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29.02.2024

Merrimack @ Fairleigh Dickinson Game Preview and Pick: Value in the Total

With just two games remaining in the regular season for Merrimack, they look to be in an excellent position to win both the Northeast Conference regular season and postseason titles. The Warriors have not lost a game since January 19th, so they will travel on the road to Fairleigh Dickinson tonight with a nine-game winning streak.

Merrimack was the first conference team that FDU matched up with this season, and despite both teams being in much different positions than the last time they met, I still think we see them play in another defensive-heavy game tonight.

Game Preview

Of the words you could use to describe the Merrimack defense, suffocating would be one of them. The Warriors have managed a 12-2 conference for a reason. That reason is their defense that ranks 1st in the conference in adjusted defensive efficiency rating (98.1), opponent effective field goal percentage (45.3), and opponent turnover percentage (25.1), per Bart Torvik.

When a team has a below-average offense, there are a few things they can do to make up for that, one of those things being turning defense into offense, which Merrimack does better than most teams in the country. According to Haslametrics, the Warriors are 3rd in the country in potential quick points off breakaway steals per 100 trips upcourt vs. the average opponent.

That stat can help explain why Merrimack’s two leading scorers also lead the team in steals per game. Jordan Derkack leads the team with 17.1 points per game on a 31.6% usage rate, and while his shooting numbers have dipped a bit over the past four games, he has still come up with ten steals in those games.

When Merrimack played FDU back on January 4th, the Warriors forced 18 turnovers, and Derkack not only led the team in scoring with 21 points but also led them in steals with three. Fairleigh Dickinson ranks in the middle of the conference in turnover percentage, so while it is not a glaring issue on a nightly basis, the Knights can’t afford to have big turnovers in games due to their struggles with shooting.

Out of nine teams in the Northeast Conference, the Knights rank dead last in effective field goal percentage (47.3%) and 8th in two-point shooting percentage (46.2%)(Bart Torvik). If anyone is going to score for FDU, it is Ansley Almonor, as he’s averaged 19.1 points over his last ten games and is fresh off a 30-point performance.

Pick for the Game

In their last two games, Fairleigh Dickinson has had their point total close at around 158, but tonight on the Power Play Sportsbook, the point total is set at 147.5. While the Knights have played in a few high-scoring games in a row, I think this matchup will be similar to the first meeting between these two teams when they combined for 116 points.

While I don’t expect these teams to finish the game under 120 points again, the Warriors still possess the same strengths it takes to limit FDU on offense. Farleigh Dickinson is 4th in the conference in three-point rate, but not only do they rank 6th in three-point percentage, but Merrimack ranks 1st in both opponent three-point rate and three-point percentage (29.8%), per Bart Torvik.

Farleigh Dickinson may not be the best team in the conference when it comes to limiting shooters, but they force turnovers at a similar rate to Merrimack, which is how they kept the first meeting between these teams so close. If the Knights can keep pressure on the Warriors and continue to force turnovers, I think they’ll be in a good spot, especially if Jordan Derkack continues to struggle from the field.

Recap

  • Under 147.5 (-110) on PowerPlay Sportsbook or FanDuel

*odds subject to change

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