NCAA Basketball Pick: Manhattan -2 over Niagara Sunday

LT Profits Sports Group

Sunday, February 17, 2013 5:00 AM GMT

The Manhattan Jaspers are now playing like they were expected to all year after being picked by many to win the MAAC. Look for their newfound winning ways to continue vs. Niagara.

One of the preseason favorites to win the MAAC is starting to peak at the perfect time, and look for that to continue on Sunday when the Niagara Purple Eagles (15-11, 6-7 away) pay a visit to those Manhattan Jaspers (10-15, 6-3 home) at Draddy Gymnasium in the Bronx, NY at 2:00 ET.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Manhattan as a small home favorite for this contest with the current line at -2 with odds of -107.

Manhattan was the preseason pick by many to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, but it was languishing at 5-14 overall and 3-6 in the conference when the light switched on, and the Jaspers have now won five of their last six games with the only loss being by three points at Siena during this time.

The reason most experts were high on the Jaspers is they returned four starters from a team that won 21 games overall including a road win at Albany in the CIT last season, including the leading score from that team in George Beamon, who averaged 19.0 points per game. However, Beamon was the only player among those four returnees that averaged double-digits, and he was lost to an ankle injury after just four games this season and has not played since.

Thus the Manhattan offense was unbearable to watch until the recent emergence of Rhamel Brown, and it is probably not a coincidence that Manhattan started winning when Brown started asserting himself. And he is doing a lot more than just scoring points too, as demonstrated by his monstrous performance in a 74-73 double overtime win over the Iona Gaels on Friday.

Brown had 21 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocked shots in that contest, and it is not as if that effort came out of the blue either as he is averaging 13.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.7 blocked shots over the last six games, which coincides with Manhattan’s 5-1 streak!

Niagara leads the MAAC with an 11-4 conference mark, but the Purple Eagles are coming back to earth as they have lost three of their last four games after a 10-1 MAAC start, as they have been having defensive issues all season long.

Niagara is ranked 211th in the country in defensive efficiency and 286th in effective field goal percentage against, and that reared its ugly head when the Purple Eagles allowed 82.0 points per game over a four-game stretch prior to a narrow 57-54 win Friday over an awful 7-19 Marist team that is ranked 267th overall on the Pomeroy Ratings. Niagara dropped to 0-4 ATS in the last four games with that struggle and is now just 5-12 ATS in its last 17 road games.

While the Purple Eagles have struggled defensively, Manhattan ranks a respectable 83rd nationally in defensive efficiency and 95th in effective field goal percentage against, and it ranks second in defensive efficiency during MAAC play and leads the conference in eFG% allowed, so look for the Jaspers to stay hot on Sunday.

[gameodds]14/221167/238-19-93-92-1096/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: Manhattan -2 (-107)