Mercer has a better effective field goal percentage both offensively and defensively than Old Dominion, so make the Bears your NCAA Basketball Pick
over the Monarchs in the CIT on Wednesday night.
There looks to be an inflated line in one of the quarterfinals of the College Insider Tournament on Wednesday nigh as the underrated Mercer Bears (24-11 overall, 908 away) pay a visit to the Old Dominion Monarchs (22-13 overall, 12-6 home) at the Ted Constant Center in Norfolk, VA at 7:00 ET.
Old Dominion won its 20th game of the season in its first game of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament, which was eventually won by VCU, but the Monarchs then lost to top-seeded Drexel in the following round and got delegated to this CIT. That said, ODU has come to play while winning the first two games of this tournament with stifling defense, which is how it has been winning games all year.
However, Old Dominion can face a stiff challenge on the NCAA Basketball odds from Mercer tonight, which is a team not as well known as the Monarchs given that the Bears come out of the small Atlantic Sun Conference. Mercer finished second in that conference behind Belmont and was expected to be the biggest threat to challenge the Bruins. Unfortunately Mercer never got the chance as it got upset by sixth-seeded Florida Gulf Coast in the conference quarterfinals.
What is interesting about Mercer though is that it actually has better defensive numbers than defensive-oriented Old Dominion does, and the Bears grade out much better offensively in regards to shooting percentage. If Mercer can keep its turnovers to a minimum, which admittedly has been a concern all year, then is should be able to stick close this entire game with an outside shot at an upset.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Mercer as a nice +7 underdog for this contest at current odds of -107.
Now make no mistake, Old Dominion can play defense. The Monarchs rank 43rd in the country in points allowed at just 61.6 per game and they are ranked 29th in field goal percentage against at 40.0 percent. Their Pomeroy defensive numbers are just as flattering as ODU is ranked 29th in defensive efficiency, 39th in effective field goal percentage against, 57th in two-point defense and 48th in three-point defense.
Granted, Old Dominion has only two wins all year vs. teams ranked in the Pomeroy Top 100 with its best win coming over South Florida, but its great defense allowed it to cover the spread early in the year vs. both Kentucky and Missouri.
The main reason that ODU does not have more Top 100 wins is because it is offensively challenged. The Monarchs rank 306th out of 345 Division I teams in effective field goal percentage, ranking 291st in two-point offense and 289th in three-point offense. And for good measure, the Monarchs are a poor free throw shooting team, ranking 329th at a dismal 61.7 percent. Those are good enough reasons not to play ODU as a decided favorite here.
That is especially true when you consider that the Mercer defense is just as suffocating and actually has better numbers. The Bears are allowing nearly one more point per game than ODU at 62.5 points per, but Mercer is ranked an amazing eighth in the country in field goal percentage against at just 38.4 percent. It is ranked an outstanding 16th in effective field goal percentage against, 20th in two-point defense and 24th in three-point defense.
That suffocation has been apparent in the first two wins of this CIT, as Mercer first held Tennessee State to 35.5 percent shooting and then Georgia State to 32.8 percent shooting on Saturday, and we do not expect the Bears to have much trouble shutting down Old Dominion’s weak offense.
Therefore, the biggest key to this game will be which offense is best able to solve its opponent’s stifling defense and Mercer is the much better shooting team, ranking 44th in effective field goal percentage, 43rd in two-point shooting and 73rd in three-point shooting. The main reason that the Bears do not grade out better in efficiency (156th) is turnovers, as they rank a terrible 309th in that category.
Still, even factoring that into the equation, we expect Mercer to hit more shots than Old Dominion in this game and considering the similarities of the defenses, that makes the Bears look very attractive getting this many points in a game that they can possibly win.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Mercer +7 (-107)