NCAA Basketball Pick: Eastern Kentucky to Win Safely in CIT

LT Profits Sports Group

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 3:54 PM GMT

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We shift gears to one of the lesser tournaments Wednesday night as we see value in the home favorite to advance to the semifinals of the CIT when the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks (20-12, 11-8 away) pay a visit to those Eastern Kentucky Colonels (21-11, 13-3 home) at McBrayer Arena in Richmond, KY at 7:00 ET with live streaming available at watchcollegeinsider.com.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Eastern Kentucky as a moderate home favorite for this contest with the current line at -5½ with odds of -102.


Ohio Valley Conference Matchup
This is actually an Ohio Valley Conference matchup, and although that is a conference that is ranked just 21st as a whole according to the Pomeroy Ratings, these are two of three OVC teams still in action this post-season with the defending CIT Champions from Murray State also reaching the quarterfinals of the NIT tonight! That is precisely the round that this CIT is in, meaning that a semifinal berth is on the line here.

Eastern Kentucky won the East Division of the OVC but the Colonels were then nipped 53-52 in the semifinals of the Ohio Valley Tournament by the eventual conference champions from Belmont. The Colonels were then the winning NCAA Basketball picks over Norfolk State and High Point in the first two rounds of the CIT to get to this point.

Tennessee Martin finished second behind Murray State in the OVC West Division, but could not get past Morehead state in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. The Skyhawks have atoned for that to this point by getting by Northwestern State and USC Upstate to get here with both wins coming on the road.


Colonels Apply Great Pressure Defensively
Eastern Kentucky actually won the Ohio Valley last season and was competitive vs. Kansas in the NCAA Tournament, but the Colonels were unsuccessful in defending their conference title. Still, this is not a team lacking in talent and that extends to both ends of the court.

The Colonels are an excellent 27th in the country in effective field goal percentage at 53.7 percent, as this is a team that rarely misses closer to the basket ranking an amazing eighth in two-point shooting at 54.9 percent. And Eastern Kentucky is second in both of those categories inside the Oho Valley at even stronger levels, with an effective field goal percentage of 56.0 percent thanks to a sensational 58.2 percent rate on two pointers during league play!

Eastern Kentucky was also third in defensive efficiency vs. Ohio Valley competition while leading the conference in defensive turnover percentage at 25.7 percent vs. a national average of 19.1 percent. In fact, the Colonels overall defensive turnover percentage of 26.9 percent over the entire season ranks second in the country behind only West Virginia, a team that is in the Sweet 16 of the Big Dance.


Skyhawks Have Beaten Lesser Teams to Advance
While Tennessee-Martin has regrouped from the loss to Morehead State in the Ohio Valley Tournament, it bears mentioning that the Skyhawks have also benefitted from facing weaker competition. They got here by beating a Northwestern State team that plays zero defense and is ranked 233rd on the Pomeroy Ratings and a USC Upstate team ranked 202nd. Comparatively, the two teams that Eastern Kentucky beat are 192nd and 127th respectively.

In fact, Eastern Kentucky is ranked 108th itself on Pomeroy, so this is a step up in class for the 143rd ranked Skyhawks. And remember that the Colonels went into Martin and beat the Skyhawks 66-58 on the road in the only meeting between these teams during the regular season, thanks in large part to Eastern Kentucky winning the turnover battle 11-5.

And that is one of the biggest difference between these teams as Tennessee-Martin is competent enough offensively ranking 40th in the country in effective field goal percentage at 53.1 percent but not nearly as effective as the Colonels defensively, ranking just 223rd in defensive efficiency and a poor 337th out of 351 Division I teams in defensive turnover percentage at 15.6 percent.


Nice Home Team
Finally, this rematch being at Eastern Kentucky also looms large with the Colonels going 13-3 at home this season while averaging 70.8 points in this building. Eastern Kentucky won in a rout 89-66 the last time these teams met in Richmond, KY last season.

While this game does not figure to be that much of a blowout, we do see Eastern Kentucky winning by a safe margin at home over Tennessee-Martin in a battle of Ohio Valley teams in the CIT on Wednesday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Eastern Kentucky -5½ (-102)