Illinois State the NCAA Basketball Pick at Northern Iowa

LT Profits Sports Group

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 3:50 PM UTC

Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015 3:50 PM UTC

Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Wednesday.


The 13th ranked team in the country on the AP Poll could face a stiff challenge at home Wednesday night in Missouri Valley Conference play when the Illinois State Redbirds (15-9, 5-4 away) pay a visit to those Northern Iowa Panthers (22-2, 12-0 home) at the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls, IA at 8:00 ET in a game available on ESPN3.

The point spread at Bet365 has Illinois State as a road underdog for this contest with the current line at +7 with odds of -110.

Biggest Scare During 12-Game Winning Streak
After beginning the season 11-1 in non-conference play with the only loss coming in double overtime on the road while visiting a then nationally ranked VCU Rams team in hostile territory, Northern Iowa was upset by the Evansville Purple Aces in its Missouri Valley opener and has not lost since, tying a school record with its 11-game winning streak.

The Panthers are tied with conference kingpin Wichita State atop the conference at 11-1, but UNI owns the tiebreaker as of now by winning the first meeting with the Shockers at home with the rematch set for the regular season finale in Wichita.

And what team came closest to being the upset NCAA Basketball pick during the Northern Iowa 12-game winning streak? Well that would be these Redbirds, who led the Panthers by 12 points with 11 minutes remaining before Northern Iowa escaped with the 54-53 victory in Normal on January 25th. So can Illinois State now throw another scare into the Panthers on the road in Cedar Falls?

Panthers are Legitimate
Now by no means are we dismissing what Northern Iowa had done this season as the Panthers are certainly legitimate. They are ranked 16th overall on the Pomeroy Ratings and are the third highest ranked non-major in the country, only behind fourth ranked Gonzaga and marginally behind 15th ranked Wichita State despite the earlier 16-point home win over the Shockers.

The Panthers are renowned for their defense ranking fifth in the country in points against at 54.5 per game, an average that dips a bit more to 53.5 points at home where they are a perfect 12-0 straight up, and they are 18th in defensive efficiency and 21st in effective field goal percentage allowed at 44.0 percent. Often overlooked though is that Northern Iowa is also a good 41st in offensive efficiency and 12th in effective field goal percentage offensively at 55.8 percent.

The most glaring weakness for the Panthers however is in offensive rebounding, as they rank just 307th in offensive rebounding percentage at 26.7 percent vs. a national average of 31.1 percent, and that was a key reason why Illinois State almost pulled the upset in the first meeting as the Redbirds had 16 second chances off of the offensive glass while Northern Iowa had only five offensive boards all game!

Offensive Rebounding Could Keep Illinois State Close
And that is precisely how we feel that the Redbirds could stay in this game also and maybe even pull a possible shocker, even on the road. Because of their prowess on the offensive glass, the Redbirds are ranked 32nd in the country in rebounding margin at +4.9 per game while Northern Iowa is just 93rd at +2.6, a figure keyed by being a much better defensive rebounding team.

Also note that Illinois State forced the Panthers into an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers in the first meeting, and that was not really a fluke as the Redbirds are 32nd in the nation in defensive turnover percentage at 22.2 percent vs. a national average of 19.4 percent. Northern Iowa is usually above average in ball protection with an offensive turnover percentage of 18.7 percent, but the Panthers were clearly bothered by the Illinois State pressure last time.

And let us not forget that the Redbirds have a potent backcourt in leading scorer Daishon Knight (14.4 points per game) and second leading scorer DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell (12.2), with the latter doing his damage while providing instant offense off the bench. Comparatively none of Panthers’ guards are averaging more than 8.8 points, with in fact leading scorer Seth Tuttle being the only Panther on the roster averaging double-digits with his 15.8 points.

Underdog Series
Finally, this is a head-to-head series that has been dominated by underdogs as they are 9-4 ATS in the last 13 meetings.

That is one pattern that we expect to continue here, as just like in Normal earlier, look for another nail-biter and take the points with Illinois State at Northern Iowa on Wednesday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Illinois State +7 (-110)

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