Iona Gaels are the NCAA Basketball Pick vs. George Mason

LT Profits Sports Group

Saturday, December 20, 2014 3:48 PM UTC

Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014 3:48 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 Saturday.


The MAAC gets some national TV love on Saturday night when probably the best team from that conference, the Iona Gaels (6-3, 2-3 away), pays a visit to the George Mason Patriots (3-6, 3-2 home) out of the Atlantic 10 at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA at 7:00 ET in a game televised nationally on NBC Sports Network.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Iona as a road favorite for this contest with the current line at -3½ with odds of -110.

Seeking Return to NCAA Tournament
Iona last reached the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago when it was disposed of quickly losing to Ohio State in the second round, but the Gaels were forced to settle for an NIT bid last season after losing to Manhattan 71-68 in the Championship Game of the MAAC Tournament. They are off to a nice start while in quest of a return trip to the Big Dance at 6-3, most recently defeating Indiana State of the Missouri Valley Conference 91-84 last Saturday.

While Iona has had a full week off, George Mason tuned up for this game by being the winning NCAA Basketball pick on Wednesday 99-69, although we are not sure they benefitted much from that performance while beating little Catawba out of Division II. The Patriots were off to a 2-6 start vs. fellow Division I schools prior to that although they did take an excellent Missouri Valley team in Northern Iowa to overtime in a 71-65 loss in their previous game.

Highest Ranked MAAC Team
Iona is currently the highest ranked MAAC team on the Pomeroy Ratings, and by a wide margin too as the Gaels are a Top 100 team ranked 85th overall while the second highest MAAC squad is Canisius all the way down at number 154. That is not entirely surprising though considering that the Gaels have won at least 20 games and made the post-season in all four seasons of the coaching tenure of Tim Cluess.

The Gaels returned their top three scorers from last season in David Laury, AJ English and Isaiah Williams and they also added two nice transfers in Kelvin Amayo form Marshall and Jeylani Dublin from Longwood, and the result has been quite possibly Cluess’s best offensive team yet.

The Gaels are fifth in the entire country with their 86.0 points per game and there has been nothing fluky about it with Iona ranking 11th in offensive efficiency and seventh in effective field goal percentage at 58.8 percent, with that latter figure keyed by blistering 43.3 percent shooting from beyond the three-point arc, which is sixth best in the land. That is not to say that the Gales are not effective closer to the basket either as they are making 53.1 percent of two-point shots.

Perimeter Defense George Mason’s Downfall
George Mason just joined the Atlantic 10, a conference that sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament, last season after being a long-time member of the CAA and the Patriots had some growing pains going 4-12 inside the conference and 11-20 overall, ultimately losing to Fordham, a team that finished dead last in the A-10 during the regular season with just two conference wins, in the opening round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Unfortunately the Patriots do not appear to have progressed this season, instead taking a decided step back. George Mason is a dismal 316th in effective field goal percentage offensively at a mere 42.6 percent, and while they are a touch better ranking 186th in effective field goal percentage against defensively, it is the breakdown of that number that is the major concern here.

You see, the Patriots are actually a commendable 134th in two-point defense at 46.3 percent, but they have been atrocious defending the perimeter ranking 240th in three-point defense, and as mentioned they must now deal with one of the best three-point shooting teams in the nation.

Home Not So Sweet Home
Finally the Patriots have not exactly been enjoying a large home court advantage either, going a disappointing 5-13-1 ATS in their last 19 games here in Fairfax. That includes a 1-2 ATS mark this season in their three home games that have been lined.

With home court not really meaning all that much here, the Iona sharpshooters should make enough three-point buckets vs. the lax George Mason perimeter defense to produce a rather safe road win on Saturday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Iona -3½ (-110)

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