NCAA Basketball Pick on Middle Tennessee at Auburn

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, December 29, 2014 4:27 PM GMT

Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Monday.

 

The points seem worth taking Monday night in what should be a fairly low scoring game with potentially ugly shooting when the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (7-5, 2-2 away) pay a visit to the Auburn Tigers (6-5, 5-1 home) at Auburn Arena in Auburn, AL at 9:00 ET in a game televised nationally on SEC Network.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Middle Tennessee State as a road underdog for this contest with the current line at +7½ with odds of -110.


SEC vs. Conference-USA
Although Auburn is the team from the major conference here in the SEC, these teams are not separated by all that much with the Tigers being a lower echelon SEC team in its first season under Coach Bruce Pearl while Middle Tennessee is one of the top Conference-USA squads. Auburn got off to a 3-5 start before being the winning NCAA Basketball picks in its last three games, but it still ranks only 156th overall on the Pomeroy Ratings.

Middle Tennessee has won four of its last five games with the only loss in this span coming on the road at an excellent Oklahoma State team ranked 25th on Pomeroy and on the cusp of the Top 25 in the AP poll, bringing the Blue Raiders to 7-5 overall and moving them up to 172nd on Pomeroy. They have also won two true road games already at Akron and at South Alabama, so they have not minded travelling that much.


Offensively Challenged Tigers
Auburn was an awful 9-23 overall and 3-15 inside the SEC two seasons ago, but the Tigers actually showed improvement under former head coach Tony Barbee last year going 14-16 and 6-12 respectively, although that was not enough to prevent them from going out and hiring a big name in the former Tennessee Coach Pearl. But while they have a winning 6-5 record so far, they are as offensively challenged as ever.

In fact they appear to have gone backwards after actually looking a bit better last year, currently ranking 237th in the country in offensive efficiency and 224th in effective field goal percentage at 47.2 percent, and they are struggling from all points on the floor hitting on only 47.7 percent of their two-point attempts (169th), 31.0 percent of their three-pointers (255th) and even only 63.6 percent of their free throws, which ranks 295th!

That does not exactly exude confidence in a team being asked to give this many points, as this line might be skewed a tad by the conference affiliations of these teams. And to make matters worse, Auburn does not get many second chances either ranking 227th in offensive rebounding percentage at 29.4 percent vs. a national average of 31.4 percent, while simultaneously allowing too many of them while ranking 224th in defensive rebounding percentage.


At Least Blue Raiders Can Rebound
Now granted, Middle Tennessee is not a good shooting team either ranking 251st in offensive efficiency and 279th in effective field percentage, but the Blue Raiders are not the team giving 7½ points here and they should have the edge on second chances because they could actually rebound. In fact, MTSU is an excellent 23rd in defensive rebounding percentage so Auburn should get hardly any opportunities here for put-backs or extended possessions.

And Middle Tennessee is shooting 45.0 percent over the last two games, resulting in safe wins over Tennessee State and Chattanooga, and while that may not sound like much, you must consider it is a vast improvement over the Raiders’ 39.1 shooting percentage this season. Considering the offensive struggles of Auburn, if MTSU approached 45 percent here it could result in an outright upset, especially with the Tigers expected to have so few second chances.


Back-to-Back Squeakers
Finally, Auburn could just as easily be 4-7 instead of 6-5 after back-to-back one-point wins. Granted the first of those was still a nice win over Xavier, but the Tigers then needed to overcome an 11-point deficit in the second half to nip Texas Southern 61-60 last Tuesday. Texas Southern is ranked 178th on Pomeroy, six spots lower than Middle Tennessee.

We would not be at all shocked by an outright upset here, but our recommendation is to take the seemingly generous points with Middle Tennessee at Auburn on Monday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Middle Tennessee State +7½ (-110)