23-0 getting to NCAA basketball’s Murray State

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Murray State may be the last undefeated team in the country at 23-0, but their supporters at the bet windows could probably care less right about now as the spread has really caught up with the Racers.

As all the weight of the undefeated pressure has mounted, they have narrowly escaped with wins as large favorites and haven’t covered their last seven games, six of which have been spreads of -13 or higher.

Murray State may have the most rapid rating increase over the last month of any team in college basketball. Prior to their seven game non-cover streak, they had covered seven of eight. If looking to play an Ohio Valley team, take a look at Tennessee State who have covered four of their last five.

North Texas hot

Middle Tennessee State has been getting most of the small publicity the Sun Belt conference gets nationally with their 21-4 record, but here in Las Vegas it’s been all about a lessor known 13-10 team.

North Texas has played very well lately going 6-3, but more importantly, they have covered all nine of those games. Over their five week stretch of covering excellence, they have been underdogs in five of the nine games. In their three losses, they have lost by a combined 7 points.

On the same note, Drexel had their 10-game cover streak snapped Saturday at Towson State as 18-point favorites. The Dragons were only able to win by 8 points in that game. However, they still have an 11 game win streak going and are tied with VCU and George Mason atop the Colonial.

Drexel may have the edge in the CAA tournament seeding as they play the worst teams in the conference over their next five until meeting Old Dominion in the regular season finale. Their NCAA fate will still rest with having to beat either VCU or George Mason, or maybe even both, in the conference tournament.

Iowa State Cyclones rising

Fred Hoiberg’s cast of transfers at Iowa State have transformed the second year coach’s team into a real contender as we get deep into Big-12 conference play.

The resume over the last three weeks has been as impressive as anyone with wins over Kansas, Kansas State and a scrappy Oklahoma team in Norman. The Cyclones have won five of their last six conference games and have covered their five.

Iowa State is currently sitting one game behind (7-3) a three-team log jam atop the conference with an overall record on 17-6. Despite all their recent success, they are still only No. 40 in the RPI ratings with losses against middle of the pack Missouri Valley teams like Drake and Northern Iowa being their worst.

However, the Northern Iowa loss doesn’t look as bad now since UNI beat then No. 12 Creighton last Saturday.

Long Beach State 49ers after gold

You have to give Long Beach State coach Dan Monson some credit for the job he’s doing with a program that won only six games in his first season five years ago. He welcomed a game with anyone, anywhere prior to conference play and it’s paid off as the 49ers are 10-0 in the Big West this season.

Sure, the Beach took some lumps in losses to Carolina, Kansas, Louisville, Kansas State and San Diego State, but showed they could play with anyone, including an early season upset win against Pittsburgh as 13-point underdogs. They also got the money against the Tar Heels and Jayhawks.

Long Beach has been double digit favorites in eight of their last 10 wins, covering only three of them, but came up big on the road against their toughest competition (UCSB and Cal-Poly SLO) as 1-point favorites. They are currently No. 31 in the RPI’s because of their strength of schedule and may give the committee something seriously to consider should they lose the automatic bid for the NCAA’s by not winning the Big West Tournament.

Pittsburgh Panthers clawing back

There has been a noticeable change with Pitt since getting Tray Woodall back. Pitt had lost eight games in a row and looked to have no shot at an NCAA bid with seven of those losses coming to start Big East play.

With Woodall back, Pitt has won all four games and their scoring average has gone from 59 ppg during the losing streak to 77 in their last four.

Pitt is No. 67 in the RPI’s, but climbing, with a great strength of schedule going for them. However, their chances of making the NCAA’s still remain slim at 15-9.

The Panthers only play one ranked team the rest of the way and may have to play themselves into the NCAA’s by making a strong run in the Big East tournament. Based on their last four games with Woodall, I like their chances.

Kentucky Wildcats impressive

After putting Kentucky bettors through a miserable stretch of not covering 13 of 15 games, the Wildcats have covered their last four games with the last three being crushing blowouts against marginal SEC opponents.

But beyond the bets, we still have to marvel at what this young team is doing. They’re currently 23-1, 9-0 in SEC play, No. 1 in the country and a Christian Watford rimmed-out shot at Indiana away from being undefeated.

All kinds of crazy things happen in the NCAA tournament, but at this juncture, it’s hard to imagine this Cats squad losing to anyone on a neutral court right now.

The only thing that may work against them down the road is age, but they seem to be maturing with each game.

 

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