NCAA Basketball Picks: Belmont To Enjoy Home Cooking & Upset Valpo

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, December 28, 2015 5:40 PM GMT

Valparaiso may be off to a 10-2 start and ranked 29th on the Pomeroy Ratings, but the Belmont Bruins are always tough at home, where they have played just three times this season.

 

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Belmont +3½ 
Best Line Offered: at Bovada

 

The home team finally gets a chance to enjoy some home cooking after playing in its own building just three times in the first 13 games, and that could make all the difference Monday night despite the hot start by the Valparaiso Crusaders (10-2, 5-4 ATS) as they now pay a visit to those Belmont Bruins (7-6, 5-5 ATS) at the Curb Event Center in Nashville, TN at 8:00 ET in a game available on the OVC Digital Network.

The point spread at 5 Dimes has Belmont as a home underdog for this contest with the current line at +3½ with odds of -108.

 

Ranked 29th on Pomeroy
Valparaiso is off to a great start at 10-2 while playing some of the best defense in the country, allowing just 56.3 points per game and ranking second in the country in defensive efficiency. That has propelled the Crusaders to an amazing 29th ranking overall on the Pomeroy Ratings, which is rather incredible for a Horizon League team. In fact, the second highest ranked Horizon team on Pomeroy is 66th ranked Oakland and the rest of the league is 118th or worse.

Belmont meanwhile is only 7-6 after being the losing NCAA Basketball picks in the last two games, both on the road at Middle Tennessee State and Cleveland State. However, that is precisely the point as the Bruins have played a non-conference schedule dominated by road and neutral court games and have played a measly three home games to this point, which makes the 7-6 record look much more respectable.

 

Early Season Rematch
One of those road games for Belmont, which hails from the Ohio Valley Conference, came vs. these Crusaders where the Bruins covered the spread in a 61-57 loss at Valpo on December 3rd, making this a rare non-conference home-and-home series early in the season.

Belmont is a team that relies on pace, ranking 29th in the country in tempo rating at 73.9 possessions per game, so hanging tough in a contest where Valparaiso did a good job controlling the pace with in a 68-possession game is very encouraging. Belmont is ranked 14th in the country in effective field goal percentage while leading the land in two-point shooting at an incredible 61.5 percent, and the Bruins made 59.1 percent of their two-pointers that first meeting.

While that is an excellent percentage given the quality of the Valpo defense, the Bruins were not successful beyond the three-point arc, making just 7 of their 25 attempts. Still, Belmont is not really a great three-point shooting team anyway at just 34.7 percent, so look for an increased pace here while feeding off of the energy of the home crowd to lead to more two-point attempts, and if the Bruins shoot as well closer to the basket as the first meeting, it could mean an upset.

And speaking of the energy of the crowd, it should be an electric atmosphere in Nashville tonight with Valparaiso being the highest ranked Pomeroy team to ever visit Belmont, with that distinction previously going to then 33rd ranked VCU in 2013.

 

Best Win at Oregon State
While the efficiency ratings on Pomeroy are adjusted for schedule, it still must be said that Valparaiso has beaten just two Top 100 teams this season, with its best win being at 47th ranked Oregon State and the other “good” win coming vs. 63rd ranked Rhode Island, and the latter win came in the Rams’ first game after losing leading scorer E.C. Matthews for a season to a knee injury, taking some luster off of that triumph.

The Crusaders also have a “bad” road loss at 186th ranked Ball State, with the only other loss being an acceptable one at Oregon. Belmont since just outside the Pomeroy 100 at 105th, but the Crusaders nearly lost to the Bruins at home while effectively controlling the pace, so they could be in dire straits here if Belmont successfully quickens the pace and scores close to its normal clip.

If that happens, Valpo appears to lack the offensive firepower to keep up, ranking 127th in the land in offensive efficiency, 218th in effective field goal percentage and perhaps most distressingly 285th in two-point shooting at only 44.5.

 

Rising Up vs. Better Teams
Finally, besides Belmont covering the spread in the first meeting between these teams at Valparaiso nearly four weeks ago, the Bruins are now 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games vs. a teams with winning straight up records. In fact, Belmont is 12-5 ATS in its last 17 games overall.

So while we respect what Valparaiso has done while achieving its 29th ranking on Pomeroy, we are looking for Belmont to take advantage of playing at home for just the fourth time this season by rising up with a mild upset on Monday.