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March Madness is officially here as we start the Round of 64. One of the matchups to kick off the NCAA Tournament is between Missouri and Utah State out of South Region.
Here, we’ll preview Missouri and Utah State NCAA Tournament outlook, look at key players, and make our pick for this game.
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After not earning an automatic bid to the tournament, the Aggies had a good showing in the Mountain West Tournament, falling 62-57 against San Diego State.
Before this loss, Utah State hadn’t lost a game since February 11, losing 69-64 against San Jose State.
Utah State is tied for 173rd in the nation in defense, allowing 70 points per game. On offense, they’re much better, ranking 28th in the nation with 79.1 points per game.
They receive a lot of contributions from their bench, averaging 24.81 points per game (40th in the nation).
Continuing with their offensive success, the Aggies are 23rd in the nation in shooting percentage, making 48% of their shots.
We’ve established they have a solid offense, but their defense leaves much to be desired. In addition to the points allowed per game, they don’t force many turnovers (11.12; 290th in the nation), while they turn the ball over 12 times per game (140th).
The Aggies perform well on offense; a big part of that is five players posting double-digit points per game averages.
The team is led by Steven Ashworth, who leads the team in minutes per game (33.1), points (16.3), and assists (4.5). On top of this, Ashworth is their most active three-point shooter, attempting more than seven per game and making just over three. He shoots 44.3% from behind the arch.
After Ashworth, there are players like Taylor Funk (13.3 PPG) and Max Shulga (12.1 PPG).
The team has several big men in Szymon Zapala (6’11”), Isaac Johnson (7’0”), and Trevin Dorius (7’1”), but none play more than 14 minutes per game. Johnson hasn’t played this season, and Dorius leads the way with those 14 minutes.
Daniel Akin is their leading rebounder, hauling in seven per game.
First-year head coach Dennis Gates has done a great job with Missouri, leading them to a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a No. 4 seed in the SEC Tournament.
In finishing fourth in the SEC, they went 11-7 in conference play and 24-9 overall. Prior to losing to Alabama this past week, Missouri had a five-game winning streak, beating teams like Tennessee, Ole Miss, LSU, and Mississippi State.
Like the Aggies, Missouri is a top offensive team, averaging 80.1 points per game (21st), an effective field goal rate of 55.5% (19th), 27.06 points per game off the bench (18th), and a 36.23 three-point shooting percentage (70th).
Where the Tigers don’t excel is defense. They allow 74.8 points per game which ranks way down at 299th in the country.
The Tigers have a two-headed offensive attack with Kobe Brown and D’Moi Hodge. Both players average around 15 points per game, and Brown is the team’s top rebounder with 6.3 per game.
Like the Aggies, there are a few big men on the Tigers, but none seem to receive that much playing time. Mohamed Diarra is close to seven feet but plays just 12 points per game.
Nick Honor leads the team in minutes per game at 29.6 but doesn’t really add much offensively, averaging just eight points and three assists per game.
The No. 7 seed Missouri is the underdog in this first-round matchup at Caesars Sportsbook. The Aggies are 2.5-point favorites, but the total is at 155, the highest of the tournament’s first round.
Both teams approach the game similarly—good offense and atrocious defense. The Aggies are the lower seed but have a higher KenPom rating of 18 to Missouri’s 51.
What would really help cement Utah State over Missouri is their rebounding, which is clearly a deficiency for Missouri, but it also is for Utah State as well.
The difference in points allowed per game is quite staggering, with Missouri nearly 300th in the nation.
Instead of going with the point spread here, pick the Aggies on the moneyline at -125. You’re eating some of the juice, but both teams will score, and neither will be able to stop them. This could be a final possession game.
Best Bet: Utah State ML (-125) at Caesars Sportsbook
Location: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California
Game Time & Date: March 16, 2023, at 1:40 PM ET
TV Network: TNT
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After graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a BA in Journalism, Richard Janvrin has been covering iGaming and sports betting since December 2018. Richard has covered betting at Bleacher Report, Gambling.com, The Game Day, Forbes, and more.More info on Richard Janvrin
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