Sometimes the best value in NCAA Basketball is found in small conferences that fly under the radar, and such is the case Thursday as we expect Western Illinois to beat UMKC easily in Summit League play.
We make a rare venture into the Summit League Thursday night, where the Western Illinois Leathernecks (9-7 overall, 3/4 away) pay a visit to the UMKC Kangaroos (7-13 overall, 3-4 home) at the Swinney Recreation Center in Kansas City, MO at 8:05 ET. NCAA Basketball Pick
Up until this season, the Summit League’s biggest claim to fame was sending a 25-win Oakland Pioneers team to the NCAA Tournament last year, where they gave the Texas Longhorns all that they can handle before losing by just an 85-81 score. Another team from this conference with some notable wins was Oral Roberts, but that was just about it and the conference was not a lined conference on the NCAA Basketball odds except for tournament play.
Well, that has changed this season as perhaps due to the recent success of the teams just mentioned, the league has now been added to the board under “Extra Games” status. This presents a nice opportunity for those willing to put in the work and thoroughly research the teams in the Summit, as the lines might be a tad soft this season.
We feel that we have found such a soft spot in this matchup, as we actually expect Western Illinois to win this game much more handily than this line suggests.
The point spread at 5 Dimes has Western Illinois as a modest -3½ favorite in this contest at current odds of -110.
The Leathernecks have been underrated by the oddsmakers in their first year of appearing on the betting board regularly, as they are 7-3, 70.0 percent against the spread. This team was good enough to lose by only four points to the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor early in the year and it already has two outright conference road wins at Oakland and at IPFW.
Western Illinois is a good three-point shooting team, ranking a very good 44th in the country at 38.1 percent, and as a result, it has a nice effective field goal percentage of 51.1 percent to rank in the top 100 nationally. The Leathernecks also protect the ball well with a turnover percentage of 19.4 percent. Comparatively, the national average in that category is 20.8 percent.
Do not overlook the defense either, as it ranks 109th in adjusted defensive efficiency at 0.97 points per possession overall and is second in the conference in that area when looking at league games only.
As for UMKC, well there is not much to like. The Kangaroos rank 241st in the country in offensive efficiency and 280th in defensive efficiency, and unfortunately, the Western Illinois strengths match up very well with the UNCK weaknesses. The Kangaroos rank 267th in effective field goal percentage allowed and they are 261st in forcing turnovers, meaning that the Leathernecks can basically do whatever they want in their offensive sets.
Even if that results in missed shots, Western Illinois could still get a lot of second chances as UMKC ranks only 302nd in defensive rebounding percentage, grabbing opponents’ misses just 63.4 percent of the time compared to the national defensive rebounding average of 67.5 percent.
Perhaps this line is being kept down by the Kangaroos being home, but they are just 3-4 in their own gym while getting outscored by 4.0 points per game, and it is not as if they have hosted some national powers.
Thus, lay the small spot with Western Illinois with confidence Thursday night.
: Western Illinois -3½ (-110)