More Talented Evansville Squad Our NCAA Basketball Pick vs. Illinois St.

Mark Lathrop

Friday, January 15, 2016 4:00 PM GMT

Illinois State swept this series last year, but Evansville's experienced squad looks primed for revenge in the Friday night MVC matchup. Joins us inside as we give you our NCAA basketball pick.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Evansville -4.5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

 

Evansville vs. Illinois State
One of the top teams in the Missouri Valley Conference tries to tries to exercise some demons on the road as Evansville (15-3, 4-1) attempts to atone for a season sweep last year at the hands of the Illinois State Redbirds (9-9, 4-1). With Evansville’s record being as stellar as it currently is, this matchup is getting some national coverage. The NCAA basketball odds makers think that Evansville can get it done at Illinois State, instilling a line favoring the Purple Aces on the road by 4 points – even going to 4.5 points at Heritage. The initial O/U total has opened at 138.5.

Illinois State is coming off of a tough stretch where they lost two back-to-back road games, the most recent loss to Southern Illinois 81-78 and before that to Indiana State 77-65. Illinois State held sizeable leads at some point in each of those two games, but wasn’t able to hold on and faded down the stretch. Part of the credit has to be given to their opponents for bombing three’s with reckless abandon though. There is only so much you can defend.

Junior forward, MiKyle McIntosh, had a breakout performance in the game against Southern Illinois. McIntosh scored 25 points in the game on 8-12 shooting from the field, including five three-pointers, and added 4-5 from the free-throw line. To put that into perspective, McIntosh averages 10.1 points per game this season. The 2nd leading scorer in that game was also a relative surprise, as junior guard, Tony Wills, scored 15 points to pick his per game average up to 4.4 points.

The typical scoring leaders for the Redbirds are senior guard, DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell, and junior guard, Paris Lee, who average 15.6 and 10.1 points per game, respectively.

The Purple Aces has a more consistent scorer in senior guard, D.J. Balentine. The senior guard has averaged over 20 points per game since his sophomore season, and this season is no exception. Balentine is coming off of a 24-point scoring performance in Evansville’s last game, an 84-65 drubbing of Drake at home. Luckily for Balentine, he’s got a ying to go along with his yang, and 6-10 senior center, Egidijus Mockevicious, fits the bill. He averages 17.3 points on the inside to go along with 14 rebounds per game. Mock has multiple games scoring 20+ from the field, including the last game against Drake, and shoots 66.9% from the field.

Evansville starts an experienced lineup with two seniors and three juniors. That experience has helped the Purple Aces pick up on the defensive end of late, as they have held opponents to an average of 66.1 points per game this season. This is not good for Illinois State, as they only average 66.3 points per game.

The trends in this series are puzzling, with SU and ATS records being almost mirror images of each other. For instance, Illinois State is 6-4 SU in their last ten against Evansville but just 3-7 ATS. At home Illinois State is 5-0 in their last five SU at home against Evansville, but just 1-6 ATS in the same situation over the last seven.

What I like about this matchup is we have the 310th ranked offense in Illinois State scoring the 66.3 points per game going against the 64th ranked defense in Evansville allowing 66.1 points per game. There is not much here to make me believe that Illinois State is going to bring their offensive average up against the Purple Aces. If they do, it will be because they light it up from three, but more than likely they shoot themselves right out of the game. I’m taking the more experienced team in Evansville and laying 4 points at 5Dimes as one of my NCAAB basketball picks.