Mississippi State vs. Virginia Odds & Picks: NIT Betting Value on Bulldogs (Wednesday, March 16)
Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images. Pictured: Virginia’s Kihei Clark (from left), Armaan Franklin and Jayden Gardner.
- The Mississippi State Bulldogs take on the Virginia Cavaliers in the NIT on Wednesday.
- Virginia is a perennial NCAA Tournament team, but is it time to fade the Hoos?
- Our staff breaks down the game and shares its top bet below.
Mississippi State vs. Virginia Odds
|Mississippi State Odds|
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
By Doug Ziefel
This matchup could very well be the best game of the opening round of the NIT. After solid regular season campaigns, these teams enter off secon- round exits from their respective conference tournaments.
The Bulldogs of Mississippi State are a team that struggled in conference play, as the gauntlet of SEC giants wore on them down the stretch. Before that, they went 9-3 in non-conference play, though.
As for the Cavaliers, their non-conference record is filled with highlights and lowlights. Virginia owns a victory over Providence and lost by a buzzer-beater to Iowa, but then it got beat up by Houston and lost to Navy and James Madison.
You can make the argument that much has changed for both of these teams since December, but those results may be more telling of who each of these teams are heading into this game.
The list of wins since the beginning of February leave plenty to be desired for Mississippi State. Over the past six weeks, the Bulldogs have only beaten South Carolina, Missouri and Vanderbilt.
Head coach Ben Howland is expected to have a motivated roster that is low on experience heading into next season – senior Garrison Brooks is the only player not expected to return next fall.
Mississippi State has not been good at shooting the ball the entire season, ranking near dead last from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs are also outside the top 290 in offensive plays using screens and isolation.
The one strong point of the offense is finishing at the rim, considered the highest percentage shot in college basketball. If an opponent cannot defend the rim, the Bulldogs have the chance to advance.
The defense posted success, with top-100 ranks in rebounding and turnover rate (31st alone in steal percentage). It’s also recorded quality numbers when defending the arc, with a rank of 62nd against off-the-dribble and catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts.
The Bulldogs have struggles against pick-and-roll teams, and their defensive screen efficiency ranks 247th.
An opponent that is perimeter based is the preferred route for Howland, as the Bulldogs look to prep for next season on the right foot.
I have to admit, seeing Virginia as a shell of its former self has just been downright weird. This is a team I loathed to face as a Tar Heel fan — a suffocating defense that would force you into stalled-out possessions and beat you with offensive efficiency.
That wasn’t the case this year, as Virginia went from winning the National Championship two years ago to now participating in the NIT.
The team’s blueprint remained the same, just without the success. The Cavs still play at a snail’s pace – ranking 357th in adjusted tempo, per KenPom – but they’re 98th in AdjO and 67th in AdjD.
You know Virginia’s offense had problems when it couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn against North Carolina and its horrific defense in the ACC Tournament. The Cavs lost by 20 while shooting 27.3% from 3 and 34.6% from the field.
Virginia’s scheme works brilliantly when the defense is limiting opponents and the offense chips away at them. That wasn’t the case this year, as the offense would routinely end with a poor shot and allowed opponents to easily get out on the break, which in turn, stopped Virginia from setting up its defense.
With a severely disappointing season in the rearview mirror, it’s tough to say if the offense will be able to step up in a must-win tournament setting.
Mississippi State vs. Virginia Betting Pick
By Doug Ziefel
As I alluded to in the intro, the non-conference results of each of these teams are more telling of their caliber than their games against conference opponents.
The Bulldogs are the better team here in virtually all aspects, and it could be said that they underperformed mightily this year, given their KenPom ranking of 45.
Here against Virginia, the keys for the Bulldogs will be to get Iverson Molinar going and then utilize their size advantage to clean up his misses and convert second chances.
On the other end of the floor, Tolu Smith and Brooks should be able to contain the Cavaliers’ primary weapon, Jayden Gardner, and significantly hamper Virginia’s scoring.
There’s a lot of recency bias in this line, as it opened at -1.5 and has continued to tick up in Virginia’s favor. That’s fine because we’ll take all the value we can get on the better team.
Pick: Mississippi State +2.5
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