OVC Conference Tournament Quarterfinals - Eastern Illinois Panthers vs. Belmont Bruins - 3/5/15 College Basketball Pick, Odds, and Prediction
Eastern Illinois Panthers (17-13) at Belmont Bruins (19-10)
College Basketball: Thursday, March 5th, 2015 at 9:00 pm EDT (Nashville Municipal Auditorium)
The Line: Belmont Bruins -6.5 -- Over/Under: 135.5 See the Latest Odds
TV: OVC Digital Network
The Eastern Illinois Panthers and the Belmont Bruins will face off at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium tomorrow night in the quarterfinals of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
Eastern Illinois was able to prevail from their first round match-up against SIU Edwardsville with a 78-66 victory last night. Eastern Illinois has used a strong defensive to surprise many teams this season as they weren’t even projected to make the conference tournament at the beginning of the season. In their victory against SIU Edwardsville, Eastern Illinois held SIU Edwardsville to 38.9% shooting from the field and 31.3% (5-16) from beyond the arc. The Panthers had one of their better offensive nights of the season as they shot 50.0 from the field, 45.0% (9-10) from three-point range, and 79.2 (19-24) from the free-throw line. Leading the way for Eastern Illinois was Cornell Johnston who had 22 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals. Eastern Illinois is ranked 166th in the RPI Standings and has played the 160th ranked SOS. On the season, Eastern Illinois averaged 61.7 ppg (ranked 303rd) on 43.6% shooting (ranked 175th). The Panthers average 6.8 three-pointers per game (ranked 120th) on 36.2% shooting (ranked 92nd). Defensively, Eastern Illinois held their opponents to an average of 62.0 ppg (ranked 65th) on 40.4% shooting (ranked 69th). Leading the way for the Panthers on the season was Trae Anderson (13.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.7 apg) and Chris Olivier (13.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.4 bpg).
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The Belmont Bruins enter the Ohio Valley Conference as the number 3 seed as they finished the regular season with an 11-5 conference record and 19-10 overall record. It is the first season since Belmont joined the OVC in which they didn’t win the regular season title, however, they did finish first in the OVC East Division and has been led by a group of experienced veterans who really know how to score the ball. Currently, Belmont is ranked 143rd in the RPI Standings and has played the 298th ranked SOS. Belmont got plenty experience prior to OVC conference play as they played VCU, Butler, and Evansville and although they lost these games, they were able keep the Butler and Evansville games close.
On the season, Belmont averaged 74.0 ppg (ranked 35th) on 47.4% shooting (ranked 28th). The Bruins average 9.7 three-pointers per game (ranked 6th) on 37.7% three-point shooting (ranked 55th). Belmont commits 13.9 turnovers per game (ranked 287th) and average 15.2 apg (ranked 31st). Defensively, Belmont is allowing their opponents to average 70.6 ppg (ranked 281st) on 45.1% shooting (ranked 286th). The Bruins commit 13.9 fouls per game (ranked 76th). The Bruins pull down just 32.86 total rpg (ranked 244th) and average just 2.1 bpg (ranked 323rd). Leading the way for Belmont has been Craig Bradshaw (17.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.6 spg) and Evan Bradds (14.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.4 apg).
The Panthers are 7-2 ATS in their last 9 games following a S.U. win and 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games overall. The Bruins are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games following a ATS win however, just 6-15-1 ATS in their last 22 games overall.
Eastern Illinois has been a great story this year and they were able to knock off Belmont in their only regular season match-up, 84-73, in early January. In that match-up, Eastern Illinois was able to shoot 59.3% from the field and hold Belmont to just 16.3% shooting from beyond on the arc on 7-43 shooting. Although Eastern Illinois has shown us that they can beat the Bruins, I don’t see the Bruins struggling as much as they did at Eastern Illinois State. I think the experienced Belmont team will score on Eastern Illinois and pull away from the Panthers in the second half. The line has yet to be posted on this one but I imagine that Belmont will be favored by about 6-8 points in this one. If the line is near this, I’m going to take Belmont on this one. Please check back when the line is posted for my official pick.
Update (3/5/15) - The line has been posted at -6.5 which is about where I thought it would be. I'm sticking with Belmont to cover this spread.