NCAA Basketball Picks: Washington St. to get Revenge Against UTEP

LT Profits Sports Group

Sunday, December 13, 2015 4:18 PM UTC

Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015 4:18 PM UTC

More experience and double revenge should propel Washington State to an inspired, covering effort at home in Pullman as the Cougars host the UTEP Miners on Sunday evening.

NCAA Basketball Pick: Washington State ATS
Best Line Offered: -6.5 (-105) at Heritage

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The home team is seeking double revenge for the last two seasons, and a more experienced roster may allow it to get it handily Sunday evening when the UTEP Miners (6-2, 3-2ATS) pay a visit to the more battle tested Washington State Cougars (5-2, 4-2 ATS) at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, WA at 6:00 ET in a game available on Pac-12 Network.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Washington State as a home favorite for this contest with the current line at -6 with odds of -110.


Not the Same as Last Two Seasons
Coach Ernie Kent is now in his second season at Washington State, and his first game as the Cougars’ coach resulted in a loss to this UTEP team in El Paso on opening night of last season. That marked the second straight year that the Miners, out if Conference USA, defeated the Cougars out of the Pac-12 as they were also the upset winning NCAA Basketball picks here in Pullman two seasons ago.

So why should this year be different? Well for starters, there is a large discrepancy in experience. UTEP lost a lot from the team that finished 22-11 last season and currently has a whopping eight freshmen on its roster! Meanwhile the Cougars have just two freshmen and they seem to be progressing nicely from the 13-18 team of last year, especially here at home where the Cougars are 5-1 with the loss being a covering effort vs. nationally ranked Gonzaga.


Hot Wazzou Offense
Granted the Cougars have had a home-heavy schedule this early season as they have only played one game away from Beasley Coliseum, and that lone trip resulted in their second loss in their last game 78-74 at Idaho on Thursday. Even in defeat though, Wazzou continued its hot shooting that currently has it 20th in the country in field goal percentage at 49.6 percent.

The Cougars shot 53.1 percent (26-for-49) in that road defeat, on the heels of going 33-for-62, 53.2 percent from the floor in a 91-67 rout of Portland State here at home in the previous game. Washington State does not miss many shots from inside the three-point arc, ranking 23rd in the country in two-point shooting at 55.8 percent, and when you factor in the 35.3 percent three-point shooting, the resulting 54.9 percent effective field goal percentage is 40th in the land.

The Washington State defense may not be as good as the offense, but it certainly appears to be good enough ranking 67th nationally in effective field goal percentage allowed at 45.6 percent. The Cougars also apply decent pressure with a 21.3 percent defensive turnover percentage vs. a national average of 18.6 percent, which makes for a good matchup vs. a young UTEP team ranked only 223rd in offensive turnover percentage at 19.5 percent.


UTEP Has Been Helped by Schedule
The Miners surprised some with their 6-0 start despite being one of the youngest team in the country, and they were even perfect ATS during that beginning stretch. However, reality may be setting in with two straight losses both straight up at ATS, first by 14 points on the road at New Mexico State and then, perhaps more tellingly, by 14 points again but this time at home 76-62 to UT-Arlington.

In retrospect, it is easy to see that the 6-0 start was aided by a ridiculously easy schedule as UTEP is now 342nd out of 351 Division I teams in non-conference SOS according to the Pomeroy Ratings, as the highest ranked team that the Miners beat was 142nd ranked Colorado State, and that required double overtime for a lucky cover with UTEP outscoring the Rams by nine points in the second overtime.

Also the double-digit loss at New Mexico State was the only true road game for UTEP to this point, which is a bad omen considering how well Washington State has played at home this year.


Home vs. Away Splits Favor Cougars
Finally, the recent home vs. away splits for these teams certainly seem to favor home standing Washington State in this spot as the Cougars are 6-1 ATS in their last seven home games while the Miners are a dismal 1-8 ATS in their last nine road contests.

Look for those trends to continue here with Washington State taking out it frustrations for losing to UTEP each of the last two years in a big way vs. this much younger UTEP group in Pullman on Sunday.

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