Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Thursday.
The underdogs get our call in the twilight game of the opening round of the 2014 Puerto Rico Tip-Off Thursday when the New Mexico Lobos (2-0, 0-0 away/neutral) take on those Boston College Eagles (1-1, 0-1 away/neutral) at Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan, PR at 5:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN2.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Boston College as a moderate underdog for this contest with the current line at +5 with odds of -106.
Foul Shots the Difference in BC Loss
Both of these teams have played twice this early season with New Mexico winning twice and Boston College going 1-1. However, the Eagles may have been done in by uneven officiating as a 71-62 losing NCAA Basketball pick vs. Massachusetts on a neutral floor at TD Garden in Boston Sunday, as the Minutemen took 46 foul shots and made 31 of them. Those 31 free throws made were more than the 27 free throw taken by the Eagles, of which they made 17.
New Mexico has relied on solid defense for its success in recent years in the Mountain West Conference, and this year appears to be more of the same based on the first two victories. The Lobos have yet to allow 60 points yet, opening the season with a 79-55 rout of Idaho State and then following up with a 67-59 win over CS Fullerton. It must be noted though that both of those games were home at The Pit and Boston College probably represents a rise in class.
Top Scoring Duo
Boston College made a coaching change after a disappoint season last year that saw the Eagles win eight games, as they fired Steve Donahue and brought in new coach Jim Christian, who did a fine job at Ohio University the last few seasons, including guiding the Bobcats to 25 wins and 24 wins the last two years respectively.
Christian inherits two fine scorers at Chestnut Hill in Olivier Hanlan and Aaron Brown, but how he manages the rest of the roster will be a key to any immediate success he may have. And right on cue, Hanlan (17.5 points per game) and Brown (16.5) have topped the scoring through the fist two games, providing more than half of the 60.0 total points that the Eagles are averaging.
That should have been enough to win the first two games though if the fouls were more balanced vs. UMass, mainly because Boston College has played well defensively allowing a 42.2 percent effective field goal percentage while ranking 57th in the country in the infant stages of this season in defensive turnover percentage at 24.4 percent vs. a national average of 20.0 percent.
Where Will Offense Come From?
As mentioned, defense has carried New Mexico to NCAA Tournaments in recent seasons, but the Lobos have not had much success once reaching the Big Dance because of offensive struggles. And now, they lost their top three scorers from last season in Cameron Bairstow, Alex Kirk and Kendall Williams, who averaged a combined 50 points and 20 rebounds.
Sophomore Cullen Neal is doing his best to pick up the slack averaging 24.5 points through two games thanks to going 8-for-15 from beyond the three-point arc. That average figures to come down though once the three-point shooting normalizes and the Lobos have nobody else averaging double-digit points even at this extremely early stage.
And even the vaunted defense actually trails Boston College right now in both effective field goal percentage allowed (45.0 percent) and defensive turnover percentage (19.0 percent).
Three-Point Shooting the Key
Also the Lobos cannot expect to get much from beyond the arc in this contest as Neal’s early heroics do not expect to last much longer and Boston College is 39th in three-point defense allowing a mere 23.1 percent success rate. Conversely, the Eagles are quite capable of shooting over the New Mexico defense from downtown themselves with Hanlan and Brown.
Add this all up and Boston College has a legitimate chance at an upset, although our recommendation is to take the points vs. New Mexico in Puerto Rico on Thursday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Boston College +5 (-106)