East Region First Round Prediction & Free Pick: #4 Virginia Tech vs. #13 Saint Louis

Date | AuthorAdmir Aljic

Last Updated: 2019-03-22

The Atlantic 10 champions Saint Louis Billikens and the ACC representative Virginia Tech Hokies will face off against each other in the East Region First Round showdown at SAP Center at San Jose in San Jose, California. As one of the at-large teams in the bracket, the No. 4 seed Virginia Tech is still a strong 10-point favorite here with the total at 126.0 points and the No. 13 seed Saint Louis at +460 money line odds. The Hokies have won seven of their eight meetings with the Billikens, but Saint Louis won the previous H2H duel in 2017, beating the Hokies 77-71 in the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden.

The Saint Louis Billikens finished the regular season at the 6th spot of the Atlantic 10 standings with a 10-8 record in the conference play and 23-12 overall, but they surprisingly won the A 10 championship tournament to earn the place in the Big Dance. The Billikens defeated Richmond 71-68 in the second round, Dayton 64-55 in the quarterfinals, Davidson 67-44 in the semis, and St. Bonaventure 55-53 in the final game to win the title. It was quite a streak for the Billikens who were trailing by 11 points at halftime in the finals against the Bonnies. Saint Louis enters the NCAA Tournament as a No. 103 at the NCAA NET Rankings.

The Billikens are scoring just 102.0 points per 100 possessions (200th in the country) on 46.8 effective field goal percentage (322nd) and 30.8% shooting from downtown (327th). They are winning the game at the defensive end, allowing 96.0 points per 100 possessions (45th) on 46.9 effective field goal percentage (26th). Saint Louis’ strength of schedule was 133rd in the country. Javon Bess dropped 22 points on the Hokies back in 2017, and the senior guard is a key member of this Saint Louis team. He’s averaging 15.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, while another senior guard Tramaine Isabell Jr. is adding 13.8 points, 4.1 boards, and 3.7 assists per contest.

Saint Louis has appeared in nine NCAA Tournaments so far, recording six wins and ten losses. The Billikens lost to the No. 4 seed Louisville 66-51 in their previous partaking in 2014, while they are 4-1 straight up and 4-0-1 ATS in the last five first-round matchups.

The Virginia Tech Hokies finished the regular season at the 5th spot of the ACC standings with a 12-6 record in the conference play and 24-8 overall. They defeated Miami 71-56 in the second round of the ACC championship tournament before losing in overtime to the Florida State Seminoles 65-63 in the quarterfinals. The Hokies’ strength of schedule was 52nd in the country, and they were mostly losing against the big guns, besides a 77-72 home victory over Duke. Virginia Tech earned its invitation to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 at the NCAA NET Rankings.

The Hokies are scoring 118.3 points per 100 possessions (11th in the country) on 56.4 effective field goal percentage (8th) and 39.4% shooting from beyond the 3-point line (also 8th), allowing 93.8 points in a return (27th) on 48.9 effective field goal percentage (91st). The good news for the Hokies is Justin Robinson’s return from an injury, and the senior PG is averaging 13.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game this season. The sophomore guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker is leading the Hokies’ offense with 16.6 points contest along with 4.0 dimes, while the junior forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. is posting 14.7 points and 7.4 boards per outing.

Virginia Tech will appear in the NCAA Tournament for the 11th time in its history. In the last two years, the Hokies were eliminated in the first round and are 1-3 ATS in their last four first-round matchups.

Pick: Saint Louis Billikens +10.0

The Hokies are arguably a better team than the Billikens, and I think they will win this game. However, the Hokies could struggle to cover, as the Billikens play tough defense, while both teams play at a slow pace. The Hokies are recording just 64.9 possessions per 40 minutes (333rd in the country), while the Billikens are averaging 67.4 possessions per 40 minutes (248th). Also, the Billikens are 5-2 ATS in their last seven outings as underdogs and are 6-2 ATS in their previous eight games when listed as double-digit dogs. On the other side, the Hokies are 3-3-1 ATS in their last seven games as favorites and are 2-4 ATS in their previous six showings as double-digit favorites.

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