Northern Iowa vs. Wichita State Pick NCAA – Feb 28th + Bonus Picks

It is an absolutely enormous day of college basketball, with seemingly every conference’s top two teams going head to head. We got a nice jump on the weekend last night with the Horizon League’s top two teams squaring off and successfully backing visiting Valpo who not only covered but won straight-up at Cleveland State. The win clinched the all-important top seed in the Horizon League Tourney, which is one of the few conference tournaments not held at a neutral site, but rather affording home court advantage to the better seed.

Today is simply bananas. At noon you have the great traditional rivalry of Georgetown and St. John’s. At 2pm, the top two teams in the Missouri Valley, Northern Iowa and Wichita State battle for the conference championship. You also have Dayton at VCU in a HUGE A-10 game, Villanova travelling to Xavier, and North Carolina trying to rebound against a Miami team looking to notch another big win to fight their way into the Field of 68. And the day keeps getting better.   At 4pm, Kentucky will get their biggest test of the conference season as they take on a 22-5 Arkansas team.

At 7pm, Davidson and George Washington collide in a near-elimination game, Syracuse and Duke renew a recently formed rivalry, Northwestern tries to win an unprecedented fifth straight conference game at Illinois. The night concludes with a 9pm Arizona at Utah tilt and a WCC showdown between Gonzaga and BYU. There are six or seven top ten teams in action today who face legitimate tourney-level challenges today so it will be awesome to see how well they respond.

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A big day deserves a big column with multiple picks – so let’s quickly hit on my three favorite plays on the board.

Today’s Free Picks:

North Carolina State -5 at Boston College

BC has lost nine straight games in conference play and has only been closer than eight point twice. They are getting beaten and getting beaten thoroughly. Meanwhile, NC State is 8-2-3 ATS in their last 13 road games and has won three in a row straight up including comfortable wins at Louisville and North Carolina. As long as they show up today with the same focus, there is no reason they should win easily at Boston College.

The Eagles are one of the worst teams in a BCS conference. NC State is looking more and more like a team that can not only get into the tourney but also win a few games once they get there. Give me NC State and Eddie Lacy laying just five.

Free Pick: NC State Wolfpack -5

 

Northern Iowa Panthers at Wichita State Shockers -6

This game is going to be fantastic. College Game Day is in Wichita to help ramp up the excitement level as two teams ranked in the top eleven nationally square off for the regular season Missouri Valley title. Each team has lost just a single conference game (UNI gave Wichita their loss), so the winner today wins the league outright.

Looking at recent winning streak is pretty irrelevant; both teams are ripping through their schedules with ease. Northern Iowa is 8-1-1 ATS in their last ten games, Wichita State is a solid 6-3-1 ATS. Both teams win the games they are supposed to without a lot of drama. Suffice it to say this won’t be a typical easy walk-over for either side.

I am surprised Wichita State opened as a seven point favorite (line has since contracted to 6). I see today as an evenly matched and close game. Both teams defend well.   UNI is a slightly better shooting team and more efficient offensively. Wichita State has the experience edge and home court. For that reason I think they win today, but it won’t be easy. I could see UNI springing the road upset, but I certainly see the game being close and competitive.

Free Pick: Northern Iowa Panthers +6

 

Arizona Wildcats at Utah Utes -1.5

I like Utah. I like Delon Wright. This is a good team that should make the second week of the tournament. But when you talk talent and upside, this is no contest. Arizona will have five of the six best players on the floor at most times, and their NBA-level talent is starting to come together and flourish.

Utah has been awesome at home, going a perfect 16-0, but they haven’t hosted anyone of the Wildcats caliber. The first game at the McHale Center, was an absolute romp with Arizona dominating the Utes 69-51. It’s possible we see a 20-poin turnaround today, but I don’t think so.

I like Arizona to once again control the game against Utah and to go on the road and win. Arizona is 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games, many of those even requiring them to cover 15 point lines or more. That indicates a team that is locked in and focused and brings their best effort to every game. They should have no trouble getting up for a HUGE game tonight that would all but wrap up the Pac 12 title.

Free Pick: Arizona Wildcats +1.5

Chris Scheeren / Author