The NCAA Tournament continues in third round coverage on Saturday evening as No. 6 seed Murray State takes on No. 3 seed Marquette. The game is scheduled for a 5:15 p.m. start time and it will be televised nationally on CBS. Currently the odds have Marquette favored by 5.5 points with the total sitting at 142 points for the contest.
Free Analysis: Marquette should be favored in this game by more than 5.5 points, at least in my opinion. I'm guessing Murray State's improbably run through the regular season probably has something to do with that line being so low. I was impressed with Marquette's big win over BYU and I think this game will be more of the same. Murray State isn't a very big team, but they are a squad that likes to make you pay in transition and score easy buckets around the hoop. Isaiah Canaan's led Racers are looking to continue their miraculous season, but I don't see how they get around the Eagles here. "We've come a long way as a team," Canaan said. "We try to stay level and remember the things that got us to this point, try to remember to continue to do those things. If we do that, everything else will take care of itself." They're known as a "mid-major" squad because they are playing in the Ohio Valley, but they did roll up more than 30 wins this season and have only been beaten once. They opened the season with 23 straight wins, and are currently the only one-loss team in the country. They went undefeated on the road, including an upset of then-No. 21 Memphis, and were ranked as high as No. 9 this season. To date they've won all 13 of their games on the road. A prototypical mid-major type squad, the Racers rely heavily on the 3-point shot, they run a quick transition game and they like to be aggressive at both ends of the floor. Three Murray State players average in double figures, they average eight steals a game and they've got a roster so deep you can't see the end of the bench. "I don't know that they're a Cinderella. I think that's somewhat disrespectful," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said, noting that the Racers were ranked ahead of the Golden Eagles almost the entire season, have a better record and won more conference games — despite the OVC schedule being longer. "I think that they're a really good team. They're deserving of being here. Their personnel and their staff are evidence of that." Buzz knows how to say all the right things, both for his team and for the overall psyche of their opposition. Yet, as impressive as Murray State has been all season, they haven't played a team quite like Marquette this season. Most people consider the Golden Eagles to be vastly undersized, but I think that gives them the ability to cause matchup problems. Jae Crowder had a bigtime in the second round in a win over BYU while Darius Johnson-Odom is no slouch either. Both will be major players in this game, especially if the Golden Eagles are to pick up a win. They're scoring a combined 36 points per game, and one or the other has led the Golden Eagles in scoring in all but five games. "They are some physical, physical guys," Murray State coach Steve Prohm said of Marquette. "Their style of play is about being physical and tough, and we need to be ready to meet that. But our guys have been tough and resilient all year long, so they're looking forward to the challenge." Davante Gardner proved to be a major player for Marquette in their win over BYU as well. He had 15 points in the win, but did look a bit winded at times. If Murray State can get up and down the floor effectively against the Eagles, they might be able to pull some advantage. However, Marquette isn't afraid to move the ball either. But, looking at both teams I don't see how Marquette doesn't win this game. They are bigger, stronger and better than Murray State is.
Free Pick: Well, it's pretty well known that I am going to back Marquette in this game. I don't think the opener on this game was high enough and I made sure to bet it as soon as I could. The Racers are an amazing story, that's for sure, but I think Marquette is a bigger, stronger, better version of Murray State. Both Crowder and Johnson-Odom are going to pose matchup problems and the Golden Eagles should be able to take advantage. Add to that Mizzou's loss to Norfolk State and now the Eagles have a shoe-in spot in the Elite Eight. Marquette is a team with all the potential to get to a Final Four and I think they'll be able to flex their muscle today in this game, winning by double digits.
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