One day before the NCAA Tournament officially starts with the First Four, the first round of the NIT is set to begin. Yes, it’s the appetizer before the appetizer. The first game will feature the No. 3 seed Toledo Rockets taking on the second-seeded Richmond Spiders from the UNT Coliseum in Denton, Texas on Wednesday, March 17th at 7 p.m. ET. The game can be seen on ESPN2 and is available via live stream at WatchESPN. Despite being the lower seed, the Rockets come in as slight underdogs.
No. 2 Richmond: 13-8 (6-5 A-10)
KenPom rating: 65 OVERALL, 46 OFFENSE, 95 DEFENSE
NET ranking: 68, (3-4 vs. QUAD 1)
Leading scorer: Blake Francis
Key stat: Richmond’s turnover margin is at 4.8, which is seventh in the country.
Richmond is a significantly better offensive team than they are on the defensive end. The Spiders shot 47.4% from the floor this season, which was second in the A-10, but they allowed 46.3% of opponents’ shots to be made, which is 13th out of 14 teams in the conference. The Spiders take care of the ball at a high level, but they’re not a good rebounding team.
No. 3 Toledo: 21-8 (15-4 MAC)
KenPom rating: 62 OVERALL, 13 OFFENSE, 166 DEFENSE
NET ranking: 67 (0-2 vs. QUAD 1)
Leading scorer: Marreon Jackson
Key stat: Toledo shoots 77.9% from the free throw line, which is 19th best in the country.
Just like Richmond, Toledo has a high-powered offense, while the defense still needs work. The Rockets average 81.6 points per game, which ranks No. 14 in college basketball. Compared to the rest of the MAC, Toledo held their own defensively, allowing the third lowest field goal percentage and second lowest three-point shooting percentage.
March Madness Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook
Point spread: Toledo -2.5
Point total: 153
Moneyline: Toledo -143, Richmond +118
Here are the updated sportsbook betting splits heading into the game.
Toledo: -2.5: 78% of action, 86% of bets
Richmond: +2.5: 22% of action, 14% of bets
Over: 154: 78% of action, 45% of bets
Under: 154: 22% of action, 55% of bets
Against The Spread Pick: Toledo -2.5
Point total pick: Under 153
Pick to Win: Toledo
The under will be the best play in this game. Both teams average more possessions per game than the average, but not to the level that will see this game get to 153 points. On the spread, we’ll go with the Rockets to cover as slight favorites. Richmond could be without their top two scorers — Blake Francis and Grant Golden — with injuries, so be sure to check on their status prior to game time. Regardless, we’re riding with Toledo.
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