NCAA Tournament Picks: Bet A More Talented Iowa State -6 Over Ark-Little Rock

Matthew Jordan

Saturday, March 19, 2016 2:31 PM GMT

No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock pulled off one of the big upsets of the NCAA Tournament's first round and the Trojans now get No. 4 Iowa State on Saturday. Who will be our NCAAB pick?

Trojans Ride Hagins To Round Of 32
Arkansas-Little Rock (30-4) was an 8.5-point underdog against No. 5 Purdue on Thursday. And it sure looked like the Trojans were toast when they were down 13 points with 3:33 left against a very good Big Ten team with a ton of size. But then UALR guard Josh Hagins, the team's best player, took over and made a national name for himself as Thursday's biggest breakout star. Hagins would score 11 of his 31 points in the final four minutes or so of regulation, including a tying 3-pointer from Steph Curry range to tie it at 70 with just a few seconds left.  Hagins also hit the tying 3-pointer near the end of the first overtime. He finished with those 31 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five steals. No player in NCAA Tournament history had ever had a line of at least 30 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals (steals became an official statistic in 1986). Hagins' point total was the second-most ever against Purdue in an NCAA Tournament game, behind only 37 from some guy named Lew Alcindor in 1969.

UALR also got 14 points and nine rebounds from Lis Shoshi, nearly double both his season averages. Marcus Johnson Jr. played all 45 minutes and had 10 points, eight assists and three steals. UALR was at a huge size disadvantage but was only rebounded by seven. It helped that Purdue's guards were pretty terrible in the game, often missing key late chances or turning it over instead of pounding it inside.

The Trojans ranked third in the nation in points allowed this season at 59.9 per game. It will be interesting to see how they defend the Cyclones. UALR largely packed the paint against Purdue -- until that 3:33 mark and  the 13-point hole. Then the Trojans switched to man-to-man to force more pressure and it worked. Iowa State is a big team as well but not as big as Purdue. And the Cyclones have a tremendous point guard in Monte Morris.

Arkansas-Little Rock  is 20-10 against the spread on NCAA basketball odds this season and 11-19 'over/under.'

 

Cyclones Can Score With Anyone
Iowa State (22-11) was a 7-point favorite in  Round 1 against No. 13 Iona with a total of 165 that was easily the highest of any game. The Cyclones won 94-81 in the highest-scoring game of Thursday. All-American Georges Niang had 28 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Morris, the Big 12's assist leader, had eight helpers and 20 points. Morris' 229 assists this season are the second-most in school history. Niang now ranks third in school history in points (90) and field goals made (36) in the Big Dance. Niang has 660 points on the year, No. 10 in school history. He has now played the most games in Iowa State annals at 136.

All five ISU starters scored at least 11 points vs. Iona and it shot 50 percent from the field. Iowa State made 10 3-pointers, its 13th game this season  making at least that many. The Cyclones have shot better than their opponent in 26 games this season and are 19-7 in them. The 94 points were the second-most in school history in an NCAA Tournament game (98 vs. Kentucky in 1992).

This is the first time Iowa State has ever played UALR, but the Cyclones are 8-0 all-time against teams from the Sun Belt Conference. The last game was in the 2014-15 season, an 81-58 home win over Georgia State. ISU is 16-13-1 ATS on NCAA basketball picks this season and 14-15-1 O/U.

 

Common Opponent
Arkansas-Little Rock played just one Power 5 conference school this season. On Dec. 22 it visited Big 12 team Texas Tech and lost 65-53 as  a 4.5-point underdog at sportsbooks. The Red Raiders led by just four at halftime but dominated the boards. It was the Trojans' first loss of the year -- UALR coach Chris Beard spent 10 seasons as a Texas Tech assistant under Bob and Pat Knight from 2001-11.  Iowa State played TTU twice. On Jan. 6 in Ames, the Cyclones were 11-point favorites and won 76-69. They nearly blew an 18-point first-half lead. On Feb. 10 in Lubbock, ISU was a 2.5-point favorite and lost 85-82 in overtime, the Cyclones' last loss this season to an unranked team. Iowa State was without starting forward Jameel McKay in that game and he's back now.

 

Final Analysis
Iowa State is one of the best offensive teams in the nation and wants to play fast. Can UALR dictate pace? I don't think so. Give the points, go 'under' the total. UALR is 0-5 ATS in its past five vs. the Big 12. ISU is 4-1 ATS in its past five games. The under is 20-8 in UALR's past 28 non-conference games. 

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NCAA BAsketball Picks: Iowa State -6 & Under 144.5
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle