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Southern Illinois vs. Northern Iowa Pick NCAA – March 4th

We notched our seventh win in ten games (ATS) with Temple cruising to a home win over cratering Memphis. The Tigers were already well outside of the bubble mix but last night’s loss officially pushed them to “must win the conference tournament” status if they plan on being a part of March Madness. It’s looking like a hopeful NIT bid at this point.

Speaking of NCAA Tournament bids, I had FGCU plus the points last night on my Twitter feed, but certainly weren’t expecting them to go into North Florida and beat the #1 seed by 31 points. It was a pretty surprising result, but it sets up the absolutely bizarre possibility of North Florida STILL earning the Atlantic Sun’s automatic bid. Stetson has made a surprising run from the #7 seed, winning a pair of road games and getting to the winner-take-all conference final. The problem is that Stetson is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament. Yet, the A-Sun let them participate, so IF they win the championship game Sunday, the auto-bid reverts BACK to the regular season champion – the same North Florida Osprey the FGCU Eagles just beat by 30-plus on the road… weird stuff.

There are lots more bid-affecting games today with a ton of small conference tournament games on tap. Here’s a glance at my favorite play.

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Today’s Free Pick:

Southern Illinois Salukis vs. Northern Iowa Panthers -6 (@Scott Trade Center, St. Louis – 3:30 PM EST)

Talk about two teams going in opposite directions. Southern Illinois’s once-promising season cratered down the stretch with a 4-6 mark that included losses to Loyola at home and four other double-digit defeats. Northern Iowa stormed down the stretch, looking like the team that beat both North Carolina and Iowa State, winning nine of ten including a road win at Wichita State and a sweep of Evansville.

Northern Iowa needs to avoid looking ahead to a likely Wichita State rematch tomorrow, but assuming they can do that, I think they win today with some room to spare. The Salukis aren’t just losing, they are getting rolled over. They are 3-7 ATS in their last ten games. Northern Iowa is 9-1 ATS to go with their 9-1 SU record – meaning, they aren’t just winning games, they are winning with some room to spare. I like that trend to continue this afternoon.

Northern Iowa is getting really solid play from their core-four players, all of whom average double figure scoring and thirty-plus minutes of scoring. They don’t have a ‘go-to- guy like last year’s MVC POY Seth Tuttle, but Washpun, Bohannon, Jespersen and Morgan have been very effective. Southern Illinois looked better in January, but doesn’t have the firepower to keep up today.

I’ll lay the six and take Northern Iowa to keep on rolling.

Free Pick: Northern Iowa Panthers -6