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Drake (-4.5) at Northern Iowa
Drake is one of the premier defensive squads in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). The Bulldogs rank second in defensive three-point percentage (31.6%) and third in two-point percentage (48.4%). They also force turnovers at 19.2% (4th) and offensively, Drake takes care of the ball, ranking first with a 15.3% turnover percentage.
Northern Iowa ranks bottom three in the MVC in offensive effective field goal percentage (49.0%), free-throw percentage (67.2%) and defensive effective field goal percentage (53.7%). Northern Iowa ranks last in three-point percentage (31.5%) in conference play and offensive turnover percentage too (20.3%).
In the first meeting, Drake bullied Northern Iowa for an 80-59 victory at home. This time around, Drake will be without their leading scorer ShanQuan Hemphill (14.1 PPG), for the third straight game. The last time he played was indeed against Northern Iowa, scoring eight points in 23 minutes. DJ Wilkins (15), Tremell Murphy (18) and Joseph Yesufu (18) all posted more points than Hemphill and combined for 51 of Drake's 80 points (63.75%). Northern Iowa scored 59 as a team. Hemphill only averages 1.5 assists per game, so the Drake offense should at least be able to keep the ball moving without him.
Without Hemphill, the Bulldogs struggled in the first game, losing 81-54 versus Loyola-Chicago. In the second, they squeaked out a 51-50 OT win against the same squad that ranks first in nearly every defensive category in MVC play. This Drake offense should find it much easier to score on Northern Iowa and the Bulldogs' defense should be able to apply pressure and force key turnovers.
Northern Iowa beat Drake twice last season but lost in tournament play, failing to complete the sweep. The Panthers have typically played the Bulldogs tough, but they are not nearly as competitive this season compared to past years. The Panthers are coming off a home victory against Valpo after two straight losses by 13 (Valpo) and 21 points (Drake). Valpo's only road wins this season came against Illinois State, who lost to Drake by two and 35 points.
Per NBC Sports Edge's new betting tools widget, Drake's top trend entering this game is their ATS play. The Bulldogs are 18-5 ATS (78.3%) in the last 23 games. The favorite has also been a strong play in this series, going 20-4-2 ATS (76.9%) in the last 26 meetings. Northern Iowa is 0-7 ATS in the last seven games pegged as an underdog and 1-6 following a SU win. Back Drake to be back on the ATS market, just in time for a run at the tournament.
Game Pick: Drake -4.5 (1u)
USC (-10.5) at Arizona State
This is another game with injury buzz surrounding it. Arizona State will be without Marcus Bagley and Joshua Christopher, a disheartening sign going up against USC. The Trojans hold the 12th spot in Kenpoms rankings and the No. 1 defensive effective field goal percentage (44.1%), two-point percentage (44.7%) and three-point percentage (29.1%) in the Pac-12.
Bagley and Christopher are just the recent issues the Sun Devils have endured this season. Arizona State has not had its full roster for any contest this season, and with four games remaining, including this matchup, a postseason is not looking likely. The Sun Devils are 2-2 SU on the road this season, but those wins came against California and Grand Canyon, two unimpressive teams. The two losses came to Oregon State and Arizona. Dating back to last season, Arizona State is 1-6-1 ATS over the past eight road games.
USC is 5-0 ATS in the last five games overall, and as a home favorite, that number is 7-3 over the previous 10 outings. NBC Sports Edge's top trend for the Trojans is on a large sample, 28-13-1 ATS (68.3%) over the last 42 games coming off a rest day. They are also 20-8-1 ATS (71.4%) in the last 29 games versus Pac-12 competition.
Arizona State has lost the past two meetings with USC, 73-64 and 71-61. Without two of their top four scorers, they will lack height, which is a key to battling with USC. Both Bagley and Christopher stand at 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-8, which could be troubling versus the Trojans defense and rebounding potential.
USC ranks first in offensive rebounding percentage (35.3%) and third in defensive rebounding percentage (25.3%) in the Pac-12. The Trojans' defensive efficiency ranks ninth in the country (89.4) and first in the conference (92.6%). USC also ranks top 10 in the country for offensive rebounding percentage (36.5%) and two-point defensive percentage (42.5%).
Arizona State should struggle throughout this game and points should be hard to come by, even for Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge. Christopher and Bagley are the top two rebounders on the team and the only players that average above 4.0 per game. USC should dominate inside and defend the paint at an elite level today. I will buy half a point for the even -10 and take the Trojans at home. Expect the Mobley brothers to eat down low.
