Iona Is Our NCAA Basketball Pick As A Small Underdog At Siena

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, February 22, 2016 5:21 PM GMT

Iona comes off of a surprisingly easy road win at Monmouth and the Gaels know that they can ill afford a letdown here in a revenge spot visiting the Siena Saints in Albany Monday.

 

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Iona +1½ 
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline

 

Coming off of their biggest win of the season, the road underdogs cannot afford a slip-up in MAAC action Monday night when those Iona Gaels (16-10, 11-14 ATS) make the short trip upstate to pay a visit to the Siena Saints (19-9, 13-8-1 ATS) at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY at 7:00 ET in a game available on ESPN3.

The point spread at 5 Dimes has Ion as a scant road underdog for this contest with the current line at +1½ on the NCAA Basketball odds board at odds of -103.

 

Two Games in Loss Column Separates First Place from Third
Iona went on the road to visit the conference leaders from Monmouth on Friday, a Monmouth team that had beaten UCLA, Notre Dame, USC and Georgetown in non-conference play this season and that has also beaten Iona by eight points in New Rochelle earlier on, but the undaunted Gaels dominated from the start and were never challenged in an easy 83-67 win.

That surprisingly easy victory leaves Iona 13-4 in the MAAC as it pulled to within one game in the loss column of the 15-3 Hawks.

Then Siena is right there in third place at 12-5 in conference, meaning that the winner of this game will be in second place since a Siena win would mean a regular season sweep after winning at Iona 81-78 on February 13th, and thus would give the Saints the tiebreaker. Siena enters this game in very good form with the Saints being winning NCAA Basketball picks in eight of their last 10 games.

 

Another Avenging Win for Gaels?
So after getting revenge for an earlier home loss at Monmouth on Friday, can Iona get a similarly avenging win at Siena tonight? We do not see why not as the Gaels had little trouble getting the first meeting to their preferred pace in a 74-possession game, as Iona is ranked 25th in the country in adjusted tempo rating grading out at 73.2 possessions per contest. So while the pace of that game was “normal” for the Gaels, the shooting was not.

You see, in addition to playing fast, Iona is also 54th in the country in effective field goal percentage, thanks to making a healthy 51.8 percent of its two-point shots and an acceptable 36.2 percent of its three-pointers. However, the Gaels shot only 39.4 percent overall in that first meeting including going a poor 8-for-30, 26.7 percent beyond the arc in their own building.

And it is not as if Siena is a superior defensive team or anything ranking 132nd in the country in defensive efficiency, so we will just chalk that loss up to an abnormally bad shooting night for the Gaels that does not figure to be repeated here, even on the road. After all, Iona is still avenging 78.2 points per game overall and the loss to Siena is its only defeat on the last eight games, serving to give the Gaels even more motivation here.

 

Siena Tough at Home
Now do not get us wrong as Siena is also a very good MAAC team that has been great at home going 11-1 while winning by an average of +12.4 points with the only loss coming to first-place Monmouth. In fact, this has been a very good year for the MAAC with the top three teams all ranked in the Top 100 on the Pomeroy Ratings.

Still, with second place on the line here and Iona not expected to duplicate its poor shooting performance of the first head-to-head meeting, the Saints could have trouble keep pace if the Gaels get their running offense in gear, as a fast tempo could also serve to accentuate the Achilles Heel of the Siena team, which is turnovers.

The Saints are 340th out of 351 NCAA Basketball Division I teams in offensive turnover percentage at 22.1 percent vs. a national average of 18.3 percent, and they are turning the ball over 22.3 percent of the time during MAAC play to rank dead last in the conference in that category. And while Iona will never win many awards for its defense, at least the Gaels are above average in forcing turnovers defensively at 19.0 percent.

Siena committed 23 turnovers vs. just nine for the Gaels in the upset win at Iona, and they do not figure to get away with another differentia like that here because they do not figure to get bailed out by anomalously bad shooting by Iona again.

 

A Road Series Lately
Finally, while both of these teams come in hot, this has been a Visitors’ Series as of late as the earlier upset win by Siena at Iona made the road teams 4-0 ATS in the last four head-to-head meetings. Also, Iona is 4-0 ATS in its last four road games overall and 4-1 ATS in its last five road games vs. teams with winning home records.

Add this all up and we simply feel that the better talent will prevail in such a crucial game in the MAAC standings, with Iona being the better team in our minds visiting Siena on Monday.