2013 NCAA Tournament Predictions: St. Mary's vs. Middle Tennessee State

Doc Moseman@DocsSportsCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2013

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 11:  Matthew Dellavedova #4 of the Saint Mary's Gaels is double-teamed by Elias Harris #20 and Michael Hart #30 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the championship game of the West Coast Conference Basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena March 11, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Gonzaga won 65-51.  (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
David Becker/Getty Images

The opening round of this year’s NCAA Tournament will feature a matchup between two of the last at-large bids to make it into the field of 68. The West Coast Conference’s St. Mary’s Gaels will face off against the Sun Belt’s Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders for the right to face Memphis this upcoming Thursday in the first round of the Midwest Region. Tuesday night’s game in Dayton, Ohio is set to tip off at 9:10 p.m. (ET), and it will be broadcast nationally on TruTV.

St. Mary’s run through the WCC this season included 15 victories and three losses to the No.1 team in the country, Gonzaga. The Gaels are 27-6 overall and 15-14-1 against the spread. The total has gone “over” in three of its last four games.

The Blue Raiders were stunned as the No.1 seed in the Sun Belt Tournament when it lost 61-57 to Florida International as 13-point favorites. MIddle Tennesse State comes into this matchup 28-5 SU overall and 14-14-1 ATS after going 1-2-1 ATS in its last four games. The total has gone over in four of its last six outings.

St. Mary’s vs. Middle Tennessee Betting Storylines

As the second-best team in its conference, the Gaels relied heavily on an offense that averaged 75.5 points a game while shooting 47.4 percent from the field. There is solid balance throughout its lineup with four different players averaging over 10 points a game led by Matthew Dellavedova’s 15.8 points average. He also led the team in assists with 6.4 a game.

Defensively, St. Mary’s gave up an average of 63.3 points a game this season and pulled down 37.1 rebounds a game. Brad Waldow led the way in this category with 6.1 rebounds with Mitchell Young a close second with 5.5. The only injury concern on the roster is with Jorden Page, who remains questionable with a knee injury.

Middle Tennessee cruised through its regular-season conference schedule with an overall record of 19-1. The only loss came to Arkansas State in a 66-60 overtime loss on Jan.3 as a 4.5-point road favorite. The Blue Raiders actually beat FIU by a combined 21 points in two previous games this year, making last week’s loss all the more puzzling.

This is another team that can put the ball in the basket with an average of 71.2 points a game and a respectable 46.3 shooting percentage from the floor. Marco Knight is the only player on the team scoring in double figures with an average of 12.5 points a game, but the bench still runs pretty deep with six other players averaging at least six points a game. The Blue Raiders were a bit stingier on defense in allowing an average of just 57.8 points a game

St. Mary’s vs. Middle Tennessee Betting Odds and Trends

St.Mary’s has been opened as a three-point favorite by BetOnline for Tuesday’s matchup with the “over/under” line set at 130.

The Gaels are 1-4 ATS in its last five neutral-site games, but 7-2 ATS in its last nine games played on a Tuesday. The total has stayed under in its last seven games following an ATS loss.

The Blue Raiders are 4-9 ATS in its last 13 games against a team with a winning record and 0-3-1 ATS in its last four games played at a neutral site. The total has stayed under in 13 of its last 19 neutral-site games.

2013 NCAA Tournament Predictions: St. Mary’s vs. Middle Tennessee Betting Picks

If it were not for having to play Gonzaga three times this season, the Gaels would probably be a lower seed than 11 for this tournament. It is a solid team that should be able to give Memphis all it can handle after getting by Middle Tennessee on Tuesday night by more than three points.