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March 18, 2016 (Updated 4:00 PM ET)

There are 3 picks tonight.

Sports Profit System has won 11 of 15 college basketball picks in March!
 

1: Take Minnesota Timberwolves at +9 spread (buy half a point) against Houston Rockets for 3% of bankroll.

The Rockets are a model of inconsistency this season and play well when they 'feel like it', which isn't all that often. In order to win this game by double-digits and cover the inflated spread, they will need to be at their best but we don't believe that is likely. That's because the talented Timberwolves have several unique edges in this matchup and are capable of challenging for the outright win! And while they will probably fall short, this should be a closely contested game overall.

Minnesota has some outstanding young talent and its starting lineup of Rubio, LaVine, Wiggins, Dieng and Towns presents matchup problems for even defensively stout teams. The Houston Rockets certainly don't fall in that category as they have allowed at least 110 points in ten of their last 22 games! This is a side that ranks near the very bottom of the league in defensive efficiency and has a hard time getting 'stops'. Against the hot shooting of dunk champion LaVine and former #1 draft picks, Wiggins and Towns, they will find it tough. That's especially true since unselfish PG Ricky Rubio has regained his confidence in recent games and has developped into a vocal leader for this young group. The Spanish point-guard is a smart and under-rated player that carves out defensive holes in the opposition by laying off assists to his teammates.

The Rockets are coming off a home loss to the Clippers and that does not bode well for them given that they have covered the spread only 4 times in 16 attempts following an upset loss as a favorite! This is no doubt one of the situations, in which they have struggled. They have won only 6 of those 16 games and are now being asked to not only get the W but to do so easily and convincingly! We believe that is a tall order. The fact that the T-Wolves are coming off a road win against another Western conference playoff team has uplifted their mood and given them the confidence required, to be competitive and keep this within single-digits tonight.

Houston is a side that has shown its propensity to overlook inferior opponents and that makes them dangerous to back in this spot. They have beaten Minnesota six straight times at the Toyota Center and might incorrectly assume that they can do so again, without a maximum effort! Complacency is a killer in professional sports and while the Rockets might able to win this game despite not playing well for 4 full quarters, covering this spread is a lot more challenging! What makes matters even more difficult is that they have another game scheduled for tomorrow night, when they travel to ATL to play the Hawks. They are likely to rest stars if and when they mount a healthy lead and that might just hand the Timberwolves an opening for a backdoor cover. JB Bickerstaff has Saturday's game to keep in mind as well when deciding how many minutes his players stay on the court tonight while Sam Mitchell who is eager to turn this interim job into a permanent position will be solely focused on this particular game. That's because the Timberwolves don't play again for another 3 days and that allows them to stay concentrated on the task at hand and give 100% tonight! Look for them to try to exact revenge on a team that has had their number over the last few seasons by at least putting up a solid effort that sees them cover this generous spread.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Houston is just 5-14 ATS at home after allowing 105 points or more!
  • Minnesota has covered 18 of 25 spreads on the road when seeking revenge!
  • Houston has covered the spread only once in 5 attempts as a home favorite of 6.5 to 9 points!
  • Andrew Wiggins has scored at least 28 points in each of the last 3 meetings vs. Rockets!
     

2: Take St. Joseph's at +3 spread against Cincinnati for 3% of the bankroll.

This is an interesting matchup between two teams who like to employ opposing styles and will likely come down to which team can impose their will and force the other team to play in their preferred method of play. The Cincinnati Bearcats are an average offensive team. They have 4 starters that average between 10 and 13 points a game and are led by junior guard Troy Caupain who averages 13 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists. They aren't a team that is flashy on offense and are mediocre both behind the 3 point line and at the charity stripe. While their offense is average at best, they do their work on the defensive end, holding opponents to just 62 points a game which is good for 10th best in the country.

The Saint Joseph's Redhawks are a team that comes into this meeting with the hot hand. They were a longshot to take down the A10 tournament title, but picked up wins over George Washington, Dayton and VCU enroute to the tournament title. It's worth mentioning that both VCU and Dayton are tournament teams this season. Unlike Cincinnati, defense is not the Redhawks strong suit as they do give up almost 70 points a game to their opponents but they certainly aren't as offensively challenged as the Bearcats. They average 77 points a game and dropped over 80 in 4 of their last 5 games including all 3 of their conference tournament games. Forwards Isaiah Miles and DeAndre Bembry are future NBA picks and average 18 point 8 rebounds and 17 points 8 rebounds respectively.

While everyone is raving about the Cincinnati defense, they are not a team that is built to blow anyone out. The typically play in the half court and grind out closely contested victories. While that style of play usually lends itself well to these tournaments, it also leaves them in a position to lose games late in the second half. The Bearcats lost a 4 OT thriller to the UConn Huskies in the AAC tournament simply because they could not put the game away late. Late in the second half, with the game on the line, St. Joes has the offense to make those critical shots when needed and that could be the difference in this contest. The Bearcats defense may cause St Joes problems in the early going, but it's only a matter of time before Mile and Bembry find their groove and start breaking down the defense. With the Bearcats propensity to play in tight games the points likely have value in this situation. We expect St Joes to pull off the outright victory, but we will take the free possession.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Cincinnati is 1-6 ATS in their last 7 neutral site games!
  • St. Joes is 15-5-2 ATS in their last 22 games as an underdog!
  • Cincinnati is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 NCAA Tournament games!
  • St. Joes is13-4-1 ATS in their last 18 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record!
     

3: Take Stephen Austin at +7 spread against West Virginia for 3% of the bankroll.

West Virginia is a scary team; there is no question about that. Their defense and "Press" is one of the best in the country. Because of that there has been a lot of talk by the analysts about West Virginia being a potential Final 4 team this season, and they very well could be, however they certainly have a tough out in this matchup with lesser known Stephen F. Austin.

Stephen Austin is 21st in the nation in scoring offense with an average of 80.7 points per game and are tied for 17th in the country, shooting 48.4 percent from the field. Like West Virginia, the Lumberjacks are sharp defensively as well. They enter the contest 13th in the nation in scoring defense, holding their opponents to just 63.2 points per contest. While all of the focus is on "Press" Virginia and their ability to create turnovers, they are actually second in the nation in forcing turnovers. The team that is ranked #1 is Stephen F. Austin! The Lumberjacks force turnovers on 25.9% of their opponents’ possessions, which is actually quite remarkable when you think about it. The Mountaineers are usually the ones creating havoc with their defense, but they have also shown some shaky ball control at times this season as well. It will be interesting to see how WVU reacts to a taste of their own medicine.

Very few teams match up well with the Mountaineers, but we believe the Lumberjacks plays the exact style that could be crippling to West Virginia. Stephen F. Austin is a very under-seeded team in this tournament. They are 88-13 in the last 3 seasons, including 53-1 in their conference. They were the only team in the nation to not lose a conference game this season so that speaks volumes to how good this team is, even playing in a weaker conference. This is also not their first time in the Big Dance as they came away with a victory over VCU last season and was narrowly defeated in the second round by Utah, but managed to give the Utes all they could handle.

West Virginia has had success due to their ability to create turnovers, but has struggled when they have not been able to do so. Teams that have been protective of the basketball have had success against the Mountaineers this season and we expect the Lumberjacks to do just that. We've already seen a few "upsets" in this tournament and wouldn't be completely shocked if the Lumberjacks pull off the upset in this contest, but they should do enough to keep this competitive and stay within this generous pointspread.




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