NCAA Basketball Pick: Tournament Play of the Day Thursday

LT Profits Sports Group

Thursday, April 3, 2014 4:00 AM UTC

Thursday, Apr. 3, 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 Thursday.

We have now reached the NIT Championship Game and points may be hard to come by when the Minnesota Golden Gophers (24-13, 6-10 away/neutral) take on the SMU Mustangs (27-9, 11-8 away/neutral) at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY at 7:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.

The posted total at Bet365 is 131½ for this contest with the current odds on the ‘under’ set at -110.

As has been brought up many times, SMU was probably the most notable snub by the NCAA Tournament selection committee, and that belief has been validated even further by Connecticut advancing the NCAA Final Four after SMU beat the Huskies twice during the season! To their credit, the Mustangs did not bow their head when settling for this NIT invite and, four wins later, here they are in the Championship Game.

Minnesota also appeared probable to make the NCAA Tournament until late in the year, but unlike SMU, the Golden Gophers only have themselves to blame as they basically played their way out of the Big Dance by going just 4-7 in their last 11 regular season games and then by losing by 26 points to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament. The Gophers have also showed some gumption though by winning four games to get to this deciding contest.

SMU has prided itself on defense under legendary coach Larry Brown, and that has continued while allowing an average of 61.3 points in its four NIT wins, with the most recent being 65-59 over Clemson in the semifinals here at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. That defense has helped bide time while the offense has overcome some slow starts, but in the end the only near defeat thus far was a 67-65 win over California with SMU winning with six second left.

SMU is ranked 17th in the country in defensive efficiency, thanks to ranking 14th in effective field goal percentage allowed at 44.5 percent and 27th in defensive turnover percentage at 21.2 percent, well above the national average of 18.3! In fact SMU is currently ranked 30th in the country overall on the Pomeroy Ratings, further proof that the NCAA committee may have missed the boat with the Mustangs.

The SMU offense is only decent though, ranking 67th nationally in efficiency. Granted the Mustangs are a good 38th in effective field goal percentage at 52.8 percent, but that has been offset by sloppy ball-handling as SMU is a brutal 285th in offensive turnover percentage, losing possession an unacceptable 20.1 percent of the time. Thus, as you might expect, SMU has been a good ‘under’ team this season at 19-12, 61.3 percent.

The Golden Gophers come off of an overtime win over Florida State, but that game still stayed ‘under’ that total even with the added five minutes with the 67-64 final, a final that is actually a shade less than tonight’s posted total. Minnesota may have had a fairly easy path to that NIT semifinal after beating High Point, St. Mary’s (at home) and Southern Miss in the first three wins, and the offense clearly struggled with the rise in competition.

The Gophers shot just 38.9 percent for that game overall, but their defense was able to defend a mediocre Florida State offense, holding the Seminoles to 38.5 percent shooting. Well, they are facing an SMU team here with a very similar profile as Florida State, so this could very well be a similarly low-scoring contest.

Thus, go ‘under’ this total in the NIT Championship Game on Thursday.


NCAA Basketball Pick: Minnesota, SMU ‘under’ 131½ (-110)

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