A mid-major has a chance for a defining win on the road vs. a major conference team when the Valparaiso Crusaders go into Pac-12 territory to visit the Oregon State Beavers Tuesday.
For the second time in as many games, the mid-major road team has a chance to make a statement vs. a major conference school Tuesday night in an attempt to validate a 5-0 start, and we think that this time it will when the Valparaiso Crusaders (5-1, 3-1 ATS) out of the Horizon League pay a visit to the Oregon State Beavers (4-0, 2-1 ATS) of the Pac-12 at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, OR 9:05 ET in a game available on Pac-12 Network.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Valparaiso as a scant road underdog for this contest with the current line at +1 with odds of -104.
Fell Short but Covered at 21st Ranked Oregon
Valparaiso looked impressive during its 5-0 start, but this experienced team failed in its first attempt vs. a major school losing 73-67 at Oregon on Sunday. Still, there was a lot to like about that effort while covering the spread in a six-point loss on the road to what is now the 21st ranked team in the country in the latest AP Poll, and the Crusaders can build on that for this game, which is their last scheduled encounter with a major conference team this season.
Oregon State is still perfect as the winning NCAA Basketball pick in all four games so far, but the Beavers are a bit short-handed right now with returning forwards Daniel Gomis and Jarmal Reid both out with injuries. Oregon State returned all five starters all five starters from last season, but it has attempted to replace the missing production of the two injured forwards with three freshmen in Stephen Thompson, Drew Eubanks and Tres Tinkle.
Ranked 27th on Pomeroy Overall
Valparaiso also returns all five starters from the defending Horizon League Championship team of last season that finished 28-6 overall and then gave Maryland all that it can handle in a narrow 65-62 loss in the NCAA Tournament, the same Maryland team that is currently ranked second in the country on the AP Poll. And unlike Oregon State, all of the Crusaders’ returnees are healthy and playing well.
Valparaiso’s NCAA Tournament run was keyed by great defense last year when the Crusaders finished 33rd in the country in adjust defensive efficiency, and the Crusaders are actually topping that so far ranking 10th in the early going. The 44.8 percent shooting allowed vs. Oregon was a season high, but they still held the Ducks below their season average and are currently 30th in the nation in field goal percentage allowed at 34.5 percent overall.
The Crusaders are averaging 75.5 points offensively and are ranked 60th on offensive efficiency, which is an improvement from their 125th offensive ranking for all of last season as their experience may be paying off dividends. And while Valparaiso is not nationally ranked, it is now an excellent 27th overall on the Pomeroy Ratings, which is eight spots ahead of Oregon State in 35th.
New Freshman-Laden Rotation
The Beavers did not expect to change much this season with the entire starting lineup back, but instead the injuries to Gomis and Reid have them trying to integrate five freshman into the rotation right now, as they are blessed to have one of the best recruiting classes in school history. Still, with youth come mistakes and you can expect the vastly more experience Valpo defense to apply pressure on the freshmen at every opportunity.
And it is not as if the entire starting lineup (before injuries) came back from a powerhouse squad as Oregon State finished a modest 17-14 last season and did not go to a post-season tournament after losing to Colorado in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament. Some are expecting bigger things from the Beavers this year, and they could very well improve as the season goes on and the talented freshmen gain experience.
But for right now Valparaiso is the more experienced team and also the team ranked higher on Pomeroy, so we look for the Crusaders to take advantage of this last chance this regular season to beat a major conference team.
Rising Up vs. Better Competition
Finally, Valparaiso has always tended to raise its level of play vs. better competition, as after the cover at Oregon the Crusaders are 8-0-1 ATS in their last nine games vs. teams with a winning percentage above .600, as well as 13-2-1 ATS in their last 16 games vs. teams with winning records! Meanwhile Oregon State is 0-4 ATS in its last four games following an ATS win and 0-5 ATS its last five games vs. teams with winning records
Look for those patterns to continue as Valparaiso gets its statement win on the road at Oregon State on Tuesday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Valparaiso +1 (-104)