Bombs away! The Iona Gaels head to Niagara on Friday looking to stay on top of the MAAC standings. Is an upset brewing in this college basketball odds matchup?
You know it's a weak college basketball betting card when the Iona Gaels are the top team in action on a given day.
That's not meant to be a knock on the Gaels who find themselves atop the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference heading into Friday's trip to face the Niagara Purple Eagles. It's the first of a 3-game roadie for Tim Cluess' club, one that will include tough stops at Canisius and Rider over the next six days before a return visit from Niagara on January 25.
The Gaels are giving up 11½ in this one; SBR's live NCAA basketball odds should have a total later this morning for the game which can be viewed on ESPNU beginning at 7 PM (ET).
Iona will be seeking its fourth consecutive win in this series, which currently stands 60-49 in favor of the Gaels. They swept the Purple Eagles last season, covering a -12½ point spread at home while eking out a 1 point win at Gallagher Center laying nine to Niagara in that encounter.
The Purple Eagles' last victory over Iona came in Niagara Falls at the end of January 2013. Favored by 2½ at home, Niagara scored a 93-90 overtime victory over the Gaels. That matchup sailed well past a 163 point total, one of three consecutive high-side winners this series has seen at Gallagher Center.
Gaels Eager To Get Back To NCAA's
All signs point to Iona (12-5 straight up, 6-9 against the spread) returning to a postseason tournament for a fifth straight season under Cluess who took over in New Rochelle prior to the start of the 2010-11 college basketball betting campaign. The Gaels took a bit of a step back last year with a short-lived NIT experience following two consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament, and are currently the highest-ranked team from the MAAC on the RPI chart.
Iona has moved to the top of the league ranks with a 4-game win streak that began at Siena earlier this month and continued Tuesday at home vs. Fairfield. The Gaels had more than enough to cover the spread in the 74-58 victory over the Stags, stopping a 2-game slide vs. the odds and leaving them with three 'under' winners in the last four conference clashes.
Cluess' crew is one that relies heavily on the 3-point shot, and so far that has worked with the Gaels among the top-scoring teams in the country. Iona is averaging nearly 84 points per game, 4th-best in the land, and jacking up treys more than 25 times a contest, sinking 43.4% of those to lead all of college hoops.
Purple Eagles Mired In 4-Game Skid
Chris Casey hoped for a much better second season on the job at Niagara (3-12 SU, 4-9 ATS), but things haven't gone according to plan. The only silver lining so far has been a couple of conference triumphs over Saint Peter's and Manhattan as 8½ and 6 point underdogs, respectively.
The Purple Eagles have dropped all four contests since upsetting the Jaspers to begin January, the latest loss coming at home Tuesday when Niagara stepped out of the MAAC slate to host Pennsylvania. Favored by 2 at home, the Eagles succumbed to a 2nd-half rally by the Quakers in the 67-56 setback.
Niagara boasts three players scoring in double digits, led by sophomore Ramone Snowden's 11.0 PPG. Snowden also tops the Purple Eagles in rebounding (6.2 rpg) and assists (2.6 apg), but without much of an outside threat on offense, Niagara could be hard-pressed to stay close to Iona unless the Gaels just go cold from beyond the arc.
I do like Iona, but believe the line is a few too many points to cover. My NCAA basketball pick will be on the Purple Eagles doing just enough to stay inside the spread.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Niagara +11.5 at 5Dimes
Season: 17-22 (-7.20)