The Northwestern Wildcats are finally in the Big Dance. But they’re on the wrong side of the NCAAB odds for Thursday’s game against the surging Vanderbilt Commodores.
West Region, 1st Round
Thursday, March 16 - 4:30 pm E.T
They've been playing men's basketball at Northwestern University since 1901. On Thursday (4:30 p.m. ET, TBS), the Wildcats will play in their first-ever March Madness game. They'll be the No. 8 seed in the West Region, squaring off against the No. 9 Vanderbilt Commodores. Congratulations to everyone on the Wildcats for breaking on through to the other side.
Sadly, their Tournament run is likely to end after one game. The ‘Cats (23-11 SU, 19-12 ATS) are 1-point puppies on the NCAAB odds board at press time, and while that looks like a tight line on paper, the Commodores (19-15 SU, 20-12 ATS) have played better and better as the season has worn on. Are you ready for some statistical analysis?!
Let's start with the best projections we know of – all free, just like our college basketball picks. FiveThirtyEight sees Vanderbilt winning Thursday's game 55 percent of the time, good enough for –2 according to Wizard of Odds. Ken Pomeroy sees it a bit closer, with the ‘Dores not quite one point better than Northwestern per 100 possessions.
These projections are based primarily on full-season stats, so again, they're probably not giving Vandy their due. The Commodores are in their first year under head coach Bryce Drew, and after a few stumbles during non-conference play, they've got all their ducks in a row, winning seven of their last nine games at 8-1 ATS. Vanderbilt even went to Rupp Arena and nearly beat Kentucky (–10.5) before losing 73-67.
Northwestern AD Jim Phillips on facing Vanderbilt in the first round: "Maybe at halftime we'll compare SAT and ACT scores."— Brian Hamilton (@BrianHamiltonSI) March 12, 2017
Compare and contrast to Northwestern, who went 4-5 SU and ATS in their last nine games. Bettors may overreact in general to recent results, but in this situation, the numbers are telling us to give the Commodores a spin.