Illinois St. vs. Northern Iowa Pick NCAA – March 8th

We have an early candidate for 2015 Cinderella status. Many fans know Belmont from their stunning upset of Duke several years ago. They are back in the field and will likely be in that same 14/15 range, lurking and looking to do damage. They upset Murray State, who ran through the OVC perfect at 16-0 and took a 25-game winning streak into the game, but will now all but assuredly be heading to the NIT. Yes, they were “ranked” at #25, but their SOS and RPI are brutal, leaving them next to no chance of dancing.

Meanwhile, the Bubble could have taken a legit hit yesterday with Wichita State dropping a surprising game to Illinois State. Suffice it to say the Temple, Indiana, Texas, UCLA, Tulsa, Colorado State, etc. of the world are REALLY hoping Northern Iowa keeps the Redbirds from snatching a bid away this afternoon in the MVC Final.

A few teams did themselves some real favors yesterday, none bigger than LSU. Kyle Hornsby’s buzzer beater to knock off Arkansas gives the Tigers newfound life. Likewise Purdue made things all but academic with their win over Illinois, and Davidson won the A-10 regular season title, which should be enough to get Stehp Curry’s alma matter back to the Dance. On the negative side the Illini, Hoosiers and Dayton Flyers have put themselves in some pressure-packed spots, needing wins next week in their conference tourneys.

It’s another enormous day in college hoops, so let’s see if we can grab a winner.

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Today’s Free Pick:

Illinois State vs. Northern Iowa -5.5

Another upset, in a strange way, would be a good thing for the MVC. The Redbirds are one win away from giving the league three bids for the first time since 2006, after their stunning upset over Wichita State yesterday.

Northern Iowa will be a tough task though. The Panthers have lost only three games all season, all three true road games, and have a nice chance to make a real statement for a top three seed in the tournament today. They have ripped through the league tourney, winning a pair of snoozers and beat ISU by 19 in their last meeting.

Ben Jacobsen’s squad is 18-9-3 ATS this season, good for a 67% return, and they have seven of their last nine games. Illinois State has won six straight games, but aside from yesterday’s stunner, they are just 3-2 ATS against Loyola, Evansville (twice), Bradley and Southern Illinois. A pretty pedestrian schedule to say the least.

Illinois State has made today’s game fun, as the stakes are higher than would have been a WSU rubber match with UNI, but the game won’t be nearly as competitive. I like UNI by double digits today. ISU has more to play for, but UNI has a lot more to play with. I’ll take the Panthers and lay the points.

Free Pick: Northern Iowa -5.5