Date: Friday, March 16, 2018
Tip-off: 4:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Viejas Arena in San Diego.
Radio: Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG (Tony Caridi & Jay Jacobs)
TV stream: TNT (Carter Blackburn, Debbie Antonelli and John Schriffen)
Projected West Virginia Lineup
Daxter Miles Jr.
Projected Murray State Lineup
Why West Virginia Will Win
The Mountaineers finished as runner-up in the Big 12 Championship while Murray State defeated Belmont 68-51 for the Ohio Valley Conference title. The Racers are currently riding a 13-game winning streak heading into Friday’s matchup. Murray State is appearing in its first NCAA Tournament since 2012. Jonathan Stark paves the way for the Racers. The senior averages 21.8 points per game and tallied 30 points in four games this season. Stark was the OVC Player of the Year. He shoots 41 percent from beyond the arc and 88 percent from the charity stripe. Terrell Miller (14.7 points, 8.3 rebounds) is a force to reckon with. Ja Morant (12.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 6.4 assists) combines with Stark to make a fierce backcourt. Morant is good in transition and finishing at the rim. WVU is no stranger to the Big Dance and the Mountaineers have what it takes to make a run. Jevon Carter is a leader on and off the court for WVU. All season he has got the job done defensively and offensively. Carter earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors for a second straight season. The senior is the Mountaineers all-time leading steals leader with 315. He leads WVU in plus/minus with a +342. Daxter Miles Jr. is a +319. Miles broke out of a shooting slump at the Big 12 Tournament. The senior averaged 22 points and made 15-of-27 from 3-point range. The Mountaineers need production from both Carter and Miles but others will need to step up as well. Against Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament, Esa Ahmad scored a team-high 21 points. However, his production dropped off after that. Sagaba Konate (10.8 points, 7.6 rebounds) is a dominant force. He leads WVU in blocks and is third in the nation, averaging 3.3 per contest. The Mountaineers could use production from its bench. Both Beetle Bolden (8.9 points) and Lamont West (9.5 points) can make shots from 3. And Teddy Allen (6.6 points) has been known to have some pop in his step at times. But they either produce or they don’t produce. WVU is fourth in the country in offensive rebounds and the Mountaineers will need to handle Murray State on the boards. WVU is 6-1 against current members of the Ohio Valley Conference: Eastern Kentucky (2-1), Morehead State (3-0) and Tennessee Tech (1-0). Bob Huggins is 4-2 all-time against Murray State. All of those games were while Huggins was at Akron.
West Virginia 82 , Murray State 72