Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Sunday.
Even though the favorites have higher aspirations this season, the underdogs with four returning starters could prove pesky at home Sunday when the Portland Pilots (1-0, 0-0 away) pay a visit to those San Jose State Spartans (1-0, 1-0 home) at the Event Center in San Jose, CA at 4:00 ET.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has San Jose State as a decided home underdog for this contest with the current line at +5½ with odds of -106.
Both Teams Opened with Cupcake Wins
The usual suspects are expected to sits atop the West Coast Conference by the end of this season in Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and BYU, but many experts expect this Portland team to head the second tier of the conference despite finishing just 15-16 overall and 7-11 inside the WCC last year. The Pilots got off on the right foot by winning their opener on Friday, but we are not sure they gained much by beating a Division II team in Concordia.
San Jose State was also the winning NCAA Basketball pick in its opener while stepping down out of the Division I level and beating Bethesda, but the difference between the Spartans and the Pilots as that the former probably needed that confidence boost more since San Jose State is the consensus pick to finish dead last in the Mountain West Conference this season after going 7-24 overall and a horrific 1-17 in conference last year.
Spartans Return Four Starters
The good news for the Spartans is that they went a respectable 6-6 out of conference last season and they are experienced retuning four starter, with the only non-returner not being a tremendous loss in Chris Cunningham, who averaged just 8.2 points and was a chippy player that was often in foul trouble.
Cunningham has been replaced in the starting lineup by Rashad Muhammad, who was actually the leading scorer for San Jose State last season despite coming off the bench, averaging 13.2 points and shooting a good 39.5 percent beyond the three-point arc. Well, his first start was a good one vs. Bethesda as he led the club with 17 points while shooting a blistering 4-for-6, 66.7 percent from three-point land.
The significance of that is that Portland ranked 287th in the country in three-point defense last season allowing a 36.9 percent success rate, and if that continues here Muhammad is capable of not only shooting the Spartans to a cover but even to an outright upset.
Pilots Also Return Four, But Loss is Key
It is understandable that experts are high on the Pilots as they too return four starters from a team that was sitting at 15-11 last season before losing its last four regular season games and then getting knocked out by Loyola Marymount in the first round of the West Coast Conference Tournament. Whether or not the Pilots benefit from that last season experience or are scarred by it remains to be seen.
However, another difference between these teams is that while San Jose State may actually be better with Muhammad replacing their one starter that did not return, the Pilots do not appear to have anyone immediately on hand to replace their departed Ryan Nicholas, who will not only be missed for his production (12.9 points, 8.8 rebounds per game last season) but also for his inside presence.
Portland started Volodymyr Gerun in the opener, who averaged a mere 3.5 points and 2.0 rebounds last season, and he managed nine points vs. a Division II foe, which is not saying much.
Revenge in Mind for San Jose
Finally, the Spartans are seeking revenge for an 86-69 loss to the Pilots at Portland last season. The departed Nicholas played a key role for Portland in that game though while Muhammad came of the bench to score 23 points. It could very well be a different story this season with Nicholas gone, Muhammad now starting and this game now in San Jose.
Therefore, take the points with the home standing Spartans on Sunday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: San Jose State +5½ (-106)