NCAA Tournament Picks: Stephen F. Austin vs. Utah | ATS Value on Offer

Joe Gavazzi

Thursday, March 19, 2015 1:23 PM GMT

The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks travel to the Rose Quarter of Portland, OR to face the running Utes of Utah in this 7:25 ETmatchup. Join us in this article preview and find out which team is our pick.

Stephen F. Austin (12) vs. Utah (5) 7:25 ET TRU TV
The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks travel to the Rose Quarter of Portland, OR to face the running Utah Utes who are listed as short favorites on the NCAA Tournament odds.  SFA hails from the Southland Conference (the 31st ranked league in America).  Most of their opponents in this league are the type of teams you will see playing “money games” against the bigger named opponents in America.  Utah, conversely, besides facing a decent PAC 12 slate, has also been hardened by a schedule that included post-season participants San Diego St., Wichita St., BYU, Kansas and S. Dakota St.  The success of 12 seeds in recent years (8-4 SU of late) has left the public salivating at the opportunity to play 29-4 SU SFA, who was 14-3 SU away from home.  

 

Remember, this is a team who defeated VCU in this Round last season (77-75).  But, the Lumberjacks amassed most of that excellence against foes in the 31st ranked Southland Conference. When they stepped up in pre-season play, there were losses to Xavier by a count of 81-63 and Baylor by a score of 67-51.  That hardly lends confidence to this underdog selection.  Second year HC Brad Underwood has continued the excellence of former mentor, Danny Kaspar.  The ‘Jacks use a tough and disciplined attack.  But, this is a team that is a notch below the squad who defeated VCU last season.  Missing are all-league guard, Haymon, Nicola Gajic and Deshaunt Walker.  Nonetheless, the Lumberjacks average 80 PPG on 49% shooting, 39% from the arc, and 73% from the stripe with 17.8 assists per game.  

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But, the clear preference goes to 4th year HC Larry Krystkowiak and his running Utes.  Well aware that Utah faded a bit down the stretch to enter this event on a slide of 2-3 SU, 1-4 ATS!  But, this is a team with outstanding offensive balance that also has excellent defense (57/38/32) and a +5.1 rebound margin.  The ‘Jacks will be at a major disadvantage on the interior against Utah’s Aussie big man, Poetl.  SFA lead guard Walkup will also be easily offset by the Utes’ primetime guard, Delon Wright.  And, who does SFA have to counter Jordan Loveridge.  

After 4 years of guidance under Larry Krystkowiak, this is a team that has finally hit its stride.  The 24-8 SU record reflects that.  More importantly is the fact that as Utah has emerged in the last two seasons, they are a combined 40-19 ATS in that timeframe.  This strongly implies they are still an underrated team.  As with many emerging programs, the Utes are a hungry team.  They consistently put the pedal to the metal against outmanned foes, winning 22 of their 24 victories by 8 or more points.  The reputation of SFA will have Utah believing they are facing a respected opponent.  And, the 5 vs. 12 seed will put them on high alert.  No surprise to this bureau if the Utes emerge with a comfortable double digit victory against this public underdog, so add them to your NCAA Tournament picks.

NCAA Tournament Pick: Take Utah -7 at Pinnacle

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