NCAA Basketball Pick: Cleveland State vs. Eastern Illinois

LT Profits Sports Group

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

The Cleveland State Vikings and the Eastern Illinois Panthers each take a break from conference play as they meet up in a non-conference affair at Charleston on Tuesday.

The home underdog could have value in non-conference action Tuesday night when the Cleveland State Vikings (13-9, 4-7 away) pay a visit to the Eastern Illinois Panthers (7-13, 4-5 home) at Lantz Arena in Charleston, IL at 8:00 ET.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Eastern Illinois as a large home underdog for this contest with the current line at +9 with odds of -112.

Cleveland State has developed into a nice Horizon League program under Coach Gary Waters and they are 5-3 in league play this season after routing Valparaiso 69-50 on Saturday. The Vikings come off of a losing 14-18 season last year that went down the drain after losing Anton Grady to injury, but they have post-season aspirations this year, preferably making the Big Dance as Horizon League Champions.

That being said, this is not a good spot for Cleveland State as a big road favorite in a relatively meaningless non-conference game, especially with this being they last non-conference game of the regular season and therefore their last chance to take somewhat of a “breather” before resuming their pursuit of a conference title. The Vikings are currently tied for second in the conference, trailing only Green Bay.

Eastern Illinois is only 7-13 while coming out of the Ohio Valley Conference although the Panthers are third in the West Division with a 4-5 conference mark after a nice road win at SE Missouri State on Saturday as 8½-point underdogs. The Panthers are normally offensively challenged ranking 306th in the country in offensive efficiency and 291st in effective field goal percentage, but they actually shot 50.0 percent going 28-for-56 from the field Saturday.

That includes going 7-for-13, 53.8 percent on their three-point attempts, which was another aberration for a team that his hitting only 30.4 percent of its three-pointers for the season. Still, this game probably means a bit more to Eastern Illinois, as it would love to represent the OVC well out of conference, and returning home could provide a boost vs. what is expected to be a much more indifferent Vikings’ squad.

Perhaps the biggest Achilles Heel on the Cleveland State team is turnovers, which is not surprising for a team that has only one senior making any significant contributions in Jon Harris and whose three biggest contributors are all sophomores including the redshirt Grady, who is back healthy again and averaging 13.6 points over the last eight games.

The Vikings are ranked 274th in the country in offensive turnover percentage at 20.2 percent vs. a national average of 18.5 percent, and that is a concern vs. an Eastern Illinois team that forced 11 turnovers Saturday, especially if Cleveland State lacks some focus as expected.

While there is very little doubt that Cleveland State has the better talent here, giving this many points on the road in a non-conference game is always treacherous so take the points with Eastern Illinois on Tuesday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Eastern Illinois +9 (-112)