Here's our take on a couple of games for Friday, with free picks, because we care.
Follow SBR for all of your NCAA Tournament betting needs.
Kent State +9 vs. Akron (7 pm ET, ESPN2)
The Zips, who have already locked up the top seed in the upcoming MAC tournament, host the rival Golden Flashes.
Akron had won 19 games in a row before losing at Buffalo last Saturday. The Zips then bounced back to beat Miami Tuesday 72-58 to clinch that top tournament seed.
But Akron took a severe hit late this week when starting PG Alex Abreu, who was averaging 10 points and a team-best six assists per game, got busted for pot. He has been suspended from the team, and the Zips are thin behind him.
Kent State, meanwhile, has won four games in a row, after beating Bowling Green Tuesday 69-61. So the Flashes are 8-7 in MAC play, and could use a victory to get a better seed for the MAC tournament.
In the first meeting this season between these teams Akron rallied from down 10 points at halftime to beat KSU in Kent back in January 71-67. Abreu shot two-for-10 from the field in that game but dished out six assists.
The Zips just managed to cover the spread that game as 3.5-point road favorites.
Our bottom line for this game goes like this; Akron has already clinched the top seed for the conference tournament, so we wonder a bit about its motivation. Also, the Zips have lost their starting point guard. So we're leaning toward the underdog Flashes, getting a touchdown-plus.
Free Pick: Take Kent State at the +9 points offered at Bookmaker.
Illinois State pick 'em vs. Northern Iowa (9:35 pm ET, ESPN3)
The Panthers and Redbirds meet for the third time this season, in the quarterfinal round of the Missouri Valley tournament in St. Louis.
Northern Iowa is the three seed in the MVC tournament, after going 11-7 in conference play. The Panthers recently won six in a row, but have lost two of their last three. Most recently they beat Illinois State last Saturday 80-72, holding on for the cover as four-point favorites.
Illinois State is the six seed, after going a disappointing 8-10 in conference play. And the Redbirds stumbled down the stretch, losing four of their last five games. Last time out, last Saturday, ISU lost at Northern Iowa 80-72, although the 'Birds only trailed by a bucket with three minutes to go. They also played much of that game without senior F Jackie Carmichael, who was dealing with foul trouble. He's averaging 17 points and nine boards a game this season, but only had five and six last Saturday vs. the Panthers.
Illinois State has lost 14 games this season; eight have come by seven points or less, four of those by three points or less.
Northern Iowa also beat ISU back in 70-60, pulling what was at the time an upset as eight-point dogs.
The Redbirds would figure to get better than five points and six boards out of Carmichael tonight, and we give some credence to the adage about how hard it is to beat a team three times in one season. So we're leaning toward Illinois State.
The NCAA Basketball odds on this game moved quickly from a pick 'em to chalking the Redbirds by a point at many books early Friday morning. So we might want to get down quick, before ISU gets bet up any further.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Redbirds at the pick 'em (-104) offered at Pinnacle.[gameodds]14/223715/43/us[/gameodds]