NCAA Basketball matchups do not need to be pretty to offer value, and such as the case here as UC Riverside should not be a decided favorite over Monata State. Take the points Saturday.
There is a rather ugly NCAA Basketball matchup on Saturday night where neither team deserves to be a decided favorite over the other, and that inherently gives value to the underdogs when those Montana State Bobcats (0-1, 0-0 away) pay a visit to the UC Riverside Highlanders (0-2, 0-1 home) at the UC Riverside Student Recreation Center in Riverside, CA at 7:00 ET.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Montana State as a road underdog for this contest with the current line at +5 with odds of -112.
Some teams should never be favored by this much and UC Riverside probably falls into that category. The Highlanders are coming off of a 6-25 season where they had one of the very worst offenses in the country finishing a disgusting 333rd in offensive efficiency. Well, they seem to have picked up where they left off during season opening losses to San Diego State and Pepperdine this year as they are 335th in offensive efficiency in the early going!
Now, Montana State is not a good basketball team by any means, but the Bobcats are not the club being asked to give five points here. They finished a quasi-respectable 13-17 under Coach Brad Huse last year, probably outperforming their talent, and they opened with an ugly home loss to Cal State Fullerton this year. Still, at worst they are on par with the dismal Highlanders, so this is the kind of matchup where either team has value getting more than three points.
The only reason that UC Riverside is favored here in because it is home, but it is not as if the Highlanders have a big home court advantage or anything. They were 5-9 straight up at home last season and they are already 0-1 in Riverside this year losing to a bad Pepperdine team that is comparable to Montana State. Furthermore Riverside is only 3-8 ATS in its last 11 home games and it is not as if it faced powerhouse teams during that skid.
Nothing has changed offensively for the Highlanders since last season as they have an atrocious 40.0 percent effective field goal percentage through two games, hitting on a horrific 44.7 percent of their two-point shots and an abysmal 16.0 percent of their three-pointers. The is still The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, and to make matters worse Riverside is also shooting 47.4 percent from the foul line, which may be the biggest problem of all if the game is close late.
Montana State is an experienced team that starts four returning seniors from the team that may have overachieved last season, and although the Bobcats were not efficient in their opener vs. Fullerton and are a poor 311th in offensive efficiency early, that is actually still significantly better than UC Riverside! Also, one reason this team won 13 games last year is it knows how to get to the foul line and, apparently unlike Riverside, it knows what to do when it gets there.
The Bobcats had an above average 37.3 FTA/FGA ratio last year and they ranked a respectable 83rd in the country in free throw percentage at 72.3 percent. Well, although the Bobcats lost their opener, not much changed with four seniors starting as they had a whopping 57.4 FTA/FGA ratio for the game and shot 77.8 percent from the charity stripe.
That decided edge at the foul line may be the best reason on all to take the points with Montana State on the road on Saturday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Montana State +5 (-112)