LaSalle at St. Louis Picks and NCAA Basketball Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 3/9/2013
On Saturday, Syracuse and Georgetown will be playing their final regular season game ever as Big East rivals, and Duke and North Carolina will resume their Tobacco Road blood feud.
These are clearly the two biggest and best games of the day and, really, two of the biggest rivalries in all of college athletics. However, we’re not going to preview those marquee matchups because, frankly, if you don’t know what’s going on in them already then you shouldn’t be betting.
Instead, we’re going to turn our attention to an under-the-radar mid-major battle that really could be one of the more meaningful regular season games played on Saturday. How meaningful? Well, let’s just say that defending National Champion Kentucky, Big East powers Cincinnati and Villanova, and venerable programs like Maryland and California all better take notice because this game features one team looking to steal an NCAA Tournament bid from one of the big boys.
LaSalle will travel to No. 15 St. Louis at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday for a key Atlantic 10 showdown. St. Louis is one of the best mid-majors in the country and one of the hottest teams playing right now. While LaSalle is a surprise team looking for a signature win to bolster its tournament resume.
Here is a breakdown of this weekend’s top mid-major matchup:
LaSalle at St. Louis Betting Story Lines
The Explorers are one of the best teams that no one knows about this year. They are 21-7 on the season and trying their hardest to crash the NCAA Tournament party. LaSalle has an RPI of 39 and are rated by Ken Pomeroy as the No. 45 team in the nation.
A win here by the visitors would not only punctuate a regular season that saw them earn wins over Villanova, Butler and VCU, but it would also pull LaSalle into a tie with St. Louis for second place in the Atlantic 10. And if VCU were to lose its game at Temple on Sunday it could mean a piece of the A-10 regular season title for the Explorers.
LaSalle has an incredible three-guard attack with point guard Tyreek Duren (15.0 points, 3.5 assists), electrifying shooting guard Ramon Galloway (17.8 points, 3.8 assists) and Tyrone Garland (12.6 points, 2.2 assists) doing most of the damage. LaSalle is No. 47 in the country in scoring and No. 32 in 3-point shooting and this team’s backcourt dictates the action on both ends.
But if the Explorers have a weakness it is in the frontcourt. LaSalle really only uses two players taller than 6-6, forward Jerrell Wright (6-8) and center Steve Zach (6-11). Depth is also a concern, as LaSalle really only uses a seven-man rotation that has logged a lot of minutes this year.
St. Louis (23-6) executes as well as any team in the country and they fear no one. The core of this St. Louis team played a pair of games in the NCAA Tournament last year and they have just been wrecking people over the last two months.
It will be senior night for the Billikens, and four-year players Cody Ellis and Kwamain Mitchell are two of the best players on the team. Ellis, a streaky Aussie stretch-four, is the team’s second-leading scorer. Mitchell, who was the team’s leading returning scorer coming into the season, is winding down a star-crossed career with St. Louis.
Like LaSalle, St. Louis relies on excellent guard play to set the tone. Point guard Mike McCall is an outstanding shooter and running mate Jordair Jett is as fast as his name suggests.
Unlike the Explorers, St. Louis has a lot of bodies with which to attack the paint. Leading scorer and rebounder Dwayne Evans has had a breakout season. Ellis can score inside and out, and veteran Rob Loe will try to pound LaSalle on the inside.
St. Louis is the better defensive team as well. They are No. 22 in the country in terms of defensive efficiency and No. 21 in points allowed.
LaSalle at St. Louis Betting Odds and Key Trends
St. Louis has been installed by 5Dimes as a 7.5-point favorite in this one and the total is at 132.
St. Louis is an amazing 11-1 ATS in their last 12 games, finally failing to cover their last time out against Xavier. Prior to that they had cashed 11 straight tickets and they have been one of the best wagers in college basketball betting all year. St. Louis is 5-0 ATS in its last five home games and they are 5-0 ATS in their last five Saturday games. The Bills are 6-2 ATS after a loss and they are 3-1-1 ATS in their last five against LaSalle.
The Explorers have gone 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall and they have been a solid moneymaker over the last two seasons. LaSalle has gone 3-0-1 ATS in its last four trips to St. Louis and that is in keeping with the theme of this series. The road team is a perfect 7-0-1 ATS in the last eight meetings and the underdog is 6-1-1 ATS when these two get together.
LaSalle at St. Louis Picks and Betting Predictions
I love LaSalle’s guard play. And I absolutely think they could beat some of the BCS conference teams that they are fighting for an at-large berth with. But this is a tough situation for the Explorers. There is going to be a ton of emotion in the arena on senior night, and I’m sure there will be some nod to deceased coach Rick Majerus, who assembled this Billikens team. LaSalle is desperate. But St. Louis wants this win just as much.
I am predicting that this game will go ‘over’. I think that the total will open in the low 130’s and will be bet up around 136. I don’t think that will matter. St. Louis has played several low-scoring, grind-it-out teams recently. But they have not been held below 70 points in their last seven home games and they have only scored less than 75 points once in their last six as a host. LaSalle has been on a scoring tear, averaging 80.6 points per game and shooting an electrifying 52 percent from the field in their last five games. I see both teams playing in the 70’s and this one will get ‘over’.
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