Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 2:25 PM EST.
8:00 PM EST. Penn State's expectations for this 2018-19 season took a big hit when Tony Carr declared for the NBA draft. With Carr, the Nittany Lions would have arguably been contenders in the Big Ten, but without him, they are 0-10 in conference play and just 7-14 overall. Unlike the Wildcats, Penn State played some tough non-conference competition with a schedule that ranked 247 spots higher than NW and when you add the riggers of the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions have played the fifth toughest sked in the nation. The wins haven't come yet for Penn State, but it is no doubt battle tested and it deserved a much better result in last Thursday's 99-90 loss to Purdue. The Nittany Lions were seven-point pooches and overcame a 17-point deficit to force OT. They should be chomping at the bit to get back on the court after hanging with the first place team in the conference.
There's a perception in the market that this Northwestern team is actually better than advertised, as it's played the 28th most difficult schedule in America according to KenPom, but while that can be an indicator that a team might deserve better (see PSU), these Wildcats are not that case study. You see, the non-conference portion of Northwestern's itinerary was very weak and graded 320 of 353 schools. The Wildcats beat up on the likes of New Orleans, American, Binghamton, Chicago State and Columbia to pad their win total, but they have struggled mightily during Big Ten play where they are 3-7. There are some great schools in that conference, so there is usually no shame in taking your lumps in a down year, but Northwestern tried to cover for life without Bryant McIntosh, who was its floor general for four years, with a cupcake buffet to start the season and now the Wildcats are paying dearly for it. In its last two games, Northwestern was blasted 70-52 by Maryland and lost a lopsided 62-46 decision to Wisconsin to round out their record against ranked competition to 0-5. We don't suspect the Wildcats will be able to stop the bleeding tonight even if they are taking what the market will perceive as a big step down in competition, but Penn State is very much on Northwestern's level and it might be better.
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#853 Penn State +3½ -110 (Risking 2.20 units - To Win: 2.00)