Eastern Washington to Fly High is the NCAA Basketball Pick

LT Profits Sports Group

Saturday, February 21, 2015 3:26 PM GMT

Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 3:26 PM GMT

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 Saturday.

 



The class of the Big Sky Conference turns up as a small underdog Saturday when those Eastern Washington Eagles (20-6, 8-5 away) pay a visit to the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (14-12, 8-2 home) at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, AZ at 4:00 ET in a game available on FOX Sports - Arizona.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Eastern Washington as a road underdog for this contest with the current line at +2 with odds of -115.


Yet to Clinch Big Sky Title
Eastern Washington served notice that it would be a heavy hitter in the Big Sky this season by beginning the year 9-4 vs. a nice non-conference schedule ranked 57th in non-conference SOS according to the Pomeroy Ratings, and that has served the Eagles well as they are 11-2 in conference play to get to 20-6 overall. Still, the Eagles need to continue to win because they are only one-half game ahead of 11-3 Montana and Sacramento State in the Big Sky standings.

Northern Arizona is fourth in the conference at 9-4 despite being just 14-12 overall, and the Lumberjacks are on a nice roll being the winning NCAA Basketball picks in six of their last seven games. Still, none of those six wins came vs. a team ranked higher than 219th on Pomeroy while the loss distressingly came to 311th ranked Idaho State by 14 points, albeit on the road.


One of Best Offenses in Country
The Eagles have one of the best offenses in the entire nation and they have already proven themselves vs. tough competition, in fact going into Bloomington and shocking Indiana 88-86 during their good non-conference run mentioned earlier. Furthermore the four early non-conference losses came to the likes of SMU, Washington, California and underrated Sam Houston State (ranked 73rd on Pomeroy), so the Big Sky success should not come as a surprise.

Eastern Washington is 50th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, which is adjusted for schedule, as it is a terrific 16th in effective field goal percentage at 55.3 percent. The Eagles can shoot lights-our from anywhere on the court as they are an amazing eighth in the nation in three-point shooting at 40.4 percent, as well as 53rd in two-point shooting at 51.3 percent.

As you might expect, the Eagles lead the Big Sky during conference play in offensive efficiency by a wide margin, grading out at a scintillating 116.4 points per 100 possessions vs. a national average of 101.8! This is also a well-coached team under Jim Hayford that does not beat itself, as it ranks 27th nationally in offensive turnover percentage at 16.3 percent vs. a national average of 19.4 percent, and that turnover rate drops even more to 15.7 percent vs. Big Sky opponents.


Is NAU Being Home Enough?
Northern Arizona does have one Pomeroy Top 100 win over St. Mary’s during non-conference play, but then next highest ranked team that it has beaten is 209th ranked Fresno State. The significance of that is that Eastern Washington is the highest ranked Big Sky team on Pomeroy at 141st overall, so the fact that the Lumberjacks are 8-2 here at the Walkup Skydome loses some significance given the competition.

And the Lumberjacks certainly cannot keep pace with the Eagle offensively, as NAU is just 227th in the nation in offensive efficiency and 266th in effective field goal percentage at only 46.6 percent. Thus, Northern Arizona would need to win with its defense and that unit is average on a national scale grading out allowing 102.3 points per 100 possessions and second during conference play at 101.4 points per 100.

However, NAU is still allowing an effective field goal percentage of 49.8 percent overall and 49.2 percent inside the conference, as its defensive efficiency ranking gets a bump by being an excellent 21st in the country in defensive rebounding percentage. The problem here however is that the Lumberjacks may not get too many opportunities to use that strength with Eastern Washington expected to shoot a high percentage!


Eagles do Not Mind Travelling
Finally, as if the win at Indiana was not enough, Eastern Washington has continually proven that it does not back down in enemy territory going 12-4 ATS in its last 16 games overall. The Eagles are also 7-1-1 ATS in the last nine head-to-head meetings between these schools.

Even with this game in Flagstaff, Eastern Washington is the better team that has proven itself on the road vs. very good competition, and we like the Eagles to shoot their way to another road win in Northern Arizona Saturday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Eastern Washington +2 (-115)

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