NCAA Basketball Pick: Western Kentucky -9 over NC-Wilmington

LT Profits Sports Group

Thursday, November 21, 2013 5:00 AM GMT

Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 5:00 AM GMT

In a matchup of two offensively challenged teams, the far superior defense of Western Kentucky should make the difference at home as it takes on NC-Wilmington on Thursday.

In a matchup or two teams with weak offenses so far Thursday night, a far superior defense and the support of the crowd could spur the home team on to a handy double-digit win when the NC-Wilmington Seahawks (3-2, 2-2 away) pay a visit to those Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (1-1, 1-0 home) in the Roundball Showcase from Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, KY at 8:00 ET.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Western Kentucky as a decided favorite for this contest with the current line at -9 with odds of -113.

Western Kentucky is coming off of a 20-16 season where it finished the year strong, winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament where the Hilltoppers gave the Kansas Jayhawks a battle before losing 64-57. Four starters from that team are now back for this season, but JUCO transfer Aaron Adeoye could end up being the leader of this team before all is said and done.

NC Wilmington on the other hand probably does not have much to look forward to this season. Besides the fact that the Seahawks are coming off of a 10-20 season and have now won just a grand total of 33 games in the last three years under Coach Buzz Peterson, they also lost their only star from last year in Keith Rendleman, who averaged a double-double with 17.0 points and 10.5 rebounds, and they lack a bona fide go-to scorer at this point.

Now, it has been a struggle offensively for Western Kentucky through two games despite the four returning starters including leading scorer T.J. Price. Yes, Price is leading the way again averaging 15.0 points per game, but he is getting no support as he is the team’s only double-digit scorer right now with Adeoye off to a slow start with the step up from JUCO. However, opening the season vs. a tough defense like Wichita State will skew early numbers.

The Hilltoppers lost to the Shockers 66-49 in Wichita, which can be seen as a forgivable loss, while being held to a pathetic 28.6 percent shooting going 18-for-63 from the floor! Western Kentucky rebounded with a 57-50 home win over East Tennessee State, but the shooting was not much better at 36.0 percent (18-for-50).

Remember though that this is a team that ranked just 186th in offensive efficiency last year with four of this year’s starters, which is why the addition of Adeoye was seen as a boost after he averaged 14.3 points and 8.0 rebounds at John A. Logan College in Illinois last season.

The Toppers’ offense figures to improve, but the defense has not missed a beat. It was that defense that sparked the last NCAA run last year and that unit has continued to flourish in the early going, ranking 48th nationally in defensive efficiency, 14th in effective field goal percentage allowed and 30th in turnover percentage, forcing turnovers on 23.0 percent of opponents’ possessions vs. a national average of 18.4 percent!

It is that defense that could lead to a double-digit win here over a Wilmington offense struggling to find its identity. Sure, the Seahawks have won three straight games, but all three wins have come in non-lined games with none being impressive, especially needing overtime to nip Charleston Southern. In their only two games vs. real competition, the Seahawks lost 82-39 to Iowa and 95-62 to Iowa State.

Granted those are two very good opponents, but Wilmington is still ranked just 219th in adjusted offensive efficiency while obviously missing the departed Rendleman a great deal, and unlike Western Kentucky, the Seahawks do not have a good defense to fall back on ranking 249th in defensive efficiency through five games.

Look for the defensive pressure applied by Western Kentucky to create points for the Hilltoppers in transition, helping to lead them to a double-digit home win on Thursday.

[gameodds]14/250204/?r-1=238-92-43-349-192/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: Western Kentucky -9 (-113)

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