UCF vs. Illinois State NIT Pick – March 20th

Juuuuust when it was safe to bet on Duke again, eh?  The Blue Devils, whom we avoided picking in any games in the tournament despite liking them in their region, unveiled “bad Duke” last night and left the tournament with a true UPSET just when it looked like Wisconsin over Villanova was as good as we were going to get.  The result is a bracket of chaos with Florida being the new “favorite” – kind of – Oregon is the lowest seed, Michigan is playing the best basketball, but that region is now a toss-up, meaning if you DID have any of those four teams on a future wager, your hedge value should be fantastic with no Nova/Duke to suck up all the odds.

We went 2-1 ATS yesterday to finish the opening week of the Tournament with a nice 7-3 ATS mark.  The tournament goes in the shelf until Thursday, but there are still some really good college hoops games in the interim in the NIT Tournament.

We are still crushing life at 81-57 ATS this season, so why stop now and wait three days??  Let’s stay on the grind and pick up a few more winners as teams battle for the right to head to Madison Square Garden (and the college-centric “We’re Number 69!’ cheer… Can’t you just see Gronk in the T-Shirt??)

Today’s NIT Tournament Pick:

UCF Knights at Illinois State Redbirds -5

Illinois State’s’ coach might be tweeting out wanted ads to Power 5 coaches, but he might just want to focus on a borderline power league foe first.  The UCF Knights come from either the best mid-major league (or worst power conference, depending upon where one chooses to slot the AAC) and have won seven of their last eight games prior to tonight’s affair in Normal, IL.  UCF also boasts one of the top statistical defenses in the country, and while like most young, newly-competitive teams, they are much better at home than on the road, Tacko Fall isn’t shrinking just because they got on a plane.

UCF leads the nation in shooting defense and is top five in scoring defense and rebounding.  Illinois State, while 21-2 at home, shoots just 44.09% from the floor already and just 36.79% from distance.  Those are really pedestrian numbers, especially considering the lack of competition they play in the down Missouri Valley Conference.  Illinois State lost to Wichita State by 20 on a neutral floor and 31 on the road.  They also lost non-con games to San Francisco, Tulsa, Murray State and TCU.  Their best non-con win is over St. Joes or IPFW.

That’s how you turn a 28-6 record into an NIT appearance.  I think the Committee is validated tonight with a nice defensive performance from the Knights.

Today’s Pick:  UCF Knights +5

Chris Scheeren / Author