Quick! Your life is on the line. In which state is the campus of Murray State University located? Can you even come close? Here is a hint: they play basketball in the Ohio Valley Conference. Still stumped? It’s Kentucky … Murray, Kentucky.
A small school in a small conference – who cares, right? Wrong! Books spend all of their time analyzing the big games because they know these will draw the most action. Alabama is playing Clemson? You can be sure the books did their homework. Yankees-Red Sox in a playoff matchup? You already know the books have considered each possible angle.
What about a Morehead State-Jacksonville State basketball game in early February? I am pretty certain no expert statistician is working overtime to field the perfect line for this game. Being knowledgeable about small conference teams is one way to increase your profits as you have a much higher chance of seeing inaccurate lines.
I am not saying that this article will tell you everything you need to know about Murray State and the OVC, but I do consider this article an excellent foundation and a jumping off point for further exploration. My goal is to convince you to give Murray State a second-look when they appear in your bracket this March (which I believe will happen).
Chances Murray State Wins the Ohio Valley Conference
Conference play has just begun but 4 teams have already set themselves apart as the clear frontrunners to capture the OVC title. At a combined 41-15 SU overall, there is a greater than 99% chance that either Murray State (11-2, 2-0), Jacksonville State (10-5, 2-0), Austin Peay (10-5, 2-0), or Belmont (10-3, 1-1) comes out on top of the conference in early March.
News flash: the OVC is not a strong, well-renown conference. The last time an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament came out of the Ohio Valley was 1987 when both Austin Peay and Middle Tennessee made the dance. In other words, count on only 1 of these teams playing into March.
According to TRBrackets, Murray State currently holds the best odds to win the OVC tournament at 41.4%. This is roughly 13 percentage points higher than the team with the next best chance – Belmont.
Murray State is Better Than Many Teams Because …
With 4 teams all clumped together atop the conference, how is it that Murray State’s odds to win are so high? The answer: Ja Morant. This 6’3 guard is not only leading his team in assists per game, but is leading the nation in that category at 9.9 while putting up 23.3 points per game and grabbing 6.8 boards.
I wrote about Duke’s Zion Williamson earlier this week because he is a revolutionary college talent and one of my top-2 favorite players to watch this year. Ja Morant is the other. Watch this clip and he’ll be in your top-2 as well.
Just in case you were curious, here are Morant’s per-game stats for 2018-19.
I feel like a broken record because I was just writing about how Zion is putting up unprecedented numbers, but Morant is doing the same. Since our database began recording numbers, Morant is the only player to average 23 points, 9 assists, and 6 boards per game.
The numbers are exclusive even if you leave rebounds out of it. Morant joins Kay Felder of Oakland as the only two players in our database to average 20 points and 9 assists per game in a season.
Tournament time is when teams turn to their star players. Star guards bode particularly well because you do not have to try and get them the ball, they can simply carry it up the court. With Morant leading the charge, Murray State is easily capable of beating any OVC opponent and may just win the OVC’s first NCAA tournament game since these same Racers did it back in 2012.
Do not discount Murray State in March just because they hail from a small conference. Know who you are betting against.
Kreighton loves sports, math, writing, and winning — he combines all of them as a writer for WagerBop. His favorite sports to review and bet are MLB, NFL, NBA, NCAAF, and NCAABB.