NCAA Basketball Pick: Western Kentucky vs. Arkansas State

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, February 10, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are entertaining hopes of catching Georgia State in the Sun Belt Conference, but first they must visit Arkansas State on Monday.

The home team has a chance to improve its seeding vs. one of the Sun Belt Conference heavyweights Monday night when the defending conference champion Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (16-7, 6-4 away) pay a visit to the Arkansas State Red Wolves (12-8, 6-2 home) at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro, AR at 8:05 ET in a game available on ESPN3.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Arkansas State as a modest home favorite for this contest with the current line at -3 with odds of -110.

The Hilltoppers won the Sun Belt Tournament last season to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament where they gave the Kansas Jayhawks a battle before losing 64-57. However, Western Kentucky has just a mediocre regular season going 10-10 inside the Sun Belt and got hot at the perfect time. Things are different this year as the Toppers are second in the conference at 8-2, two games behind the 10-0 conference newcomers from Georgia State.

Arkansas State is fourth in the conference at 5-4, but the Red Wolves are not pushovers especially here at home where they have lost just once in conference play to Troy, a loss they avenged with a nice double-digit road win at Troy in their last game on Saturday. They now look to avenge a tough double-overtime 82-77 loss at Western Kentucky on January 18th.

Despite Western Kentucky having the better record both overall and in the conference, the only area where the Hilltoppers have a clear-cut advantage over the Red Wolves is in rebounding on both ends of the court. However Arkansas State can offset that by hitting a high percentage of its shots, especially here at home where the Red Wolves average 79.3 points per game with an Average Margin of Victory of +13.0 points.

Arkansas State is ranked 47th in the country in effective field goal percentage thanks to ranking 32nd in three-point shooting at 38.5 percent, and therein lies the key to this game as the Red Wolves figure to have excellent success from beyond the arc vs. a Western Kentucky team that ranks 257th in three-point defense.

Arkansas State had an off-shooting night in the first meeting at Bowling Green shooting just 42.4 percent from the field and going just 6-for-24 from three-point land, and the Wolves still lost by just five points in double-overtime. Look for more “normal” shooting performances in both areas playing here in Jonesboro tonight, which would make ASU very tough to beat.

Now the 16-7 Hilltoppers from Western Kentucky certainly merit respect especially since two of their losses came vs. the likes of Wichita State and Louisville. And as we alluded to earlier, this team leads the Sun Belt in both offensive rebounding percentage and defensive rebounding percentage during conference play, ranking 42nd and 26th nationally in those two categories respectively.

But for all of Western Kentucky’s ability to pick up second chances on the glass, it still ranks a dismal 210th in the country in offensive efficiency, as this is not a good shooting team that ranks 243rd in effective field goal percentage at just 47.9 percent and a horrific 325th in offensive turnover percentage at 21.6 percent, significantly above the national average of 18.5 percent.

So if the Red Wolves shoot the ball as well as they normally do at home and continue to hit a high percentage of three-pointers, not only would it counteract the Hilltoppers’ big rebounding edge but Western Kentucky would also lack the offensive firepower to keep pace.

With this in mind, let us back Arkansas State at a reasonable price at home as it looks to climb the Sun Belt Conference standings on Monday.

[gameodds]14/257473/?r-1=238-92-43-349-192/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: Arkansas State -3 (-110)

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