- Appalachian State (17-11, 11-8 Sun Belt) battles Norfolk State (16-7, 10-4 MEAC) on Thursday, March 18th, at 8:40 pm ET, in the play-in round of the NCAA tournament
- The Mountaineers went on a surprise run in the Sun Belt tournament, and now they’ll face the Spartans as a fellow 16th-seed
- The odds for the game, as well as matchup analysis and pick, can be found in the article below
Appalachian State and Norfolk State have been in do-or-die mode since March began, needing perfect runs through their respective conference tournaments to even reach this point. Now, on the NCAA’s “First Four” day preceding the NCAA tournament’s round of 64, the Mountaineers and Spartans will put their seasons on the line yet again in a battle of 16th-seeds on Thursday, March 18th at 8:40 pm ET.
The Mountaineers were a surprising champion of the Sun Belt, while Norfolk State emerged as one of the top teams in an underwhelming Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Now, Appalachian State sees itself as a favorite for just the second time in its past eight games:
Appalachian State vs Norfolk State Odds
|Team||Spread at FanDuel||Moneyline||Total|
|Appalachian State||-3 (-110)||-154||Over 135 (-110)|
|Norfolk State||+3 (-110)||+130||Under 135 (-110)|
Odds as of March 15th.
How They’ve Fared Recently
Appalachian State is the prime example of a team that got hot at the right time. The Mountaineers are in a nightmarish spot in the final four-plus weeks of their season, dropping six of seven games against their conference brethren (the lone victory came in double overtime).
Then the Mountaineers pulled up their bootstraps (mountaineers wear bootstraps, right?) and put together a dramatic run to the Sun Belt title. In four games over four days, Appalachian State earned a pair of seven-point regulation wins and a pair of three-point overtime wins. They are playing in some exciting games right now.
Things we know about Appalachian State: they play slow (310th in NCAA Division I in adjusted tempo), they get blocked a lot (14.1% block rate on offense, 344th in D-I) and they don’t shoot well (274th in D-I in effective field goal percentage). At least they get a lot of steals on defense, though (11.1% steal rate, 36th in D-I).
Norfolk State also plays slow (221st in adjusted tempo) and are a strong defensive team (top 90 in KenPom in three-point percentage, two-point percentage, block rate and turnover rate).
The Spartans have won eight of their past nine and are certainly entering the tournament in good shape. The problem is their strength of schedule — or lack thereof.
— HBCU Gameday (@HBCUGameday) March 14, 2021
Norfolk State hasn’t beaten (or even played) a KenPom top-200 team since Dec. 26. Appalachian State, on the other hand, had to beat three consecutive top-200 teams just to get here.
Appalachian State is 14-9-1 against the spread this season, but they’ve been on a particular tear of late. The Mountaineers have covered in five of their past six games (including four in a row), with ATS margins of eight points or more in their past three games.
— App State Basketball (@AppStateMBB) March 10, 2021
Norfolk State is 12-8-1 ATS, but they’re also on quite the hot streak. They’ve covered in seven of their past eight (including five in a row).
The under has hit in Appalachian State’s past four games as the favorite and in five of Norfolk State’s past six games overall.
There are no recent matchups to speak of between these teams, so we’ll turn our attention to an X-factor: Norfolk State’s three-point shooting.
The Spartans shoot 37.4% as a team from beyond the arc, which is 33rd in D-I. As a scrappy, underdog team in the NCAA tournament, that’s a nice ace in the hole.
Norfolk State’s three-point percentages have been all over the place in recent games: 30.4, 48.3, 30, 39.1. We’re not sure which version of the Spartans’ perimeter shooting we’ll see on Thursday, but that will likely dictate the outcome.
We like the Spartans to bury enough deep shots to make it hurt for the Mountaineers, but this game is still prime to hit the under because of how slowly both teams play.
Pick: Norfolk State +3 (-110); Under 135 (-110)