NCAA Basketball Picks: North Texas to Stay Within Monster Spread vs. Creighton

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, December 21, 2015 8:37 PM GMT

The Creighton Bluejays gave undefeated and third ranked Oklahoma a tough battle on Saturday, and may now have trouble matching that energy as a huge favorite hosting North Texas.

 

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NCAA Basketball Pick: North Texas +20 
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

 

A letdown spot combined with some suspect defense could make covering the huge point spread very difficult for the home team Monday night when the North Texas Mean Green (4-7, 1-6 ATS) out of Conference USA pay a visit to those Creighton Bluejays (7-4, 6-14 ATS) of the Big East at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, NE at 9:00 ET in a game televised nationally on FOX Sports 1.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has North Texas as a humongous road underdog for this contest with the current line at +20 with odds of -104.

 

Almost Upset Sooners
Creighton went on the road on Saturday and visited one of the very best teams in the country in Oklahoma, and they only trailed the Sooners by three points 71-68 with five minutes left in Norman before OU spurted to a 9-0 run, leading to the deceptive 87-74 final score. Now with this quick turnaround just two days later vs. a seemingly outclassed opponent, the Bluejays may have a tough time getting kick-started after exerting so much energy 48 hours ago.

The Mean Green of North Texas were the losing NCAA Basketball picks in seven straight games following a 2-0 start vs. sub-level teams, but they have since won two straight games for their first two Division I wins of the season to improve to 4-7. And this mini winning streak was preceded by a covering 74-66 road loss at Southern Illinois, so at least North Texas is trending in the right direction.

 

Some Improvement, but Not on Defense
Creighton joined the Big East two years ago and it had a nice inaugural season in the conference in the senior year of Doug McDermott. However, “McBuckets” was drafted by the Chicago Bulls of the NBA last season and the Bluejays struggled in their first Big East season without him, going 13-18 during the regular season and then, following a win over lowly DePaul, losing to Georgetown in the second round of the Big East Tournament.

The Bluejays are one year wiser this season though and are off to a promising 7-4 start out of conference, although it must be said that they have not beaten much while losing their three biggest tests, losing at Indiana and at home to Arizona State in addition to the defeat at Oklahoma Saturday. The fourth loss came to a Loyola Chicago team currently ranked 178th on the Pomeroy Ratings three days after the loss to Arizona State.

There is some parallel to that loss here with Creighton having one less day off this time after leaving a lot on the floor in a loss vs. the toughest opponent it has faced yet. Also, the defense continues to be a sore spot as it has been for quite a few years, as the Bluejays are 236th in the country in points against at 74.4 per game and 230th in field goal percentage allowed at 44.0 percent. Yes the offense remains lethal, but a lack of energy could hurt in that regard.

 

Inside Game Could Keep UNT Close
Besides, North Texas has not been shabby offensively either, averaging 78.4 points per game while ranking 35th in the country in field goal percentage at 48.5 percent. The Mean Green do a lot of damage on the interior, either in the form of made baskets or by drawing fouls.

You see, North Texas is 27th in the country in two-point offense at 55.4 percent, so if Creighton has any letdown by an already suspect defense, the Mean Green are capable of taking advantage of it down low. North Texas is also good at drawing fouls, ranking a respectable 67th in the nation in FTA/FGA percentage at 42.3 percent vs. a national average of 36.4 percent.

To put that figure in perspective, Creighton is much more passive while often settling for outside shots due to its deadly perimeter shooting, and thus has an FTA/FGA of just 34.6 percent, less than the national average and just 204th in the country. That expected edge in free throw attempts is never a bad thing for a 20-point underdog!

 

Mean Green Upset Last Year
Finally, North Texas upset Creighton 62-58 last season back in Denton as an 8½-point home underdog. It helped that the Mean Green made 18 free throws in that contest while Creighton attempted a measly six of them (while making four), and while the outcome puts Creighton in a revenge spot here, keep in mind that the styles of play of these two teams could again allow North Texas to have a favorable free throw disparity.

No, we are not calling for North Texas to duplicate its outright upset of 12 months ago, but we do feel that the Mean Green will do enough damage from near the basket and the foul line to hang inside this enormous point spread at Creighton on Monday.