Friday nights kinda' of suck without any marquee teams on the college basketball betting slate, and this week is no different with a puny 4-game card on tap. But three of the contests do involve conference leaders, including a clash between two of the three squads deadlocked at the top of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Battling to retain at least a share of the league lead are the Canisius Golden Griffins and Iona College Gaels. ESPNU will carry the contest from Hynes Athletic Center starting at 9 PM (ET). Iona went out as 7 point home chalk according to SBR's live NCAA Basketball odds, and bettors will need to check back to find the game total.
A quick glance at the MAAC standings finds the Griffins and Gaels level with the Manhattan Jaspers, each with 5-1 conference records. It's the first of at least two meetings this season between Iona and Canisius, the next one in about three weeks on the Golden Griffins' home floor in Buffalo.
The two clubs met three times a year ago, splitting the regular season contests with home covers before Iona topped Canisius by an 89-85 count in the MAAC Quarterfinals in Springfield, Mass. The Gaels just scraped by as 3-point favorites in that matchup, and have won the last six tilts between the two on this floor in New Rochelle, NY.
Griffins Spending Weekend On The Road
For Canisius (11-6 straight up, 8-5 against the spread), Friday's fracas marks just the second road game of the conference schedule, and the Golden Griffins will make the short trip to New Jersey after this for a Sunday match against Monmouth. The only other time Jim Baron's boys were on the road for a league game, they fell 65-62 as 2 point favorites at Marist.
That was January 6, and the Griffs bounced back from the setback nicely with home wins vs. Rider and Monmouth. The most recent was last Sunday's 87-67 decision over the Hawks as 10 point favorites. Baron's son Billy led the way with 26 points while also dishing out six assists and grabbing eight rebounds. The senior guard is the team's leading scorer with nearly 23 points per game, and there's a significant drop-off behind him to Jordan Heath (11.8 ppg).
Canisius' strength is behind the arc, connecting on 40.6% of 3-point attempts, good enough for 14th in the country. The younger Baron and Zach Lewis are the primary sharpshooters that Iona will need to worry about on Friday.
Gaels Begin 3-Game Homestand
After spending most of December on the road, Iona (8-7 SU, 5-9 ATS) is glad to be home for its next three contests beginning with the visit from Canisius. Tim Cluess's Gaels are also coming off consecutive MAAC victories following a disappointing loss on the road a little more than a week ago, the most recent this past Sunday at Siena where Iona posted an 87-78 triumph laying four points.
AJ English pumped in a season and career-high 31 for the Gaels in the win at the Saints, and it marked the ninth time in the last 12 games that Iona scored at least 80 points. The Gaels are 20th in the nation in scoring (82.9 ppg), and like Canisius, a big chunk of those points come from 3-point range where they are hitting at 42% (5th in country).
Defense will not be en vogue for this matchup, and the deciding factor might very well be which team has the hotter hand from outside. But Canisius is going to also have to keep English off the line for the Gaels, something Iona's last four opponents have not been able to do.
I don't have much confidence in the Griffins being able to stop or even slow English, and will take a chance with the home chalk for my free Friday night college basketball pick.
My pick: Iona -7.5Season: 20-10 (+9.0)