NCAA Basketball Pick: Arkansas State -8½ over Niagara

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, December 2, 2013 5:00 AM GMT

The Niagara Purple Eagles may be exciting to watch while averaging 84.4 points, but it is their atrocious defense that could lead to a double-digit loss at Arkansas State Monday.

There is very good potential for a double-digit win by the home team when the hectic-paced Niagara Purple Eagles (1-6, 0-4 away) pay a visit to the Arkansas State Red Wolves (4-2, 2-0 away) at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro, AR at 8:05 ET.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Arkansas State as a decided favorite for this contest with the current line at -8½ with odds of -106.

Niagara is coming off of a season where it finished 19-14 overall including 13-5 inside the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, but it lost to Iona in the second round of the MAAC Tournament and had to settle for an NIT bid, where the Purple Aces lost to Maryland in the opening round.

Arkansas State finished with a 19-12 record in 2012-13, but it did not go to any post-season tournament after losing in the second round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament to Western Kentucky. That is a situation that the Red Wolves would love to rectify this season and their 4-2 start seems like a nice beginning.

Niagara has a new head coach this season in Chris Casey, who is making his Division I head coaching debut after serving in that capacity at Division II LIU-Post after previously serving as an assistant at St. John’s. His New York roots may have helped land him the job, but he may be quickly discovering that “street ball” style does not work at this level. Niagara is averaging 84.4 points, but that has been counteracted by the defense allowing 91.3 per game!

Even though the Purple Aces return basically that same team that won 19 games this season, Casey has the team running more than ever as they currently rank seventh in the country in adjusted tempo rating at 76.0 possessions per game, and the players have had a tough time adapting during a dismal 1-6 start. The lone win was 92-81 at home over Buffalo in the second game of the season, and those 81 points allowed are the fewest Niagara has surrendered this year.

Thus the Aces are a distressing 311th in the country in defensive efficiency, and even offensively they only rank 241st in effective field goal percentage at 47.0 percent, so their scoring average is more of a direct result of their blazing pace.

The Sun Belt Conference has undergone a bit of a transformation this year with several teams leaving and several teams joining the conference, but Arkansas State remains a constant although it is still seeking its first post-season tournament in its history since moving up to Division I for the 2002-03 season.

Now, the Red Wolves do not play slow, but they are nowhere near the Purple Aces’ pace as Arkansas State is ranked 87th in the land in tempo rating, and that has worked while leading the offense to a good 52.2 percent effective field goal percentage. As long as the Red Wolves stay within themselves and do not get caught up in the track meet that Niagara prefers, Arkansas State should have no problem scoring points here while playing its own style.

ASU is 2-0 at home with both wins being by double-digits vs. weak opponents, but the dreadful play by the Niagara defense makes the Purple Aces just as weak so look for another double-digit home win by Arkansas State Monday.

[gameodds]14/251211/?r-1=238-92-43-349-192/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: Arkansas State -8½ (-106)