Liberty’s Darius McGhee, left, drives past Missouri’s Dru Smith, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
- Liberty is a 17.5-point favorite over Kennesaw State in quarterfinal action at the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament on Thursday (March 4th, 2 pm EST)
- The Flames swept the season series, winning the final matchup by 29
- See below for analysis, odds and a betting prediction
The 2021 Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament tips off on Thursday (March 4th, 2 pm EST) with the top seed Liberty facing Kennesaw State in quarterfinal action. The Flames (20-5, 11-1 ASUN) enter play scorching hot, having won nine straight, while the Owls (5-18, 2-13 ASUN) didn’t get their second conference win until the final day of the regular season.
Kennesaw State vs Liberty Odds
|Kennesaw State Owls||+17.5 (-110)||OFF||Over 131.0 (-110)|
|Liberty Flames||-17.5 (-110)||OFF||Under 131.0 (-110)|
Odds taken March 3rd.
Not surprisingly, Liberty opened up as a massive 17.5-point favorite, in a game that features a total of 131. The Flames have won back-go-back conference tournaments, and are currently -275 favorites to three-peat.
The Atlantic Sun is a one-bid league this year, meaning the only way to qualify for March Madness is by winning the conference tournament.
2021 NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship Odds Tracker
The Flames Are Hot
Not only did Liberty end the season by winning nine straight, they dominated the competition down the stretch. The Flames won each of their last six games by double-digits, with four of those victories coming by at least 20 points.
Presenting your 2021 #ASUNMBB Regular Season Champions 🏆🏀@LibertyMBB_ captured its 3rd consecutive title 💯👏 pic.twitter.com/3gcph0yJ2k
— #ASUNMBB 🏀 (@ASUN_MBB) March 3, 2021
They’re the top ranked scoring offense and defense in the Atlantic Sun, and are led by the conference’s player of the year Darius McGhee. The Junior guard averages 15.5 points and 4.2 rebounds, and poured in over 27 per contest over his final four outings.
He’s always must-see TV 🍿
Your ASUN Player of the Year, @D1McGhee! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/e7gdOWRbCK
— Liberty Men’s Basketball (@LibertyMBB_) March 3, 2021
Offensively, the Flames rank second in the conference in field-goal percentage and assists, and first in three-point efficiency. They’re loaded with experience, as each of their top-five scorers are upperclassmen, and have been a lock down defense all season. In addition to leading the Atlantic Sun in scoring defense, they’re also tops in opponent field-goal percentage and defensive rebounding.
Owls Are Easy Prey
Kennesaw State meanwhile, has been a declining program since the 2016-17 season. After winning zero conference games in 2019-20, they won just two this season and rank either last or next to last in most key statistical categories.
.@KSUOWLSMBB has arrived in the River City 🏀#ASUNMadness | #ASUNMBB pic.twitter.com/sk7ulNd8AO
— #ASUNMBB 🏀 (@ASUN_MBB) March 3, 2021
Offensively, they’re last in points per game, second last in field-goal percentage and seventh (out of nine teams) in total rebounding, despite featuring Spencer Rodgers, the Atlantic Sun’s second leading scorer.
Defensively they’re even worse, ranking last in opponent points per game and enemy shooting percentage, and second to last in defensive rebounding. They’ve suffered 10 double-digit losses in 23 games, including four in their final seven outings, and were waxed by the Flames in their last matchup.
Liberty Crushes Kennesaw State
The Owls fell 76-47 versus Liberty last time they met, shooting just 31.9% along the way. They were badly outrebounded, recorded seven fewer assists and committed nine more turnovers than their conference rival.
Final prep ✅ pic.twitter.com/pEtjzdKDzf
— Liberty Men’s Basketball (@LibertyMBB_) March 2, 2021
The Flames on the other hand, shot 46.9% from the field, and 42.1% from beyond the arc, outscoring their opponent by 23 points in the second half.
Sure, 17.5 points is a big number to cover, but this is a David versus Goliath matchup, and David simply doesn’t have the firepower to keep pace with Liberty.
Also of note, is the Flames’ proficiency against the spread, in particular covering large numbers. Liberty is a perfect 5-0 ATS in their last five contests, and have covered four straight when favored by 11.5 points or more. 17 of their 20 victories this season have been by double-digits, with 10 of those wins coming by at least 20 points.
Pick: Liberty Flames -17.5 (-110)
Chris began his career at Hockey Night in Canada over 15 years ago. He has since worked at TSN for over 12 years as a writer, line-up producer, field producer, newsroom supervisor for Sportscentre, and presently as a promotions producer.