The No. 16 North Carolina Central Eagles (18-15, 10-6) face the No. 16 North Dakota State Bison (18-15, 9-7) to begin Wednesday’s First Four contests. The Eagles earned the automatic bid out of the MEAC. They finished in third place during the regular season. However, head coach LeVelle Moton is making his fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament after running through the conference tournament for the third straight season. Each NCAA Tournament bid has come with the Eagles.
The Bison also earned the automatic bid out of the Summit League. They finished in third place during the regular season, but won three straight games by a total of 26 points to advance to the First Four. Head coach David Richman is making his second appearance in March Madness. He led the Bison to the tournament in 2015. Interestingly enough, this is the Bison second worst record with Richman at the helm
16 NC Central Eagles (18-15) vs. North Dakota State Bison (18-15)
When: Wednesday March 20, 6:40 p.m. EDT
Where: Dayton, Ohio – UD Arena
Betting Line: North Dakota State -5 – o/u 132.5
North Carolina Central Breakdown-
The Eagles are (17-11) against the spread. They are (13-17) vs. the over in 2019. If the Eagles are planning to advance, they will rely on a stout defense that ranks in the top 50 of college basketball. Coming into the First Four, the Eagles are holding opponents to 66.3 points per game. They also score 71.4 points per game, leaving a 5.1 point scoring differential. The Eagles hold opponents to 31 percent shooting from the 3-point line. Meanwhile, the Bison connect on 36.6 percent of their 3-point shots this season. In all, the Bison attempt 26 3-pointers per game. Therefore, the defense will key in on long range shooting.
The Eagles are shooting 45.6 percent from the field. They only connect on 31.5 percent of their 3-point shots. Therefore, the Eagles can’t fall in love with the long range attempts, especially if the shots aren’t falling. Raasean Davis leads the Eagles with 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds. He must dominate in the paint.
North Dakota State Breakdown-
The Bison have won four straight games to end the season. A fifth win will move them into a First-round date with the Duke Blue Devils. First, they have to take on another team from Carolina. Vinnie Shahid and Tyson Ward each score over 12 points per game. Each of their major contributors are eager to shoot the 3-point shot. However, Shahid leads the way with five 3-point attempts per game. Jared Samuelson attempts over four 3-pointers per game. Samuelson only takes 4.9 shots per game. He leads the team at 46.4 percent from downtown. Meaning, Samuelson must pick his spots and take advantage of limited opportunities.
The Bison are not a great rebounding team and that may come back to bite them in the end. They are No. 303 in total rebounds. If they are unable to control the glass, the Eagles will do well on both ends of the floor.
Overall, the Bison are scoring 73.2 points per game. They are giving up 72.2 points per game. They finished (4-3) in neutral site games. The Eagles are (4-1) in neutral site games.
Pick: NC Central 67 – North Dakota State 62