The No. 12-seeded Murray State Racers rolled to victory in their first-round matchup with Marquette on Thursday, and, as many expected, Ja Morant was the star. The future NBA Draft lottery pick had the first triple-double of the 2019 NCAA tournament, putting up 17 points, 16 assists, and 11 rebounds in Murray State’s 83-64 victory.
The Racers advance to face fourth-seeded Florida State in the Round of 32, and the early offshore line has Murray State as a 4.5-point underdog. The line opened as high as 5.5 Thursday evening, but early wagering has brought it down a point. That movement is likely due to Morant.
Entering the NCAA tournament, Morant was viewed as one of the top handful of players. Zion Williamson is the clear best player and lines have adjusted accordingly since he returned from his knee injury, but Morant’s performance on Thursday got him on more radars from a betting perspective. Nobody doubted his skill, but sometimes it takes a high-profile performance to really get tongues wagging.
Morant has officially joined Williamson as an odds mover. Robert Cooper, head linesman at SportsBetting.ag acknowledged the need to shade Saturday’s spread because of Morant.
Ja Morant is having a big impact on how we set these Murray State lines. Outside of Zion Williamson, he’s the other name that is making headlines so Average Joe Public knows who he is and who the Racers are. It’s not totally uncommon to have a 3-point spread in a 5-12 matchup like we did yesterday, but we’re definitely shading the spread because of the Morant Effect. It didn’t deter bettors yesterday as more than 75 percent of tickets were on Murray State vs. Marquette. And the Racers were our most bet moneyline on Thursday.
Over at BetOnline.ag, Dave Mason discussed the sportsbook’s initial correction, and then a re-correction after FSU sharp money jumped in the mix.
“The line opened at -5.5 and we might have over-adjusted a bit after some early money on Murray State came in. It actually went to -4 and then we saw some sharp money on FSU which sent the line to -4.5. Ja Morant definitely plays into bettors’ minds with his triple double against Marquette and FSU struggled a bit in the first round. I certainly think some people are buying into the media hype around Murray Sate being the “Cinderella” team this year.”
The Racers and Seminoles tip off at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday in Hartford, Connecticut.