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Princeton vs. Missouri Odds, Prediction: Expect Slow-Paced Game

Princeton vs. Missouri Odds, Prediction: Expect Slow-Paced Game article feature image

Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Tosan Evbuomwan (Princeton)

Princeton vs. Missouri Odds

Saturday, March 18
6:10 p.m. ET
Princeton Odds
-110o / -110u
Missouri Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

After years of close calls and occasional miracles, the 15-seeds have joined the party in the NCAA tournament.

Between the tournament's expansion in 1985 and 2011, just four 15-seeds won a game in a 26-year span. Since then, six 15-seeds have won in the last 11 renditions of the NCAA tournament, after the Princeton Tigers joined that group by toppling mighty Arizona.

We have now seen a 15-seed advance for the third straight tournament, the first such streak in history.

Most importantly moving forward, three of the last four 15-seeds to win a first-round game also won again, advancing to the Sweet 16.

Princeton looks to join that group, facing a Missouri Tigers team that's only loss in the last month came to top-seeded Alabama.

This battle of Tigers and Tigers will send one team proudly prowling to Louisville and the Sweet 16 next week.

Princeton Tigers

Even among the 15-seeds, Princeton was not a hot name in the talk of future Cinderellas.

I'll admit, I had trouble seeing the Tigers' path to beating Arizona.

This is a Princeton team that does not shoot the 3 well and didn't do so against Arizona, hitting just 4-of-25 from deep.

Princeton instead looks to win on the interior, using former Ivy League Player of the Year Tosan Evbuomwan as the pivot man on the high post, with cutters looking for layups or moving defenders to clear space for Evbuomwan to operate.

Arizona seemed to have plenty of size and athleticism to handle that kind of attack. It was difficult to gauge how Evbuomwan would matchup against that kind of size and skill, given Princeton hadn't played a power-conference opponent all season.

In fact, in three seasons at Princeton, Evbuomwan has only faced one tournament-level, power-conference team, and that was his first game as a starter back in November of 2020 (against an Indiana team that would have made the cancelled 2020 Big Dance).

Evbuomwan proved against Arizona that his size, speed and skill aren't just effective against Ivy League opponents. He scored 15 points and dished out four assists, sparking the Tigers' run down the stretch.

It's notable, however, that Princeton scored a paltry 0.88 points per possession. It was the Tigers' second-worst offensive performance by points per possession this season, but they countered by holding Arizona to its worst performance of the year.

Princeton swarmed Arizona, forcing the Wildcats into low-percentage shots, and the Tigers cleaned the glass against a massive Arizona frontline.

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Missouri Tigers

Missouri caught a break on Thursday.

The Tigers play a style of defense that allows teams plenty of looks from outside the arc. Mizzou ranks 347th in 3-point rate allowed nationally and gave up long range attempts at the second-highest rate in the SEC.

In conference, that wasn't a worry. The SEC was the worst shooting conference from deep this season. Missouri faced the second-highest 3-point percentage in the conference, but the Tigers' opponents still only sank 35%.

Facing a Utah State team that likes to shoot the 3 — and is pretty damn good at doing so — Missouri seemed to have an issue on its hands. In reality, things worked out fine, with the Aggies hitting just 4-of-24 from outside the arc.

Dennis Gates and his Tigers deserve some credit. Missouri played physical defense on the perimeter and forced Utah State into 15 turnovers.

Forcing turnovers is absolutely critical for this Mizzou team. Those extra possessions help make up for any potential deficit created beyond the 3-point arc, while also creating high value chances in transition.

Princeton vs. Missouri Betting Pick

The spread on this game — sitting at Missouri giving 6.5 points — is about right. The outcome here will largely be determined by the two best players on the floor, Missouri's Kobe Brown and Princeton's Evbuomwan.

Even without trying to predict the shooting luck of the players around them, their battle as the centerpieces of each offense will dictate which team can find open shots and create the kind of opportunities that will decide the game.

My eye looks more toward the total here, set high at 152.5 before slowly trickling downward. That number is based on Missouri's interest in speeding up the tempo and getting those transition chances.

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson, however, is well aware his team cannot beat Missouri in a track meet. The Tigers held fast-paced Arizona to a sub-70 possession game, totaling under 120 points.

On the season, Princeton's average defensive possession ranks 41st fastest, while the Tigers' offense takes its time, ranking 241st in possession time (and slowest in the Ivy).

Princeton is going to slam the brakes as often as possible in this one, intent on another half-court chess match, where the Ivy League champs have a chance to compete.

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