Free NCAA Tournament: Grab The 'Under' In Northern Iowa vs. Texas

Jason Lake

Thursday, March 17, 2016 3:53 PM GMT

The No. 11 Northern Iowa Panthers look like the NCAA Tournament Pick for Friday's first-round matchup with the No. 6 Texas Longhorns. But the Longhorns have a secret weapon.

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Mar. 16: 18-12 ATS, 1-2 Totals

On the surface, Friday's opening-round March Madness tilt (9:50 p.m. ET, TBS) between the No. 11 Northern Iowa Panthers and the No. 6 Texas Longhorns looks like one of the easier NCAA Tournament picks we'll get to make this month. It's about as straightforward as they come; you've got the Panthers (22-12 SU, 19-13-1 ATS), champions of the Missouri Valley Conference, and you've got the Longhorns (20-12 SU, 16-15 ATS), an at-large team from the Big 12. We'd naturally expect the public to overbet the 'Horns in this situation.

But not yet. As we go to press, Texas is a 4.5-point chalk on the NCAA Tournament odds, down from –5 at the open. Our consensus reports show 61 percent on early bettors on Northern Iowa, and as they say, early action is sharp action. More public money should come in Friday night after people get off work. Let's see if we can get a sense of how much profit margin is available on this matchup – or whether we should look at that total of 124.5 points instead. That low, low total.

 

Let My Cameron Go
As usual, providing the measuring stick for free, our preferred hoop nerds:

FiveThirtyEight (Elo): Texas –5.5 to –6
Sports-Reference (SRS): Texas –7.36

Exsqueeze me? Well, this changes the frame a little. Even if Simple Rating System is undervaluing the mid-major Panthers, the advanced stats suggest it's the Longhorns who have the edge here. Curious. Then again, Texas is more battle-tested than anyone at the Big Dance; Ken Pomeroy says the Longhorns have played the toughest strength of schedule in college hoops, coming out of the toughest conference in Division I. This isn't your garden-variety at-large team.

As for the Panthers, they may have won the MVC tourney, but they're not the best team from the Valley – that would be the Wichita State Shockers, who lost 57-52 to UNI (+9) in overtime during Champ Week. These things happen. Northern Iowa still has a really good chance of pulling off the upset, though. Running one of the slowest offenses in Division I (No. 346 out of 351 teams) will keep the score low and make “luck” even more of a factor in this game than usual.

Texas sits at No. 303 on the Pomeroy charts when it comes to pace, so you can see where that low total is coming from. The UNDER is a combined 37-26-1 for these two teams this year, including each of the last five games for the Panthers. Note that junior center Cameron Ridley (29.2 PER, +10.3 BPM) hopes to play 15-20 minutes for the Longhorns after missing nearly three months with a broken foot. Ridley is a beast on defense – and almost had us switching our pick to Texas. We'll settle for the UNDER this time, just in case Ridley isn't up to speed yet.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Under 124.5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes