MEAC Championship Betting Odds & Pick: Morgan State vs. Norfolk State (Saturday, March 13)

MEAC Championship Betting Odds & Pick: Morgan State vs. Norfolk State (Saturday, March 13) article feature image

Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: The MEAC logo.

  • Morgan State is looking for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010.
  • Norfolk State hasn't made it since its memorable upset of Missouri in 2012. Who has the edge in Saturday's MEAC Championship?
  • Below, find Jim Root's game breakdown, including updated odds and his pick for Morgan State vs. Norfolk State.

MEAC Championship

Morgan State vs. Norfolk State Odds

Morgan State Odds+2.5
Norfolk State Odds-2.5
Moneyline+120 / -143
Time | TV1 p.m. ET | ESPN2
Odds updated Saturday at 11 a.m. ET and via DraftKings.

The MEAC had its share of hiccups this season. Two schools (UMES and Bethune-Cookman) never played a game, and a third (Howard) had preseason optimism destroyed by injuries and an eventual season cancellation. This conference tournament’s top seed, North Carolina A&T, had to bow out due to COVID issues. And yet, despite all of that, we ended up with the league’s two best teams in the title game.

Due to the league’s divisional split, Morgan State and Norfolk State have already played four times, with Norfolk having won three of those matchups. There’s little separation here, though: The four games had final margins of four, four, five and three points. Both coaches have mined the transfer portal for talented pieces, and both feature downhill offensive attacks predicated on getting to the free-throw stripe paired with pressuring defenses intent on forcing turnovers.

So how do we differentiate the two?

Well, for one, the Spartans lock down on the defensive boards, having led the MEAC in that category in conference games. That’s crucial against the Bears, who pound the glass for second shot opportunities. There’s no singularly dominant rebounder here — it’s more of a team-wide emphasis on finishing possessions, which matters given the numerous glass-eaters that Morgan State trots out.

Additionally, one team can shoot, and one cannot. Considering that both defensive schemes allow jumpers and prefer to force opponents to score over the top, that becomes vital. Shockingly for a MEAC team, Norfolk has four rotation players hitting 41% or better from deep, helping the Spartans rank 23rd nationally in 3P%. Morgan State, meanwhile, ranks just 181st in that category.

Finally, one other peripheral advantage here is that due to NC A&T’s virus issues, Norfolk State had a day off on Friday, while Morgan State will be playing its third game in as many days. In a near-toss up, incremental edges matter.

Due to North Carolina Central’s dominance in recent years, neither one of these programs has seen the NCAA Tournament for a while. Morgan State’s last appearance was in 2010, while Norfolk last qualified in 2012 (as a Missouri fan, let’s just say that I did not have to look that up). Both enter this championship with equal optimism that 2021 will be the year, and the spread reflects that.

I debated taking the point (or two) here because it feels like a coin flip, but to me, it matters that Norfolk was able to pull out three of the four close games the two have played. The Spartans have a playmaker at point guard in Devante Carter who can make big plays late, and when paired with the other matchup edges, I’ll swallow my Mizzou Tiger pride and roll with Norfolk State for the MEAC crown.

Pick: Norfolk State -1

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