Atlantic Sun Championship Odds & Pick: North Alabama vs. Liberty (Sunday, March 7)

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Payton Youngblood (14) of North Alabama and Darius McGhee (2) of Liberty.

Atlantic Sun Conference Championship

North Alabama vs. Liberty Odds

North Alabama Odds +13.5
Liberty Odds -13.5
Moneyline +750 / -1200
Over/Under 133.5
Time | TV 2 p.m. ET | ESPN
Odds as of early Sunday morning and via BetMGM.

Welcome to the strangest conference tournament final that’s ever happened.

Like the points on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, the result does not matter. That’s right: Regardless of who wins this game, Liberty will represent the ASUN in the NCAA Tournament. That’s because North Alabama is still stuck in the sham that is the Division-I transition period, part of which entails a period of postseason ineligibility.

That’s a crucial part of this handicap — because for North Alabama, this is the culmination of its season. Winning the ASUN Tournament is the pinnacle of the Lions’ potential achievements.

But for Liberty, this is merely the final warmup en route to a possible Cinderella run in the Big Dance. Sure, that’s probably a gross underrepresentation of what winning the event means to Liberty, but the fact remains that it has to mean more to UNA.

Now, whether that matters enough to swing the result here is the question.

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This is a brutal matchup for the Lions, particularly on the defensive end. UNA’s scheme packs it in, hoping to take away the paint and induce perimeter jumpers. The Flames will happily oblige, as Ritchie McKay’s group ranks 11th in the entire country in 3P% and ranks 15th in 3-point attempt rate.

In the team’s two late February meetings, the results were almost alarmingly similar. The Flames jumped out to an early double-digit lead behind some hot shooting, eventually leading 41-23 and 41-24, respectively, at halftime. UNA could not make much of a run at Liberty in the second half of either game, both of which finished with identical 74-54 final scores.

So what’s going to be different in the teams’ third meeting?

Well, for one, UNA can hope Liberty isn’t a living embodiment of its Flames moniker, as they went a combined 23-for-47 from deep in the two previous matchups. If the Lions don’t immediately have to play from behind, they’ll have a far better chance against Liberty’s methodical style.

North Alabama does have shooters that can get hot. The Lions just cut Florida Gulf Coast’s zone to ribbons in the semifinals, tallying a scorching 1.22 points per possession. So, there’s some hope that seeing Liberty’s defense for a third time will help find some opening.

Additionally, in UNA’s most recent match vs. Liberty, point guard C.J. Brim was just returning after a four-game absence; the 5-foot-9 jitterbug has played much better of late.

Though the prior matchup precedents don’t lend a ton of credence to UNA keeping this close, I think the motivational disparity and some more even shooting splits will enable the Lions to hang around. I like this down to +12.

Pick: North Alabama +13.5 | Play down to +12


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