NCAA Basketball Pick: Iowa Hawkeyes -2½ over Baylor Bears

LT Profits Sports Group

Thursday, April 4, 2013 4:00 AM GMT

Thursday, Apr. 4, 2013 4:00 AM GMT

Iowa was toughened by playing in the Big Ten, and when you add in improving shooting and stiff defense, the Hawkeyes get the nod over Baylor in the NIT Championship Game Thursday.

It is a Big Ten vs. Big 12 matchup in the NIT Championship Game on Thursday night as the Iowa Hawkeyes (25-12, 3-8 away) take on the Baylor Bears (22-14, 4-7 away) at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY at 9:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.

The point spread at 5 Dimes has Iowa as a small favorite for this contest with the current line at -2½ with odds of -108.

It is a tribute to just how good the Big Ten is that one of the second division teams from that conference can look so dominant getting to this point, as the Hawkeyes have won all four of their NIT games by double-digits.

Granted the first two wins did not come vs. much, but then Iowa went on the road and beat Virginia by 11 points at a venue where the Cavaliers had won 19 straight games, and then the Hawkeyes dissected a good Maryland defense that ranked 12th in the country in effective field goal percentage against in another 11-point win in the second semifinal here in New York on Tuesday.

That makes Iowa 11-3 in the last 14 games overall as a team that ranks only 297th in the country in effective field goal percentage has gotten hot at the perfect time, and remember that the Hawkeyes are a team that starts four underclassmen, which bodes very well for Iowa in the upcoming 2013-14 season.

Now the Hawkeyes are still shooting a rather ordinary 44.4 percent from the field over the last five games, although that is still an improvement of two full points over the 42.4 percent they are shooting for the full season. Iowa has made up for it on the defensive end though, which should not be surprising after battling in the Big Ten all year, limiting the last five opponents to 59.6 points per game on 40.4 percent shooting.

While Iowa’s path to reaching this NIT Championship Game required beating a Stony Brook team ranked 54th on the Pomeroy Ratings, 32nd ranked Virginia and 53rd ranked Maryland, the last three wins by the Baylor Bears to get here were over 69th ranked Arizona State, 65th ranked Providence and 58th ranked BYU.

Besides having an easier path schedule wise, Baylor has not looked nearly as impressive either, especially while just getting by BYU 76-70 in the first semifinal Tuesday. Unlike Iowa, which was on the upswing at the end of the season, the Bears went 4-8 with some questionable losses in their last 12 regular season games before losing to Oklahoma State in their first game of the Big 12 Tournament, and they are now facing the best team they have faced since then.

The Big Ten was the best conference in the country this season, and while Michigan has reached the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament after finishing fourth in the conference, look for sixth place Iowa to reward the Big Ten with an NIT championship on Thursday.

[gameodds]14/225978/19-238-93-92-1096/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: Iowa -2½ (-108)

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