NCAA Basketball Picks: Bet Memphis To Cover ATS vs. SMU

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 10:02 PM GMT

SMU still can achieve its main goal this season: winning the ACC regular-season title. The Mustangs could have their hands full Thursday. SMU is -5 on BetOnline NCAA basketball odds.

Mustangs Still Can Win AAC
SMU players knew entering this season that they weren't eligible for any postseason basketball. So their two goals were easy: an unbeaten record and AAC regular-season title. The Mustangs were the last team to lose in the country this season, going 18-0. But they are just 4-4 since. Still, the team is only a half-game out of  Temple's AAC lead. Those two schools are done playing one another. SMU closes the season at home vs. Tulane, home vs. UConn and at Cincinnati. Those last two will be tough.

On Sunday, SMU (22-4, 10-4) extended its streak of alternating losses and wins over its past eight games with a 74-63 home win over East Carolina. Star Nic Moore led the way with 22 points and seven assists. Markus Kennedy had 19 points and Jordan Tolbert had 12 points and 12 rebounds. SMU outrebounded East Carolina an incredible 41-17. The Ponies are No. 2 in the AAC in rebounding; Memphis is No. 1.

Moore is the reigning AAC Player of the Year and probably wins it again considering he is No. 2 in the league in scoring at 16.8 ppg and No. 1 in assists at 5.3 apg.

“He plays too many minutes and just keeps getting better and better," SMU coach Larry Brown, a Hall of Famer, said of Moore this week to the Dallas Morning News. "He’s got such an IQ and he’s got such a competitive spirit. I’m pretty confident he’s going to be playing for a while after he leaves here.”

SMU is 9-13 against the spread on NCAA basketball odds boards this season and 5-4 ATS on the road.

 

Pastner's Future Unclear With Tigers
Memphis hired young Josh Pastner as its head coach in April 2009, a week after John Calipari left for Kentucky. Pastner had worked just one season as an assistant under Calipari at Memphis but had spent six years as an assistant at Arizona, where he Pastner also played. Pastner was considered a rising star in college basketball and a top recruiter. And Memphis was still quite good under him for a while if not at Calipari's level (no one is at Calipari's level). The team was the Conference USA Tournament championship three straight years starting in the 2010-11 season and made the NCAA Tournament four in a row.

But Memphis slid to 18-14 last year and missed the Big Dance. The Tigers are just 15-12 overall this season (6-8 in AAC) and are going to miss the NCAA again barring a run to the conference tournament title. So I wonder if Pastner is in a bit of trouble as his program seems to be regressing. The guy can still recruit. Forward Dedric Lawson is one of the better freshmen in the country and certainly a top candidate for AAC Freshman of the Year, setting a conference record for most AAC Rookie of the Week honors in a season. Lawson leads the team in scoring at 15.0 ppg and in rebounding at 9.3, which also leads the conference. His 13 double-doubles are four shy of the school's freshman record; Keith Lee holds it at 17 in 1981-82.

So with Lawson and another very good player in senior Shaq Goodwin (14.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg), why isn't this team better? It's something school officials probably will ask themselves when they evaluate Pastner's future after the season. it doesn't help that attendance is also down.

The Tigers lost a game on Saturday they had no right losing, 80-71 at South Florida, one of the AAC's worst teams and which hadn't had a home conference win yet. Lawson had his fifth straight double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, but Goodwin was just 2-for-10 from the field for six points. Memphis shot 36.5 percent from the field and missed 10 of its 20 free throws. It was the Tigers' seventh loss in their past 10 games.

Memphis is 9-15 ATS on NCAA basketball picks and 5-10 ATS at home.

 

First Meeting
On Jan. 30, SMU was a 10.5-point home favorite vs. Memphis and won 80-68. That was the game after the Mustangs' first defeat of the season. SMU led for all but 38 seconds against the Tigers and was up as much as 25. Moore had 22 points despite missing practice all week leading up to the game. Tolbert had 14 rebounds and seven points. SMU won the battle of the glass 48-34. Lawson had seven points and 13 rebounds in the loss. Memphis shot only 32.8 percent.

NCAAB Free Pick: It's the home game of the year for Memphis, and I believe the Tigers respond. They have beaten good teams Temple and Cincinnati there. Take the points. SMU is 0-5 ATS in its past five after a win. The home team has covered 13 of the past 16 meetings. 

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Memphis +4.5
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline