There are 32 games on Thursday and Friday, one of the most exciting 48-hour segments on the sports calendar.
We won’t be able to get individual previews up for every game, but we’ll cherry pick some of the more compelling matchups during the tournament’s “second” round.
In this post, we preview the 6-11 matchup in the West Region between college basketball’s regular season darlings the Murray State Racers and the 11th-seeded Colorado State Rams.
Murray State-Colorado State Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #6 Murray State v #11 Colorado State in West Region
- Murray State-Colorado State Date: Thursday, March 15th
- Murray State-Colorado State Tip Time: 12:15 ET
- Murray State-Colorado State Location: Louisville
- Murray State-Colorado State TV: CBS
- Murray State-Colorado State Announcers: Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery
- Murray State-Colorado State Point Spread: Murray State -3.5
- Tickets: Murray State-Colorado State Tickets
- Tickets: All Louisville Sessions
- Tickets: West Regional Tickets in Phoenix
Murray State-Colorado State Analysis and Prediction
The Rams had a number of big wins at home, but their home/road splits were pronounced, which may not be good news for their tournament future. They also have subpar numbers in quite a few defensive statistics, and I look for Isaiah Canaan and Murray State to take advantage of their poor three-point defense.
For the year, the Racers shoot 40.7 percent from beyond the arc, and their high free throw rate gives additional reason for confidence in light of CSU’s propensity to put its opponents on the stripe. The Rams did post solid efficiency numbers on the offensive end, and they have outshot Murray State from long range. However, I like the Racers’ ability to force turnovers as well as their tough three-point defense, which is among the best in the country.
Predicted Winner: Murray State
Murray State Racers Team Capsule
- Conference: Ohio Valley
- Record: 30-1 (15-1 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 9-1
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 4-0
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Memphis, Southern Miss, Saint Mary’s, Western Kentucky
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: None
- Player to Watch: Isaiah Canaan (6’0″ G, Jr.) – 19.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.4 spg, 47.3 3P%
Murray State Bottoms Line:
The Racers earned headlines as the season’s last remaining unbeaten, and their only slip-up came at home against Tennessee State, who also gave them all they could handle in the OVC Final. First-year coach Steve Prohm did a terrific job with a team that had lost a lot of key contributors from last year’s 23-win squad.
Guard Isaiah Canaan has been fantastic throughout the season, often going off for scoring binges during key stretches of games and finishing among the national leaders in overall offensive rating. Donte Poole (14.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.0 spg, 39.2 3P%) has had his share of big games as well, not to mention his contributions on the defensive end. Senior Ivan Aska (10.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 50.0 FG%) is one of few Murray State players over 6-foot-5, which means he is relied upon to hit the boards on both ends. Throw in Jequan Long (8.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.2 spg), who hit the game-winner in the OVC Title Game and shoots 44.9 percent from deep, and you have a team with a number of capable offensive weapons.
Overall, the Racers rank in the Top 10 in three-point shooting, effective field goal percentage, and free throw rate, and the only chink in the offensive armor is a subpar turnover rate. They also rank in the Top 50 in adjusted defensive efficiency, thanks in large part to their ability to force turnovers and defend the three-point line.
It’s easy for people to challenge their schedule, but Murray State has played well against other tournament-level teams this year, and Canaan’s play will be critical for them in a tournament setting. They could be in trouble if they face a team with a strong point guard and a tall frontline.
Colorado State Rams Team Capsule
- Conference: Mountain West
- Record: 20-11 (8-6 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 6-4
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 5-6
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Duke, New Mexico, San Diego State (2), Southern Mississippi, UNLV
- Player to Watch: Dorian Green (6’2” G, Sr.) – 13.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 43.3 3P%
Colorado State Bottoms Line:
The Rams finished perfect in Mountain West play and were the conference’s fourth team in the tournament. They are solid on the offensive end thanks to 40.5 percent shooting from deep and a high free throw rate. It’s a different story on defense, where the Rams rank outside of the Top 200 in a number of categories, which could prove problematic in the tournament.
Wes Eikmeier leads the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game, while Dorian Green is one of two Rams shooting over 40 percent from three-point land. On the inside, Greg Smith and Pierce Hornung both have strong rebounding rates, with Hornung ranking in the Top Five in offensive rebounding percentage. He also makes over 68 percent of his two-pointers and has an impressive steal percentage.
Colorado State doesn’t play anyone over 6-foot-6, so a team with height could definitely give them trouble, particularly on the defensive end.
Related: Jump to our West Region Bracket Breakdown.
See our other individual game previews and predictions:
- South Region: #4 Indiana v #13 New Mexico State
- South Region: #5 Wichita State v #12 VCU
- South Region: #6 UNLV v #11 Colorado
- South Region: #7 Notre Dame v #10 Xavier
- South Region: #8 Iowa State v #9 Connecticut
- West Region: #4 Louisville v #13 Davidson
- West Region: #5 New Mexico v #12 Long Beach State
- West Region: #6 Murray State v #11 Colorado State
- West Region: #7 Florida v #10 Virginia
- West Region: #8 Memphis v #9 Saint Louis
- East Region: #4 Wisconsin v #13 Montana
- East Region: #5 Vanderbilt v #12 Harvard
- East Region: #6 Cincinnati v #11 Texas
- East Region: #7 Gonzaga v #10 West Virginia
- East Region: #8 Kansas State v #9 Southern Miss
- Midwest Region: #3 Georgetown v #14 Belmont
- Midwest Region: #4 Michigan v #13 Ohio
- Midwest Region: #5 Temple v #12 Cal/USF
- Midwest Region: #6 San Diego State v #11 NC State
- Midwest Region: #7 St. Mary’s v #10 Purdue
- Midwest Region: #8 Creighton v #9 Alabama