When: 7 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
Free NCAAB Pick: Scarlet Knights ATS
Best Lines Offered: BetOnline
When: 8:30 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1)
Free NCAAB Pick: Wildcats ATS
Per usual, it’s a light schedule around college basketball on Friday. My cohort Willie will preview the first game of the night, No. 19 Maryland at Ohio State. Staying in the Big Ten, we open our picks with Northwestern at Rutgers.
These are two of the worst teams in the Big Ten, which isn’t a shock for the Scarlet Knights but is for the Wildcats. It sure seemed like Coach Chris Collins had NU on the right track after finally leading the school to the NCAA Tournament in the 2016-17 season, but the Cats slipped to 15-17 last year despite being ranked in the preseason Top 25.
Northwestern doesn’t have a quality win yet, with its lone Big Ten victory by two at home over a terrible Illinois side. The Wildcats’ other three conference losses are all by double digits. They were beaten by 20 at No. 2 Michigan on Sunday. Northwestern was without leading scorer Vic Law (lower-body injury) vs. the Wolverines. He’s iffy to return here, and the Cats aren’t good on offense even with him.
Rutgers has been blown out its past two games, but both were on the road. It has been better at home, including a 64-61 upset of then-No. 16 Ohio State on Jan. 9. It was the Scarlet Knights’ first win against a ranked Big Ten team since an upset of No. 4 Wisconsin in January 2015. Last time out, Rutgers leading scorer and rebounder Eugene Omoruyi (leg) and forward Mamadou Doucoure (back) did not dress.
Northwestern has failed to cover its past four, so we like Rutgers ATS.
Xavier Rarely Covers ATS Vs. Nova
The late game on the schedule features Xavier at No. 22 Villanova in Big East action – it’s not on the Nova campus but the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Philly.
The Musketeers are 3-2 in the conference and off back-to-back home wins over Georgetown and Butler – rallying from double-digit deficits in both. They have faced two ranked teams this season, losing 88-79 in OT to No. 8 Auburn and 70-52 at No. 16 Marquette. Xavier has just one true road win in four tries (1-3 ATS), coming at DePaul. The Musketeers have played the last two games without injured point guard Quentin Goodin (knee). The junior averages 12.6 points and 5.4 assists.
Villanova has won five straight since back-to-back losses at Penn and Kansas. The Cats won at tough Creighton on Sunday, 90-78, to improve to 4-0 in conference. Villanova scored 52 second-half points in that one, with star Phil Booth scoring 19 of his 28 points in the second half
Nova is 26-5 all-time vs. Xavier, winning the past four. The Musketeers’ last win in the series was a 90-83 decision over the No. 1 Wildcats in February 2016.
Xavier has covered just one of the past 11 meetings – see no reason why that should change.