UMass, Mississippi State Are Money NCAAB Picks Wednesday

Jay Pryce

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 1:15 PM UTC

Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017 1:15 PM UTC

Talented defenses are on display in our top NCAA basketball picks Wednesday. Check out our best bet ATS in Georgia State at Massachusetts, as well as a wager on the game total in the Little Rock-Mississippi State clash.

Georgia State at Massachusetts (-4.5)

Georgia State (7-4 SU, 5-2 ATS) is off to its fifth-best start in program history under longtime coach Ron Hunter. This is impressive considering the Panthers have won 20 or more games in three of the last four years. The Sun Belt Coaches Preseason Poll picked Georgia State to finish second this season.

Like many of Hunter’s squads, this outfit is defense-first, ranking 98th in the country in adjusted efficiency per KenPom. Intense ball pressure and a savvy ability to protect the rock has Georgia State ranked 11th in the NCAA in turnover margin (+5.5). Offensively, D’Marcus Simonds is the man. The 6-foot-3 sophomore guard has dropped double figures in scoring in 28 straight games, including putting up 30 or more in two of his last four games.

UMass (7-3 SU, 3-3 ATS) topped another Peach State representative Georgia 72-62 at Mullins Center last time out. The Minutemen’s mastery of their home court of late is mesmerizing. Since 2007, they are 69-17 SU in non-conference home games, registering losing records to just ACC and SEC opponents.

Luwane Pipkins is the primary points man for UMass. The sophomore guard averages 18.7 per game, third most in the Atlantic 10. The offense scores 102.5 points per 100 possessions, ranking 197th in adjusted efficiency. Like the Panthers, UMass is mainly defense. Its 41.0 opponent field goal percentage and 7.5 steals per game are tops in the conference.

Georgia State lost two true road tests to similarly strong opponents Ole Miss and Dayton earlier this season by exactly 5 points in each. The Panthers are talented and should put up a fight. The team, however, is just shy in talent to overtake, outside of Atlanta, a stronger opponent from a better conference. Toss out Sun Belt and CAA games, the two leagues Hunter has led the Panthers in, and Georgia State is just 1-23 SU and 6-18 ATS overall in true road tests They have lost all but two games by 5 points or more. This should be a defensive grind. Gobble up that -4.5 for the Minutemen. Too many more, and the bet will lose all value.

Free NCAAB Pick: UMass -4.5Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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Arkansas-Little Rock at Mississippi State (-22)

Little Rock (3-9 SU, 1-3 ATS) is tired. The trip to Starkville to take on Mississippi State (9-1 SU, 2-4 ATS) is its fifth game in 11 days. The Trojans have logged over 3,200 miles in this span alone, and all seven of their away trips this season have been out of state. Wobbly legs will be evident.

Little Rock struggles on offense. It ranks 345 out of 351 NCAA teams in efficiency per KenPom. It has played four games listed on the college basketball oddsboard, putting up 56.5 points per game on 38.2 percent shooting. For what it’s worth, they are winless and 1-3 ATS in these contests, coming up 10.9 points short of a 6.6 average line.

The issue is the Trojans have little perimeter shooting. They average 24.2 percent from behind the arc in the above-mentioned games. The squad can be dangerous in the paint, however, outscoring opponents 354-262 down low on the year. The again, more than half their games have been against smaller D-II opponents.

The Bulldogs are off to their best start since a 12-1 run to open the 2011-12 campaign. Stellar defense is fueling the run. The Bulldogs allow 62.1 points per game, best in the SEC and 17th nationally. The scary part about coach Ben Howland’s team this year is that it can get hot offensively and score in bunches. It has shot 50 percent or better five times this season and dropped 53 points in the second half of a 92-61 win over UT Martin last time out.

Little Rock plays a 3-2 defensive zone. The Bulldogs struggled against a similar look at Cincinnati two games ago, scoring 50 points, 12 below market expectations. The Trojans, however, are not as talented as the Bearcats in the slightest. The 22-point spread, in fact, is the most points the Bulldogs have spotted an opponent under Howland. They average 83.9 per tilt as double-digit home chalk in his tenure.

Little Rock plays at a below-average tempo, but the Bulldogs are primed to put up more than 75 points against this tired crew. The 130 game total is a tad low. We factor the over/under closer to 134 points. Pick ‘over’ for the best value

Free NCAAB Pick: Over 134Best Line Offered: Bookmaker

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