Indiana vs. Northwestern Pick NCAA Basketball – January 29th

We delivered yet another easy winner yesterday with Kansas not only covering the absurdly large -7 (or even -7.5) spread, but also winning straight up in Kentucky.  I was quite serious saying I wouldn’t lay seven against the Jayhawks against any team in the country, and yesterday’s win in Rupp proves that point with emphasis.

For the Jayhawks, it was a solid claim to the #1 ranking tomorrow (though it will likely be Gonzaga).  For Kentucky, it certainly isn’t a “bad” loss, but it is their third loss to a top ten-ish team and two of the have come at home, which doesn’t eliminate them from top seed consideration, but could be the fateful tiebreaker when they are slotted head-to-head with the winner of the ACC and Pac-12 for the third and fourth top seed consideration (Gonzaga and Villanova are near certainties).

The win yesterday pushed our mark on The Sports Geek to 53-30-1 ATS for the college basketball season (64% ATS) and 78-44-2 ATS across all published picks (also 64% ATS).  Feel free to follow me on Twitter to conversate @TheMarchManiacs, but if you have trolling, be creative!  Call me something FUNNY at least –  I had a dude just message yesterday me tell me “I suck at handicapping”, but at 64% ATS with well over 100 picks this season, it ain’t much of a diss bro… lol.  (And no, I didn’t Scott Van Pelt-obliterate him in a Twitter beef – just a polite “thanks for following, we miss a few but I’ll take 64% ATS, good luck with your picks today.”  Stay classy San Diego! Right?

Let’s have some fun to finish off the weekend – and as always, good luck with any plays you make today or otherwise!

Today’s Free Pick:

Indiana Hoosiers at Northwestern Wildcats -6.5

This game, and this line, are fascinating to me.  Two months ago, Indiana had beaten both North Carolina and Kansas behind an explosive offense, a Buddy Hield like performance from James Blackmon Jr, All American play from a preseason All American center in Thomas Bryant and a stable of athletic wings like O.G. Anunoby.  They had a blistering offense played a high tempo and legitimately LOOKED like a Final Four level team with the resume to boot.

Then things got ugly.  They took a bizarre loss to Ft. Wayne.  No big deal, right?  Weird stuff happens.  The lost to Butler in a neutral court, well-played game.  OK, lots of people get clipped by Butler in pre-con games.  They opened Big Ten play with a home loss to Nebraska, and have subsequently lost five of nine including the most recent embarrassment Thursday night in Ann Arbor, falling 90-60 to Michigan.

It gets better.  James Blackmon, Jr. is now out with injury, joining Anunoby on the unavailable list.  That announcement was recent, so if you were REALLY early to pounce on Northwestern, you saved yourself four and a half points as it opened at just -2.

SO can Northwestern cover the big mark?  There is always some hesitancy of a team with talent fresh off a massive embarrassment bouncing back.  But Indiana needs more than effort tonight.  They need some DUDES, and they are running out of elite ones.  Northwestern is one of the better stories no one in the country is talking about.  They are 17-4 and their four losses are Butler by 2, Notre Dame by 4, Minnesota by 4, and at Michigan State.  They are a near LOCK to make their first ever NCAA Tournament.  When you figure that 20 wins in the Big Ten makes you a lock, they would only need to go 3-7 with an opening round loss in the Big Ten Tournament to get to 20 (so 3-8).  Their schedule is tricky, granted, with a home and home with Indiana, a visit from criminally-underrated Maryland, and trips to Purdue and Wisconsin remaining.  Five wins is a fairly ambitious goal, but I think they get one of the three they NEED today, leaving only two needed and Illinois, Rutgers and Michigan all still to come to Evanston.

Back to the point: Northwestern is good, had good momentum, is playing at home, and is hosting an imploding Indiana squad with injuries just one of their many issues.  Defensively they are lousy, and Northwestern is efficient.

I wouldn’t go much higher than today’s line, but I think Northwestern will play well in a big game and cover the margin with a few points wiggle room.

Free Pick:  Northwestern Wildcats -6.5