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Mississippi State vs. Liberty Betting Guide: Will Slow-Paced Flames Hang in NCAA Tournament?

Mississippi State vs. Liberty Betting Guide: Will Slow-Paced Flames Hang in NCAA Tournament? article feature image

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Quinndary Weatherspoon and Lovell Cabbil Jr.

#5 Mississippi State vs. No. 12 Liberty: NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: Mississippi State -6.5
  • Over/Under: 133
  • Date: Friday, March 22
  • Time: 7:27 p.m. ET
  • TV: truTV
  • Location: San Jose, Calif.

>> All odds as of Thursday evening. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and live win probabilities on your bets.

Ben Howland got a team back in the NCAA Tournament after Mississippi State had one of its more successful seasons in recent memory. Despite that level of success, the Bulldogs’ opponent, Liberty, is taking lots of money in a potential 12-5 upset, as the spread is down from the opener of 8 to 6.5.

Is there an upset brewing? Or will the roughly 70% of bettors taking Liberty in this game be disappointed?

An Underrated Mississippi State Offense

This is a balanced attack for Mississippi State, led by Quinndary Weatherspoon, who averaged just over 18 points per game this season. All five starters are near double figures in points per game, meaning someone is going to get a quality look most of the time.

That’s reflected in Mississippi State’s shooting percentages and efficiencies, as the Bulldogs were top-3 in the SEC in both eFG% and 3-point percentage.

One place they should thrive is creating extra possessions off misses, as they were above-average in the SEC in offensive rebounding, and although Liberty is about 100th in offensive rebounds allowed, that’s against FAR inferior competition and athleticism.

With SEC athletes, it’ll be a different game, and I would expect the Bulldogs to be able to create extra possessions.

When Liberty Has The Ball …

… it’s going to take a while. This team is extremely deliberate (349th in adjusted tempo), but it has one elite skill, which is helpful to any team trying to pull an upset. And that elite skill is their shooting.

The Flames rank 12th in the country in eFG% and shoot very well from both 2 and 3. Long possessions that end in quality shot attempts, with no threat of offensive rebounding, is a similar strategy to what you’ll see a team like Wofford employ in the tournament, and teams like Davidson have succeeded with in the past.

When you play very slow, low-possession games and you can trade 3s for 2s, you can level the playing field real fast vs. your opponent. Helping matters is that Mississippi State isn’t good at defending the 3 — 226th in the country, and 12th in SEC play.

It’s also worth mentioning that Nick Weatherspoon, one of Mississippi State’s most impactful defensive players, was suspended indefinitely about a month ago, and as of now, is not going to play (although there is a little uncertainty about that).

Without him, the team’s defensive metrics have suffered, to put it nicely. In SEC play in general, they were just 8th in defensive efficiency, and 9th in effective field goal percentage allowed.

Bet to Watch

In a low-possession game like this, where the underdog’s strengths are amplified because of its opponent’s weakness, I think taking the points is a very good idea.

At a number like 6-7, you also need the Bulldogs to make their free throws in a lot of end-game situations to cover, and the team shot under 70% from the line in SEC play, just No. 9 in the conference.

It is not a strength. I think Liberty’s strategy and shot selection can keep this within the number.

Ken’s Pick: Liberty +6.5

Our Projected Odds: Mississippi State vs. Liberty

Get point spreads for this game and every possible tournament matchup with our bracket simulator built by Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, a former oddsmaker and FantasyPros’ most accurate in-season fantasy football ranker from 2015-2017.

  • Spread: Mississippi State -7.5
  • Total: 136.5
  • Proj Score: Mississippi State 72 | Liberty 64.5
  • Win Probability: Mississippi State 76.8% | Liberty 23.2%

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game is from the individual writer and are based on his research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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