Howard vs. Wagner March Madness Preview and Prediction

In the No. 16 vs. No. 16 First Four matchup in the NCAA Tournament West Region, the Wagner Seahawks face the Howard Bison for a spot in the first round.

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How to Watch Howard vs. Wagner

When: 6:40 pm ET on Tuesday, March 19th

Where: UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio

Watch: TruTV

Odds for Howard vs. Wagner

(odds current at time of publish)

Spread: Howard -2.5

Total: 127.5

DraftKings Betting Splits | Live College Basketball Odds | Howard vs. Wagner Matchup

West Region No. 16 Howard Bison

Howard has no business being in the tournament, with the Bison being 18-16 heading into the dance. Howard is barely a top-200 team when it comes to Bart Torvik’s offensive efficiency rankings, and the team is near the bottom of college basketball when it comes to defensive efficiency. So, if the Bison aren’t playing out of their minds, they might get obliterated. But Howard being in the dance means people will get to see guard Bryce Harris, who is a good scorer and a relentless competitor. It also means Seth Towns is ending his college career in the tournament. The 26-year-old has had a Van Wilder-like college career, spending time with Harvard and Ohio State before arriving at Howard. He’s a good player that deserves this moment after a rough go in college.

West Region No. 16 Wagner Seahawks

Wagner was the fifth seed in a lousy NEC this year, yet the Seahawks were able to win their tournament and punch their ticket. Wagner did it by winning a bunch of extremely low-scoring games, and the Seahawks will try to continue to grind until their season is over. Wagner is near the bottom of college basketball in offensive efficiency, so keeping up with good offenses isn’t an option. The problem for the Seahawks is that they’re barely in the top 200 when it comes to defense. There are explosive offensive teams with bad defensive reputations that play that end of the floor better than Wagner does. 

Howard vs. Wagner Preview & Prediction

The Seahawks had a losing record for the season before entering their conference tournament and winning three games on the road to take down the NEC title. Howard did as well before sweeping three games in three days in the MEAC Tournament to punch a second straight ticket into the NCAA Tournament.

Both teams wound up with similar strengths of schedule and, unlike a lot of small-conference programs, didn’t schedule up all that much in the non-conference part of the year. Wagner played at the second-slowest tempo in the nation and defended really well, including a 29.9% 3P% against. Howard was a top-20 team in 3P%, so we’ve got strength on strength here.

But, there are a few key differences otherwise. Howard is much better on the offensive glass and had a much higher shot share on Close Twos at 40.3% compared to 30.2% for Wagner per Bart Torvik. Also, Howard didn’t value the basketball nearly as much with a turnover on over 21% of their possessions.

The Bison do have the two best players in the game in Bryce Harris and Seth Towns. Marcus Dockery was originally at Maryland, while Towns was at Ohio State and Harvard. There should be a bit of a talent gap between these two teams, but defense typically travels, which makes Wagner a bit of an interesting underdog.

This is the first First Four appearance for both teams, but Howard and head coach Kenny Blakeney did make the tourney last year and play Kansas, while Wagner has not made it since 2003.

Steve Makinen’s estimated score: Howard 65.6, Wagner 63.6.