For the first time since 2017, Oklahoma State will be part of the Madness that is the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Before Mike Boyton’s squad takes the court in Indianapolis on Friday night, here’s everything you need to know about the Cowboys, their opponent, and how to make sure you don’t miss a minute of the action.
How to Watch
When: Friday, March 19th, 2021 at 5:45 p.m. CT
Where: Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Indianapolis, IN
What to Know About Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State was awarded the 4-seed in the Midwest Region (a.k.a the Illinois Region). The Cowboys went 20-8 this season, including reaching the Big 12 tournament title game.
The Cowboys enter the tournament with the second most quadrant one wins with 10, and winners of eight of their final 10. That includes victories over No. 21 Texas Tech, Oklahoma (2x), No. 13 West Virginia (2x), and No. 3 Baylor.
The Cowboys are led by freshman phenom and AP All-American Cade Cunningham.
The likely No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft led the Big 12 in scoring (20.2), was 10th in rebounding (6.3), and seventh in steals (1.4).
He’s not alone though. Despite dealing with injuries throughout the season, junior guard Isaac Likekele is fourth in the Big 12 in rebounding (7.0), 10th in assists (3.7), and sixth in assist/turnover ratio (1.7).
There’s also sophomore Kalib Boone, who is tied for first in the league in blocked shots (1.7) to go with 9.7 points and 5.7 boards. And of course, Avery Anderson who is averaging 11.7 ppg on the season, but 16.1 over the last 10 games.
What to Know About Liberty
This is the third straight year the Liberty Flames have won the Atlantic Sun tournament and would be their third straight trip to the dance if not for it getting canceled in 2019.
They are led by junior guard Darius McGee, the ASun player of the year. He ranked third in the league in scoring (15.6) and fifth in 3-point percentage (41.3).
They also had the Atlantic Sun’s defensive player of the year in senior G/F Elijah Cuffee, who was fourth in the conference in 3-point percentage (41.7).
When looking to make an upset pick, I always look for lower-seeded mid-majors that are loaded with juniors and seniors vs upper-seeded power-conference teams loaded with freshmen and sophomores. This is one of those situations.
Liberty’s top five players in minutes played includes two seniors, two juniors, and one sophomore. OSU’s top five in minutes are one senior, one junior, one sophomore, and two freshmen.
You’ll also see a strength on strength match-up in this one.
Liberty is also one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, hitting 38.8% of their makes (10th). They are 14-1 when they make 10-plus 3s in a game.
That said, OSU led the Big 12 and was 75th nationally in 3-point shooting defense holding teams to 31.7%.
The Betting Lines
While the Flames enter the game as a 7.5 point dog, they are 4-1 against the spread as an underdog this season. That said, the closest team to Oklahoma State’s level that Liberty has played this season is Purdue, the only team Liberty failed to cover against.
This is the first time Oklahoma State has been a favorite since February 16th, and just the 12th time this season. That said, OSU is just 5-6-1 against the spread as a favorite.
Oklahoma State should get the win here, but I’m not sure they cover the spread. Liberty likes to play slow, which will affect Oklahoma State’s ability to run.
Then there’s Liberty’s experience and the fact that they have “been here before” while Oklahoma State doesn’t have a single player on the roster who has played in the NCAA tournament before.
But, when you add Cade Cunningham into the mix as a great equalizer, it does seem as though Oklahoma State should get the win.
If you’re looking for the “best bet” you should probably go with the over. The over is 28-17-3 for the two teams combined this season.
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