, that’s a concerning trend. All of San Francisco’s rotation players are in their third college season at minimum, so you would expect more consistency throughout games.
Still, it’s that upside that makes San Francisco so tantalizing.
Also, like most of my favorite underdogs in March, the Dons have a go-to star on the ball.
Fifth-year guard Jamaree Bouyea is as good as it gets, a calming influence over the team who can also light it up when necessary. His teammates, particularly in the backcourt, are more erratic, but his steady presence always gives the Dons a chance.
USF also has legitimate size inside, plenty of shooters to spread across the floor and a whip-smart coaching staff that is constantly finding incremental edges.
Sure, the Dons are a dismal 9-16-1 against the spread this year, but that’s primarily because of the lofty expectations that most preseason rankings gave them.
All told, the Dons are a team worth backing down the stretch — provided you can stomach an inevitable frustrating stretch within the game.
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