The madness that is the NCAA Tournament officially gets underway this Tuesday night at 6:40 p.m. (ET) when a pair of No. 16 seeds square off in Dayton for the right to take on the No. 1 seed of the entire tournament, Louisville, this upcoming Thursday. The MEAC Champion North Carolina A&T Aggies will face the Liberty Flames, who won the Big South title, in this first-round game, and it will be broadcast nationally on tru TV.
North Carolina A&T comes into this matchup with an 8-8 record in conference play and a 19-16 straight up record overall. It went a perfect 7-0 against the spread this season in games with a posted line. The total stayed “under” in three of its last four games.
The Flames actually finished well below .500 SU at 15-20 SU, but also had a winning record ATS at 5-3. They went 6-10 SU in the Big South this season but pulled off three straight upsets as underdogs to qualify for this game. The total went “over” in their last two games.
North Carolina A&T vs. Liberty Betting Storylines
Both of these teams overcame some adversity down the stretch to get to this point, but the Aggies might have the overall edge behind the duo of Adrian Powell and Lamont Middleton. Each is averaging over 12 points a game and pulling down a combined 9.1 rebounds a game. Neither player is shooting over 40 percent from the field, but Powell has made 35.8 percent of his shots from three-point range.
North Carolina A&T is averaging 62.2 points a game while shooting 39.9 percent from the field. Austin Witter actually leads the team in rebounds with 7.1 as part of a team average of 34.5 rebounds a game. Defensively, the Aggies have held teams to 61.4 points a game.
Liberty’s amazing run to the Big South title consisted of victories over Gardner-Webber as a seven-point underdog and Charleston Southern as a 7.5-point underdog. It now brings a five-game winning streak into this matchup after going 2-4 SU in its previous six games. The Flames overall numbers on offense are a bit better with an average of 69.1 points a game while shooting 42.9 percent from the field.
If they are going to get by the Aggies on Tuesday night, it will be up to the trio of John Caleb Sanders, Davon Marshall and Tavares Speaks. These three have combined for 40.7 points, 9.4 rebounds and 7.5 assists this season. After that, the production drops off quickly with the exception of JR Coronado, who leads the team in rebounds with 8.1 a game. Liberty’s biggest weakness is on the other end of the court where it is giving up an average of 70.8 points a game.
North Carolina A&T vs. Liberty Betting Odds and Trends by BetOnline
BetOnline has opened North Carolina A&T as a slight 1.5-point favorite in this contest with the over/under line set at 127.
The Aggies are 6-0 ATS in their last six neutral-site games and 8-0 ATS in their last eight games following a SU win. The total has stayed under in four of their last five games played at a neutral site.
The Flames are 7-18-1 ATS in their last 26 nonconference games and 2-7 ATS in their last nine games played at a neutral site. The total has gone over in five of their last six games played outside the conference.
NCAA Tournament Picks: North Carolina A&T vs. Liberty Betting Predictions
This should end up being a very entertaining game between two teams that are playing their best ball at the right time of the year. The slightly elevated level of competition and a better balance of both sides of the ball tip the scales to North Carolina A&T in this matchup, but it will not be by much more than the 1.5-point spread.
Take # 540 North Carolina A&T (-1.5) over Liberty (Tuesday, March 19, 6:40 p.m.)