Stop the Presses: Top Underdog Selections for Your NCAA Basketball Picks

Darin Zank

Monday, December 14, 2015 5:59 PM UTC

Monday, Dec. 14, 2015 5:59 PM UTC

Monday doesn't offer up much to choose from on the college basketball front, but this handicapper found value in a couple of NCAA basketball picks to play with.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Southern Miss +8
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

Siding with Southern Miss
Two teams expected to bring up the rear in their respective conferences this season meet as Southern Miss visits South Alabama.

Southern Miss is a work in progress in its second season under Coach Sadler. The Eagles only returned one starter from a team that went 9-20 last year, as it tries to mesh youth with transfers. And while Southern Miss is just 1-6 SU this season, it's also 5-0 against the NCAA basketball odds, keeping games close enough to cover.

Last time out, eight days ago, the Eagles snapped their season-opening six-game losing streak, upsetting North Dakota State 74-62, taking that game outright as 12-point home dogs. Southern Miss shot a hot 51 percent from the floor last Sunday, hit eight of 15 shots from 3-point range and 18 of 23 free-throws, while holding the Bison to just 38 percent shooting.

Normally, we might consider a team like Southern Miss, coming off an upset victory, a candidate for a letdown. But enough time has passed since that previous game – a full week – that we'll eliminate that factor in this spot.

Prior to that the Eagles lost to Alabama 58-55 but covered easily at +14; just before that they lost at Troy 69-59 but covered at +11; and just before that they lost at Morehead State 61-46 but hung on to cover at +19. So the points have been kind to Southern Miss.

South Alabama, meanwhile, is 3-5 SU, 2-4 ATS this season, after falling at Middle Tennessee nine days ago 68-55. The Jags only trailed by a bucket at the half, but faded from there, and missed ATS as 11-point dogs. South Alabama shot just 34 percent from the field, got outrebounded 45-30 and missed nine of 21 free-throws. And those missed free-throws probably cost them the cover.

Also, these teams meet almost every season, and Southern Miss has taken the last five meetings; last season the Eagles beat the Jags 68-59.

Finally, South Alabama G Ken Williams, who's leads the team in scoring and assists (15/3 per game) this season, is listed as questionable for this game, for unknown reasons.


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NCAA Basketball Pick: Cal Poly +9
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

Riding the Mustangs against St. Mary's
Cal Poly is 0-4 SU in its last four meetings with St. Mary's, losing the last two by a combined 44 points. The Mustangs shoot for better results Monday night against the Gaels.

Cal Poly returned three starters this season from a team that went 13-16 last year, so it's hoping for an upper-division finish in the Big West. So far, the Mustangs are 5-3 SU, 3-3 ATS, after beating Fresno State nine days ago 77-65. Cal Poly shot 50 percent from the floor, and held the Bulldogs to just 35 percent shooting, in covering as a two-point favorite.

The Mustangs opened this season with close losses to UNLV and UCLA, covering at +6 and +7. They then won four in a row, before suffering a two-point loss to IPFW.

The Gaels, meanwhile, lost 80 percent of their offensive production from a team that went 21-10 last year. So there's a good chance they take a step back this season. However, they did start 6-0, with a win over Stanford, before suffering their first loss of the season Saturday at Cal 63-59.

These programs meet about every other season; St. Mary's has taken the last four meetings, including an 82-56 blowout of Cal Poly last season. Perhaps the Mustangs have a bit of redemption in mind for Monday night.

The Gaels can shoot the ball like few other teams; on the season they're hitting at almost 48 percent from 3-point range. But Cal Poly is holding opponents to just 30 shooting from beyond the arc.

As of this writing the Mustangs could be found getting nine points at Heritage for your NCAA basketball picks.

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