The Drake Bulldogs are a good three-point shooting team while the Northern Iowa Panthers have not defended the three well. Add the Panthers’ slow pace and take the points with Drake.
The double-digit road underdog looks to offer some nice value on Sunday when the Drake Bulldogs (8-9, 2-3 away) pay a visit to the Northern Iowa Panthers (9-9, 7-2 home) at the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls, IA at 3:00 ET.
The point spread at 5 Dimes has Drake as a big underdog for this contest with the current line at +10 with odds of -105.
Drake has shown signs of life while winning two straight games after beginning Missouri Valley Conference play at 0-4, first beating an Illinois State team ranked 76th on the Pomeroy Ratings on the road and then beating Evansville handily 83-69 at home on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs have been an excellent three-point shooting team all season, ranking 28th in the country in that department at 38.1 percent, and they have been just off the charts in those last two wins going 21-for-44 for 47.7 percent from beyond the three-point arc. That makes for a nice matchup vs. the heavily favored Panthers, who have had great difficulty defending the perimeter this year.
Drake has a veteran team starting three seniors and two juniors, and while senior Ben Simons leads the team in scoring, the two starting juniors Seth VanDeest and Richard Carter have also played leading roles, with VanDeest leading the team in field goal percentage at a hefty 58.1 percent while averaging 10.1 points and Carter acting as the team’s best distributor with his 3.9 assists per game.
Simons and fellow senior Chris Hines have been the biggest sharpshooters, with Simons shooting 38.7 percent from beyond the three-point arc with Hines just a smidgeon ahead of him at 38.9 percent. The third senior starter Jordan Clarke has provided balance by doing most of the dirty work, leading the team in rebounding with 8.1 per game while also contributing 8.4 points.
Northern Iowa fell to 9-9 overall and 2-4 on Missouri Valley play with a 79-68 loss to Creighton on Tuesday where the Panthers allowed the Bluejays to shoot 55.4 percent from the field including 50.0 percent from three-point land. Yes, we realize that Creighton just might be the best shooting team in the country and will do that to a lot of teams. However, defense has been an issue for UNI for most of the season.
The Panthers rank 233rd in the country in effective field goal percentage allowed at 49.7 percent while ranking 174th in two-point defense and 271st in three-point defense, which is certainly an area that Drake’s Simons and Hines can exploit.
If that porous defense isn’t already cause for alarm with the Panthers being asked to give double-digits here, consider also that Northern Iowa also plays at a very deliberate pace, ranking 282nd in the nation with a tempo rating of 63.9 possessions per game. That would make it hard to win by double-digits even under normal circumstances, but it becomes an even tougher task if Drake continues to hit three-pointers.
With that in mind, take the big points with Drake on Sunday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Drake +10 (-105)