First Four Odds & Pick for Grambling State vs Montana State

First Four Odds & Pick for Grambling State vs Montana State article feature image
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Grambling State vs Montana State Odds

Wednesday, Mar 20
6:40pm ET
truTV
Grambling St Odds
SpreadTotalMoneyline
+4.5
-110
134.5
-110o / -110u
+175
Montana St Odds
SpreadTotalMoneyline
-4.5
-110
134.5
-110o / -110u
-210
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAB odds here.

One of the two 16-seed play-in games features the Big Sky champion Montana State Bobcats and the SWAC champion Grambling State Tigers.

Montana State rode hot shooting and spectacular point guard play from Robert Ford III to a surprise conference championship despite finishing just fifth in the league in the regular season. The auto-bid is Montana State's third straight to the NCAA Tournament.

Grambling won the SWAC regular-season title and cruised to its conference tournament title. The Tigers are dancing for the very first time in their program’s history, which dates back to 1978. After playing one of the most brutal nonconference schedules, Grambling won 18 of its final 22 games. To say this team is battle tested would be a gross understatement.


Grambling State

Grambling played a top-five nonconference strength of schedule that featured six road games against NCAA Tournament teams. While they didn’t win any of those contests, the Tigers gained valuable experience on the toughest battlefields in the sport. They will not be intimidated by the Montana State Bobcats on a neutral floor.

Grambling is a scrappy team that wins games by dominating the hustle stats and getting to the foul line. Montana State has been undisciplined defensively all season, sending opponents to the foul line at the second-highest rate in the Big Sky and ranking 283rd nationally in free-throw rate allowed. There is a path to consistent points if Grambling can overcome its 252nd-ranked free-throw percentage.

Like the Bobcats, the Tigers can shoot. Head coach Donte Jackson has plenty of shooters in his arsenal, although his squad isn’t nearly as reliant on the 3-pointer as the Bobcats are. A half-court focused offense, Grambling likes to control tempo and ranks 323rd nationally in offensive average possession length. The Tigers play in isolation a lot and feature capable creators like Kintavious Dozier, Jourdan Smith and Antwan Burnett.

Montana State’s defensive weakness this season has been its inability to get stops in transition, a weakness Grambling won’t necessarily exploit. Additionally, the Bobcats have defended isolation ball well this season. However, Montana State can and has gotten out-worked and out-scrapped, and that’s where Grambling can find its edge.

Another point in Grambling’s favor is Montana State’s inability to capitalize on the Tigers’ biggest weakness: the defensive glass. Grambling ranks just 334th nationally and dead last in the SWAC in defensive rebounding rate. Montana State does not attack the offensive glass and is ahead of just six teams nationally in offensive rebounding rate.


Montana State

We shouldn’t be surprised head coach Matt Logie had instant success at Montana State. Logie helmed teams that dominated both the Division III and Division II ranks. At D-III Whitworth, Logie went 194-35 (.847). At D-II Point Loma, Logie went 82-23 (.781). That’s pretty good.

Montana State is well-coached and shoots the ball well from deep, a pretty good combination in the NCAA Tournament. Outside shooting is how Montana State captured the Big Sky crown, and it ranks top 50 nationally in 3-point percentage and top 75 in 3-point attempt rate.

A balanced offensive attack revolves around drive-and-kick action led by essentially a dual-PG tandem in Ford and Eddie Turner III. Both lead guards can create offense for themselves and others, and both guards are sharpshooters from deep. Logie’s lineups will almost always feature four shooters on the floor.

Playing through the post is also a strength for the Bobcats. 6'7", 250-pound forward Brandon Walker is a load on the block and one of the highest used players in the country. Walker can be a dominant force if he can stay on the floor.

Grambling has guarded the post well all season, and 6'11" center Jonathan Aku is a one-man wrecking crew in the paint. Additionally, the Tigers have excelled at closing out on spot-ups and denying the 3-point line. Montana State’s strengths on offense should be met with considerable resistance from the Grambling defense.


Grambling State vs Montana State

Betting Pick & Prediction

This game promises to be a bit of a war. Grambling will muck this game up and try to turn it into a half-court slog. Montana State cannot exploit Grambling's weaknesses, and the Tigers should be able to run the Bobcats off the 3-point line.

The Under seems like a natural play here, but betting markets are way ahead of that notion. The current total is roughly 7-8 points below KenPom’s projected total.

Grambling will surprise people with its ability to keep this game close. While many grew familiar with Montana State over the past week, many likely didn’t watch a second of the SWAC Tournament. The Bobcats would be wise not to underestimate the Tigers.

Pick: Grambling State +3.5 (Play to +3)

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