Illinois State vs. Northern Iowa Picks and College Basketball Odds
by Alan Matthews - 3/8/2013
Northern Iowa is probably good enough to knock off a team or two in the NCAA Tournament -- like it did in 2010 against UNLV and in an epic upset of top-seeded Kansas -- but the Panthers won't be in the Big Dance if they don't win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. They open play in the MVC quarterfinals on Friday against Illinois State in St. Louis.
The Panthers (18-13, 11-7), who haven't been to the NCAA Tournament since 2010, are the No. 3 seed in the tournament, finishing behind likely tournament locks Creighton and Wichita State (Shockers may need a win or two to assure their bid). Illinois State is looking for its first tournament bid since 1998. The Redbirds (17-14, 8-10) finished sixth in the MVC regular-season standings.
Illinois State vs. Northern Iowa Betting Story Lines
UNI has some great wins on its resume, beating Saint Mary's (Calif.) and both Creighton and Wichita State once. It also has close nonconference losses to Louisville, Memphis and Iowa. But the MVC isn't going to be sending three teams to the Big Dance. Northern Iowa ended a two-game losing streak by beating Illinois State, 80-72, as a 3.5-point favorite in Cedar Falls last Saturday. Leading scorer Anthony James led the Panthers with 19 points after missing a game with a bruised thigh. UNI outrebounded the Redbirds 42-26 and held an 18-4 edge in second-chance points. Illinois State was led by Tyler Brown's 28 points.
Northern Iowa also beat Illinois State, 70-60, in Normal on Jan. 5 as an 8.5-point dog behind James' 19 points. Jackie Carmichael led ISU with 19 points. The Redbirds actually outrebounded UNI in that one but shot just 2-for-18 from long range. Overall, UNI has won 10 of the last 12 meetings vs. Illinois State. Under head coach Ben Jacobson, the Panthers have gone 3-0 vs. an opponent in the same season on three occasions, including against ISU in 2008-09.
Northern Iowa has one of the best long-range shooters in the nation in senior guard Marc Sonnen. He ranks No. 9 nationally in three-point percentage at 44.8 and set a school record with 82 three-pointers made this season. Sonnen averaged 17.0 points in the two games vs. Illinois State, hitting eight total three-pointers.
Illinois State is better than its record indicates as the team started 0-6 in the MVC. It has one of the conference's best players in Carmichael, a senior forward. He was named first-team All-MVU and to the All-Defensive Team. For the second year in a row, Carmichael led the Missouri Valley Conference in rebounding at 9.4 per game. He is also second on the team and fourth in the conference in averaging 17.4 points per game and leads the conference in blocks at 1.9 per game. Brown leads ISU in scoring at 18.1 per game and is third in the MVC (he's averaging 25 points in his past eight games). The Redbirds are the only conference team in the league with two players who rank among the top five in scoring.
There is one piece of injury news, and it's good for ISU. Freshman guard Nick Zeisloft is expected to play Friday after missing the past five games with a sprained knee. He is the team's best three-point percentage shooter (.419) and averages 4.6 points in a little over 15 minutes a game.
Illinois State vs. Northern Iowa College Basketball Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, this game opened with Northern Iowa favored by one point with the total at 134. For all conference tournament trends, I will consider both teams as on the road unless it's held in a team's home gym. ISU is 13-15 ATS (6-7 on road) and 9-12 “over/under” (6-5 on road). Northern Iowa is 15-14-1 ATS (5-5-1 on road) and 12-11 O/U (6-4 on road).
ISU is 5-1 ATS in its past six neutral-site games. Illinois State is 3-7 ATS in its past 10 after a loss. UNI is 1-4 ATS in its past five neutral-site games. It is 0-4 ATS in its past four Friday games. The under is 7-3 in ISU's past 10 after a loss. The over is 5-0 in Northern Iowa's past five overall. The underdog has covered nine of the past 11 meetings. The under has hit in eight of those.
Illinois State vs. Northern Iowa Picks and Betting Prediction
A few trends point to UNI. For one, it is 6-1 under Jacobson when the Panthers are the higher seed in the conference tournament, although this is the first time the school has been a No. 3. Secondly, the 10 previous times two teams faced off to open the tournament after playing against one another in the regular-season finale, the winner of the previous game also won the tournament matchup seven times, including the past three. Lastly, the No. 6 seed in MVC Tournament in St. Louis is 2-20 against the No. 3 seed in the quarterfinals. ISU will be trying to become the first No. 6 seed to win the tournament. Only one has even reached the finals (Southern Illinois in 1989).
UNI is usually among the nation's best defensive teams and it has never allowed an MVC Tournament opponent to score 70 points in 11 games under Jacobson. When the Panthers score at least 50 points they are 7-1 under Jacobson in the MVC Tournament.
These teams met in the quarters of last year's tournament, with No. 4 ISU beating No. 5 Northern Iowa 54-42 by holding the Panthers to 25.5 percent from the field. That improved Illinois State to 5-3 vs. Northern Iowa in MVC Tournament play all-time and ISU to 20-7 in all quarterfinal games. Carmichael dominated with 16 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in last year's meeting. I think he does again Friday. Carmichael had one of his worst games of the season in the most recent loss to UNI with a season-low five points and just six boards due to foul trouble. When he got No. 2 about midway through the first half, ISU led by nine. The Redbirds were called for 26 fouls, which led to 35 free-throw attempts for Northern Iowa. The Panthers won't get those home-court calls here. Take Illinois State and the under.
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