Chalk Up Georgia As Your NCAA Basketball Pick vs. Outclassed Belmont

LT Profits Sports Group

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 3:00 PM GMT

The Belmont Bruins have one of the best offenses in the country, but they seem outclassed by the Georgia SEC defense on the road in the NIT, which should mean a safe Bulldogs win. 

 

Defense and class should prevail over offense in the NIT Wednesday night when the Belmont Bruins (20-11, 12-15 ATS), who have potent offensive numbers while playing in the weak Ohio Valley Conference, venture into SEC territory as they pay a visit to those defensive minded Georgia Bulldogs (19-13, 18-14 ATS) at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, GA at 9:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN2.

The point spread at BetOnline has Georgia as a decided home favorite for this contest with the current line at -7 on the NCAA Basketball odds board at odds of -110.

 

Seeking 20 Wins for Third Straight Year
Georgia was off to a slow start this year as it once sat at 14-12, but then the Bulldogs won their last three regular season games before topping Mississippi State and third seeded South Carolina in the SEC Tournament. The Dawgs then led for much of the game vs. mighty Kentucky before fading late in a 93-80 defeat.

Nonetheless, the five-game win streak before the loss to the Wildcats has put Georgia in position to win 20 games for the third straight season, a feat surprisingly accomplished just once before in the history of the Georgia basketball program.

Belmont won the regular season Ohio Valley Conference championship at 12-4, but the Bruins were then the upset losing NCAA Basketball picks to Austin Peay in the semifinals of the OVC Tournament, resulting in this NIT berth despite a 20-11 overall record. That points to the weak schedule Belmont faced, which included just one win over a team currently ranked in the Top 100 on the Pomeroy Ratings.

 

Poor Defense and Weak Schedule
Furthermore, that lone Pomeroy 100 win came over a team that did not make the NCAA Tournament in Valparaiso, meaning the Bruins did not beat a single team that made it to the Big Dance. Thus, facing an SEC team here that was two wins away from an NCAA berth represents a major jump in class compared to the company that Belmont has typically been keeping.

Yes, the Bruins statistically have one of the best offenses in the country as they are ranked 10th in the land in scoring at 82.4 points per game, fifth in field goal percentage at 49.5 percent, first in two-point shooting at an amazing 62.5 percent and third in effective field goal percentage at 58.5 percent. And yet, despite those lofty rankings, Belmont ranks lower that you would expect in adjusted offensive efficiency in 44th, which is a reflection of the soft schedule.

Belmont does not figure to approach its season average here vs. a quality SEC defense, and that would be a major problem as the Bruins do not play much defense, ranking 281st in defensive efficiency and 194th in effective field goal percentage allowed at 50.3 percent while surrendering a hefty 78.0 points per game vs. mostly weaker competition than this Power 5 conference opponent.

 

Should Win Handily if Motivated
Beside playing the much tougher SEC schedule, the Georgia defense was one of the better ones in the country ranking sixth in the entire nation in field goal percentage allowed at a mere 38.4 percent, and the strength of the defense is the interior with the Bulldogs ranking ninth in two-point defense allowing a 42.0 percent success rate. That should allow the classier Bulldogs to successfully take away the Belmont strength.

So on paper at least, Georgia figures to win this game handily. However, one added variable in the NIT that is not present in the NCAA Tournament is differences in motivation, as the better teams from the power conferences are often disappointed with landing in the NIT and thus oftentimes get upset while not giving their best efforts.

We do not feel that applies to the Bulldogs here though as they would have gladly taken and NIT invite when they were sitting at 14-12 a couple of weeks ago, and remember that Georgia has to win this first round game to make school history by winning at least 20 games for the third straight year for just the second time since the Bulldogs began playing college basketball. We think that is enough to keep Georgia motivated in this spot.

 

Recent Home/Away Trends Favor Georgia
Finally, recent home vs. away trends seem to favor Georgia in a rather big way as the Bulldogs are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 home games while Belmont is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 road games. Additionally, Georgia is 6-0 ATS in its last six games after allowing more than 90 points in its previous game and 8-2 ATS its last 10 games following a straight up loss, while Belmont is 7-20-1 ATS in its last 28 games following an ATS loss.

Given the class disparity between these teams and the old adage that “Defense win championships,” look for those patterns to hold true for at least one more game with the stiff Georgia defense propelling the Bulldogs to a safe covering home win over Belmont in the NIT on Wednesday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Georgia -7 
Best Line Offered: at Heritage