NCAA Basketball Pick: Cleveland State vs. Youngstown State

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, January 13, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

A couple of 10-win teams square off in Horizon League action as the Youngstown State Penguins look to even their conference mark at 2-2 vs. Cleveland State Monday.

Home court could make the difference of the team playing its conference home opener Monday night when the Cleveland State Vikings (10-7, 3-6 away) pay a visit to those Youngstown State Penguins (10-8, 5-1 home) at the Beeghly Physical Education Center in Youngstown, OH at 7:05 ET in a game available on ESPN3.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Youngstown State as a scant home favorite for this contest with the current line at -1 with odds of -106.

Cleveland State comes off of a disappointing 14-18 season a year ago that included a poor 5-11 record inside the Horizon League, but the Vikings appear to be on course for improvement this season under Coach Gary Waters, as they are 10-7 and already 2-1 inside the Horizon following a nice 73-63 home win over the Detroit Titans last Wednesday.

Youngstown State had a winning 18-16 record overall last year but was just 7-9 in the Horizon. The Penguins have another overall winning record so far at 10-8, but they are also off to another mediocre start inside the conference at 1-2, although the win did come in their last game on the road by 13 points at Illinois-Chicago last Tuesday.

Which brings us to a key point here as the Penguins have begun conference play with three straight road games, and that win in Chicago was only their second win in a true road game all season, although they have been competitive at times. Still, they should now be thrilled to be returning home here where they are 5-1 straight up this season with an average winning margin of +11.0 points.

Youngstown State grades out quite nicely offensively overall this year, as the Penguins are a respectable 81st in the country in offensive efficiency and 63rd in effective field goal percentage at 52.4 percent, and they have also protected the ball well ranking 50th in offensive turnover percentage at just 16.1 percent against a national average of 18.5 percent.

At the end of the day though, the biggest key to this contest other than playing at home should be the transition points created by a Youngstown State defense that is forcing turnovers 20.4 percent of the time.

Cleveland State has played its best ball at home where it is 7-1, but it has been a different story for the Vikings on the road where they are just 3-6, and a major issue has been inexperience in the backcourt resulting in them ranking a dismal 269th in the nation in offensive turnover percentage at 20.1 percent.

That is something that has surfaced more away from the comforts of home, which is not really surprising for a team that that did not start a single senior in its last game and has only started one periodically all year in Jon Harris, who had a limited role until coming off the bench to score 18 points in the home win over Detroit last week. And obviously, a defense that forces turnovers as often as Youngstown State does can exploit the Vikings’ looseness with the ball.

Look for the Youngstown defense to get to a Cleveland State team that has been turnover prone, especially on the road, resulting in a home victory for the Penguins on Monday.

[gameodds]14/254644/?r-1=238-92-43-349-192/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: Youngstown State -1 (-106)

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