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NCAA First Four Game Preview: No. 16 Norfolk State vs. No. 16 Appalachian State

The Norfolk State Spartans and Appalachian State Mountaineers meet at ARENA for the First Four series in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. We’ve got everything you need on both teams ahead of the game here.

NCAA Basketball: Appalachian State at Tennessee Knoxville News Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Here are the updated bet splits for Norfolk State vs. Appalachian State as of March 18th at 9:30 a.m. from DraftKings Sportsbook:

Appalachian State: -3: 71% of action, 72% of bets
Norfolk State: +3: 29% of action, 28% of bets
Over: 133.5: 65% of action, 58% of bets
Under: 133.5: 35% of action, 42% of bets

The 2021 version of the First Four will feature four games all on Thursday, March 18th, and this will include a matchup between a pair of 16 seeds with the Norfolk State Spartans and Appalachian State Mountaineers. Appalachian State will enter this game as slight favorites in what should be a competitive matchup. The game will get started at 8:40 p.m. from Assembly Hall at Indiana, and will appear on truTV. The winner will play the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

No. 16 Norfolk State: 16-7 (8-4 MEAC): Automatic Bid

KenPom rating: 200 Overall, 204 Offense, 219 Defense
NET ranking: 169 (0-0 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Devante Carter
Key stat: Devante Carter leads the team in minutes, points, rebounds and assists per game.

The Spartans are coming into this game on a six-game winning streak, and they will be led by their do-it-all guard Devante Carter. Norfolk State led the MEAC in three-point shooting at 36.8% from beyond the arc, and they are averaging 75.2 points per game.

Watch Norfolk State try push the pace as they play a much faster style of basketball than Appalachian State. The Spartans rank No. 41 in the country in possessions per game.

No. 16 Appalachian State: 17-11 (7-8 Sun Belt): Automatic Bid

KenPom rating: 209 Overall, 227 Offense, 205 Defense
NET ranking: 210 (0-2 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Adrian Delph
Key stat: Appalachian State led the Sun Belt in free throw shooting at 73.7%.

Appalachian State will be on a four-game winning streak when this one gets started, and they are led by a defense that forces a steal once every nine posssessions. Offensively, the Mountaineers rank in the bottom half of the Sun Belt in field goal and three-point shooting percentage, but they make up for it by allowing the second fewest points per game in the conference.

Watch for Appalachian State’s lineup of guards to make a huge impact, as the Mountaineers have four of them averaging double digits. App State had lost six of their previous seven games before winning four in a row in the Sun Belt Tournament to end up here.

March Madness Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Point spread: Appalachian State -2.5
Point total: 135.5
Moneyline: Appalachian State -143, Norfolk State +120

The Pick

Against The Spread Pick: Norfolk State +2.5
Pick to Win: Norfolk State

We’re not getting too crazy here going with the +2.5 underdog to get the victory, but that’s what’s should happen on Thursday night. Appalachian State went on a four-day run through the Sun Belt, but the Mountaineers losing lost six of their last seven to end the regular season is a red flag. Norfolk State will look to run knock down enough 3-pointers to pull off the slight upset.

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