Fairleigh Dickinson vs Merrimack Odds & Picks: Our NEC Championship Bet
Oliver McKenna/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Merrimack’s Ziggy Reid.
Fairleigh Dickinson vs Merrimack Odds
|Fairleigh Dickinson Odds|
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Fairleigh Dickinson, which has already punched its ticket to the Big Dance, takes on Merrimack on Tuesday in an attempt to win the NEC Tournament.
The Knights are already in the tournament because new teams coming to Division I have to wait four years before they can make the NCAA Tournament. They beat Merrimack in both meetings during the regular season, so we’ll see if they can make it a clean sweep tonight.
Merrimack finished the regular season as NEC champs and really had one of the best turnarounds this college basketball season. It won its first game against a Division I opponent on Dec. 31 and went 17-3 from then on. Now, it holds one of the nation’s longest win streaks at 10 games.
This is going to be a matchup of the best offense in the conference versus the best defense in the conference.
The Knights boast a very efficient half-court offense that also hardly ever turns the ball over, ranking first in the NEC in both of those categories.
They are a high-frequency rim and 3-point shooting team, and they absolutely shot the lights out in both meetings with Merrimack.
Here’s an example of how they shot in the second meeting:
Image via ShotQuality
Fairleigh Dickinson also runs the pick-and-roll at one of the highest frequencies in the conference, but it was pretty ineffective in running it in both meetings against Merrimack.
In terms of frequency, FDU is also a top-50 team nationally in cut and isolation, which isn’t really going to work against Merrimack because the Warriors are the best team in the conference at defending both of those sets.
The Fairleigh Dickinson defense has been really bad this season, ranking ninth in adjusted defensive efficiency in what is rated by KenPom as the worst conference in college basketball.
The Knights really struggle to defend in the half-court, ranking seventh in the conference in PPP allowed and at the rim (62%). Merrimack is primarily a half-court offense that plays at a slow pace with 48% of its shot attempts coming at the rim.
If you look at Merrimack’s offensive numbers as a whole this season, you would think this is one of the worst offenses in college basketball.
The Warriors rank 361st in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom, but a lot of their poor offensive performances came in the nonconference schedule, where they went 0-12 against Division I opponents.
Since conference play started, they’ve been playing much better, ranking fifth in the NEC in adjusted offensive efficiency. Additionally, per ShotQuality, they’re the country’s most efficient team in transition, averaging 1.62 PPP. However, this offense is primarily built on jacking up a ton of 3s and getting to the free-throw line.
Merrimack has a 3-point rate of 42.4% in conference play and is hitting over 37% from beyond the arc as well. It also leads the conference in free-throw rate, which is huge against a Fairleigh Dickinson team that’s allowing the second-highest free-throw rate in the conference.
The reason Merrimack has gone 17-3 over its last 20 games is because of its defense. The Warriors allowed just 0.90 PPP during conference play and rank 101st in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, which is a massive feat considering they’re playing in the worst conference in college basketball.
Their defense truly does everything well except for defensive rebounding, which came back to bite them in both meetings against Fairleigh Dickinson.
Fairleigh Dickinson vs Merrimack Betting Pick
In both meetings with Fairleigh Dickinson, Merrimack held a halftime lead and melted down the stretch to hand the Knights both games. So, the Warriors are looking for massive revenge in this game.
Although winning a conference tournament means something, Fairleigh Dickinson has to be pleased to already be in the NCAA Tournament field. Merrimack, meanwhile, is going for its first conference title at the Division I level while trying to close out the year on an 11-game win streak.
So, I like Merrimack at -3.5 to finally exact revenge and win its first conference title.
Pick: Merrimack -3.5
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