Intense Defensive Pressure Makes SF Austin The Tourney Pick vs. Notre Dame

Ross Benjamin

Saturday, March 19, 2016 9:06 PM UTC

Saturday, Mar. 19, 2016 9:06 PM UTC

Our NCAA Basketball analyst continues his coverage of the NCAA Tournament East Region. Join us in reading his insightful betting preview article on Sunday’s game between Stephen F. Austin and Notre Dame.

#14 SF Austin vs. #6 Notre Dame 2:40 PM ET
Stephen F. Austin will attempt to play giant killer for the second time in three days when they square off against Notre Dame on Sunday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The current (3/19) NCAA Tournament odds at Bookmaker have Notre Dame as a 1.0 point favorite, and the posted total is 140.5.


Round One Recap
SF Austin is coming off a stunning 70-56 upset win as a 7.5 point underdog on Friday over #3 seed West Virginia. The game stayed well under the total of 145.0. Quite frankly, the Lumberjacks beat West Virginia at their own game by forcing 22 Mountaineers turnovers. Contrarily, West Virginia’s vaunted pressure defense was only able to create 7 turnovers, and ultimately their -15 turnover margin was the deciding difference. SF Austin held their BIG-12 opponent to a paltry 30.8% shooting. On a negative note, the Lumberjacks had a miserable shooting night as well, converting on just 30.9% of its field goal attempts. SF Austin has now won 21 games in a row, and has a stellar 28-5 overall record.

Notre Dame was able to overcome a 12 point halftime deficit on Friday against Michigan, and come away with a 70-63 win. The “Fighting Irish” covered the contest as a 3.0 point favorite, and the contest stayed under the total of 143.0. They’re now a less than inspiring 3-4 in neutral site games this season. Notre Dame was held to only 43 field goal attempts, but more than overcompensated for a lack of volume by shooting an excellent 58.1%.


Matchup Analysis
Notre Dame has shot 50% or better in three of their last four games. It must be noted, they’ve also shot 35% or less in three of its previous six contests. “The Fighting Irish” are an excellent perimeter shooting team, and they’re especially effective when playing against opponents that are defensively passive or conservative. That won’t be the case on Sunday. SF Austin is #1 nationally in forcing turnovers at an average of 19 per game. They never allowed West Virginia to get into any type of offensive rhythm, and even when the Mountaineers didn’t turn the ball over, they looked rattled or frenzied in their half court sets. Notre Dame has to do a better job of protecting the basketball, and that’s become a genuine concern of late. After being flawless for most of the season in that regard, they committed a total of 51 turnovers over its previous three games, and that includes 16 in their first round win.

You can be rest assured SF Austin will be relentless with their defensive pressure, especially in light of Notre Dame’s recent issues. Their effectiveness in that regard isn’t necessarily just limited to just creating turnovers. Watching them on tape, they thrive on taking opponents out of any kind of offensive flow, and are adept in forcing them into low percentage or contested shots. The Lumberjacks have allowed 60 points or less in nine of their previous eleven games, and 68 or fewer in all of those contests. They’ve also limited their last five opponents to 52 field goal attempts or less.


Final Call
Notre Dame opened as a 2.0 point favorite, and early sharp money on the underdog moved it quickly to 1.0. I’m not crazy about Notre Dame’s play of late. They’ve been erratic with their shooting, and they entered the NCAA Tournament having gone just 3-4 in its previous seven games. SF Austin’s defensive pressure is very difficult to simulate in a practice setting, and if you haven’t faced them before, it can be extremely disruptive and bothersome to deal with. I’m calling for the lower seed to become a bona fide Cinderella on Sunday, and one of my NCAA Tournament picks will emulate that prediction.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Stephen F. Austin +2
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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