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March Madness: Expert takes, odds, French connections and more

Jalen Tate (11) reacts during the final seconds of the final game of the Horizon League Tournament against Wright State. NKU defeated Wright State 77-66.

Jalen Tate (11) reacts during the final seconds of the final game of the Horizon League Tournament against Wright State. NKU defeated Wright State 77-66.

Colin Johnson

Jalen Tate (11) reacts during the final seconds of the final game of the Horizon League Tournament against Wright State. NKU defeated Wright State 77-66.

Colin Johnson

Colin Johnson

Jalen Tate (11) reacts during the final seconds of the final game of the Horizon League Tournament against Wright State. NKU defeated Wright State 77-66.

March Madness: Expert takes, odds, French connections and more

How likely are the Norse to beat the Red Raiders?

March 22, 2019

It might be a longshot, but that would make an upset that much sweeter.

The 14-seeded NKU Norse are taking the fight to Tulsa against 3-seed Texas Tech Red Raiders today at 1:30 p.m. in the school’s second March Madness appearance since entering Division I.

But how likely are the Norse to win? We have some thoughts, plus odds, ends and stray observations you should know before watching the game.

NORTHERNER SPORTS PREDICTION

The Norse have 20 percent odds against the Red Raiders. It doesn’t take an expert to know Coach John Brannen’s offense-heavy squad has choppy waters ahead against a defensive 3-seed Texas Tech.

NKU star senior Drew McDonald averages more points than Red Raiders lead scorer Jarrett Culver, and NKU has a deep bench of three-point shooters that could overcome Texas Tech’s fourth-in-the-nation scoring defense.

On average the Red Raiders hold their opponents to 59.3 points a game. In only 15 games of their 32-game season did their opponents score above that. Four of those 15 resulted in a loss for the Red Raiders.

WHAT DO THE EXPERTS SAY?

ESPN’s Basketball Power Index: 8 percent chance of Norse victory.

Bleacher Report: Favors Texas Tech (13.5 point spread).

CBS Sports (SportsLine): Favors Texas Tech (12.5 point spread).

FiveThirtyEight (ABC): 9 percent chance of Norse victory.

FanDuel: 137 over/under, 13.5 point spread.

Vegas Odds: 137 over/under, 13.5 point spread.

STRAY OBSERVATIONS

French media loves Paul Djoko

Très bien.

Djoko, the NKU freshman from Strasbourg, France, has garnered the Norse some international attention as he heads into this year’s tournament.

“Numéro deux” has recently been featured in several online French sports publications, including BeBasket which called Djoko a “cautious and confident” player. BeBasket also called out his 2 points, 3 assists in his ten minutes against Oakland during the Horizon League Tournament second round.

Since his start last year, Djoko has been a regular feature on Parlons-Basket NCAA “French of the Night” report. On his last performance against Green Bay in the regular season, Parlons-Basket said Djoko helped “get the job done” shooting 3-for-3 on field goals and 7 total points against the Phoenix.

Djoko won’t be the only player in Friday’s March Madness match who hails from France. Texas Tech forward Josh Mballa calls Bordeaux his hometown.

McDonald likely to finish with just under 2,100 career points

The senior is already at 2,061 points after adding 18 against Oakland and 13 versus Wright State in the Horizon League Tournament. While it’s unlikely Texas Tech’s defense allows McDonald to score 39 points, McDonald still squarely broke NKU’s leading scorer record, last set by Craig Booker in 2000 (2,007 points).

Texas Tech’s all-time leader in career points, Andre Emmett, had 2,256 points by the time he graduated in 2004. He later played in the NBA for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Kentucky teams across the bracket

Two of three Kentucky teams advanced to the second round of March Madness Thursday. It’s probably not who you would have thought.

The Kentucky Wildcats (2) beat Abilene Christian (15) 79-44 Thursday, but Minnesota (10) sent Louisville (7) home early with a 86-76 bout in Des Moines.

In an upset, the Marquette Golden Eagles (5) fell against Kentucky’s Murray State Racers (12). With a 12-seed knocking out a 5-seed, will the cosmos allow 14-seed NKU to beat 3-seed Texas Tech in the same weekend? Time will tell.

Buffalo v. Arizona State at 3:50

If the Norse advance, they’ll face the victor of Buffalo (6) and Arizona State (11). Those teams play immediately after the Norse at 3:50 p.m. If they advance, the Norse would play in Tulsa on March 24.

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