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No. 4 Mississippi State vs. No. 1 Memphis preview, picks for 2021 NIT Championship Game

The Mississippi State Bulldogs and Memphis Tigers meet in Frisco, Texas for the NIT Championship. We’ve got everything you need on both teams ahead of the game here.

Memphis Tigers forward D.J. Jeffries drives to the basket against Houston Cougars guard Tramon Mark during the second half at Dickies Arena. Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports

Game day update: The betting public is backing No. 1 Memphis in the title game to win and win with relative ease. The Tigers are a 4.5-point favorite and are getting 88 percent of handle and 83 percent of bets to cover that number. Memphis is -205 on the moneyline while Mississippi State is +165. Memphis is getting 86 percent of handle and 84 percent of bets. We’ve got a split for point total. The number is set at 134.5 and currently 75 percent of bets are on the over while 82 percent of handle is on the under.

The shortened version of the 2021 NIT will crown a champion when the No. 1 seed Memphis Tigers take on the fourth-seeded Mississippi State Bulldogs. Both teams earned blowout victories in their semifinal games, as Memphis crushed the Colorado State Rams, and Mississippi State handled the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs to reach the final.

This game will tip off at noon ET on Sunday, March 28th from Comerica Center in Frisco, Texas with Memphis as the favorites. This game can be seen on ESPN.

No. 4 Mississippi State (18-14, 8-10 SEC)

First Round: Defeated No. 1 Saint Louis 74-68
Second Round: Defeated No. 2 Richmond 68-67
Third Round: Defeated No. 4 Louisiana Tech 84-62
KenPom rating: 63 Overall, 89 Offense, 49 Defense
Leading scorer: Iverson Molinar (16.8 ppg)
Key stat of tournament: Opponents scored in the 60s in Mississippi State’s three tournament games.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs beat the top two seeds of their region before taking down a fellow fourth seed to get to the championship game. In an 84-62 win over Louisiana Tech, the Bulldogs shot incredibly well from the floor, knocking down 55.8% of their shots and 50% from beyond the arc. Mississippi State’s third leading scorer and top rebounder Tolu Smith missed the last two games due to COVID-19 contact tracing. It remains to be seen if he will be back for the title game.

Iverson Molinar scored a game-high 25 points and is going to be an important factor in whether Mississippi State can win the championship. He is an incredible three-point shooter at 42.2%, and the Bulldogs will need that for an NIT title.

Watch for Mississippi State to challenge Memphis at the rim with Abdul Ado. The 6-foot-11 senior averages two blocks per game.

No. 1 Memphis (19-8, 11-4 AAC)

First Round: Defeated No. 4 Dayton 71-60
Second Round: Defeated No. 2 Boise State 59-56
Third Round: Defeated No. 1 Colorado State 90-67
KenPom rating: 33 Overall, 123 Offense, 1 Defense
Leading scorer: Landers Nolley II (12.7 ppg)
Key stat of tournament: Opponents are shooting just 31.9% from the three-point line in three tournament games against Memphis.

Memphis took down Colorado State 90-67 in the semifinal round, and they were on fire from the three-point line. The Tigers knocked down 14 3-pointers for 51.9% from beyond the arc. Memphis has been without their leading assist man Alex Lomax with an ankle injury since late February, and he is questionable to play in the championship.

Memphis’ leading scorer Landers Nolley II scored a career-high 27 points and hit seven of the team’s 3-pointers in the win. If he comes even close to that, the Tigers should have a good shot at an NIT championship.

Watch for Memphis to push the pace, as the Tigers average the 69th most possessions per game with Mississippi State at No. 248 in the country in that category.

March Madness Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Point spread: Memphis -4
Point total: 135.5

The Pick

Against The Spread Pick: Memphis -4
Point total pick: Under 135.5
Pick to Win: Memphis

We’re going with the favorites to come away with a victory and a cover. The Tigers having the No. 1 defense in the entire country according to KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings is going to be the difference for Memphis to cover and for this under to cash. Mississippi State will not get that many open looks against this unit, which will give the Tigers an NIT championship.

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