NCAA Basketball Pick: Youngstown State +3½ over Illinois-Chicago

LT Profits Sports Group

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 5:00 AM GMT

The Illinois-Chicago Flames are a poor shooting team ranking 326th in the land in two-point shooting and Youngstown State has played good interior defense. Take the Penguins on the road.

Continued shooting woes may continue to plague the home team Wednesday night when the Youngstown State Penguins (8-5, 4-1 away) pay a visit to those Illinois-Chicago Flames (9-4, 5-0 home) at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, IL at 8:00 ET.

The point spread at Bookmaker Sportsbook has Youngstown State as a moderate underdog for this contest with the current line at +3½ with odds of -110.

These are two teams that are very happy that the Horizon League has a new look this season with the Butler Bulldogs jumping ship to join the Atlantic 10, given that the Bulldogs have the look right now of a team that may have matched its undefeated run through the Horizon two years ago this season and the rest of the league now has a chance to win the conference title.

This game marks the conference opener for both of these teams, and a peak at the current Pomeroy Ratings reveals that underdog Youngstown State is the third highest rank Horizon League team right now behind last year’s regular season champion Valparaiso in first and last year’s post-season champion and NCAA Tournament representative Detroit in second.

Illinois-Chicago is currently next as the fourth highest ranked Horizon team, but we feel Youngstown is the more likely of these teams to maintain their positions the rest of the way. UIC finished second from the bottom in the conference last season with a 3-15 Horizon mark due in large part to poor shooting, and that does not seem corrected this year with the Flames ranking 311th in the country in field goal percentage at a measly 39.4 percent.

The reason that the Flames are currently ranked fourth in the conference is because their defense looks improved, ranking 42nd in the country in effective field goal percentage allowed at 43.7 percent. However, Youngstown State has also been good in that area, yielding an effective field goal percentage of just 44.5 percent, so this contest will come down to which offense does a better job of solving the opponent’s defense, and this looks like a bad matchup for the Flames.

You see, UIC is actually shooting a commendable 36.1 percent on its three-point attempts, but it ranks a pathetic 326th out of 347 Division I teams in two-point shooting percentage at only 40.5 percent, and interior defense is a strong suit for Youngstown State as the Penguins rank a very good 47th in defending two-pointers at 42.3 percent.

Youngstown State had a winning 10-8 record inside the conference last season and the Penguins then won a game in the Horizon League Tournament before having the misfortune of running into the hot Detroit Titans team.

Now by no means are we calling for an offensive explosion by the Penguins tonight either, but the Penguins do have the second highest scoring average among all Horizon teams right now at 73.8 points per game and they are certainly the hotter team entering this contest, having won five of their last six games while UIC has lost three straight games following an unrealistic 9-1 start.

Look for that correction for UIC to continue here as Youngstown State prevails on the road Wednesday.

[gameodds]14/134798/93-238-19-92-1096/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: Youngstown State +3½ (-110)