Saint Francis vs. Sacred Heart prediction: College basketball odds, pick, best bets
The mid-major basketball gods occasionally bless us with a mid-week morning or early afternoon tilt to bet on during an otherwise lackluster workweek.
This week, we get the Saint Francis Red Flash battling Sacred Heart Pioneers on Thursday morning at 11 a.m. ET on NEC Front Row heres the link for where to stream the ballgame (free of charge).
This game marks the start of what should be an exciting Northeast Conference season.
Sacred Heart was the preseason favorite, although its looking like Merrimack or Central Connecticut is the better bet.
Meanwhile, Saint Francis was picked to finish last in the nations worst conference.
However, the Flash have slightly outplayed their preseason expectations, picking up three wins over D-I competition, a few more than Stonehill and Long Island.
Sure, its not Thursdays most riveting ballgame, but its the one that tips off before noon.
Heres how Im betting on it.
Saint Francis vs Sacred Heart Odds
(Odds via FanDuel)
Saint Francis vs Sacred Heart Prediction
The Red Flash are among the nations least-experienced squads. All 12 scholarship players are underclassmen, seven sophomores and five freshmen.
Theyve leaned into backcourt play, relying primarily on guards Cam Gregory, Carlos Lopez and Aaron Talbert the three account for 31.1 of the teams 66.2 points per game.
They run a good amount of pick-and-roll, with Talbert and Gregory playing well in those sets.
Unfortunately for the Flash, Sacred Heart’s ball-screen defense held up in non-conference play, with Pioneers allowing only 0.64 pick-and-roll ball-handler PPP, ranking in the 86th percentile.
St. Francis coach Rob Krimmel in 2022. APGuard Joey Reilly has defended those sets exceptionally well.
Dissimilarly, the Pioneers are a frontcourt-heavy attack led by Nico Galette and Alex Sobel (and, usually, Tanner Thomas, who is unfortunately injured).
Galette is the go-to guy primarily because of his versatility.
Hes a true three-level scorer whose bucket-getting prowess could result in an NEC POY award, and I especially love his mid-range shooting ability I hesitate to call him a low-major Kobe Bryant, but its not crazy far off.
Nico Galette (@Nico_Galette) topped off a great performance with the go-ahead jumper with 4.6 seconds remaining for Sacred Heart to take the 79-77 lead over Fairleigh Dickinson (FDU) late in regulation pic.twitter.com/S1P3bB73lr
— NCAA Buzzer Beaters & Game Winners (@NCAABuzzerBters) February 17, 2023Meanwhile, Sobel is a more paint-oriented scorer, dropping in nine paint points per game with high efficiency (60% true-shooting).
I wouldnt say I like Saint Francis chances against the duo.
The Red Flash are a backcourt-oriented squad because they have an entirely inexperienced, ineffective, freshman-only frontcourt led by Aidan Harris and Eli Wilborn.
Behind the duo, the Flash rank 301st nationally in 2-point defense, 331st in post-up PPP allowed and 344th in defensive rebounding rate.
Playing Sacred Heart in the morning game tomorrow (11am ET!!!) because I don't think SFPA's freshman frontcourt will hold up against Galette/Sobel, who live on the interior(First is SHU offense, second is SFPA's defense) pic.twitter.com/fnOqWstnZQ
— Tanner McGrath (@tannerstruth) January 3, 2024Ultimately, I like the matchup for the Pioneers.
Sacred Hearts backcourt defense can hold against Saint Francis backcourt offense, but SFPAs frontcourt defense cant do the same against SHUs frontcourt offense.
Last year, the Flash knocked off the Pioneers in overtime in early February, 78-76. But that was when SFPA still had All-NEC center Josh Cohen, who poured in 27 points while recording nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Cohen now plays for UMass, and the Flash don’t have an adequate frontcourt replacement. That should haunt Saint Francis this year, especially in this matchup.
The aggressiveness of these two defenses is also worth mentioning.
Both squads force turnovers at a top-100 rate, and Sacred Heart loves using press against up-tempo, transition-heavy offenses.
Sacred Heart can handle the pressure. The Pioneers run the floor, score 1.25 PPP in transition against press offense (83rd percentile), and rank top-200 nationally in turnover rate.
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Meanwhile, the Flash rank 351st in turnover rate, not handling pressure by throwing away the ball 22% of the time.
Finally, while the Flash are inexperienced, the Pioneers are experienced, with four seniors and a junior in the starting five.
They also rank in the top 40 nationally in minutes continuity, so roles are well-defined, and the team knows how to play together.
So, I like Sacred Heart to begin a hopefully NEC championship season with a big home win in an excellent matchup.
And I think the line is short.
Bart Torvik projects the Pioneers as 11-point home favorites over the Flash, while the ShotQualityBets model projects them as whopping 20-point favorites.
So, Im happy laying anything under 10 with Sacred Heart on Thursday morning in Fairfield.
Saint Francis vs Sacred Heart Pick
Sacred Heart -7.5 (-120) | Play to -9.5 (-110)
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