The college basketball schedule has a couple of ranked games on the docket tonight. No. 24 UCLA, who are barely ranked, will head to Cal for a potential letdown spot on the road. That’s not a lock despite the Bruins entering that game as big favorites.
Elsewhere in the country, the Iowa Hawkeyes are hosting the Indiana Hoosiers in Iowa City on Thursday night. That’s all for ranked teams on Thursday, but Saturday will be full with ranked action all day and night. No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor are both scheduled to play on Saturday.
As far as Friday is concerned, Michigan will look to keep rolling at Purdue after dismantling Maryland in their most recent contest. The Wolverines suffered their first loss at Minnesota, but responded nicely to prove it might have been an outlier performance. There is plenty of unranked action from the smaller conferences on Thursday.
This is a perfect opportunity to keep an eye out for the next small school that has a chance to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Besides Gonzaga and Baylor, there aren’t really any clear choices after that, so I think March could be ripe for upsets.
Maybe it could be a team like Belmont that goes deep into the tournament. They are no strangers to the NCAA Tournament, as Belmont has won the Ohio Valley Conference many times before. They made it to the NCAA Tournament two years ago after finishing 27-5 in the Ohio Valley. It was their first appearance since the 2014-15 season.
The Bruins were unable to make it any further, but it was a good accomplishment to get back to the dance after sitting out for nearly five years. Belmont might be better this season than they were a couple of years ago, so we’ll see if they can parlay it into a much deeper run in the NCAA Tournament.
Belmont enters at 14-1, while Eastern Illinois holds a record of 5-8 for eighth in the Ohio Valley. The Panthers are 2-4 in the conference, and head to Nashville on Thursday on a three-game skid. Head below for our free Eastern Illinois vs. Belmont pick on January 21, 2021.
Eastern Illinois Panthers vs. Belmont Bruins NCAA Betting Odds:
Eastern Illinois vs. Belmont Prediction:
Eastern Illinois hasn’t had much to celebrate this season, and after getting to .500 on the year, the Panthers proceed to lose their next three outings and fall to 5-8. Note that Eastern Illinois has been at home for their last five games. They haven’t been on the road since a 69-61 loss against Tennessee Tech on December 30.
Six of their last seven games have been on the road, so this trip to Nashville has to feel a bit foreign to them after getting comfortable at home. Well, kind of comfortable, as they lost their final three matchups at home before heading on the road. That isn’t how to protect home court.
When they have gone on the road, Eastern Illinois has struggled with a record of 1-5. Thanks to a recent trip to overtime against Eastern Kentucky, they were able to push up to 72.8 points per game for 161st in the NCAA. They still lost, though, in a 93-85 defeat in extra time. On the road this season, Eastern Illinois has scored an average of 66.5 points per game, while allowing 74.3 points a game.
The Panthers lone win on the road was against Green Bay on December 5. The offense was zinging that day, as they scored 93 in a high-scoring 93-91 final. They are going to need that kind of effort on Thursday in Nashville to stay around in this one. Belmont returns home after a 98-91 win over Jacksonville State and 88-67 win over Tennessee Tech. In their latest outing in Nashville, the Bruins stopped Tennessee Martin, 89-69.
Belmont have netted an average of 81.5 points per game for 30th in the NCAA. They are just under 50% from the field. The Bruins’ offense has been on fire with an average of 88.4 points a game in their last five showings. It’s unlikely an Eastern Illinois defense that is 296th with 76.4 points against per game is going to slow down Belmont. If Belmont is interested in playing on Thursday, they should cover this spread by 17 points or so.