Murray State is the NCAA Basketball Pick in Carbondale

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, December 22, 2014 3:37 PM UTC

Monday, Dec. 22, 2014 3:37 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 Monday.


The perennial Ohio Valley Conference powers get our call as small road chalk Monday night when those Murray State Racers (8-4, 2-1 away) pay a visit to the Southern Illinois Salukis (7-5, 4-1 home) at SIU Arena in Carbondale, IL at 8:05 ET.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Murray State as a small road favorite for this contest with the current line at -2 with odds of -116.

Veteran Racers Have Won Six Straight
Murray State is a veteran team that returns four starters from the team that won the CIT last season, beating Yale 65-57 in the CIT Championship Game, and that experience has shown during a current six-game winning streak following a disappointing 2-4 start. The Racers became national darlings while going 31-2 and winning the Ohio Valley Conference three seasons ago.

Murray State is now looking to return to the NCAA Tournament after getting knocked out by Belmont and Eastern Kentucky respectively in the last two Ohio Valley Conference Tournaments, and they are one of favorites to win the conference this year with those last two teams that eliminated them again appearing to be the main competition.

Southern Illinois comes off of a losing 14-19 season, although the Salukis did manage to go 9-9 inside the Missouri Valley Conference and were then the upset wining NCAA Basketball picks in the opening game of the MVC Tournament over Northern Iowa before bowing out vs. Indiana State. The Salukis began this season 7-4 but they come off of a bad home loss to New Orleans here in Carbondale in a non-lined game. New Orleans is ranked 305th on the Pomeroy Ratings.

Murray State Perfect vs. Missouri Valley
Murray State is becoming quite familiar with the Missouri Valley Conference as this is its fourth game vs. the league already, and the Racers are 3-0 straight up vs. that conference so far with all three-wins coming during the current six-game winning streak. The streak began with a 68-59 win over Drake on a neutral floor, and includes an 81-79 road win over an Evansville team ranked 90th on Pomeroy and most recently an 89-77 home win over 96th ranked Illinois State.

This does not seem as much of a MVC challenge with Southern Illinois ranked 187th overall.

Much like the dream season the Racers had three years ago where they were nearly flawless with expert guard play and shot well enough to beat any team from any conference, Murray State is ranked 46th in the country in offensive efficiency this year with its veteran leadership, and it did not fold after the 2-4 start like some younger, less disciplined teams might have.

The Racers shoot well from all points of the floor, ranking 27th in three-point shooting at 39.7 percent and 70th in two-point offense at 51.2 percent, and they have been very good with ball protection while basically playing a four-guard offense with second leading scorer Jarvis Williams (16.1 points per game) the only big man. Leading scorer Cameron Payne (18.8) also leads the team in assists (5.5 per game).

Southern Illinois Turnover Issues
The Salukis opened the season with a hard-fought 62-59 road loss at Saint Louis, but unfortunately that game probably remains their best of the season so far given the competition. Yes Southern Illinois has seven wins, but one was vs. a sub-division school called Olivet Nazarene and of the six Division I wins, the highest ranked Pomeroy team SIU beat was 282nd ranked Austin Peay, with the other five DI wins all coming over teams ranked 309th or worse!

Now the latest loss to New Orleans could be the low point, and much of the problems have stemmed from turnovers. Southern Illinois is not going to out-shoot a lot of teams anyway while ranking 231st in offensive efficiency and 216th in effective field goal percentage at just 47.3 percent, but being loose with the basketball has not helped a team that needs to protect it to stay in games.

Unlike Murray State, the Salukis are a disturbing 287th in offensive turnover percentage at 22.0 percent vs. a national average of 20.0 percent, and remember that Southern Illinois has not exactly faced a daunting schedule either ranking 344th out of 351 Division I schools in SOS. Murray State instantly becomes the best team that the Salukis will have faced so far, and the turnovers figure to continue with Murray State 71st in defensive turnover percentage (21.9%).

Salukis’ Coaching Tirade Last Season
Finally, this is a rematch from last season won by Murray State 73-65 back home in Kentucky, prompting Salukis’ Coach Barry Hinson to go into a post-game rant where he referred to his team as a “Bunch of mamma’s boys” and going on to say “Our starting guards had one assist and seven turnovers. They must think it's a tax credit."

Whether or not that tirade will serves as a motivational factor here remains to be seen, but Southern Illinois has certainly now corrected its turnover issues yet this season and there is no reason to expect a quick fix tonight vs. a more talented Murray team, so we suggest laying the small chalk on the road on Monday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Murray State -2 (-116)

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