NCAA Basketball Pick: Tournament Play of the Day Sunday

LT Profits Sports Group

Sunday, March 23, 2014 4:00 AM GMT

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 Sunday.

With most of the nation enamored with the Big Dance, there is some value to be found with a road underdog in the NIT Tournament Sunday when those St. Mary’s Gaels (23-11, 5-5 away) pay a visit to the Minnesota Golden Gophers (21-13, 16-3 home) at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, MN at 3:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN2.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has St. Mary’s as a road underdog for this contest with the current line at +6 with odds of -110.

Many were questioning the motivation of the Golden Gophers entering the NIT after their late-season collapse culminating 26-point loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament cost them a bid to the NCAA Tournament, and frankly those questions still exist even after winning in the first round, as Minnesota only beat High Point 88-81 as a 17-point favorite. And the Gophers are facing a seemingly better opponent here in the Gaels.

St. Mary’s may have had a disappointing season in the West Coast Conference finishing only fourth at 11-7 in conference play, but the Gaels at least seem interested in winning this tournament following a 23-win season and motivation means a lot in these lesser tournaments.

St. Mary’s already beat one major-conference team in this tournament when the Gaels knocked off Utah out of the Pac-12 70-58 back home in Moraga in the first round Tuesday, dominating the second half of that game by overcoming a seven-point halftime deficit and outscoring the Utes 47-28 over the game’s final 20 minutes. The Gaels force Utah into a whopping 20 turnovers in that contest.

They can now do the same vs. a Minnesota team that ranked 11th in the Big Ten in offensive turnover percentage, and remember that they beat the Utes with a sub-par offensive performance where they shot just 44.2 percent for the game and went just 6-of-17, 35.3 percent beyond the three-point arc.

Look for improvement today from a team that has a very good effective field goal percentage of 51.5 percent for the season and that ranks 48th in the country in three-point percentage at 37.9 percent, especially vs. a Minnesota team ranked 172nd in three-point defense.

Now, the Golden Gophers ranked 102nd in defensive efficiency during the season and 126th in effective field goal percentage allowed, and that was while giving it their best every game, which is no guarantee today. The Gophers allowed High Point to shoot 46.2 percent from three-point land (12-for-26), and we still question what kind if intensity they will bring to this contest and more lax perimeter defense could prove fatal vs. the St. Mary’s three-point shooters.

Minnesota also uncharacteristically committed only six turnovers vs. the Panthers, which is something else that does not figure to be duplicated this game vs. a better team.

Thus look for a more motivated St. Mary’s team to at the very least take this game down to the wire with an outright upset not beyond the realm of possibility in the NIT on Sunday.

[gameodds]14/262298/?r-1=238-92-43-349-192/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: St. Mary’s +6 (-110)