NCAA Basketball Picks: Back Iowa To Cover In Rebound Game vs. Northwestern

Matthew Jordan

Sunday, January 31, 2016 1:31 PM UTC

Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 1:31 PM UTC

No. 3 Iowa is off to one of the best starts in school history, as they host Northwestern on Sunday in Big Ten action. Don't miss this betting preview and get the best NCAA basketball picks.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Iowa -13
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle


No Big Dance Again For Wildcats
If you Google "Northwestern NCAA Tournament history" you will find some interesting results because the Wildcats are the only team currently in a Power 5 Conference (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) to never play in the Big Dance. And barring a stunning run to the Big Ten Tournament title it won't happen this season, either. In fact, NU has a winning record against just one current Big Ten team all-time and that's new addition Rutgers. Northwestern twice won Big Ten titles in the 1930s, but the NCAA Tournament didn't start until 1939, when, ironically, Northwestern was the host of the title game.

Northwestern (15-7, 3-6 Big Ten) looked like it had a chance to end that drought after a Jan. 12 home win over Wisconsin got the Cats to 15-3.  Alas, Northwestern has lost four straight and appears to be regressing as the past two were by a combined 63 points. On Thursday at home, NU was pummeled by No. 12 Michigan State 76-45, easily a season-low in points scored for Northwestern. The Wildcats shot a ghastly 20.7 percent from the field -- that's the lowest I've seen in a long time by any team -- and 17.4  percent from long range. Bryant McIntosh led  NU with 14 points but was 4-for-15 from the field. Alex Olah, who averages 11.3 points per game, was 0-for-6 from the field. He's still recovering from a fractured foot so at least Olah has an excuse.

The game against Iowa will be NU's fourth straight against a ranked team, the first time that has happened for the Wildcats since the 1989-90. McIntosh could set the school record for assists in a season already in this game. He has 150, with the mark of 157 set by Tim Doyle in  2006-07. McIntosh leads the Big Ten in helpers at 6.8 per game.  The Wildcats  are 9-9-1 against the spread on NCAA basketball odds this season and 5-1 on the road.


Hawkeyes Will Fall In Polls
The Big Ten game of the season thus far was on Thursday night when No. 3 Iowa visited No. 8 Maryland and the Terps won a slight home favorites, 74-68, to end the Hawkeyes' nine-game winning streak. It was the 23rd time a Top-5 team has lost this season, which is the most times ever before February in college hoops history. Of course more could happen on Saturday or even in this game.

The key moment against Maryland was with Iowa down 62-60 and the Hawkeyes' Mike Gesell at the line for a one-and-one. He missed. The Terps scored on the next possession, and then an Iowa turnover led to another Maryland basket and a six-point lead. That was the game.

Not only was it Iowa's first Big Ten loss (7-1 in conference, 16-4 overall), but it had won the first seven in conference by double digits, including three against ranked teams. The Hawkeyes' best player is Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Jarrod Uthoff, but he struggled, hitting just 2-for-13 from the field -- his first field goal was early in the second half -- for nine points. He averages 18.4 points on the season and hadn't scored less than 13. Iowa also got to the line only 15 times and made nine. Maryland was 16-for-23. The Hawkeyes were 0-for-10 from long range in the second half and hit a season-low five 3-pointers overall.

During a Friday teleconference, Coach Fran McCaffrey preached staying calm: "I don't panic either way and neither do (the players)," McCaffery said during a Friday media teleconference. "We take a business-like approach. If you get too emotional, it makes for a long season."

Iowa is 10-7 ATS on NCAA basketball picks this season and 5-2 ATS at home.


Last Season
This is the only scheduled meeting between Iowa and Northwestern this year. Last year, the schools split. NU won in Evanston 66-61 in overtime, which ended a 10-game Wildcats losing streak at the time.  McIntosh led Northwestern with 18 points. Olah had 11 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. Uthoff forced overtime with a 3-opinter at the end of regulation. He had 25 points. In the teams' regular-season finale in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes rolled 69-52. They never trailed. Uthoff had 16 points.


NCAAB Free Pick
Take Iowa for your Sunday's college basketball picks. Hawkeyes have won 13 in a row at home by an average of 17.8 points. Iowa has more wins over NU than any other opponent. Northwestern is 2-5 ATS in its past seven vs. teams with a winning record. Iowa is 10-4-1 ATS in its past 15 Big Ten games. It has covered six of the past eight in this series. 

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