NCAA Basketball Pick: Illinois State vs. Loyola-Chicago

LT Profits Sports Group

Sunday, February 9, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

There could be some hidden value in the Missouri Valley Conference when the Illinois State Redbirds travel to the Chicago to face the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers Sunday.

The Missouri Valley Conference has some of the strongest home court advantages in the country, and that theory will be put to the test Sunday when the Illinois State Redbirds (13-10, 3-6 away) pay a visit to the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (8-15, 7-4 home) at the Joseph J. Gentile Center in Chicago, IL at 4:00 ET in a game available on ESPN3.

The point spread at Bet365 has Loyola-Chicago as a tiny home favorite for this contest with the current line at -1 with odds of -110.

Do not be fooled by the overall disparity in the records of these two teams, as the home court dominance that has categorized the Missouri Valley Conference for many years even trickles down to a Loyola-Chicago team that is ninth in the MVC with a 3-8 conference mark, as the Ramblers are 7-4 overall here in Chicago compared to 0-10 in true road games!

Illinois State is third in the conference at 6-5, two games behind second place Indiana State (8-3) but probably no threat to undefeated Wichita State (12-0). However, even with the gaudy record the Redbirds also fit the prototypical Missouri Valley mode as they are 9-3 in their own building but 3-6 in true roadsters like this one.

The venue of this game aside, Illinois-Chicago is probably better than its overall record as this team can shoot the basketball. In fact, the Ramblers are shooting 47.5 percent overall for the season to incredibly rank 37th in the country in that department. Granted the Ramblers are only 236th in offensive efficiency overall because they do very little else well besides shoot, ranking 315th on offensive turnover percentage and 306th in offensive rebounding.

But they have a winning home record while winning most of those games with their shooting alone, as they are 40th in the country in effective field goal percentage at 53.0 percent and they have been especially lethal closer to the basket, ranking 23rd nationally in two-point percentage at 53.3 percent. That is one area the Ramblers could potentially dominate here vs. an Illinois State team being forced to play small right now.

And Illinois-Chicago has not been helpless on the defensive end during Missouri Valley Conference play, ranking fourth in those games in defensive efficiency and second in effective field goal percentage allowed. The Ramblers even held Wichita State to 57 points, and that was in Wichita! This improved defense since the start of MVC play combined with its good shooting has Loyola-Chicago a bit undervalued right now as it is 5-1-1 ATS the last seven games.

Illinois State may have the significantly better overall record, but it grades out much more poorly than Loyola does offensively and although the Redbirds are 52nd overall in defensive efficiency, their points allowed shoots up to 74.8 points per game on the road. Illinois State is also only 1-4 on the road during conference play.

The Redbirds’ lineup consists of 6-foor-10 center Reggie Lynch, who is only averaging a nondescript 7.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game and is also now dealing with a nose injury sustained last game, and no other player taller than 6-foot-4, making this a tough matchup for them vs. the powerful Loyola-Chicago inside game despite the records of these two teams.

And offensively, Illinois State is ranked 262nd in offensive efficiency and 296th in effective field goal percentage, hitting on only 46.5 percent of its two-point attempts and 31.1 percent of its three-point tries.

Thus, let us go with the strong home trend in this conference with the more undervalued team and back Illinois-Chicago at a cheap price on Sunday.

[gameodds]14/257335/?r-1=43-238-92-349-192/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: Loyola-Chicago -1 (-110)