Bucknell Our NCAA Basketball Pick In Patriot League Action vs. Lehigh

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, January 11, 2016 3:28 PM UTC

Monday, Jan. 11, 2016 3:28 PM UTC

The Patriot League gets some national television exposure Monday night and Bucknell seems to have a clear advantage as a small road favorite visiting Lehigh on the NCAA basketball odds.


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NCAA Basketball Pick: Bucknell -1½ 
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle


While most of the nation will be focused on the College Football National Championship Game Monday night, we feel that we found a nice money-making NCAA Basketball opportunity in the Patriot League where the seemingly undervalued Bucknell Bison (7-8, 0-1 ATS) pay a visit to the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (4-11, 0-0 ATS) at Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, PA at 7:30 ET in a game televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.

The point spread at 5 Dimes has Bucknell as a small road favorite for this contest with the current line at -1½ with odds of -108.


4-0 Conference Start
Bucknell may still be one game under .500 overall at 7-8, but it is off to a perfect 4-0 start in Patriot League play, most recently routing Holy Cross by 27 points back home in Lewisburg 98-71 on Saturday. That contest marked the fifth time this season that the Bison topped 90 points, including cracking the 100-point mark on two occasions!

Meanwhile, those four conference wins alone for Bucknell match the total wins overall for 4-11 Lehigh so far, although one glimmer of hope there is that the Mountain Hawks have been the winning NCAA Basketball picks in two of their four conference games. Also, their 2-9 non-conference mark could be excused due to facing a schedule ranked 21st in non-conference SOS according to the Pomeroy Ratings.


Ranked Nearly 100 Spots Higher on Pomeroy
Bucknell won 19 games last season, but it lost in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament to Lafayette, the team that went on to win that tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament. However, the Bison are one of the favorites to win the Patriot League this year, an achievement that would net their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013.

In fact, Bucknell is currently ranked 155th overall on Pomeroy, significantly higher than 249th ranked Lehigh, and the Bison grade out better on both sides of the basketball, including by a very wide margin on offense. Bucknell is averaging 81.3 points per game to rank 38th in the country, and while the Bison may not have faced a non-conference schedule as tough as Lehigh, they are still a respectable 92nd in adjusted offensive efficiency.

The Bison have no real weakness offensively either, ranking 59th in three-point shooting at 37.8 percent and 75th in two-point shooting at 51.1 percent, netting a 55th ranking in effective field goal percentage at 53.0 percent. We simply do not see Lehigh slowing the Bucknell offense down here as the Mountain Hawks are a dismal 290th defensively in effective field goal percentage allowed at 53.0 percent, exactly matching Bucknell’s offensive percentage.


How will Lehigh Keep Up?
While Lehigh is playing at home here, we do not think that is enough of a reason to justify this cheap line for Bucknell, which is almost undoubtedly due to the Mountain Hawks facing the tougher schedule to this point. While we can certainly respect that, keep in mind that adjusted efficiency is adjusted for schedule and Lehigh is only 206th in offensive efficiency, so its modest 67.5 point scoring average is not a fluke.

The Mountain Hawks are weak on the interior making a measly 44.5 percent of their two-point shots this season and they have also been very sloppy with the basketball ranking 279th in offensive turnover percentage at 20.2 percent vs. a national average of 18.5 percent. Given that we do not expect the Lehigh defense to make many stops, that offensive sloppiness and poor shooting should prove fatal here.


No Problems on Road
Finally, probably due to the close proximity of these Pennsylvania rivals, road teams have had success in this head-to-head series going 4-0 ATS in the last four lined meetings. Also, Lehigh is just 1-5 ATS in its last six lined home games overall and 2-5 ATS in its last seven lined Patriot League games.

Since Bucknell seems to have the superior team this season, look for those patterns to continue with the Bison emerging victorious in their short trip to Lehigh on Monday.

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