Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 5:00 PM EST.
NORTHERN IOWA -3½ over Missouri St
8:00 PM EST. This looks like one of the better buy-low/sell high scenarios of the young season, as Northern Iowa is 0-1 in the conference and 1-5 overall. Furthermore, these two played yesterday and Missouri State steamrolled the Panthers by a score of 79-59. What’s also interesting about yesterday’s game is that the Panthers were a -6 point choice and 24 hours later it’s about half that.
Missouri State is 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the conference. However, they started off by playing William Jewel (a division II squad) then followed that up with games against cupcakes Northwestern State and Little Rock.
Let the 2019-20 Missouri State season be a cautionary tale for all who follow college hoops: the games are not played on paper, and accumulating an excess of talent is nowhere near a guarantee of success. After Coach Dana Ford brought in a bunch of key pieces, the Missouri State Bears became the preseason MVC favorite by default, featuring transfers from such schools as West Virginia, Xavier, South Florida, Middle Tennessee, and Nevada (plus the #2 JUCO prospect). It seemed like the Bears would just overwhelm teams, but that did not happen. The roster never came together into a cohesive unit, sputtering its way to an entirely forgettable 16-17 (9-9) campaign. With many of those transfers now gone, Ford faces a different challenge but regardless, the Bears stock is climbing.
Northern Iowa’s only win this year came against a Division II team. However, they have played four very good mid-majors in Western Kentucky, Saint Mary’s, Utah State and Richmond. WKU, UTU and Richmond may all earn automatic bids this year. UNI is a Missouri Valley team that clearly distinguished itself from the rest of the conference last year, creating a 50-spot gap in KenPom’s rankings between itself and the second-ranked squad and peaking as high as 35th. What wasn’t expected was for that team to be Northern Iowa, who finished a distant third in the MVC preseason poll, rather than Missouri State, who claimed 29 of 44 first place votes and was the unquestioned preseason favorite. The Purple Panthers used a lethal offense and a solid defense to methodically creep into national relevance, though we’ll never know if a crushing 21-point defeat in the Arch Madness quarterfinals (at the hands of a Drake team that UNI had beaten by 27 just 6 days prior) would have kept them out of the NCAA Tournament.
UNI’s offense was top-25 good, per KenPom’s AdjOE, but the sustainability of that hinges heavily on continuing to shoot lights out from deep. With Green and Phyfe still around to play their two-man game, the offense wouldn’t fall too far even if the rest do. Still, UNI is clearly one of the top two squads in the Valley, and though there is risk of falling off from last year’s incredible success, the Panthers have the top-shelf pieces to once again flirt with an at-large bid if things break right for them. They are too good to keep losing and the price tonight says we should bet them.
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NORTHERN IOWA -4 -110 (Risking 2.2 units - To Win: 2.00)