Take La-Monroe With Your NCAA Basketball Picks Against Mercer in Tonight's CBI Clash

Joe Gavazzi

Monday, March 23, 2015 2:49 PM GMT

Our expert handicapper explores this matchup between LA Monroe & Mercer. Join us in this betting preview article before placing your NCAA Basketball picks on tonight's CBI matchup.

La Monroe vs. Mercer (-4-) 7:00 ET
At 7:00 pm ET, the Warhawks of LA Monroe travel to Macon, Georgia to face the Mercer Bears at the Hawkins Arena.  This is a 2nd Round CBI battle for the right to play in the Semi-Finals of this event, and La-Monroe is currently listed as short dog on the NCAA basketball odds  Each of these teams played last Wednesday on their home courts.  As a 2 point favorite, Mercer edged Stony Brook (72-70).  LA Monroe recorded a 71-67 victory, as one point favorite against an E. Michigan team from the MAC.  The final score did not represent the fact that Monroe had a comfortable double digit lead in the 2nd half.  For this Quarter Final game, 5th year LA Monroe HC Keith Richards brings an experienced Warhawk team to Macon, Georgia, where he will face 7th year Mercer HC Bob Hoffman, who has totally rebuilt his Bears.

Mercer entered this season with 78 wins the previous 3 years.  That included a record of 27-9 SU last year, when the Bears were operating in the A-Sun Conference.  They successfully won the CCT of that league and made it to the Round of 32 in last season’s NCAA Tournament.  This year, however, was one of change for the Bears.  Not only did they step up to the slightly more challenging SOCON, but Hoffman was also faced with the daunting task of replacing all 5 starters from that championship team.  Though the Bears were still solid at the defensive end of the floor, allowing just 62/42/35, their offensive production dropped notably, as they allowed 67/34/35.  Considering the circumstances, a 19-15 SU record entering this contest is not bad! But, it has not translated into profit for Bear backers.  At the normally impregnable Hawkins Arena, Mercer was a mediocre 10-3 SU, 2-7 ATS.  Though expectations were for this Bear team to improve as the season wore on, they enter tonight on a 1-8 ATS slide.

On the other bench is one of the recent success stories in college hoops.  Five years ago, Monroe HC Keith Richards returned to guide his Alma Mater team that was in serious trouble.  The program was on academic probation and team spirt was at an all-time low.  It has taken Richards 5 years through seasons in which the Warhawks had victory totals of only 7, 3 4 and 10.  But, at last, pieces have fallen into place for Richards and Monroe.  It all starts at the defensive end, where Monroe allows just 60 PPG on 38% from the field (7th best in the country) and only 29% from the arc.  With a positive rebound margin, a positive assist/TO margin and a positive net TO margin, the Warhawks have been on our list of Defensive Dandies for the entire season.  With statistics such as the above, it should not come as a surprise that the Warhawks were a lofty 8-1 ATS as road dog.  That fits hand in glove with the 5 year record of Richards, which now finds his Warhawks to be 88-53 ATS (62.4%) in the role of traveling underdog.

I am eager to grab the points with a more experienced Monroe team for my NCAA basketball picks, who played in a bit tougher conference (Sun Belt vs. SOCON), qualifies as a Defensive Dandy and has a proven long-term track record in this role.  No shame for Mercer to lose this game in what has been a successful rebuilding year for Hoffman and the Bears. 

NCAA Basketball Pick: Take La Monroe +4.5 at Bodog