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.
There could be a mild upset down south Saturday evening when the James Madison Dukes (6-2, 0-1 away), winners of two straight games, pay a visit to the East Carolina Pirates (4-5, 3-1 home), losers of two straight, at Minges Coliseum in Greenville, NC at 5:00 ET in a game available on ESPN3.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has James Madison as a modest road underdog for this contest with the current line at +3 with odds of -112.
Expected to Move up in CAA
James Madison comes off of a season where it went just 11-20 and 6-10 inside the Colonial Athletic Association, but some improvement was expected this season and that seems to be coming to fruition. The Dukes have been bouncing back and fourth between man-to-man and a 3-2 zone defensively, and they were masterful while switching between the two when posting a 51-46 win over a Pomeroy Top 100 team in 76th ranked Richmond at home last game.
East Carolina was the CIT Champion two seasons ago but it slipped to 17-17 last year and appears to have slipped a bit more this year, most recently being the losing NCAA Basketball pick to North Carolina 108-64 on Sunday. Now it is obviously not fair to base any judgment on a loss to the Tar Heels at Chapel Hill, but that defeat was preceded by a 72-63 loss to a Florida Atlantic team ranked 247th on the Pomeroy Ratings, so the Pirates do have issues.
Lost Only to Two Ranked Teams
The only two losses for James Madison this season have both come vs. nationally ranked teams, as they opened the year with a home loss to Virginia and also lost a true road game at Ohio State. Other than that the Dukes are unscathed and they now added a Pomeroy 100 win to their resume with the triumph over Richmond on Sunday.
James Madison has a semi-respectable 50.7 percent effective field goal percentage, but the key to any success the Dukes may have this season remains their defense. The Dukes have done a good job going back and forth between the man-to-man and the 3-2, and perhaps never more so than when holding Richmond to 16-of-44, 36.4 percent shooting while pulling the upset as a 5½-point underdog. The Dukes also out-rebounded the Spiders 38-26 in that contest.
The significance of that is that the Dukes are not compromised in the rebounding department while playing in the 3-2., unlike many other zone teams, because they have the long bodies up front in the 6-foot-8 Paulius Satkus, 6-foot-8 Yohanny Dalembert and 6-foot-7 Jackson Kent that can still rebound out of that formation.
Some Bad Losses Already
Now as for East Carolina, while the blowout loss at North Carolina is forgivable, the previous loss at Florida Atlantic marked the third loss already for the Pirates to a team ranked higher than 200th on Pomeroy, and even worse the first such loss came here at home to 217th ranked UNC Asheville earlier on. The other was to 201st ranked Hawaii on a neutral court. Meanwhile the four East Carolina include two wins over sub-division schools.
The two Division I teams for the Pirates have been over 283rd ranked Central Connecticut and 223rd ranked Fresno State, and that has led to East Carolina currently being ranked 218th itself, well below 189th ranked James Madison.
Perhaps most telling is that despite that weak schedule, East Carolina is still ranked 310th in the country in defensive efficiency, so this could turn into a long season for the Pirates one they start getting into their AAC schedule.
Possible Inside Dominance
And those big James Madison bodies that should give the Dukes the rebounding edge even while playing zone defense should also be able to do damage inside offensively. The Dukes are a decent 94th in the country in two-point shooting at 50.4 percent, but they can top that here vs. an East Carolina team ranked 334th out of 351 Division I teams in two-point defense allowing a distressing 56.9 percent!
So while East Carolina is at home here, that may not be enough to get the Pirates a needed win when they host streaking James Madison on Saturday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: James Madison +3 (-112)