NCAA Basketball Pick: Florida International vs. Louisiana Tech

LT Profits Sports Group

Saturday, January 11, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

Louisiana Tech comes off of a nice win in its first ever Conference USA game, but can it have the same success Saturday after losing Raheem Appleby to an ankle injury?

A major injury to the heavy favorite’s leading scorer could have an impact on the point spread Saturday night when the Florida International Golden Panthers (9-7, 3-3 away) pay a visit to those Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (13-3, 6-1 home) at the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, LA at 8:00 ET.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Florida International as a big underdog for this contest with the current line at +15½ with odds of -119.

Louisiana Tech made the move to Conference USA this season from the WAC, and its first ever conference game in its new league was a success on the scoreboard as the Bulldogs beat the Florida Atlantic Owls 84-64 on Thursday. However, perhaps more importantly for their longer term prospects, they lost leading scorer Raheem Appleby and his 16.1 points per game to an ankle injury in that game and he is out indefinitely.

Florida International now looks to take advantage after it too won its first ever Conference USA game after coming over from the Sun Belt Conference, and that was an impressive 71-60 road victory over the Rice Owls on Thursday.

In fact, the Golden Panthers are exceeding preseason expectations by being two games over .500 at this point, and they have even held their own on the road where they are now 3-3 straight up after the mild upset of Rice. That win in the conference opener snapped a three-game losing streak, but keep in mind that two of those last three non-conference games were vs. Louisville and Georgetown, so they have had surprising success in their winnable games.

A couple of things that the Panthers have done well is get to the foul line and grab offensive rebounds, and those aspects of their game have helped offset a poor 48.2 percent effective field goal percentage. FIU is ranked 45th in the country in FTA/FGA percentage at 48.3 percent and 63rd in offensive rebounding percentage at 35.8 percent, significantly above the national average of 31.7 percent.

Those facts make Florida International look like an overlay in this spot at this lofty number with Appleby out of the Louisiana Tech lineup. Sure, the Bulldogs improved to 13-3 overall and 6-1 at home in the 20-point win in its last game, but this will be the first time that they will be without Appleby for an entire game and, based on performances thus far, they are facing a better team than Florida Atlantic.

And that contest would have been closer if Louisiana Tech did not outscore FAU 18-6 from the foul line. Yes, the Bulldogs are tough at home, but they have also faced a schedule ranked 279th in the country in SOS to this point and their lone home loss came to the currently highest ranked team on the Pomeroy Ratings that they have faced in Ruston, and that was only 104th ranked UL Lafayette.

We think that Appleby will be missed vs. what has been a pesky team thus far in Florida International, so take these big points with the Golden Panthers on Saturday.

[gameodds]14/254486/?r-1=238-92-43-349-192/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: Florida International +15½ (-119)

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