Game Pick: USC -10 (1.5u)
Nebraska at Maryland (-10)
Well, if you read yesterday's article or watched my video, you knew this was coming. I was hoping this spread would not move past -12 or so, but a -10, it is a fair price to run it back but on a lower unit scale. Tuesday's win was a 2 unit play, so let's keep this 1 unit or under.
This will be Nebraska's seventh-game in 12 days after playing their sixth in 11 days yesterday. Nebraska, as expected, fell apart in the second half after fatigue kicked in. Playing today at the same location does not offer as much help but a little for rest and short travel to the arena. Let's be honest, the Cornhuskers season is all but over and a 1-10 SU record in the last 11 games was indeed the nail in the coffin. They should be 0-11, but Penn State could not hold them scoreless for the remaining 8:43, just 8:31, losing by one-point.
Maryland pulled away at the 7:43 mark. It was a two-point game (46-44) before Maryland closed the game on an 18-6 run. Aaron Wiggins scored 12 of the 18 points himself for Maryland, giving him 21 points, one point off from his season-high. Nebraska should look the same if not worse in this matchup during the second half as the fatigue factor will not get any better on the teams first back to back.
Once Nebraska gets out of College Park, they have two straight home games, one versus Purdue and a senior night versus Northwestern. Target Nebraska to cover or compete versus Northwestern, but not versus Maryland and Purdue.
The Terps' defense has not allowed an opponent to score more than 61 points in six of the last seven games and five of those came against ranked opponents. Maryland is 8-3 all-time versus Nebraska and winners of four of the past five meetings. I am backing Maryland -10 once again, this time for half-a-unit or live bet Maryland's spread is also a good idea if Nebraska keeps it as close as Tuesday's meeting.
Game Pick: Maryland -10 (0.5u)
Syracuse at Louisville (-5.5)
A lot depends on this matchup, but a few things are certain, the Louisville Cardinals will not be at full strength. Louisville has not named which two or possibly, three players will be out for this matchup, but to make matters worse, Head Coach Chris Mack returned to practice for the first time on Tuesday, yes, yesterday.
The Cardinals have not played since Feb. 1, marking 16 days without a game after having a fluid season dodging COVID. How the Cardinals return from this two-week plus absence is unknown, but we do know how the Orange have played recently.
Syracuse is on a two-game winning streak, taking advantage of a depleted Boston College squad (75-67) and NC State team (77-68). The Orange get one more game against a weakened squad when they take on Lousiville in Kentucky. Syracuse is 12-6 on the season and 6-5 in conference play, two games back of Louisville (6-3) with two games difference.
Syracuse is defending the triple at the second-best rate in ACC (30.3%), while Louisville ranks last offensively. (31.1%) The Cuse zone should be too much for Lousiville coming off this hiatus, and if Syracuse does not win outright, I think the +5.5 cover is safe. The Under also intrigues me as Lousiville could come out rusty or hot, giving both sides value. I would rather live bet that spot but I lean the Under due to Louisville's three-point shooting.
Louisville has a few players who have been keys to the team's success. David Johnson and Samuell Williamson are coming off their best overall games of the season versus Georgia Tech. Johnson recorded 24 points and 10 rebounds. Williamson posted career-highs of 20 points and 18 rebounds, both coming on Feb. 1. Leading scorer Carlik Jones is averaging 17.4 points per game on the season but is 9-for-31 (29%) in his last two games, including 12 points on 5-of-13 (38.4%) versus Georgia Tech.
Syracuse is home versus Notre Dame and North Carolina to end the season, plus road games at Duke and Georgia Tech in between. There is most likely no catching Virginia (11-2), Florida State (8-2) or Virginia Tech (8-3), but Louisville at fourth-overall can be caught. Syracuse will continue to make a run at the tournament and keep boosting their resume as this team is 4-2 SU in the last six games. Syracuse is 1-4 ATS as an underdog this season, winning outright against NC State as the only cover. That will be worrisome, another reason for waiting until lineups.
Syracuse is 1-3 SU in the last four games at Louisville, 1-1 in the previous two. If either of the three mentioned Louisville players are out, Syracuse's spread would be the play. If Louisville is missing a few bench or non-important rotational players, this will be a leave alone or live bet scenario if Louisville comes out firing similar to Xavier versus UConn before going cold.
Game Pick: Syracuse +5.5 (0.5u) - GAME IS POSTPONED
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