College basketball fans are going to be in for a treat on Friday night as a highly significant game in the Atlantic 10 Conference accompanies several smaller-conference contests in the Northeastern part of the country for our college basketball picks of the day.
The Rams have struggled against really good teams on the road, losing to Saint Louis, Saint Joseph’s, and George Washington in Atlantic 10 play while also losing two other games on neutral courts plus a non-conference game at Northern Iowa. There are many reasons to doubt Virginia Commonwealth away from its Richmond home. However, Massachusetts has not imposed itself of the rest of the Atlantic 10. The Minutemen have stumbled against mid-level teams in the league and have not been able to maintain the same ability to win they displayed against non-conference opponents. Massachusetts lost only one game in the non-conference portion of its schedule. The Minutemen look like a team that is gradually losing team as the season moves along. Since VCU applies 94-foot pressure on defense and rotates bodies in and out of the lineup under head coach Shaka Smart, the Rams have a really good chance to wear down the Minutemen, even though this is a road game for them. Massachusetts has to shoot really well to stay in this game for all 40 minutes.
College Basketball Pick: VCU +1
Harvard Crimson vs. Pennsylvania Quakers
This is a game in which Harvard is clearly the superior team, but the Crimson have not been airtight in recent weeks in the Ivy League. Moreover, Pennsylvania – a team that used to be at the top of the Ivy – has been known to give the league’s current powers a lot of problems, especially at home at The Palestra, one of the great arenas in college basketball and Philadelphia’s crown jewel of gymnasiums. It’s really hard to think that Harvard will lose this game; the Crimson’s skill level should be able to win the day in the final stages of the second half. Yet, in the same breath, it’s also very difficult to think that Harvard will run away with this game. Penn should be able to stay in this game for at least 36 minutes if not the full 40. That should really help out the Quakers and make this game close – close enough for the home underdog to cover the spread against a road favorite for our college basketball picks.
College Basketball Pick: Pennsylvania +11.5
Iona Gaels vs. Rider Broncs
This is a game that Rider will treat as one of the biggest occasions of its whole season, given that Iona leads the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference while the Broncs are in the middle of the pack, several games back of the Gaels. Yet, Iona has established itself as the premier program in the MAAC. Head coach Tim Cluess gets his players to push the pace, using a deep bench to overwhelm opponents with pressure at both ends of the floor. Many basketball fans think of pressure as only a defensive thing, but with Iona, pressure is part of the approach to offense. Relentlessly attacking the basket and not waiting very long on the shot clock offers Iona a way of doing things that other teams don’t recognize or apply. Shooting quickly forces defenses to make quick reactions, and those rushed reactions can often be wrong. Expect Iona to establish a rhythm in the second half of this game and hold off the Broncs on the road. The Gaels aren’t going to want to slow down with the conference tournament just a few short weeks away.
College Basketball Pick: Iona -4