Will Monarchs smother Golden Eagles?

 Will Monarchs smother Golden Eagles?

Following a lengthy layoff, will Old Dominion still be able parlay its late-season momentum into the first game of the Vegas 16?

Oddsmakers like the Monarchs’ chances. Online sports book BetDSI lists Jeff Jones’ team as an 8-point favorite over Tennessee Tech, with a 3 p.m. ET tip this afternoon at Mandalay Bay.

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ODU almost secured a spot in the Big Dance, but Middle Tennessee thwarted those plans in the Conference USA title tilt on March 12. Even so, the Monarchs won seven consecutive games down the stretch and imposed a suffocating brand of defense that climbed up all the way up to 18th in the entire nation. Only one opponent (Western Kentucky) has victimized Old Dominion for more than 70 points in a single contest since the beginning of the month.

On the flip side, Tennessee Tech stumbled toward the finish line. Steve Payne’s squad dropped two of three even before getting railroaded by Austin Peay in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. Guard Torrance Rowe, however, remained a bright spot amidst rough waters. The senior leads the Golden Eagles with 18.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per contest.

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Unfortunately for the Cookeville crowd, ODU’s main man tickles the twine with greater frequency. In addition to averaging 3.1 assists a tilt, Trey Freeman pours in 22.2 points on a nightly basis. The Aaron Bacote-Brandon Stith tandem helps handle the dirty work underneath and chips in with timely buckets.

With both teams emerging from a long period of inactivity, D becomes of paramount importance. This basically represents Tennessee Tech’s worst-case scenario – unless Rowe and company can consistently get to the charity stripe, where they enjoy the country’s 32nd-best success rate.

MONDAY NCAA FREE PICK: OLD DOMINION -8

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