2021 NIT Odds, Picks, Betting Preview: Western Kentucky vs. Louisiana Tech (Thursday, March 25)

2021 NIT Odds, Picks, Betting Preview: Western Kentucky vs. Louisiana Tech (Thursday, March 25) article feature image

Steve Roberts/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: WKU’s Charles Bassey and Josh Anderson.

  • Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech met twice during the regular season.
  • Now, the Conference USA foes meet again in the NIT quarterfinals.
  • Continue reading for Tanner McGrath's pick for this game.

WKU vs. Louisiana Tech Odds

WKU Odds+1
Louisiana Tech Odds-1
Moneyline-106 / -115
TimeThursday, 10 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday evening and via DraftKings.

In a fun twist, Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech, who finished with the two best records in the C-USA regular season, are meeting in the NIT quarterfinals.

In the C-USA championship game, Western Kentucky held a seven-point lead over North Texas with just 2:57 to play. The Hilltoppers dramatically blew that lead and lost the game in overtime.

Louisiana Tech also lost at the hands of the Mean Green. The Bulldogs shot just 3-for-17 from 3 and scored a pathetic 48 points in the conference tournament loss.

However, both just pulled off upset victories in the first round of the NIT tournament.

Louisiana Tech outscored Ole Miss by 20 points in the final 18 minutes, winning by 10 as a 3.5-point underdogs. Meanwhile, Western Kentucky dramatically defeated Saint Mary’s, winning by two as two-point underdogs.

This is the C-USA championship game matchup that we deserved. Let’s dive into it.

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The Matchup

Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky split its C-USA season series straight up, but Louisiana Tech covered in both games.

In typical Hilltoppers fashion, Western Kentucky didn’t take, or make, a lot of perimeter shots. Western Kentucky shot just 10-for-38 (26.3%) from 3 combined in the two games.

Generally, Western Kentucky runs its whole offense, and defense, through junior big man Charles Bassey. Bassey is a superstar, earning C-USA Player of the Year honors after averaging 17.7 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game this season.

On top of his eye-popping counting stats, Bassey’s advanced stats are just as impressive. Bassey ranks fifth among Division-I players in defensive rebounding percentage, 13th in block percentage and 35th in true shooting percentage.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech plays all-around team offense. The Bulldogs have four guys who all average between 7.7 and 9.3 field goal attempts per game, and all four average at least 10 points per game.

However, both teams are defensive-minded. Louisiana Tech finished first in the C-USA in defensive efficiency while Western Kentucky finished second, per KenPom.

While Western Kentucky has great all-around defensive stats, Louisiana Tech is particularly dominant on that end. The Bulldogs finished first in the conference in defensive effective field goal percentage, defensive rebounding percentage and defensive 3-point percentage.

Both teams play great interior defense, with Louisiana Tech utilizing its all-around length and Western Kentucky utilizing Bassey’s rim-protection presence.

However, the biggest advantage for Louisiana Tech is its perimeter defense. Its entire starting five stand between 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-7, and therefore provide versatility and length, which is why the Bulldogs’ opponents shoot worse than 30% from 3-point range.

Meanwhile, Western Kentucky doesn’t score from the perimeter. It takes just 32.3% of its total field goal-attempts from 3-point range, which is 289th in the country, and hits them at a very average 34.8% clip.

For Western Kentucky, the biggest advantage will be at the charity stripe. The Hilltoppers finished first in C-USA in both free-throw rate and defensive free-throw rate, while also finishing first in free-throw shooting percentage.

If the Hilltoppers can build up a big enough differential in free-throw attempts, they can beat anybody.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

There’s an argument to be made for both Western Kentucky +1 and Louisiana Tech -1. However, the under is the smartest bet in this game.

Western Kentucky’s perimeter players — everyone outside of Bassey — will have issues against Louisiana Tech’s size and length. The Hilltoppers won’t be able to score from deep.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech’s frontcourt will struggle mightily against Bassey on the interior. The Bulldogs take 41.3% of their shots at the rim, which ranks 56th in the country, and Bassey is going to make it tough to score at the rim.

Bassey scored 24 and 14 points in his two games against Louisiana Tech this season, and I expect him to be dominant again on the interior. However, despite Bassey’s best efforts, both games still went under the total by a considerable margin.

In fact, the under is 5-1 in the past six between the Bulldogs and the Hilltoppers and 6-3-1 in the last 10. Moreover, Louisiana Tech is 6-3 to the under in its last nine while Western Kentucky is 4-1 to the under in its last five.

All of this is very predictable, as both teams are elite defensively.

The total in this matchup is set at 137, but the average score of the two games between the Bulldogs and Hilltoppers this season was just 125.5.

Finally, at the time of this writing, the big money is on the under. According to our Action PRO report, the under is receiving just 50% of the over/under tickets but 92% of the over/under handle.

Between the offensive matchups, the trends and the smart money, I love the under in this spot.

Pick: Under 137

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