NCAA Basketball Pick: Tournament Play of the Day Friday

LT Profits Sports Group

Friday, March 28, 2014 4:00 AM UTC

Friday, Mar. 28, 2014 4:00 AM UTC

Every day this NCAA post-season, LT Profits Sports seeks one single tournament play that has the best chance of cashing. Here is their Tournament Play of the Day Friday.

Three-point shooting could give the small underdogs the edge in the NCAA Tournament Friday night when those Connecticut Huskies (28-8, 14-5 away/neutral) take on the Iowa State Cyclones (28-7, 13-6 away/neutral) in the East Region from Madison Square Garden in New York, NY at 7:27 ET in a game televised nationally on TBS.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Connecticut as a tiny underdog for this contest with the current line at +1½ with odds of -102.

The underdog Huskies are actually ranked one spot above Iowa State on the Pomeroy Ratings at 19th in the country after beating St. Joseph’s in overtime and then upsetting second seeded Villanova in this NCAA Tournament thus far. Connecticut will also have most of the crowd support with the Huskies making the fairly short trip to New York City, and remember that Connecticut played at Madison Square Garden many times where it played in the Big East.

Iowa State has held up its third seeding through two games in the tournament so far and the Cyclones are the higher seed again here with Connecticut being a seven-seed, but ISU had a tough time getting by North Carolina in the third round and this contest does not figure to be any easier, especially if the Cyclones do not improve their perimeter defense.

The Huskies are on a nice roll right now as they have gone 11-3 in their last 14 games including their tournament wins, and besides one bad performance where they lost at home 64-55 to the NCAA Tournament snubs from SMU, the other two losses were both forgivable ones to the Louisville Cardinals, a team ranked in the top three right now in every reliable set of power ratings despite being seeded fourth in their region in an inept job by the selections committee.

Connecticut has been solid defensively all year and the offense has now caught up during this hot streak. In fact the Huskies are currently 10th in the country in defensive efficiency and ninth in effective field goal percentage allowed, and they have really been stingy on the interior, ranking seventh in the nation in two-point defense at 41.8 percent. If you are believers that good defense stops good offense, UConn seems to match up great with Iowa State’s offensive strength.

Offensively the Huskies are now up to a respectable 59th in efficiency, and the biggest key to their offense has been three-point shooting where they are 17th in the land at 39.2 percent. That is an area where Connecticut can get some separation in this contest vs. an Iowa State team ranked only 134th in three-point defense!

Iowa State has taken the opposite approach of Connecticut by getting here with offense, ranking 10th in the country in offensive efficiency and 17th in effective field goal percentage. A closer look at that latter figure however reveals that the Cyclones have not shot the ball as well from beyond the three-point arc as in past years, ranking only 101st in that category at 35.8 percent, and that they have done their damage inside the arc ranking ninth in two-point offense.

That Iowa State two-point percentage of 54.6 percent is certainly terrific, but the problem here is that the Cyclones’ style this season plays right into the strength of the Connecticut defense. Iowa State does not figure to have its usual success inside in this game, especially with Georges Niang and his 16.7 points per game out with a foot injury, and if this becomes a three-point shooting contest, the Huskies would appear to have the decided edge.

And then there is that matter of the Iowa State defense, as the Cyclones got away with allowing North Carolina to make 50.0 percent of its two-point shots and 40.0 percent of its three-pointers in an 85-83 escape on Sunday on a lay-up in traffic by DeAndre Kane with 1.6 seconds left. Shoddy defense like that vs. Shabazz Napier & Co., especially from three-point land, should prove fatal to the Cyclones.

Thus, look for Connecticut to pull the mild upset in a game where it seems like the wrong team is favored in the East Region on Friday.


NCAA Basketball Pick: Connecticut +1½ (-102)

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