It was not a fun beat for us on Monday night to start the week as Jackson State and Prairie View A&M each paraded to the free throw line with 13 points in the final 50 seconds, 11 of which came on free throws, including the last two that put PVAMU over the spread. Then a brawl broke out after the game. At least the SWAC made the most of its airtime.
With that half-point loser in the rearview mirror, we move on to Tuesday and a brand new slate of opportunities. We talked about a handful of Tuesday night tilts on yesterday’s edition of Handicapping the Hardwood with Kyle Hunter and there are also several games listed in this week’s situational betting spots article.
You know how much I love going under the radar, so I’m going to do that here tonight. Even with games like Creighton vs. Marquette, Kentucky vs. LSU, Dayton vs. VCU, and Purdue vs. Wisconsin, let’s go to the Northeast Conference for Robert Morris vs. Saint Francis (PA).
You’ll find this one on the Added Board, with St. Francis PA listed at -4.5 at BetOnline and a total of 142 that has shot up from the opener of 138.5.
Look, I get it. This isn’t a huge game, especially on a night like tonight, but sometimes it is better to hone in on these small conferences. Plus, we have a better shot at getting some clicks with a game that is well off of the beaten path as opposed to fighting for views on the big games. It’s also important to know these two teams, as Bobby Mo or SFPA is likely to win the NEC Tournament with Merrimack ineligible.
If we exclude Merrimack from the discussion, these teams are currently #1 and #2 in the seeding for the NEC Tournament, where games are held on the campus of the higher seed. This game and the rematch on February 29 are both enormous. Bobby Mo suffered a big setback over the weekend with a loss to Fairleigh Dickinson that allowed St. Francis to pull within a game while riding a five-game winning streak.
That loss for Robert Morris was definitely a surprise. Not only were they a decent-sized home favorite, but the Colonials were actually 15-of-16 from the free throw line. RMU only shoots 66.8% from the free throw stripe and that has been a problem in terms of covering some numbers in a favorite role this season. Fortunately, the Colonials don’t get to the line a whole lot, but you’ll want to keep that in mind laying numbers with them in the conference tournament when the opposition will extend the game as much as possible.
AJ Bramah only played 26 minutes with some foul trouble, but still had 17 of the team’s 71 points. The offense runs through him and guards Dante Treacy and Jon Williams. Braham and fellow senior Yannis Mendy are the only two really efficient shooters on the interior, but the Williams, both Josh and Jon, are shooting over 40% from deep. Robert Morris has the second-best assist rate in the nation, with 64.4% of their made field goals assisted.
St. Francis PA has been a real streaky team, not just with their results in conference action, but with their stats. This is the second winning streak of five games for the Red Flash in conference. They also had a three-game losing streak in late January. In the last four games, the Red Flash have had some of their best defensive efforts of the season, holding all four opponents to under a point per possession. For a team that is better on offense than defense, that is a nice accomplishment. Rob Krimmel’s team attacks the offensive glass well and shoots a high percentage from distance. For whatever reason, with a 37.1% 3P%, the Red Flash are only shooting a three-pointer 29.9% of the time, which ranks 319th in the nation. Unlike Bobby Mo, SFPA has one of the lowest assist rates at 42.2%, which ranks 336th.
A big reason for that is because a lot of guys try to create off the dribble, namely Isaiah Blackmon and Keith Braxton. The Red Flash are one of the most experienced teams in this conference with those two senior leaders, who both have usage rates approaching 25%. St. Francis is shooting over 75% from the free throw line, which could come into play here.
Extra possessions will be important in this one. Robert Morris forces turnovers at a high rate and St. Francis attacks the offensive glass well. After some big turnover issues in home games against Merrimack and Sacred Heart, the Colonials have taken really good care of the basketball with a TO% under 20% in every game. St. Francis has also done the same in every game since the loss at home to Merrimack.
If we consider some recency bias here, SFPA has been winning in blowout fashion, whereas Bobby Mo has struggled with lesser teams. Except for the blowout win over Mount St. Mary’s, the Colonials have single-digit wins and a loss over the last few weeks. Perhaps that has led to something of an inflated line here.
Robert Morris is the side for me here. They are and have been the better defensive team in conference play. They share the ball a lot more than SFPA, which could exploit the Red Flash’s weaker defense. The Colonials also have the ability to neutralize SFPA’s good offensive rebounding numbers.
I’ll bark with the dog here.
Pick: Robert Morris +4.5