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NEC's Best Bets: 11/18/21

After what looked like a nice start for the Northeast Conference as a whole, it's been a major struggle of late; especially this week. Based on Kenpom's projections, the NEC should have ~5 wins on the season and they have 4. So, not a huge difference. However, the scoring margins tell a different story; again, using Kenpom's spreads, the NEC was projected to be outscored by 240 points so far. In actuality? They've lost by a total of 465 points. That's nearly double!

Merrimack looked like a title contender in its win over NJIT, and it still might be, but last night's 74-51 drubbing at Army left a sour taste in my mouth, especially since I took MC -1.5, and by tip off the Warriors were favored. A loss is a loss, whatever, but that defense allowing the Black Knights to score 1.03ppp was a surprise, especially since they forced 22 turnovers (31%). Army likes to shoot the three, but it was at the rim where they did damage, making 13 of 21. Meanwhile, the Warriors continued to struggle scoring the ball; their 38% eFG% ranks #341 nationally. And FWIW; in three games played, Merrimack has yet to hit the over.

But it wasn't just Merrimack last night; both Central Connecticut and Long Island got hammered, vs. UMass-Lowell and UConn, respectively. As I wrote in my Forecaster; this week is filled with buy games, so blowout losses were expected. But not like this.

The other thing of note; Wagner's home game against MAAC contender Saint Peter's was postponed (canceled?) because of positive covid-tests on the Wagner side. Obviously we all hope anyone symptomatic gets better quickly.

Tonight; three buy games featuring point spreads over 20. Not ideal.

This is not gambling or financial advice, and I'm not suggesting anyone copy me. These are my bets, and my bets only.

Season Record: 4-4

Today's bet: Saint Francis (PA) at Virginia Tech (-20.5)

A reminder; in 8 games featuring 20+ point lines, NEC teams have covered just twice; CCSU at NC State last week, and SFC at Wisconsin two weeks ago.

Virginia Tech is good. According to Bart Torvik's Game Score, the Hokies have put up two 98s, and a 96 in their three games, all blowout wins against mid-major opponents (Maine, Navy, and Radford). Yes, that's the same Navy team that knocked off Virginia. Tech hammered the Midshipmen 77-57.

They've done it by limiting good looks; opponents are shooting just 12.7% from three. Yes, you've read that right. Of course regression will happen, but the point remains; the Hokies are going to run you off the three-point line and force you to challenge their shot blockers (6'9" Keve Aluma and 6'7" Justyn Mutts.

Offensively, Tech has been led by 6'3" junior PG Hunter Cattoor, who is averaging 10 points, 5 boards, and 3 assists per game. Aluma and Mutts combine to form a powerful and versatile frontcourt (Mutts is 3 for 7 from deep), and former Wofford star Storm Murphy is 6 for 14 from three. Long, athletic, and deep, Virginia Tech has risen 12 spots to #27 at Kenpom.

Tonight is SFU's 2nd D1 game; they beat Franciscan College 100-54 on Monday after falling to George Washington 75-72 on opening night. That was a competitive game against an A-10 squad, but GW has been disappointing since; Jamion Christian's Colonials are now 1-3 after blowout losses at UC San Diego and Cal St. Fullerton.

To keep a game close against a superior high major opponent, you need to be able to knock down threes, and I'm not sure the Red Flash have that in them. Last season they shot just 31% from deep, and didn't take a ton (33% of their FGA, 281st nationally). They did make 6 of 19 from beyond the arc against Franciscan, but were 1 of 9 in the loss to GW.

SFU should have some success this season, but I don't see it happening tonight.

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