Cincinnati is the NCAA Basketball Pick at Memphis on ESPN

LT Profits Sports Group

Thursday, January 15, 2015 3:03 PM UTC

Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015 3:03 PM UTC

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.


One of the better teams in the AAC looks like a nice play at a cheap price on the road Thursday night when those Cincinnati Bearcats (11-4, 1-2 away) pay a visit to the Memphis Tigers (9-6, 7-3 home) at FedExForum in Memphis, TN at 7:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.

The point spread at Bet365 has Cincinnati as a scant road favorite for this contest with the current line at -1 with odds of -110.

Nice Cincinnati Resume
The Bearcats may be 11-4, but even with those four losses they are ranked 35th in the country overall on the Pomeroy Ratings. All four Cincinnati losses have come to teams ranked in the Pomeroy Top 100 while it owns some impressive wins over San Diego State and NC State out of conference and over SMU inside the AAC. The Bearcats did have a four-game winning streak stopped with a 62-56 road loss at the defending national champions from Connecticut Saturday.

Memphis meanwhile looks like a program going in reverse. The Tigers won 31 games two years ago and then went a solid 24-10 last season, finishing in the 30s on Pomeroy both years. However, Memphis is 9-6 this season with the only Pomeroy 100 win being over 98th ranked North Carolina Central, and that has the Tigers all the way down at 83rd overall. They did snap a two game skid though by being 62-44 winning NCAA Basketball picks vs. Houston Sunday.

Not Pretty but Effective
The Bearcats are not a team that will blow you away with great shooting, but they are a gritty team that defends exceptionally well and is also adept at extending possessions with excellent offensive rebounding. Granted Cincinnati’s lack of a true go-to guy could prove costly in the post-season, such as in the early exit at the hands of Harvard in the NCAA Tournament last season, but the Cats’ approach is usually conducive to good regular season success.

The Bearcats are well coached defensively with Mick Cronin at the helm as they are sixth in the entire country in points against, ranking 14th in defensive efficiency and 17th in effective field goal percentage allowed at 42.7 percent. Granted Cincinnati is only 207th in effective field goal percentage offensively (48.0 percent), but the Bearcats are tough on the offensive glass ranking 15th in offensive rebounding percentage at 38.3 percent vs. a national average of 31.2 percent.

And it would seem that the Bearcats have been more prone to extend possessions with those second chance opportunities than go right back up with quick shots, as indicated by ranking 330th in adjusted tempo rating. That also helps explain how Cincinnati is 11-4 vs. a strong schedule despite not having a single scorer that averages double-digits!

Octavius Ellis leads the way in scoring with 9.7 points while also adding 7.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game while leading the club with a scintillating 60.5 percent field goal percentage. Troy Caupain is second in scoring at 9.5 points while leading the squad with both his 3.5 assists and 1.2 steals per contest.

But make no mistake, as all of Cincinnati’s success begins with defense.

Similar Style, Much Weaker Schedule
Now the Tigers are actually similar to Cincinnati stylistically, only they are not quite as good on defense and they have accumulated their numbers vs. a softer schedule. And Memphis is also the younger of these squads returning only two starters from the 24-win team of last year and currently starting five underclassmen.

Now Memphis does grade out well in defensive efficiency ranking 47th nationally, although that is still not at Cincinnati’s level, and the Tigers actually rank slightly ahead of the Bearcats in effective field goal percentage allowed in 11th at 41.9 percent. However, that goes back to the schedule as beside just barely owning only one Pomeroy 100 win, the Tigers also lost to 146th ranked Tulane here at home during AAC play.

The Tigers are 2-2 inside the conference but both wins have come vs. a poor Houston team that ranks 263rd on Pomeroy. And Memphis is very sloppy with the basketball offensively ranking 321st in offensive turnover percentage at 22.8 percent vs. a national average of 19.7 percent, which is something the stout Cincinnati defense can exploit.

Easy Cincinnati Sweep Last Season
Finally, Cincinnati swept both head-to-head meetings last season winning both games by double-digits, winning by 13 points back home and perhaps more impressively by 16 points here at FedExForum. And remember that was vs. a better Memphis team than this year’s edition under Coach Josh Pastner.

Add in the fact that Memphis has also lost at home to 62nd ranked Stephen F. Austin this season in addition to the bad Tulane loss and we expect the stronger Cincinnati team to emerge victorious despite the road venue on Thursday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Cincinnati -1 (-110)

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