Thursday's matchup between the Murray State Racers and the Colorado State Rams features two teams that are good at shooting the long ball. Murray State ranks fifth in the entire NCAA in three-point shooting with 40.6 percent while the Rams rank just behind at 40.5 percent.
This West regional game will open up the second round of the NCAA tournament Thursday afternoon at 12:15 p.m. in Louisville Kentucky.
Murray State comes into the tournament red-hot, having won seven consecutive games. This included their run through the OVC tournament, where they dominated competition with a 15-1 record in the conference. Overall it was a spectacular season for the Racers, who have the best record in the NCAA tournament at a school-best 30-1.
Colorado State does not have momentum on their side as it comes in having lost the Mountain West Conference's semifinal to San Diego State. The Rams had a good though slightly uneven season in Mountain West play, where they finished with an 8-6 record.
Where: Louisville Kentucky, at the KFC Yum Center
When: Thursday, March 15 at 12:15 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Murray State -4 according to nsawins.com.
The Racers have reported no injuries at this time.
Who will the winner face?
The winner will go on to face the winner of the game between No. 3 Marquette and No. 14 which will either be BYU or Iona.
What They're Saying
Hoopsworld's Yannis Koutroupis talks about the Racers' historic season as well as what propelled Colorado State to the tournament.
This has been a historic season for the Racers, who finished the year ranked in the Top 10 with a 30-1 record. They’re the only one-loss team in the tournament. ... The Racers are compromised primarily of juniors and the group has a lot of experience playing together. ... Size is not the strength of this Racers team so they can get beat up on the boards. While they were 3-0 against the RPI Top 25, 23 of their wins came against teams ranked outside of the Top 100. ...
Hailing from the deep Mountain West Conference is the Rams, who put an end to an eight-year tournament drought with their at-large berth. They do a fine job of making the most out of each possession, shooting 47 percent from the field and 40 percent to deep, which was fourth in the country during the regular season. ... As a team the Rams struggle to defend the long ball, allowing their opponents to shoot 35 percent on the year. They give up 68 a game and are not a threat to force a lot of turnovers. They went 5-7 against the RPI Top 75, boasting a dominant win against Duke and victories against all of the top teams in their league.
Most Important Player to Watch: Murray State guard Isaiah Canaan.
The 6'2" junior guard is an incredibly efficient shooter, shooting 49.7 percent from two points, 47.3 percent from three points and 84 percent from the free-throw line. He leads the Racers in nearly every offensive statistic with 595 points on the season, having averaged 19.2 a game.
There are no real overarching weaknesses to Canaan's game. He also leads the team in assists with 116 and has proven that he can play good defense with 42 steals on the season.
Key Matchup: Battle of the Three-Point Line.
As noted before, these two teams shoot three-pointers very well. That could lead to a high-scoring game that puts pressure on whichever team isn't shooting threes as well.
Whoever shoots a better three-point percentage should likely win this game. This may also come down to which team is better at two points shots since then they won't be forced to take so many shots from downtown.
Prediction: Murray State 76, Colorado State 66
Although the Rams are a good team, they're not yet ready to to compete with a squad like Murray State. With the best record in the tournament, the Racers are looking to make a deep run, and it starts with this victory over the Rams.