Tournament Picks: Capper Takes A Small Lean On Saint Joseph's +1.5 Over Cincinnati

Jason Lake

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 7:27 PM GMT

Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2016 7:27 PM GMT

It should be a very close game Friday night between the No. 9 Cincinnati Bearcats and the No. 8 Saint Joseph's Hawks. Which one belongs in your March Madness basketball picks?

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Mar. 16: 18-12 ATS, 1-2 Totals

 

These are supposed to be the closest matchups at March Madness. Whenever you put a No. 8 seed and a No. 9 seed on the same court, interesting things happen; the No. 8 seed has the very slight advantage at 63-61 SU since the Tournament was expanded to 64 teams in 1985. This Friday (9:57 p.m. ET, truTV), it's the No. 8 Saint Joseph's Hawks taking on the No. 9 Cincinnati Bearcats in the West Region. Who's going to win this time?

Maybe the Bearcats (22-10 SU, 12-16 ATS). They're 1.5-point favorites on the NCAA tournament odds board as press time, down from –2 at the open. We don't seem to have enough data yet to produce a consensus report, but this line move suggests the early action has been on St. Joe's (27-7 SU, 22-10-1 ATS). Nothing unusual there. The Hawks won the Atlantic 10 tourney, and the 'Cats didn't win much of anything in the AAC. Easy pick

 

Looking for Thomas and Clark
Easy if we stop there. Let's put some quantity on this bad boy first:

FiveThirtyEight (Elo): Cincinnati –3.5 to –4
Sports-Reference (SRS): Cincinnati –3.68

 

Finally, some agreement between our favorite projectionists. Well, sort of. If we look at FiveThirtyEight's power ratings (which don't include rank number, for some reason), Cincinnati sits at No. 30, wedged in nicely between S-R (No. 29) and Ken Pomeroy (No. 31). But St. Joe's gets pushed all the way down to No. 54 according to the Simple Rating System, compared to No. 37 at FiveThirtyEight and No. 40 on the Pomeroy charts. It all comes out in the wash, though.

So are the Bearcats actually the right team for your NCAA basketball picks? M'eh. They've got a number of banged-up players; senior forward Shaq Thomas (14.8 PER, +4.1 BPM) is questionable with a strained groin, and sophomore forward Gary Clark (24.6 PER, +11.6 BPM) is probable with a sprained ankle, but both are expected to play Friday, as are the rest of the walking wounded. The Hawks have no injures to report.

Perhaps that 136-point total will provide us a little more clarity. Nope: Cincinnati has the UNDER at 17-10-1 this year, while St. Joe's has the OVER at 19-13-1. Makes sense. The 'Cats are a slow team with an awesome defense, ranked No. 8 overall on the Pomeroy charts. The Hawks are quick, and somewhat defensively challenged at No. 74 overall. Clark and Thomas are two of Cincinnati's very best defenders, so there might be some drop-off in that department Friday night. But we're going to apply that to the point spread rather than the total, and we're going to recommend keeping your bet size small for this one. It's more of a gamble than an investment.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: St. Joseph's +1.5 
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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