NCAA Basketball Pick: Tournament Play of the Day Tuesday

LT Profits Sports Group

Tuesday, March 18, 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 Tuesday.

Just because the Big Dance starts tonight, do not forget about the NIT Tournament as there is a rather surprising home underdog Tuesday night when the Utah Utes (21-11, 2-8 away) pay a visit to those St. Mary’s Gaels (22-11, 15-3 home) at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, CA at 11:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN2.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has St. Mary’s as a home underdog for this contest with the current line at +1½ with odds of -108.

Saint Mary’s won 22 games this season, but the Gaels did not have their usual success in the West Coast Conference this season going 11-7 and finishing fourth in the conference. This is a team that had become accustomed to finishing as the runners-up to Gonzaga every year, and as fate would have it, it was Gonzaga again that knocked the Gaels out of the WCC Tournament, expect this time it was in the tournament semifinals and not the finals as usual.

Utah comes out of a major conference in the Pac12, which is probably the reason why the Utes are favored in Moraga here, but they were bottom-half team that finished only eighth in the conference and they were unceremoniously bounced from the Pac-12 Tournament by an ugly 71-39 score by first place Arizona. Obviously the Wildcats are on a different level than St. Mary’s, but it is not as if the Utes have not lost to teams on the Gaels’ level, especially on the road.

And despite what most perceived to be a disappointing year for the Gaels, they did continue to protect their home court well, which is easy to forget considering that Gonzaga came here and dismantled them 75-47 in the regular season finale. But even with that big loss, St. Mary’s finished at 15-3 in Moraga with an average winning margin of +10.8 points, a home AMOV that swells all the way up to +13.1 points if you take away the loss to the Bulldogs.

St. Mary’s has a good offense that can produce points vs. teams from any level, thanks to being a very good offensive rebounding team and shooting three-pointers well. The Gaels are 29th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage at 36.4 percent, easily eclipsing the national average of 31.5 percent, and they are shooting 37.9 percent beyond the three-point arc to rank 45th in the land.

Something else that St. Mary’s does well that does not get much attention is get to the foul line often, ranking 36th in the country in FTA/FGA percentage at 47.9 percent. Granted they are only decent when getting to the charity stripe at 70.8 percent, but they make up for it with volume to add those cheap points.

Another reason why St. Mary’s offers value as a home underdog is because Utah is simply not a good road team as the Utes finished 2-8 in true road contests, where their average of 72.3 points dips all the way down to 64.4 points on only 42.7 percent shooting. Sure they visited some tough road venues inside the Pac-12, but the Utes also managed to lose when visiting lowly Washington State inside the conference.

Also, while Utah finished 11-1 vs. non-conference opponents this season, all 11 of those wins came at home! That’s right, the Utes only played one non-conference game on the road this season until now, and that resulted in a loss at Boise State, which at best is on par but is more likely not quite as good as St. Mary’s.

Add this all up and the wrong team may be favored in this game, so take St. Mary’s in the NIT Tournament in Tuesday.

[gameodds]14/262016/?r-1=238-92-43-349-192/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: St. Mary’s +1½ (-108)