The final four for the NIT will be determined starting at 9:00 Eastern on ESPN2, with the last of quadrant of contests in what by the college basketball odds should have hotly contested encounters.
Despite having four home teams in the NIT quarterfinals, the largest NCAA Basketball odds from the sportsbooks on the opening line have been 3.5-points. This trend will continue tonight with Temple at -3.5 against Louisiana Tech.
If Old Dominion were to win earlier, the Owls would be the other No.1 seed in this tournament to advance to semi-finals with a victory. However, Louisiana Tech is making its third consecutive NIT appearance and believes it is their time to reach New York, if nothing else based on progression.
Bulldogs Hungry for Success
In 2013, Louisiana Tech (27-8, 13-17 ATS) made the second round of the NIT and last year advanced to the quarterfinals, thus their players are convinced this is the next step for them and they are headed to Madison Square Garden next week.
Freshman Dayon Griffin told senior Speedy Smith the third time is a charm for the Bulldogs. “When he told me that it actually got into my mind because we’ve been here each year and each year we’ve taken another step,” Smith said Tuesday. “This year we can take that final step to get to New York.”
Louisiana Tech was the regular season champs in Conference USA and was beaten by a simmering UAB squad in league tourney semis in OT 72-62 in as six-point favorites. The Techsters became a three-seed in their bracket and have shot lights out in two tournament tilts. The Bulldogs converted on 56.9 percent in racing past Central Michigan 89-79 as 6.5-point home favorites. They followed that up by draining 51.7 percent at Texas A&M and staggered the Aggies 84-72 catching three digits.
Louisiana Tech averages 73.5 points a contest and college basketball handicappers note the Bulldogs have a trio of double digit scorers in Raheem Appleby (15.1 PPG), Alex Hamilton (15.0) and Erik McCree (11.3). Coach Michael White’s team does not do a good job on the boards having a -4 rebound differential, however, led by 6’9 Michale Kyser, they average six blocked shots a contest.
The Bulldogs are 9-7 and 7-7 ATS away from Ruston and are 12-4 ATS having won two of their last three games this season.
Temple Cannot Shoot, Defends Instead
When a team connects on just 38.7 percent of shot attempts, they are not going to receive a lot run from those making college basketball picks. Yet Temple still managed to post a 25-10 record (16-15-1 ATS) because their defense has surrendered 61.3 PPG, with opponents converting on only 39.7 percent of attempts.
Despite having such offensive limitations, Fran Dunphy was the AAC Coach of the Year and his Owls are closing on a 13-3 (10-5-1 ATS) rush, which includes eight straight home victories (5-2-1 ATS).
Temple’s shooters are nothing more than inconsistent, which is why Dunphy has worked his players hard on defense, wanting one element he can count on. In their first contest in this tourney, they held Bucknell to 33.8 percent accuracy in 73-67 triumph and when the defense was not as sharp playing George Washington, the offense answered the bell in connecting on half their shots in a 90-77 victory.
Senior guard and leading scorer Will Cummings has tallied 51 points in two NIT wins and he and his fellow backcourt mates are skilled ball- handlers. Coach White of Louisiana Tech has already said his team will not play their usual full court defense as often and focus on the half court to stymie Temple.
What to Watch for and Winner
Why coach White feels this way is his Bulldogs were in Philadelphia back in the middle of November and lost to Temple 82-75 as five-point favorites. The Owls picked apart the Louisiana Tech defense and had them in poor rebounding positions and won the battle of the boards by eight.
White also understands Temple is a much better team than they were at that juncture of the season. How Louisiana Tech will attempt to combat the Owls is with their depth as the bench has contributed 66 points in two tournament games and if Temple has typical shooting night, the reserves become the X-factor.
While Louisiana Tech has the revenge-factor, Temple is just playing too good of basketball, is at home where they are 11-1 (6-5-1 ATS) and their average margin of victory has been 11.3 points as favorites and takes on foe that has not covered three straight since January. With my NCAA Basketball picks, I’ll take the Owls to fly away with win and cover.
NCAA Basketball Pick – Temple -4 at 5Dimes