NCAA Basketball Picks: Take Cal Poly ATS As Dog In Big West Tournament

LT Profits Sports Group

Thursday, March 10, 2016 6:41 PM GMT

The UC Irvine Anteaters may have swept the regular season series with the Cal Poly Mustangs, but Poly hung tough in both games and could do so again in the Big West Tournament.

 

The underdogs could hold some value in one of the First Round matchups of the Big West Tournament Thursday night when those seventh seeded Cal Poly Mustangs (10-19, 8-18 ATS) take on the second seeded UC Irvine Anteaters (24-8, 15-14-1 ATS) at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA at 9:00 ET in a game available on Prime Ticket.

The point spread at Heritage has Cal Poly as a decided underdog for this contest with the current line at +7½ on the NCAA Basketball odds board at odds of -105.

 

Getting Swept by Hawaii Cost Irvine Top Seed
UC Irvine had a banner regular season going 24-8 overall and the Anteaters actually tied for the regular season Big West title with a 13-3 conference mark. However, two of those three losses came to the Hawaii team they tied with, thus giving the Rainbow Warriors the top seed in this tournament with Irvine seeded second.

Meanwhile it was a disappointing season for the 7-seeds from Cal Poly as the Mustangs finished 10-19 overall and just 4-12 in conference play after being the losing NCAA Basketball picks in their last four games in a row. With that being said, the Mustangs are very well coached under Joe Callero and always give their bet effort, and they were unlucky in that only three of their last 11 losses were by more than 10 points.

 

Mustangs Do Not Beat Themselves
That unlucky streak includes Poly losing twice to Irvine, as the Mustangs first took the Anteaters to overtime at home in San Luis Obispo before falling 78-72. and they then lost the rematch at Irvine 72-62 as 8-point underdogs in what was a two-point game with 10 minutes left before the Anteaters edged away late.

The Mustangs may not be as talented as the Anteaters or even as talented a most of the teams in the Big West, but they are a fundamentally sound team under Callero that ranks 15th in the entire country on offensive turnover percentage at just 15.1 percent vs. a national average of 18.2 percent. That has helped make Cal Poly quite efficient offensively, grading out at 105.6 points per 100 possessions according to the Pomeroy Ratings.

The Mustangs won the turnover battle in the overtime meeting between these teams at home, but then uncharacteristically lost the turnover battle narrowly 13-11 in the rematch at Irvine and still lost by only 10 points as eight-point dogs. Thus, a more “normal” turnover result here in Anaheim should result in a much closer contest.

 

Irvine Wins with Defense
It is no secret that the success of the Anteaters has been fueled by defense this season, as Irvine is 36th in the country in points against at 65.6 per game and an outstanding ninth in field goal percentage allowed at 38.7 percent. And those figures look legitimate when you consider that the Anteaters are also 56th in adjusted defensive efficiency, 13 in effective field goal percentage allowed at 44.8 percent and 10th in two-point defense at 42.3 percent.

However, as great as those numbers are, one thing that Irvine has not excelled at is forcing turnovers ranking 208th in the country in defensive turnover percentage at 17.6 percent, meaning that Poly should be able to run its offense with its great ball-handling, which in turn could lead to the Mustangs milking some clock with long possessions.

It that happens, the Anteaters may lack the offense to cover this spread in a relatively slow-paced game, as they are only 158th in the land in offensive efficiency, slightly behind Cal Poly at 104.9 points per 100 possessions. Also, Irvine is a bit sloppier than Poly ranking 204th in offensive turnover percentage at 18.5 percent, making committing only 11 turnovers in the last meeting seem like just an aberration.

 

Overvalued Anteaters
Finally, it is worth noting that UC Irvine closed as an 8-point favorite at home over Cal Poly the last time these teams met, and it is not as if the Anteaters blew away that point spread while covering but winning by 10 points. Now, Irvine is giving just about the same amount of points on a neutral floor.

With that in mind, we will look to take advantage of the perceived line value by taking these points with Cal Poly taking on UC Irvine in the Big West Tournament from Anaheim on Thursday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Cal Poly +8
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker