NCAA Basketball Pick: UTEP Miners +3 over Memphis Tigers

LT Profits Sports Group

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 5:00 AM GMT

Memphis is shooting for an undefeated conference record, but UTEP is 13-2 at home and is having its senior night, and the Miners play a slow style than can frustrate the Tigers.

The ranked team that is aiming for an undefeated record in Conference USA could be walking into a buzzsaw Tuesday night when those Memphis Tigers (25-4, 8-1 away) pay a visit to the UTEP Miners (16-12, 13-2 home) at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, TX at 9:00 ET in a game televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.

The point spread at 5 Dimes has UTEP as a home underdog for this contest with the current line at +3 with odds of -105.

Memphis is now a perfect 14-0 in Conference-USA play with only this game and a home date with UAB on Saturday standing between the Tigers and a perfect conference mark, but the young Tigers are facing a difficult task tonight on senior night in El Paso.

Honoring their seniors can give the Miners an added emotional boost tonight, but this is a team that has not needed much help when playing at the Haskins Center, going 13-2 at home. That includes a 6-1 conference home mark with the Miners winning those games by an average of +9.3 points.

The Miners have been winning with stiff defense, especially inside Conference-USA where they rank second in defensive efficiency, second in effective field goal percentage allowed, third in two-point defense and third in three-point defense. Furthermore that defense has been downright suffocating over the last five games, during which UTEP is allowing a puny 53.4 points per game while allowing those opponents to shoot a putrid 35.4 percent from the field!

UTEP also plays a methodical offense that ranks 321st in the country on tempo rating at 61.6 possessions per game, which is precisely the style of offense that can frustrate a running team like Memphis. And naturally, the Miners’ senior starters Konner Tucker and Jacques Streeter could easily elevate their games in their final career home games.

Now, Memphis recently had an 18-game winning streak snapped by Xavier 64-62 on the road in non-conference play, but although the Tigers have breezed through Conference-USA, the Musketeers did lay the blueprint in that game for how to beat Memphis by slowing the pace, which is something that UTEP does naturally well.

You see, in addition to ranking 32nd in the country with a tempo rating of 69.7 possessions, Memphis is also a very young team with its six biggest contributors all being underclassmen, so while the Tigers are obviously ultra-talented and very athletic, they can be rattled a bit when unable to play the running style they love. Remember that this is a team that ranks just 245th in the country in offensive turnover percentage after all.

Thus look for UTEP to frustrate the young Tigers with its plodding pace to the point where the Miners could pull off the upset on senior night on Tuesday.

[gameodds]14/223015/19-238-93-92-1096/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: UTEP +3 (-105)