NCAA Basketball Pick: South Carolina +10 over St. Mary’s

LT Profits Sports Group

Sunday, December 22, 2013 5:00 AM GMT

Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013 5:00 AM GMT

The St. Mary’s Gaels are attempting to go to 10-0 on the season and are heavily favored to do so, but the 2-5 South Carolina Gamecocks have faced the tougher schedule.

It could be a closer game than the big line suggests late Sunday night when the South Carolina Gamecocks (2-5, 0-3 away) take on the undefeated St. Mary’s Gaels (9-0, 1-0 away) in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic from the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, HI at 11:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPNU.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has South Carolina as a double-digit underdog for this contest with the current line at +10 with odds of -110.

St. Mary’s is off to a 9-0 start while South Carolina is only 2-5 and comes off of a loss to little South Carolina Upstate after blowing a 17-point lead, but that loss notwithstanding, the Gamecocks have faced the much more difficult schedule losing to the likes of Oklahoma State, Baylor and Clemson, and that slate could have South Carolina primed to at least hang within single-digits vs. a Gaels’ team that has faced a non-conference SOS ranked only 294th.

This could also be the toughest game to date for St. Mary’s despite the Gamecocks’ 2-5 mark, as eight of the nine Gaels’ wins have come at home with none of them vs. a team currently ranked higher than 70th on the Pomeroy Ratings, and the ninth win came on the road vs. a mediocre Boise State club.

St. Mary’s comes off of a 28-7 season where it still could not break the hold of Gonzaga on the West Coast Conference, in fact going 0-3 against the Bulldogs and 28-4 vs. everyone else in a year that ended with a third round loss to Memphis in the NCAA Tournament. However the Gaels lost leading scorer Matthew Dellavedova from that team and they have been rather sloppy with the basketball this season despite the unblemished mark.

You see, St. Mary’s is ranked just 177th in the country in offensive turnover percentage, and then to compound matters, they are not turning teams over defensively either ranking an even worse 206th on that end of the court. The Gaels have been able to get away with that vs. their schedule so far, but that could come back to bite them when they face better teams.

It is also noteworthy that the Gaels are playing at a very slow tempo this season ranking 311th in the country with a tempo rating of 64.6 possessions per game, which oftentimes makes it difficult to cover double-digit spreads, especially with a negative turnover differential.

Now, South Carolina has not shot the ball well this year while averaging only 67.9 points to rank 284th in the country, but part of that has to do with the schedule that it has faced. Yes, blowing that big lead to South Carolina Upstate is disconcerting, but remember that the Gamecocks also lost by two points to Baylor in Waco so they are certainly capable of staying in this game with their best effort.

Perhaps most importantly South Carolina is above average at forcing turnovers, doing so 19.3 percent of the time compared to a national average of 18.6 percent, so the Gaels could also help keep the Gamecocks in the game with continued loose play.

Add this all up and while St. Mary’s does figure to go to 10-0, it may not be quite as easy as this double-digit spread suggests on Sunday.

[gameodds]14/252902/?r-1=238-92-43-349-192/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: South Carolina +10 (-110)

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