Sun Belt championship betting preview
After three days of games in Hot Springs, Arkansas that saw the top three seeds in the Sun Belt go down in defeat, the No. 4 Florida International Golden Panthers will take on the No.6 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers for this year’s tournament title and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Tonight’s rubber match on ESPN is set to tip off at 7 p.m. The Hilltoppers struck first blood this season with a 76-63 victory as 8-point home favorites on Dec.27.
FIU then evened the score with an 87-82 win on Feb.16 as a 1.5-point favorite at home.
Florida International battles the Hilltoppers, currently sitting with a 19-15 mark (17-16 ATS). The OVER/UNDER records, always important for totals bettors, are 9-14 for the Golden Panthers and 10-18-1 for the Hilltoppers.
Power Rankings / Prediction:
The Golden Panthers sit at No. 217 in the current college hoops power poll here at Odds Shark, while the Hilltoppers sit at No. 137 on the same chart. The computers running our scores simulations have concluded that the Hilltoppers will win this game 69-68.
How They Match Up:
Rating these schools in several key categories is important for handicappers and Florida International has the nation's No. 129-rated offensive output, at 69.3 PPG. The visiting Hilltoppers defense ranks No. 155 allowing on average 65.8 PPG. The Golden Panthers FG% has averaged 42.8% so far, less than the Hilltoppers marksmen have achieved on the year, 43% per game.
Defensively, Western Kentucky features the nation's No. 199-rated defense on the road, allowing 70.6 points per game. Florida International, meanwhile, comes in at No. 115 nationally in scoring at home.
In their last action, Western Kentucky was a 58-56 winner on the road against Arkansas State. They covered the 3.5-point spread as underdogs. The Hilltoppers grabbed a 58-56 win over the Red Wolves on Sunday, behind a 24-point effort from T.J. Price at Summit Arena.
Florida International was a 61-57 winner in its last match on the road against Middle Tennessee. They covered the 13-point spread as underdogs. Deric Hill scored 16 points leading the Golden Panthers to a 61-57 victory over Middle Tennessee at Summit Arena on Sunday.