NCAA Basketball Pick: Hawaii Warriors vs. UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

LT Profits Sports Group

Thursday, March 6, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

Thursday, Mar. 6, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

A couple of 19-win teams square off in the Big West on ESPNU when the Hawaii Warriors come to the mainland to visit the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos on Thursday.

It could be a tight contest that goes down to the wire on national TV in the Big West Thursday night when the Hawaii Warriors (19-9, 5-3 away) pay a visit to the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (19-8, 9-3 home) at the UCSB Event Center in Santa Barbara, CA at 9:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPNU.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Hawaii as a road underdog for this contest with the current line at +4½ with odds of -110.

It used to be that Hawaii struggled when leaving the islands and visiting the mainland, but that has not been the case this season with the Warriors going 5-3 both straight up and ATS on the road. In fact, Hawaii has been one of the better bets in the nation this season regardless of the venue going 14-9-1 ATS overall as the Warriors are on the brink of winning 20 games for the first time since way back in the 2003-04 season!

Hawaii is not the only 19-win team here, as the home standing Gauchos are 19-8 including 10-4 in Big West play, leaving Santa Barbara one game behind UC Irvine (11-3) for the conference lead. It seems highly unlikely that the Big West will receive any at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament however, so in all likelihood the team that wins the Big West Tournament next week will be this conference’s only representative in the Big Dance.

Now Santa Barbara did go into the paradise that is Honolulu and hand Hawaii one of its uncharacteristic five home losses this year 75-64 on February 6th, but unlike past seasons, the Warriors have shown this year that they are not powerless to now get some revenge on the road. In fact, the Warriors’ narrow covering 63-61 loss at Long Beach State last Thursday snapped a four-game road straight up winning streak for Hawaii.

A key to this contest could be turnovers, because Hawaii does not commit many of them ranking 82nd in the country in offensive turnover percentage at 17.0 percent vs. a national average of 18.4 percent and ranking second in the Big West in that department while actually lowering that turnover rate to 16.0 percent vs. conference foes. Meanwhile, Santa Barbara does not force many ranking 291st nationally and dead last inside the Big West in defensive turnover percentage.

That should allow Hawaii to runs its offense basically unencumbered, and that makes the Warriors very dangerous considering they lead the Big West in offensive efficiency, thanks to leading the conference in two-point shooting at 52.9 percent.

Santa Barbara is usually the team controlling the pace as it is very methodical, ranking 314th in the country in tempo rating. Thus the fact that the Gauchos rank 43rd in the nation and fourth in the conference in effective field goal percentage must be taken in context as they get off far fewer shots than most other teams.

A major key to the win by the Gauchos in Hawaii earlier this year was that they went 8-for-22 for 36.4 percent from beyond the three-point arc while the Warriors went just 3-for-19 from downtown. However, three-point shooting is not normally a big part of the Santa Barbara repertoire as it ranks only sixth in the Big West in shooting threes at 34.7 percent, so do expect a replay here.

The Gauchos may also get frustrated by getting a dose of their own medicine with Hawaii being the team controlling tempo and playing keep-away tonight, so take the points with the Warriors in what should be a close contest on Thursday.

[gameodds]14/260389/?r-1=238-92-43-349-192/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: Hawaii +4½ (-110)

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