NCAA Basketball Picks: Finding the Best ATS Value on Monday's Schedule

Darin Zank

Monday, February 23, 2015 4:19 PM GMT

Monday offers a limited slate for college basketball bettors, but after careful consideration we found one game worthy of our top ATS play for tonight. It comes from the SWAC, and will help decide a regular-season conference championship.

Showdown in the SWAC
In a big game down in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Alabama State, tied for first place, visits third-place Southern in Baton Rouge.

In the early betting on this game the home-standing Jaguars were favored by four points, but many online sportsbooks then dropped that spread to -3.5, indicating that opening line might have been a notch too high.

 

The Match-Up
Southern won the SWAC regular-season title last year, then lost most of its starting lineup. So it looked like the Jags might have a little trouble contending this season. But with three wins in a row, and five in its last six outings, Southern has pulled to within a half-game of the lead in the SWAC.

The Jaguars just beat Alabama A&M Saturday 72-63, shooting 51 percent from the floor. Just before that they won at Mississippi Valley State 68-56, and just before that they won at Pine Bluff 74-56. So after a 3-11 start Southern looks like a team that's been getting better as the season has progressed.

The Jags don't scare anyone offensively, shooting 42 percent from the field on the season, averaging 64 points per game, but they're holding opponents to just 39 percent FG shooting and 63 PPG. They also do a nice job on the boards, out-rebounding foes by almost five per game.

Alabama State, meanwhile, returned almost the entire roster this season after finishing second in the SWAC last season. The Hornets got upset nine days ago by Alabama A&M, but then held off Alcorn State Saturday 71-67. Alabama State shot 50 percent from the floor Saturday but committed 13 turnovers, which helped in allowing the 7-16 Braves to rally from a 19-point deficit. Nonetheless, ASU, the preseason favorite to win the SWAC, is tied for the lead with Texas Southern at 11-2 in conference play.

The Hornets shoot the ball better than the Jaguars, at 44.5 percent, but are also a little more generous on defense, giving up 69 PPG. They're also out-rebounding opponents by eight per game.

 

Against the Big Boys
Southern is 0-4 SU against major conference teams this season, losing badly to Ole Miss and Minnesota but giving Iowa State a tough game for a half and battling Baylor to a four-point defeat. Alabama State, meanwhile, is 0-2 against major conference foes; the Hornets gave Arkansas a tough game back in November, covering the NCAA Basketball odds at +24, but got blown out by Utah, missing ATS also at +24.

 

Recent History
Alabama State took the first meeting between these teams this season a month ago in Montgomery 63-59 in overtime. Neither team shot the ball worth a darn that night, but the Hornets only committed 14 fouls, compared to Southern's 22, which resulted in a 12-point advantage in free-throws for ASU.

Prior to that Hornets victory the Jags had won six in a row in this series.

 

Final Analysis
Southern might be the hotter of these two teams at the moment, but we give Alabama State the head-to-head edge. And the Hornets are getting points. When placing our NCAA Basketball picks in a game that could go either way we like the idea of points in the pocket, rather than handing them out.

Top College Basketball ATS Play of the Day: Alabama State +3.5 at 5Dimes

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