A Trio of College Basketball Picks for Sunday

Jay Pryce

Sunday, November 19, 2017 2:00 PM UTC

Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017 2:00 PM UTC

Two totals bets and a pick against the spread feature in our top college basketball plays for Sunday. Check out our predictions for Monmouth at Virginia, Niagara at Massachusetts, and Indiana State at Ohio.

Monmouth vs Virginia (-17.5)

One word: defense. Under head coach Tony Bennett (2009), Virginia holds unranked, non-conference opponents to 50.9 points per game on 36.1 percent shooting at John Paul Jones Arena. Monmouth, averaging 74.7 points per tilt, is better than your average team. But the offense is not designed to handle the Cavaliers' amazing team defense. The Hawks rely a lot on iso-type attack and sheer athleticism to score points. Nor do they protect the ball. Monmouth is posting just 9.0 assists and gifting 20.3 turnovers per game. Its .443 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks 343 out of 351 D-1 teams. Expect a very tough afternoon offensively. Monmouth enters playing as the 22nd fastest team in the country, but their inability to score points will allow the Cavs to control the pace. Virginia is the slowest team nationally. Pick 'under' 135 as your best bet.

Free NCAAB Pick: Under 135Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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Niagara vs Massachusetts (-4.5)

Niagara owns a 25.4 winning percentage since head coach Chris Casey took over in 2013, accruing no more than 10 wins in any season. But the Purple Eagles are flying high to begin the year. They beat A-10 favorite St. Bonaventure 77-75 in the opener as 8.5-point underdogs, and hung around for much of a 107-81 loss at then-No. 14 Minnesota last Wednesday. USC transfer Kahlil Duke is leading the Niagara resurgence, averaging 24.5 points per game. Casey's squad is slaying it from deep, making 9.5 of 24.5 attempts per game from behind the arc.

Defense, however, is still an issue. Niagara's allowing 91.0 points per game. The biggest concern is its inability to generate pressure, ranking 347 with a 9.2 opponent-turnover-per-possession rate. As road underdogs under Casey, the Purple Eagles allow 78.2 points per game; 83.3 versus non-conference opponents. The 'over' is 12-4 in the latter matchups, surpassing a 147.5 average total by 8.3 points per game. UMass is averaging 70.5 points to begin the year, ice cold from behind the arc at 22.2 percent. Expect the offense to find its rhythm today with the Purple Eagles putting up a fight. Pick 'over' the 144 total. Monitor the number on SBR's college basketball odds page to get the best value.

Free NCAAB Pick: Over 144Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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Indiana State vs Ohio (-1)

Indiana State embarrassed Indiana 90-69 as 13.5-point underdogs in the season opener. The upset win was as much about the Hoosiers attempting to learn a new system under a new head coach as much as the Sycamores improving. Indiana State has not recorded a winning season in three years, slumping to an 11-20 SU mark last year. Since its big win, it was run out of the building by Auburn 83-64 and smothered by ODU 62-44 in the consolation game of the Charleston Classic on Friday. The Sycamores shot 29.8 percent from the floor, committed 17 turnovers, and scored just 19 second half points against the Monarchs.

Ohio, meanwhile, has played two meaningful games this season, holding its own in a 81-76 defeat to Clemson, but morphed into its own worst enemy in a 79-65 rout by Dayton on Friday. Both games took place at TD Arena in the Classic at Charleston, SC. The Bobcats shot just 7-of-17 from the charity stripe and the bench outscored 23-6 by the Flyers. Ohio is down to an 8-man rotation due to injuries, and fatigue likely factored in back-to-back contests.

Jaaron Simmons, Ohio's best player from last season, transferred to Michigan. But make no mistake, there is still plenty of talent on the roster, especially in the backcourt. Freshman Tevion Kirk (12.7), junior Jordan Davis (14.3), and junior Gavin Block (16.0) all guards, each average double-figures. This is a program that has won 20-plus games in five of the last six seasons. The MAC News Media Panel, in fact, voted the Bobcats second choice to win the 2017-18 conference championship, one vote shy of Western Michigan (10). Over the last decade, the Missouri Valley Conference plays 3.2 points better in head-to-head matchups versus the MAC, but this is a meeting between a contender and a pretender. The Media voted the Sycamores to finish 8th out of 10 teams. Lay the single point with the Bobcats.  

Free NCAAB Pick: Ohio +1Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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