Defensive Pressure Makes West Virginia Our Tournament Pick Over SF Austin

Ross Benjamin

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 12:29 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2016 12:29 PM UTC

Our college basketball handicapping professional has an intriguing take on Friday’s NCAA Tournament first round game between Stephen F. Austin and West Virginia. Check our pick inside.

#14 Stephen F. Austin (27-5) vs. #3 West Virginia (26-8)
It’s very strange to see a NCAA Tourney #3 seed be a single digit favorite for a first round game, but that’s exactly the scenario when SF Austin plays West Virginia on Friday. At the time of this writing (3/15), NCAA Tournament odds display West Virginia as a 6.5 point favorite, and the posted total is 147.0. As a matter of fact, the opening line on this contest was 8.0, and despite better than 60% of early bets being placed on West Virginia, there’s been a significant reverse line movement, and that would suggest sharp money going on the underdog.


Lumberjacks Resume
SF Austin enters the NCAA Tournament on a 20 game winning streak. Before you get overly enthralled with that noteworthy feat, let’s consider all the facts before making a knee jerk decision. All of those wins during this impressive winning run has come over fellow Southland Conference opponents. That’s nothing new, SF Austin has gone an extremely dominant 59-1 over the past three seasons in conference action. When they had their opportunities to knock off higher profile opponents during the non-conference portion of their schedule, they fell short. First of all, they opened the 2015-2016 college basketball campaign with a 42 point blowout loss at Baylor. That’s the same Baylor team that West Virginia has beaten twice this season. They also lost to Tulane, Arizona State, Northern Iowa, and UAB. They failed to register a signature win of any kind. Their most notable non-conference victory came against Western Michigan out of the MAC, and they were a less than stellar 13-19 this season.


Lack of Respect for Mountaineers
You can certainly make a case that West Virginia doesn’t get the type of attention they deserve, especially considering their ranked 8th nationally. Case in point is this current point spread. The Mountaineers have gone 6-1 SU&ATS in their last seven games. Their only loss in that sequence came in the BIG-12 Conference Tournament Final against top ranked Kansas. When sifting through their results, I couldn’t find any result construed to be a bad loss. The closest they came was a 17 point defeat at unranked Florida. In their defense, that game in Gainesville came in the middle of their conference schedule, and was a part of the SEC/BIG-12 Challenge. They also beat #21 Baylor twice, #22 Iowa State twice, #7 Oklahoma, and #1 Kansas.


NCAA Tournament ATS Historical Note
Play against any NCAA Tournament #13 through #16 seed as an underdog of 3.5 to 9.5 points, and their coming off four or more wins in a row. By going against those underdogs, you would’ve hypothetically been 49-19 ATS (72.1%) since 1997.


Final Take and Pick
SF Austin will face the most defensive pressure that they’ve seen all season on Friday. The Mountaineers are relentless in that regard. In their last seven games alone, West Virginia forced an average of 17.7 turnovers per contest. The Lumberjacks will also have their hands full on the boards. West Virginia possesses an impressive +8 rebound per game differential this season. I’m not an advocate of using reverse line movement as an easy shortcut to making a bet, and one of my NCAA Tournament picks on Friday will be further evidence of that.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: West Virginia -7
Best Line Offered: at TheGreek

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