NCAA Basketball Pick: Eastern Illinois vs. Tennessee-Martin

LT Profits Sports Group

Thursday, January 23, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

Two teams trying to stay afloat in the Ohio Valley Conference meet up when the Eastern Illinois Panthers pay a visit to the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks on Thursday.

The favorite could be quite vulnerable Thursday night when the Eastern Illinois Panthers (6-12, 2-7 away) pay a visit to the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks (6-15, 4-5 home) at the Elam Center in Martin, TN at 8:00 ET.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Eastern Illinois as a road underdog for this contest with the current line at +3 with odds of -116.

This seems like a contest where home court advantage does not really mean much, especially with Tennessee-Martin being one game under .500 in its own building, so the Panthers could be gaining some line value here in a game where they would be a tiny favorite on a neutral floor.

Granted Eastern Illinois is not exactly a powerhouse either at just 6-12, but at least it still has a pulse in the Ohio Valley Conference West Division at 3-4 in conference play, and getting to .500 here could move the Panthers to second place in the division behind Murray State, depending on how the club splitting that pair, SIU-Edwardsville, performs tonight.

The Skyhawks are dead last in the West Division at 1-5 as well as 6-15 overall and they literally have one of the worst defenses in the country, ranking 338th out of 351 Division I teams in defensive efficiency. Opposing teams are getting basically whatever they want closer to the basket vs. a Martin team that has no player taller than 6-foot-7, as the Skyhawks are surrendering a ridiculous 58.8 percent success rate in two-point attempts!

That ugly percentage ranks dead last among the nation’s 351 D-I teams and allows Tennessee-Martin too allow any offense to look better than it really is. And the Skyhawks are not good enough offensively to offset that, ranking 216th in offensive efficiency. If there was ever a team that should practically never be favored, this looks like it especially with the Skyhawks even allowing 79.4 points per game at home, where they have been outscored by -2.0 points per game.

Eastern Illinois at least faced a competitive non-conference schedule this season that ranks 80th in the land in SOS, so the fact that the Panthers have been more competitive since the start of OVC play is not really a surprise. Comparatively, the Tennessee-Martin non-conference SOS is ranked 202nd, so the lack of improvement by the Skyhawks in conference play is not surprising either.

The Panthers have won two of their last three games to get into the conversation for the West Division race, and this is a team that does not allow opposing teams to get many second chances, grabbing defensive rebounds 70.2 percent of the time on opponents’ missed shots against a national average of 68.3 percent and ranking third during Ohio Valley play in that category at 71.2 percent.

Thus, in addition to facing one of the worst defenses in the country, Eastern Illinois should have more opportunities to attack it, not unlike a 93-65 beatdown of the Skyhawks the last time the Panthers visited Martin in February.

Therefore, look for underdog Eastern Illinois to emerge triumphant again on the road on Thursday.

[gameodds]14/255692/?r-1=238-92-43-349-192/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: Eastern Illinois +3 (-116)